Parrot Zik 3 review: Personalise your EQ and noise cancellation
Parrot Zik 3 review
The Parrot Zik 3 is a feature-packed wireless noise cancelling headphone. It’s highly customisable, and is an industry leader in this regard. The standard sound is very neutral, although you can change the EQ quite easily using the included Parrot Zik app. The headphones, which include a mic for calls, will set you back $299 USD (£249.99, $419 AUD). Depending on exactly what you require in a headphone, it could be worth the outlay. Or for a less complex more travel friendly pair, head over to the Listen Wireless headphones review.
Personalised noise cancellation and EQ
So what makes the Parrot Zik 3 stand out from the mountains of wireless noise cancelling headphones in the market today? As mentioned, it’s ridiculously customisable via the Parrot Zik phone/tablet/watch app. Most headphones that have adjustable noise cancellation feature a couple of set levels of cancellation and call it good. Not the Parrot Zik 3. You can adjust the level of noise cancellation using a continuous slider or turn it off all together. There’s also an auto mode which will adjust the level of cancellation to the external environment.
The EQ can be controlled in a few ways. You can access a five-band EQ to edit the sound, which will probably be appreciated by people with production/recording experience. There’s also a circular equaliser where you can move the setting between Pop, Punchy, Deep, Vocal, Cristal and Club, and anything in between. If you don’t have any idea how to EQ a headphone, you can use one of the dozens of presets featured on the app cloud. There’s also a Parrot Concert Hall feature which allows you to change the setting from Silent Room, Living Room, Jazz Club and Concert Hall. These give the sound of being in different acoustic spaces. As a general rule I like to listen to my music as it was originally recorded and mixed so I didn’t get much use out of this last feature.
Parrot Zik app hits the mark for the most part
On the whole the Parrot Zik app gets the thumbs up from me. Often headphone customisation apps are irritating to use for some reason, but the Zik app is pretty good. I did have two issues with the interface though. The first is that you can’t adjust the five-band EQ on the fly, you have to create a new preset to bring it up, which takes a bit of menu-hopping. The circular EQ can be changed at any time though. The second thing is that you have to be connected via Bluetooth to use the app and the accompanying customisation features. You can still enjoy the quality of using the cable along with the EQ, although you have to be connected via Bluetooth at the same time. It seems like an unnecessary waste of headphone and phone battery. Neither of these issues are deal-breakers though.
Parrot Zik 3 offers flat response for consumer audio
The natural EQ of the headphones is fairly flat, which is smart for a headphone designed with customisation in mind. It’s the most neutral consumer headphone I’ve listened to. As someone who listens to a lot of rock and metal, I generally found myself heading to the five-band EQ to thicken up the bass response. Most people who listen to electronic, rap or rock music will find themselves doing the same.
Many modern headphone designs are unsuitable for listening to retro or classical music due to the trend of heavily boosting the bass and treble response. The Parrot Zik 3 avoids this problem by starting with a neutral sound. You can heavily edit the EQ but even with the bass boosted, the headphone doesn’t become a massive punchy bass monster. If all you want in a headphone is thick, punchy bass then there are better choices at this price range (see our recent wireless noise cancelling headphones buyer’s guide for some options). This is a headphone for people who want to take advantage of the EQ and noise cancellation customisation.
Powerful noise cancellation on tap
The Parrot Zik 3 noise cancellation is very powerful. The Sennheiser PXC 550 is that company’s flagship wireless noise cancelling headphone, and it has excellent cancellation. The Zik 3 noise cancellation was perhaps 1/6th stronger than the Sennheiser, blocking out a greater degree of high frequency noise (both designs cut almost all low frequency noise out). The Parrot headphone produced noticeably more noise cancellation hiss than the Sennheiser, although once you start playing music the hiss becomes inaudible.
One huge buzz kill when it comes to wireless noise cancelling headphones is the sensation of air pressure on the ear drums that many models create. It’s generally the older generation of designs that have this issue. The Parrot Zik 3 performs well in this regard. The tiniest sensation of pressure is there, but it’s not enough to be unpleasant.
Cable accessories on point
Parrot have definitely got the cable accessories right. Both the USB charging cable and the headphone cable are high quality reinforced fabric. The cable jacks/ports are the highest quality connections I’ve seen on any consumer headphone. A knock here and there wouldn’t bother them at all. The jacks are sturdy but there’s enough room to allow for a phone case. The phone jack angled while the headphone end is straight. There’s a soft travel case included, although at this price range a hardcase would have been preferable. Both Parrot and generic hardcases are available online for this model.
The control scheme of the Parrot Zik 3 is simple and easy to get the hang of. As mentioned most functions are controlled via the Parrot Zik app. The volume, pause and track changes can be controlled via a touchpad on the right earcup. There’s an on/off button on the same earcup, and the app has an adjustable auto-power off feature, which is definitely appreciated. The left earcup conceals the battery, which is user-replaceable. The battery is very easy to install or remove. I’m a huge fan of user-replaceable batteries and I wish more companies would help their userbase out by implanting common sense features like this. You can expect 18 hours of battery life from this model, although this figure can be reduced to six hours depending on how many of the features are activated. See the Specification tab at the bottom of this page for more details about the battery life.
Comfortable listening experience
The Zik 3 is a pretty comfortable listen. That said, on very long listening sessions the headphone drivers can rub against your ears a little. Changing the length of the headphone arms is a bit of a fiddly process but once you get them at the right length they stay put. The headphone has a classy, distinctive look. There’s also quite a few colours available: Black, red, brown, green, ivory and “camel”.
Should the Zik be your next wireless noise cancelling headphone?
So is picking up the Parrot Zik 3 a good investment? It’s a good choice if you want a versatile wireless noise cancelling headphone. It’s also good looking, made of quality components and comfortable. The Parrot Zik app is user-friendly for the most part and lets you control EQ and noise cancellation in an in-depth manner. That said, if you only listen to one or two styles of music and want a tailored sound to work for those styles, this isn’t the best use of your funds, unless you really value the ability to customise the noise cancellation. There are also punchier-sounding headphones at this price range.
If you’re in the market for some new noise cancelling cans, check out our recent review of Sennheiser’s Momentum 2.0 over-ear model.
For an audiophile, these are the first pair of wireless headphones that suited my needs.
Your ears get hot after a while – the headset is heavily padded and traps heat.
These match up well against the Bose QC35. In my opinion, they sound better.
Noise cancelling is also very good, and the street mode option and being able to hear yourself on calls is great.