Upon launch, the app detects whether your mobile device is connected to a Zik 2.0, after which it'll take you to a page showing how much battery is left, which features are active and what song you're listening to. Swiping horizontally takes you to the pages dedicated to the aforementioned features, and the Settings menu lets you toggle the presence sensor, auto power-off timer, Bluetooth auto connect, caller ID text-to-speech service and firmware update.
There are a couple of interesting improvements here. For instance, you can now adjust the level of noise reduction -- from "Street mode," for safety's sake, all the way up to 30 dB. Compared to my first-gen Zik (which already aced the noise-cancellation feature on the Sennheiser and Bose headphones from the same generation), that extra 5 dB makes a noticeable difference, and I look forward to taking advantage of this on my next flight.
Another handy addition is the new simplified equalizer. Rather than fiddling with frequency settings in a chart, you can just slide a pointer across "Pop," "Vocal," "Cristal," "Club," "Punchy" and "Deep" within a circular heat map to suit your taste. Personally, I found my sweet spot to be somewhere on the outer edge between "Punchy" and "Club."
For those who prefer a higher level of customization, you can still use the classic line chart equalizer (along with the concert hall effect tool) to create your own audio preset. Alternatively, you can also download some presets from artists featured by Parrot within the app (selections include DJ Jazzy Jeff, Andrew Watt, Philippe Cohen-Solal, Richard Dorfmeister and, yes, Conchita Wurst). At some point in the near future, you'll be able to share your presets with others as well.
Zik 2.0 also has a smart new feature called Smart Audio Tuning, which can automatically apply audio presets to music that matches certain criteria, be it by artist, album, song or genre. So hold this thought for a second: What Parrot's offering is a platform that lets artists personally tune your headphones to best suit their own songs or albums. Regardless of traction, there's no arguing that this is a pretty neat idea, so hopefully Parrot can throw in more big names to get the momentum going.
General use and sound quality
With the exception of the touchpad's sensitivity issue I mentioned earlier, I'm otherwise very pleased with the Zik 2.0. First of all, the 830mAh battery still manages about six to seven hours of continuous playback if you have Bluetooth, noise reduction and concert hall mode enabled. Alternatively, you can get up to a staggering 18 hours with the new flight mode (no Bluetooth, no concert hall effect; just a wired connection with noise cancellation). Alas, it takes 2.5 hours to recharge the depleted battery, and to make matters worse, Parrot still doesn't offer a dedicated charger for those who carry a spare battery.
Luckily, the great audio quality almost makes up for it, but that's not without my own equalizer settings: I prefer just a little more punch and treble on top of the default profile. Having said that, compared to its predecessor, the Zik 2.0 definitely has more resolution in the treble space and is less muddy overall. Given the limitation in the frequency response, the new Zik is still ever so slightly muffled in the high frequencies than, say, my KEF M200 in-ears that I use regularly, though it's barely discernible when you're out and about. It should also be noted that you can use the Zik sans battery, aka in passive line-in mode, but the audio quality is nowhere as good without the digital signal processor and noise reduction running.
Many have asked Parrot to add aptX for potentially better streaming quality, but sadly, that still hasn't happened. In fact, when I spoke to Parrot CEO Henri Seydoux two years ago, he insisted that aptX isn't needed to achieve good streaming quality. With aptX becoming the norm these days (and more so once Qualcomm's acquired its maker, CSR), maybe he'll reconsider? I'll take whatever to retrieve the missing treble bits.
Last but not least: call quality. The Zik 2.0 actually supports HD Voice which, as you can guess, enables much clearer voice calls, though you do need to have a phone and a carrier that support the standard as well. Alas, I have neither, so call performance is about the same as what we got with the original Zik: My voice is often staticky, especially in noisy environments, and sometimes too quiet on the other end. I tend to just grab my phone out to pick up calls to save the embarrassment, which is a bit ridiculous given how much these headphones cost.
Parrot is so close to making the perfect Bluetooth headphones. Well, they pretty much are if you ignore the voice-calling feature and just use them for music. Put it this way: The original Zik remained the most advanced Bluetooth headphones for two years straight, and now we have a new version that's better-looking, more comfortable to wear and even better at noise cancellation, to the point where it's arguably best in class. As a bonus, the cans come with more tuning options to entertain obsessed audiophiles on the road. They also offer artists a new way of interacting with their fans by letting them share their very own audio presets, which can also be set to target specific songs and albums. This social element might be perceived as a gimmick, but even so, you gotta admire Parrot for thinking out of the box.