But first, a short musical example of a type poorly served by the CZ-10 to make another point. It's a 1:51 track from Wael Jassar's Collection of thirty miniatures. As an album it's similar in concept to Amr Diab's Mn Asmaa Allah Al Hosna with its brief hymns to some of the Koran's 1008 names of God. In Wael's own canon, the two Fi Hadret El Mahboub titles feature full-length numbers arranged and styled in very similar fashion to the far more condensed forms of his Collection. On "El Ektheyar", the producers use very lazy reverb and layer it like intermingling clouds. With the Raal ribbons, there was no issue hearing which cloud belonged to which source. It kept the clouds individually assigned.
The Crosszone congealed everything into one unified reverberant field and thick blurry mass. Reflection-rich source material met reflection-rich playback partner for an excessive outcome. Swapping between floating-baffle ribbons and sealed dynamics showed very clearly what the CZ-10's own signature obscured and confused by contrast. That's because by design, the ribbons don't suffer energy storage or reflections. They just show what's there. Hence the Crosszone concept comes at a cost even if, in this otherwise mismatched juxtaposition, actual currency outlay would be less than one third of the €3'500 Serbians to operate in far lower price league. Something should give and it certainly wasn't build quality.
Soundaware A280 SD card transport ⇒ Kinki DAC ⇒ XLR into Kinki integrated to drive SR1a, RCA into SPEC RSA-777 EX integrated to drive CZ-10 simultaneously.
Listeners who reference conventional flagship headphones must weigh whether here the gains justify the losses. Like other hifi kit which vacates the do-everything-at-least-decent middle to specialize in—thus emphasize and elevate—a particular discipline, appeal shrinks to those who prioritize the same discipline. In that sense the CZ-10 is a very specialized headphone. Some could find the inherent effect attractive but still too potent. They could look forward to a Crosszone model which shrinks the crossfeed's delay constant with a shorter pipe.
Others could prefer to address the issue with electronic crossfeed to make it defeatable depending on music material and perhaps even adjustable in potency like the 5-stage circuit of an SPL Phonitor with its associated 4-stage narrow/wide effect; or iFi's selectable 3D+ circuit; or Meier's version.
A very different opinion. When I asked my wife where exactly various instruments popped up for her, she pointed her index fingers up to slightly less than a foot in front of her shoulders. She did not point at the CZ-10 ear cups. When I put my hands on either side of her fingers there, then asked whether my hands now defined the outer edges of the soundstage in front of her, she nodded yes. When I asked her to wear the Meze Neo Classic instead, she immediately used her hands to indicate how the soundstage had shrunk and bunched up between her ears to stuff inside her skull. She also called the Meze sound tinnier and more metallic, the Crosszone's softer, "like with our speakers" (the omni German Physic in our media room). 'Softness' was her word for the time-delayed tonal texture changes. When I asked her to mentally walk the virtual stage and move around and between the players, she again used her left and right index finger to point at various instruments at clearly defined clearly different distances. With the Neo Classic, those depth layers collapsed again into more of a narrow left-to-right band.
On demerits, she called the CZ-10 too heavy and would have preferred if they weighed less like the Meze. And despite the more expansive stage perspective relocated from inside her head to outside and in front of it, she still hated the general ear-muff seal of circumaural headphones. They make her feel claustrophobic – in her exact words, "like inside a tunnel or congested from a head cold". By choice, she'd still not listen to headphones. But if forced to by strange circumstance, she'd much prefer the sound of the Crosszone over the Meze; so nearly a convert.
Outro. I have listened to headphones ever since I was a lad in my parents' home. There I spun records on my dad's Dual turntable or open reel tape on his Revox. Over the intervening decades, I'd become far too familiar with, used to and conditioned by the typical headfi perspective. I couldn't erase it all now to relate to these CZ-10 as a newcomer would, tabula rasa like. Also, I don't prioritize soundstaging. That presents a bit of a blind spot to fully appreciate Crosszone's special accomplishment in this area. I instead honed into its side effects—also real and simply the price to pay—to miss out on the main attraction. Ivette's outright disinterest in the subject meanwhile had her encounter the CZ-10 with fresh ears. She wasn't burdened by expectations against traditional flagships.
Thus she immediately zoned into the core difference with the kind of grateful delight I imagine Crosszone hopes for from their intended audience. It had me think that if you're like Ivette who loves speaker listening but intensely dislikes traditional headphones, you too could find these CZ-10 to be the rare proposition which actually speaks to your needs most directly. It's not just another minor variation on the endless circle jerk of headphones.
It's fundamentally different.
That difference should catch hold of people who haven't been impressed and addressed by the usual in-skull beamers.
If you want the sound more out of your head, put Crosszone into your cross hairs. You should find your hearing transferred into a bigger zone that's been somewhat relocated.
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