Parrot's AR.Drone 2.0 may have been one of the more joy-inducing wares we've seen here at CES, but that was yesterday. Today, we dare to say that that one of two audio devices just unveiled (and designed by Philippe Starck, we might add) has our jaw dropping, and our ears tingling -- the absolutely gorgeous Zik Bluetooth touch-activated headset, pictured above. The Zik's loaded with goodies -- Bluetooth connectivity, active-noise cancellation, NFC and touch controls on either earcup, not to mention its jawbone and "presence" sensors among a few other notable tidbits like its DSP-enabling app that adds a "concert-type" vibe to its sound. As far as that second device goes, Parrot's introducing a singular stereo version of its Zimku wireless tower speakers, aptly named Zikmu solo. Head past the break to find our brief impressions and a video overview of a pre-production Zik, and hit up the galleries below for some closeup shots of it and the Zikmu solo.

Parrot Sik by Starck Bluetooth touch-activated headset (hands-on)

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Parrot Zikmu Solo wireless stereo speaker

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Visually, the Zik headset is simply striking -- its curvaceous design blends synthetic leather pads with soft-touch coated earcups, and sturdy feeling brushed-metal for its head rails and under the cups where you'll find all various connections and mics. Specifically, on the right cup you'll find a micro USB port for charging, a 3.5mm jack for an audio cable if you'd rather go wired, one of its many microphones, as well as its backlit power button. Moving along to the left cup, you'll mainly notice more microphones. If the mics on the outside weren't enough, there's also another one inside of each earcup. According to Parrot, some of these are purposed for helping with active noise-cancellation, while the others are for picking up vocals to ensure clean voice quality on during phone calls.



On the left earcup is where you'll find the sensors we mentioned earlier, as well as the headset's NFC chip. First up, its "jawbone" sensor notes your jaw's movement while you're talking, aiming to add extra clarity for the persons on the other end any phone calls. The presence sensor, is even more intriguing -- the headset automatically pauses yours tunes when you take them of your ears, and starts playing 'em again as soon as you bring them back up to your ears. Taking the headphones on and off, we were pleased to find that playback and pausing was nearly instantaneous, making for an extremely fluid experience.




As far as Near Field Communication goes, Parrot's added this as a quick and painless way to pair to the headset with phones that support it. A user will simply tap their device on the left earcup to connect the headset, very similar to what we've seen some Nokia devices. The right earcup houses the Ziks touch sensor. By swiping forward and backward we're able to move through our playlist, while sliding our finger up and down allowed us to the control the volume. Added with the awareness of its presence sensor for pausing and playing, it made for a very intuitive way to control thing, however, we do wish there was a way to pause and play from the touch-panel itself, rather than having to do it from the device or take the headphones off.




Getting back on about wearing the Zik headset, these may very well be the most comfortable headphones we've ever tried on. The memory foam used inside of the earpads is pleasingly supple, and we barely felt any pressure on our ears. If we had to nitpick, we'd say the headband felt stiff in comparison, and we did notice the headrails might not extend far enough for folks with large noggins. Of course, having only spend minutes with the headphones we can't make a definitive call on comfort, but we can't say we were disappointed in the least.





Focusing on the sides of the earcups, you'll also notice some horned vents. Apparently, this lets its 40mm drivers breath like a hybrid between isolating closed-back and spacious sounding opened-back headphones. If you're worried about noise-isolation, you'll recall that the Ziks also have an active noise-cancellation circuit. The suite we demoed the headphones in had a very unruly air conditioning system, and we were pleased to find that with noise-cancellation enabled, it was all but wooshed away with near silence (Parrot says that in total they'll reduce lower-register external noise by about 11dB 20dB).




Although we're impressed, a few things are worth note. Sadly, we weren't able to get a consistent Bluetooth connection during our time with the Zik headset, so we can't make even the slightest call on sound quality for the time being. Notably, we're told that the headset isn't voiced to Parrot's liking just yet, anyway, so hopefully we'll be able to gauge it in the future. As we mentioned earlier, the Zik can be used with an app for enabling sound enhancements, but likewise, that also wasn't available for us to check out. You may also find yourself wondering about battery life, given how techno-loaded the Ziks are. According the Parrot, with everything enabled the headset's rechargeable -- and user replaceable -- battery will last for about fives hours, nearing closer to 20 depending on how much of its features you disable. Thankfully, the headphone's don't require to power to play music, so you'll be able to plug them in if you're ever faced with a dead battery.





Overall, we're finding ourselves smitten with the potential of Parrot's Zik. If the sound quality of the final version set to ship this year actually delivers, this could be a very compelling set of cans -- especially for gadget-minded audio lovers. There's also the question of price. Keeping Parrot's other Starck devices in mind, we'd expect these puppies to be quite pricey once they actually hit store shelves. For now, if you'd like more info on the Zik headset be sure to check out the press release just below.


Show full PR text
Parrot By: Re-inventing the rules of wireless audio!

Parrot, a global leader in wireless devices for mobile phones, reveals at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas two wireless audio products which, once again, emphasize the spirit of the 'Parrot by' collection: the perfect match between design and technology.

ZIK, the music and Bluetooth phone headset, and Zikmu SOLO, the single-piece Hi-Fi stereo speaker,
both highly -technological and highly intuitive, will be sold in 2012.

ZIK Parrot by Starck: the Bluetooth touch-activated headset

Under the elegant design of Philippe Starck, the ZIK Parrot by Starck Bluetooth headset features high-end technology.

Equipped with an active noise cancelling system, it insulates you from
surrounding noise in order to guarantee the purest sound experience,
whether listening to music or making phone calls.
And because music must be heard in all its harmony, intensity and depth,
ZIK has powerful DSP (Digital Signal Processing) algorithms that
recreate the contours of the music in full. This is the "Parrot Concert
Hall" effect: the music is in front of you, like at a concert!
Access to basic functions is hyper-intuitive, thanks to a touch panel
located on the entire surface of the ZIK's right earpiece. Swipe the panel
vertically to set the volume, or swipe it horizontally to skip music
forward/rewind.
ZIK also has a unique presence-sensor system. Removing the headset
puts it into standby mode automatically.
As with all Parrot products, ZIK is compatible with all mobile phone brands and accepts a large number
of music sources: connecting via a cable jack; transferring audio files using Bluetooth A2DP stereo or
using contactless NFC* technology, which has never been achieved before on a headset.
Availability: Coming in 2012
Price: To be announced

 Zikmu SOLO Parrot by Starck: the monobloc wireless stereo speaker

A single-piece version of the iconic Zikmu Parrot by Starck speakers, Zikmu SOLO is a
cutting-edge wireless speaker.

With a total power of 100W RMS, Zikmu SOLO produces a stereo sound image
thanks to its new side speakers, and flat-panel NXT technology has been deployed to
achieve an optimal sound radius on both sides of the speaker.
Zikmu SOLO enables a unique stereo experience with a minimal form factor, regardless
of the size of the listening room.

The challenge for Parrot's engineers was to make it simple to use while maintaining
universal compatibility. The speaker's main features are accessible on either side of the
docking station, by a remote control, and via a free dedicated app for iPhone and
Android smartphones.

Music can be accessed from any device or network: iPhone, iPod, PC, Mac, Wi-Fi, or a
Bluetooth and NFC mobile phone.
Availability: Coming in 2012
Price: To be announced

Parrot by and Innovation

Parrot by is a vast project of technological innovation, with a lofty challenge: integrating the best technology into a minimalist product.
The Parrot by collection was conceived in 2008 when the worlds of technology and design came together through collaborations with name designers, including Andrée Putman, Martin Szekely, Philippe Starck and Jean-Louis Frechin.

"Design is also a usage. Home technology should be as simple and elegant as a piece of furniture," explains Henri
Seydoux. "Nobody asks how a chair works. That's why design is important: working with designers with lengthy experience
in furniture is a form of innovation."

***

For more information on the ZIK Parrot by Starck headset, or the Zikmu SOLO Parrot by Starck single-piece wireless stereo Hi-Fi speaker, visit www.parrot.com

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Parrot reveals Starck-designed Zik Bluetooth touch-activated headset, Zikmu Solo wireless tower speaker (hands-on)