Parrot Zik 2.0 review: A wireless headphone for hardcore tech fans

And one that hasn't improved is the battery life. It's still around 6 hours with both Bluetooth and noise-cancelling activated (it's Bluetooth 3.0, by the way). But on longer flights, you can listen to the headphone in wired mode (a cable is included) with the noise-cancelling activated and get up to 18 hours of battery life. If the battery dies, you can also continue using the headphone as a wired headphone, though it doesn't sound so good with the power off.

I did have some trouble getting the headphone out of airplane mode. In the app, I thought I'd be able to toggle the airplane mode on and off, but I couldn't. Once I was in airplane mode, the Bluetooth was basically turned off, the app could no longer find the headphones, and airplane mode was permanently fixed to "on." I ended up re-installing the app and repairing the headphones to get everything back to normal. I'm not sure if this is a bug or not, but anytime you get an app involved with a device, especially over Bluetooth, you're probably going to run into some snafus. In other words, don't expect the Zik 2.0 to operate flawlessly, though it should become more reliable with time.

On a more positive note, I was able to perform firmware updates without a problem over Bluetooth. (With the original Zik, I had initially had problems with wireless firmware upgrades and had to upgrade over a PC's USB connection.) And while I had a few dropouts, overall the wireless connection between my test phones and the headphones was steady.

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Editor Josh Goldman happily modeling the heapdhones. Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance

As far as sound goes, it's quite good for a Bluetooth headphone and an improvement over the original's sound quality, with better bass. But at the same time, competitors have also improved the sound quality of their Bluetooth headphones, so the Zik 2.0 doesn't stand out quite as much, particularly at its price point.

I compared it to the Beats Studio Wireless , which costs slightly less and also features noise-cancelling. Because you can tweak the sound of the Zik 2.0, it's very hard to compare it to another headphone that has a fixed sound profile. What I found is that the Zik 2.0 sounded better with some tracks while the Beats was superior with others.

For instance, with Spoon's "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb," the Parrot sounded more dynamic and cleaner, but with Laura Welsh's "Breathe Me In," the Parrot exhibited noticeable sibilance and gave a harsh edge to her voice. I played around with the Parrot's EQ and turned the concert-hall effect on and off (it's supposed to adjust the width of the soundstage), but the harsh edge remained.

The Zik 2.0's battery is replaceable. David Carnoy/CNET

Bass performance is quite good. Wyclef's Jean's "Divine Sorrow - Extended Mix" had some real kick to it and held together well with the volume pushed up. Overall, the headphone performs well with EDM (electronic dance music) and hip hop, but vocals (midrange) don't come across as warmly as I like, so ballads and acoustic material sound more pleasant on the Beats.

I next compared the Zik 2.0 to the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless , which carries a list price of $500. The Sennheiser sounded smoother as a Bluetooth headphone and significantly better when both were put into wired mode.

Alas, Bluetooth headphones -- even premium ones -- simply can't match the sound quality of a decent wired headphone. In other words,you can find any number of $200 (or less) wired headphones that sound as good or better than this Parrot when its used in its wireless mode.

Conclusion

The Parrot Zik 2.0 is an impressively engineered, strikingly designed headphone that's loaded with features and is an improvement over the original Zik, both in terms of design and performance. I think some people will love it. But I also think it has some small, niggling issues that may grate on some users, making them feel the headphone has been over-engineered and is too complicated to deal with (a lot of people don't want to bother with EQ and noise-cancelling settings or an app in general).

And then there's the battery life. If you have everything turned on and are using these continuously, you simply won't make it through the entire day without recharging. That's not necessarily a deal-breaker, especially since you have to weigh that negative against the positive of the battery being user-replaceable. But ideally, battery life would be closer to 10 hours rather than 6.

In the end, this is a riskier Bluetooth headphone choice than something like the Beats Studio Wireless or Bose SoundLink Bluetooth On-Ear . Many will be happy they took the risk, but others may be less thrilled.

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