Set up sufficiently far from your front wall, omnis like our German Physik HRS-120 and dipoles like Diesis Audio open baffles below trigger room reflections across far broader bandwidth than monopoles do and with sufficient time delay to register at our ear/brain as separate from direct sound. Their intrinsic reverb enriches tone, darkens the overall response, thickens textures, softens transitions, reduces focus and with it, diffuses image specificity. To minimize these effects, one moves the speakers closer to the front wall until our hearing mechanism sums direct and reflected sound into one no longer two events.

Against this backdrop, it was no surprise that the Crosszone headphones shared their time-delayed gestalt rich in reflective ambiance. What did surprise but in hindsight shouldn't have, said gestalt was utterly dominant. That's what was fundamentally far more different from typical headphones than the firm's promised specialty of more out-of-head soundstaging. If you expect, need or want a traditional tonal balance with plenty of air, sparkly treble and the general separation and resolution of current top headfi, you won't like the CZ-10. Compared to a HifiMan Susvara planarmagnetic or Raal Requisite SR1a ribbon, two current linear fast highly resolved flagship 'phones, the Crosszone played it decidedly dark, fuzzy, of only medium resolution, below average layer definition and with image focus blurrier and less distinct. Unlike an omni speaker's flexibility whose placement within a room plus listener's distance may be adjusted, Crosszone's time delay hence reverb dose is fixed. If you want less, you're out of luck. Take it or leave it is the message.

If your reference is a Susvara/SR1a type presentation, these two paragraphs covered all of the CZ-10's shadow sides. Of course for the very same equation and proposition, there was also a very sunny flip side. Just like studio-administered electronic reverb behind and around lead vocals enrich its tone, so Crosszone's counter-channel time delay benefitted timbres. It bulked them out and remedied their close-mic'd dryness.

If your live-music reference is the far field—a symphony's balcony seat, row 20 in a tiered auditorium—you'll also view razor-sharp image limning as artificial and entirely alien to your experience. Now the more diffusive more elastic CZ-10 becomes your new best friend. Suddenly what to you was that strangely isolated headfi experience with its laser-guided images has transformed into something more recognizable as a simply miniaturized version of your familiar concert/club experience.

With images less locked and loaded, instead more billowy and fluffy, you'll also notice that stage width feels more expansive. Now it's less cluttered with less compact images which no longer quite cram together like tins on a grocery store shelf. For a direct demonstration of the wet/dry timbre difference, "Ala Gözlüm" from Eda Karaytug ends with her voice suddenly stripped of its prior reverb such as she would sound if she sang unplugged in your garden close to you. If you don't care to listen to the whole song, forward to 6:30 and finish off the track. Now apply back to the final 'nude' voice the prior reverb. Presto, you now have an intuitive grasp on what the CZ-10 adds above/beyond regular headphones to all music.

On soundstaging, this presentation still was far removed from free-field speaker listening. Just so, it was certainly different in feel to the ultra-specific teased-out individualized/separated reading of the extremely resolved and sorted Serbian ribbons which, incidentally, also staged wider without any applied crossfeed. To my ears then, the CZ-10's primary appeal, its unique selling proposition, wasn't so much the subjective soundstage perspective. Rather, it was the more general 'omni' gestalt, its impact on acoustic wetness, image focus and a darker tonal balance. Without saying anything about any of it to Ivette, I asked her to listen to a few of her favorite tracks, then give us some feedback from her "I generally really don't like headphones" side of the fence.