Billed as the world's first smart headphones, the $299 Muziks are attempting to redefine the category. The claim to fame for these cans is that listeners can program the device using a set of hot keys, which enables one-touch music sharing via Facebook, Twitter and more. In other words, the Muziks should be music to the oversharers’ ears. Speaking of ears, the headphones manage to deliver clear audio. But are the novel features enough to appeal to the early adopter crowd?
What Makes Them Smart?
The Muzik's right earcap hides a capacitive touch panel. Similar to the Parrot Zik 2.0, swiping left or right skips tracks, while up or downward swipes adjusts the volume. A three-finger press will activate Siri.
You can also launch voice control by pressing the power button twice. A single press will play/pause music, but when receiving a phone call the button has answer/ignore functionality.
The four hot keys sit along the cardinal points of the outer housing of the right earcup. In their default settings, the top button allows you to favorite your music tracks. The right and left points let you share music to Facebook and Twitter respectively, while the bottom hot key is unassigned.
The buttons can also be programmed via Muzik’s free app to perform different functions. The headphones are outfitted with accelerometers and proximity sensors, which detect when the Muzik is not in use, turning off the headphones.
In practice, my swipes were fairly accurate. However, you have to make sure that your finger doesn't linger on a hot key. If not, you run the risk of accidentally sharing your questionable music choices to your social media friends.
Employing a silver-and-white motif, the Muziks do their best to emulate the Apple iMac. The majority of the headphones' frame are made from matte silver aluminum, and the bottom of the headband is lined with white silicone. The slick-looking cans are also available in black.
The exterior housing of the earcups is white glossy plastic with a large silvery emblem in the center that resembles a pair of headphones. The right side has four circular divots that act as programmable hot keys. Since the recesses lack any tactile markers, it can be difficult to distinguish one button from another.
The interior of each cup is lined with memory foam that's wrapped in white leatherette. You'll find a large white power button on the right cup with a microUSB port and 3.5mm audio jack.
The headphones fold upward with a satisfying click, ready to be stowed away in their bundled hard black carrying case. You also receive a white audio cable for those moments after the battery dies and a microUSB cord for subsequent charging. The Muziks will also ship with a Rdio streaming package, but the company would not disclose exact details on the bundle.
Aside from being easy on the eyes, the Muziks are crazy durable. I twisted and bent the headband backwards and it popped right back into shape as if to say "is that it?".
The Muziks take a bit of getting used to. Ideally, supra-aural (on-ear) headphones press against the ears, evenly distributing pressure. However, I felt greater force on the front of my ears, an observation shared by several of my colleagues.
But the biggest complaint was the lack of cushion under the headband. While ridiculously durable, the silicone is rather stiff and unforgiving. I didn't notice because of my billowing locs, but some of my hair-deficient coworkers desired a more cushy padding.
I had a better time with the SMS Audio Sync by 50 Wireless headphones. The specially designed OvalFit earcups have softer memory foam cups that sat comfortably on my ears for hours. However, neither set of headphones compares with the exquisite pleasure of the Parrot Zik 2.0 headphones. The genuine leather-wrapped memory foam rested firmly over my ears, covering them in luxurious softness.
Connecting the Muziks to the office iPhone 6 Plus was swift and straightforward. After turning the headphones on, I went to the Bluetooth section in Settings menu on the 6 Plus and selected the Muziks. It took less than a second for the devices to pair.
Since I had already downloaded the accompanying app, it launched as soon the pairing process was completed. From there, I created an account on the app and I was ready to rock and roll.
By comparison, the Syncs' control panel has basic controls for volume, skipping tracks, play/pause and answer/ignore delivered via the springy power button on the right earcup.
The Muzik is the latest set of headphones to rely on an app to access and augment features on the hardware. The free Muzik Connect app allows users to aggregate all of their music collection and program the hot keys on the headphones. It's currently an iOS exclusive, but plans are in the works for an Android edition.
Once the app was installed and paired with the headphones, I set about the task of connecting it to my Facebook and Twitter accounts for some rapid-fire oversharing. In addition to your iTunes library, you can also sync a Rdio account for one-stop access to your music. Rdio is currently the only music app Muzik Connect recognizes, but the company said that it’s working to bring Spotify and other popular music streaming sites to its ecosystem.
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If you're in an exploratory mood, Muzik Connect has a Featured section that allows music lovers to listen to 30 seconds of Soundcloud-powered tracks.
You can also get a quick listen from popular tracks under the Trending tab.
Playlist allows you to create your own custom music mixes pulled from iTunes and Rdio. The Favorites section stores all the songs tagged as favorites, creating a megamix of guaranteed head bobbers.
But the real star of the show is the Customize feature found under the Settings menu, which walks you through programming the hot keys. I started with the unassigned bottom button. After selecting the button on the app, I had options to map the button to share music (text, email, Facebook or Twitter), dial an assigned number from my contacts list, or create an add favorites button.
It took less 5-6 seconds to assign Favorites to a hot key. The sharing and speed dial functions took longer, as I had to choose and add contact(s).
Although I like the idea of programmable headphones, I wish I didn't have to be in the app to share music. It would also be nice if the app was proactive and curated playlists based on your mood or tempo like the Alpine Over-Ear Headphones.
Having a way to augment how your music sounds similar to the Parrot Zik 2.0 is another item on the wishlist. I would have loved to have a few equalizer and soundscape settings to play with.
The Muzik headphones are outfitted with 40mm drivers that the company claims delivers high-fidelity audio. As I spent a couple of days listening to the headphones, I found that they weren't on a par with my wired Sennheiser Momentum On-Ears or the Parrot Zik 2.0s, but they were more than a match for theSync by 50s.
When I listened to Musiq Soulchild's "143" on the Muziks, I reveled in the full-bodied organ that carried the track. It didn't overwhelm the crisp drums and cymbals or the vocals.
The Ziks' performance, however, was even cleaner. After adjusting several settings on the soundscape portion of the Zik's app, I had no problem focusing on individual components of the song. The Syncs suffered from a cluttered soundstage, which caused the organ to bleed into the track, blanketing the drums and at times cutting into the artist’s voice.
The Muziks are lightweights when it comes to bass. Fabolous' rap ballad "Make Me Better" featuring Ne-Yo didn't have the deep lows I expected.
Muzik claims that its headphones can last between 16-18 hours on a charge, which is longer than the Syncs (12 hours) and the Parrot Zik 2.0 headphones (6 hours). I used the headphones on and off over my 8-hour workday, and the cans had plenty of juice for the commute home. They were raring to go the next day, even though I didn't bother to charge them overnight.
When the battery finally conks out, oversharers will lose use of the touch panel until the headphones are recharged.
The only time I had any problems with the Muziks was when I walked further than 45 feet from a paired device. From there, the music began to sputter and finally cut out altogether. Still, that’s farther than the usual 33-foot range that most Bluetooth headphones have.
Thanks to its dual microphones, the Muzik headphones are great at making and receiving phone calls. On a few test calls with my boyfriend, he reported relatively clear audio with good volume. However, when I ventured out onto the streets of New York City, he told me he could hear a few honking horns and sirens in the background. Call quality remained consistently strong on my end.
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The $299 Muzik headphones push the boundaries of what has previously been considered smart. The headphones allows listeners to program their cans via a set of hotkeys and share music to their social networks. Oh, and they sound good too.
The Miziks could be even smarter. And that may happen as the company begins developing uses for the accelerometer and proximity sensors, such as gaming and motion control. An open source SDK means there’s a lot of potential for growth.
But there's no telling when that growth will come. In the meantime, the $181 SMS Audio Sync by 50 Wireless On-Ear Headphones offer a comfortable fit, easy-to-use touch controls and solid battery life and respectable audio. Consumers should also check out the $399 Parrot Zik 2.0, which sport more precise touch controls, a beautiful design and an app with fully realized features.
Overall, the Muzik headphones are a solid choice for early adopters and music lovers.