The Crosszone CZ-1 is an interesting headphone and an interesting story as to how they made it first to the UK and then over to Muscat, Oman with me to finish their review journey. Back in May when visiting the Munich High End trade fair I come across some chunky closed back headphones from Japan that to put bluntly, horrified Josh and I. I snapped a picture and quoted just that when writing up my show report. Obviously not liking the can I did not pursue getting a pair for review and went about my life. Surprisingly my report not only caught Mr. Nozu of Crosszone’s eye but they in touch to allow me to have a proper demonstration on my more capable source equipment. Here is an excerpt from that original message.
“The product concept of CZ-1 is quite different from other conventional headphones.
The CZ-1 is designed and produced by simulating the environment of listening to the sound with the stereo speakers in the room and thus the sound is different from that of conventional headphones.
Most audiophiles don’t like the conventional headphone sound due to the strongly concentrated sound inside the head, which results in tiredness.
We analyzed this matter and tried to locate the sound outside of the head.
Fortunately we have gotten many positive comments from worldwide critics who evaluated our CZ-1’s sound quality so far and also we strongly believe the impression of most customers who visited our booth is very positive.
Probably you got the catalogue of CZ-1 at our booth, and you can find the details of technical information on it. Or, you could refer to the details on our official Crosszone website through the URL of http://www.crosszone.jp/
In Munich High End Show we used only DAC to drive CZ-1. This DAC’s output power is 0.5W.
Therefore probably the sound impression was influenced by the limited output power.
If necessary, we could arrange to send you one rental sample for you to experience the sound of CZ-1 again together with the high quality and high grade headphone amplifier in your laboratory.”
I respected the approach of Mr. Nozu and if a company were confident that I would come around and change my opinion then I was obviously going to give them a deserving chance and reproach the headphone with a clear mind.
At the time of the report I didn’t even know the asking price for these headphones and on receiving the sample and doing some further research I was a little shocked at the RRP of €2,990.
Not Reinventing the Wheel
These headphones are all about projecting a stereo image and not leaving you with the boxy imaging of your common marketplace closed back headphones. Throughout my journey I have heard this sort of statement in a lot in IEMs, headphones, DACs and amps. With the huge price tag I did initially wonder if this Japanese brand had made a breakthrough not yet seen to create this phenomenon in a product that isolates the external world. That is not quite the case and instead they have gone for the more standard formula, as seen most recently in Lear’s slightly disappointing NSS range where each channel has a secondary back up driver that plays the opposite channel with a slight delay, simulating how when listening to speakers both ears hear both channels, one with a slight time delay.
While its method of “crossfeed” isn’t exactly new, I don’t think there is another headphone with even a slightly similar arrangement of drivers, so in that department, they are trying something fresh and new. Each side of the headphone actually houses 3 drivers. A 40mm Beryllium woofer housed in a brass frame and then a smaller 23mm beryllium tweeter. It is clear they are cutting no corners when it comes to the drivers using beryllium as seen in the even more pricey Focal Utopia (although completely different driver construction). They then have another 40mm driver housed in an ADC (acoustic delay chamber) which causes the slight lag in audio signal you would get from the right channel having to travel that little bit further to your left ear and also from bouncing off of surrounding walls. They also implement ART (acoustics resonance technology) which alters the opposing signal slightly as a wall in a room would. Both ADC and ART are passive technologies based around how the drivers are mounted and set up, nothing about this headphone is active or using any circuitry! They work using ducts which are positioned in different locations, allowing the sound through from the driver that is sitting behind a wall so that it is not going direct to your ear like the woofer and tweeter.
One thing there is no mistaking with these cans is there very unique aesthetic. They went for a striking design but it seems like they were simply embracing the triangular chassis that was a byproduct of how the drivers were arranged. The design will certainly catch attention but I can’t say it is low profile or travel friendly, meaning it strays away from the portable closed backs and sits alongside the more stationary Fostex series in it is application. It may not being as alluring as the Fostex TH-X00’s and their gorgeous wooden cups but the attention to detail, material choice and build quality of these headphones is actually exceptional. The headband is die cast magnesium, which keeps its form wonderfully and gives just enough clamping pressure to seal but never gets uncomfortable. Even with a fairly hefty weight of 485g I have never found it too much, other than when wearing them round my neck, which is not a good idea. The headband adjusts smoothly without notches and the yokes have a small amount of swivel to allow the pads to fully engulf ones ear.
They are assembled in Okaya City which is known for high quality creation in the photography and clock industry. They are proud of their quality control and also high grade material use such as the finest silk used as dust covers in front of the drivers. The plastic is well finished and in a way that makes it feel more classy than tacky and the front plates are a leather or pleather. I would like to think it is the real deal. Moving onto the cable or should I say cables (they include both a 1.5m and 3.5m option) and it features 8 strands of oxygen free copper in a ready to balance configuration. You may notice there is no marking for which side should connect to what channel but they are configured to be connected to either side with no degradation. The connectors are 3.5mm jacks.
I did notice two small vents at the bottom of each cup, likely giving some air flow to the woofer but regardless it probably does take away from the isolation. These still rid ambient noise better than the competing fostex and even more so when compared to an open back but they aren’t comparable to some of the better isolators of the portable realm.
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