Crosszone CZ-8A Headphones Review


The subject of this review is the Crosszone CZ-8A headphones from Japan. Many audiophiles have built their headphone system over the years, along with a two-channel high-end audio setup for various reasons. 


Extreme demand for headphone-only systems, which have rapidly evolved over the decades created a highly interesting market segment for many companies. Hence considerably more or less successful introductions of headphone products from well-known high-end audio brands in the past decade.

CROSSZONE


Crosszone was founded in Japan in 2016 by Asia Optical Inc, a Taiwanese company EMS, which has extensive experience in optical product development and manufacturing. CZ-1 is Crosszone's pioneer product and has since received very good appraisals from critics and customers.


Robert Lai has been leading Asia Optical, the parent company of Crosszone, for 40 years. Asia Optical specializes in the manufacture of lenses and optical products, technologies used in devices such as digital cameras and laser rangefinders.


During his long-distance travels, Lai always wore headphones to listen to music. But discomfort and fatigue after long periods of listening had always been a problem. Lai found that the biggest flaw in headphones is that the sound image is affected by a phenomenon known as center localization. (when sound is concentrated in the center of the head).


This realization gave Lai the idea to develop headphones that would fix this phenomenon.  He shared this dissatisfaction with a technician from a famous Japanese audio equipment manufacturer who was a long-time partner of Asia Optical and later on hired an acoustician to incorporate propriety precision processing technologies into the development of the headphones. 


After two years of continuous research, they developed the pioneering Crosszone product, the CZ-1.

The first-generation product was manufactured at the R&D and production base in Okaya in Nagano, a place known for precision machinery manufacturing. 


By adopting the newly found technologies of the CZ-1, Crosszone continues to devise high-quality products, and the CZ-8A is a part of these ongoing developments with the goal of introducing the new kind of headphones aimed at those who prefer high-quality and comfortable listening experiences. 

CZ-8A 


The CZ-8A, along with the CZ-10 and flagship CZ-1, represent a part of Crosszone's premium headphone portfolio, proudly designed and manufactured in Japan. 


Like the other two, the Crosszone CZ-8A was designed from the ground up for lifelike reproduction and true-to-life, natural sound, thanks to advanced engineering, unconventional design, meticulous craftsmanship, and superior comfort.

 
Crosszone's CZ-8A is a unique headphone that achieves the effect of external sound localization with original technology. Unlike conventional headphones that have the issue of internal sound localization (where the sound sources appear to be inside the head), the CZ-8A uses Acoustic Resonance Technology (ART) and Acoustic Delay Chambers (ADC) to achieve natural and spatial sound field. This simulates the experience and mimics the sound path of the stereo speakers' listening experience.


CZ-8A is the continuation of the optimization of ART (Acoustic Resonance Technology), which focuses on the control of the wavefront to minimize the influence of different ear shapes on the sound and further improve the effect of external sound localization. 


The sounds emitted from the speakers initially propagate as spherical wavefronts and gradually become planar as they approach the listener. These planar wavefronts allow the listener to determine the direction and distance of the sound.


In headphones, the sound source is very close and reaches the ear in the form of spherical wavefronts. The CZ-8A features acoustic lens wavefront control, which delays the sound and adjusts the wavefront that reaches the ear. The external sound localization provides an even more natural sound field and sound image.


The main channel contains a 40mm woofer unit and a 23mm tweeter driver. Another 35mm cross-feed driver is responsible for the sound of the opposite channel. 


Each driver is beryllium-coated to ensure uniform and consistent sound quality. There is also a brass ring on each driver to increase stability and prevent unnecessary vibration.


The CZ-1 and CZ-10 feature an ADC (Acoustic Delay Chamber), which delays the sounds of the opposite channel and is located on the outer cover of the headphones. On the CZ-8A, the ADC is located inside the aluminum-wrapped cover. 


The shielding effect of this cover reduces the effects of electromagnetic noise on the drivers and allows for clear and detailed sound reproduction.


The CZ-8A ear cushions are 3D molded - with different thicknesses on the front and back. Combined with the curvature of the baffle near the ear, the ear pads comfortably fit the head without interfering, which also results in the stable reproduction of low-frequency sounds.

Operational 


From the very first encounter with CZ-8A, the quality shines all around. The packaging material, the cardboard box, the soft velvety cloth nest for the headphones, and the CZ-8A itself. 


Externally, the Crosszone CZ-8A looks like the most dynamic stereo headphones, unprepared listeners can expect an aha moment. My wife's reaction confirmed this upon the initial listen. 

The closed-back design of the headphones eliminates any influence of the room and allows for much more intense music reproduction, but this is still limited by the inherent shortcomings of the headphones' concept. 

1. Headband
2. Hinge (Adjustable Angle 60.5°)
3. Joint (Adjustable Angle +20°-90°)
4. Headphone Housing
5. Ear Pad
6. Headphone Jack

But! Among headphones, the CZ-8A has a very different mark. It was designed from the ground up to physically "fool" the brain with carefully calculated and positioned drivers. 

CZ-8A magnifies the impact of the headphone experience, expanding depth, accenting a sense of presence, and adding far more cinematic impact than you'd expect from headphones.

It was really interesting to experience the reverse effect that, for example, BACCH-DSP produces on a pair of speakers. Conversely, the Crosszone CZ-8A mimics the experience of the speakers and provides the illusion of a far greater three-dimensional sound experience than one would predict from headphones. 

The soft, velvety feel and adjustment mechanisms make it easy to set the optimal fit on the head, and the carefully designed ear cups are large enough to properly cover the ears, but not huge.

Despite wearing the glasses, the Crosszone CZ-8A headphones provided very comfortable wear and trouble-free long listening without any signs of physical or aural fatigue. 


The CZ-8A's standard accessories include two OFC cables; 1.5m (with a small 3.5mm plug)and 3.5 (with a standard 6.3mm plug)in length, which can be easily attached to any portable player.

The Music


Here are some of the reference music tracks/albums that highlight the overall qualities of the Crosszone CZ-8A headphones. 


The CZ-8A rendition of Luigi Nono, Bruno Maderna, Luciano Berio - Works For Chamber Orchestra The English Chamber Orchestra was reproduced with clarity, clear separation of instruments, natural sound, and transparency - qualities that fall within the realm of a well-balanced speaker system. Crosszone also did not obscure the rhythm and tempo but cemented the pure and steady pulse of the music.

The sudden stops and quick attacks were followed immediately, without a trace of forced compressor-like attacks nor did they round off the leading edges. 

Moreover, the timbres of the instruments had the right contour with a higher degree of commonality with the real instruments. The chamber orchestra also formulated the necessary nebulous shape that swooped out from the black depths and allowed "Serenata No. 2" to sound like real music rather than an animated momentum.


And the flowing momentum continued during J.S. Bach: Prelude & Fughetta in G Major, BWV 902 - I. Prelude - Víkingur Ólafsson - Johann Sebastian Bach with the physical presence of the piano escaping vestigial formation and virtual stacking of somber tones and complete notes. 


As with the loudspeakers, the Crosszone CZ-8A managed to reconstruct the sound spectacle of "Satie: Parade" Satie - Milhaud - Auric - Francaix - Fetler Claude Francaix, Antal Dorati, London Symphony Orchestra, Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra - Minnesota Orchestra ( captured with three microphones) with surprising ability, without fragmenting the complex musical passages, nor blurring the essence of dynamics or sound layering. 

It was intriguing to observe the juxtaposition of the first and last rows, and left and right orchestra spread, without blurring. 


The portrayal of large spaces, especially large orchestra with holographical, distortion free nature was further revealed throughout Holst: The Planets, Op. 32 - 1. Mars, the Bringer of War - Los Angeles Philharmonic Zubin Mehta where Crosszone CZ-8A kept a grandiosity and constant force of orchestra headwind 

The lower register, and orchestra bass notes were promptly presented but not intrusive, with omnipresent feeling of energy control, in absence of cauldron and cacophony establishing the immersive vista.


Crosszone CZ-8A rendered the vocals of Mirella Freni and Shelby Lynne captivatingly and nested a beautiful aural and musical manifesto.

Refined evenness was especially evident in "Just A Little Lovin'," where no artificial sibilants were heard, nor the dynamic congestion took over the needed dynamic tract. 

With the CZ-8A, Lynne and Freni's vocals were never immutable but followed the music's narrative with continuity. 


The highly demanding "Just A Little Lovin'" can all too easily force headphones to lose the plot in trying to replicate this most potent recording. Not so with the CZ-8A, which fled the typical sound headphone capsule imprint. The music was not loquacious or lacking in acoustic focal points, nor were decay and delay times fleeting. 

Conclusion


I have been evaluating the Crosszone CZ-8A headphones over the course of several months. This is always a good opportunity to delve deeper into the effect and give an objective evaluation, and I like to capture the moments with multiple listening notes documenting the effects.


There can be a lot of unexpected twists and turns with products, especially when it comes to break-in time and getting used to the system, which can take hours, weeks, or even months in certain cases. 

On top of this, it has been researched and ascertained that it takes 25 minutes to get back to a task after the slightest interruption. For this reason, our bodies, senses, and brains often react very differently to the transcoding of sound, resulting in a diametric difference in our listening experience. 


In longer assessments, the real luxury is the time and circumstances that allow the experience to crystallize into a far more objective contemplation where hidden realities can emerge. 

Back in 2000, I was a fanatical devotee of headphones and their associated paraphernalia and invested a lot of time and money accordingly. At that period, I owned virtually what was top-of-the-line, and among many other headphones, the iconic AKG-K1000. These open, overhead AKG phones were the closest thing to the open sound experience of a two-channel speaker system until my encounter with Crosszone. 

 
While the AKG-K1000s were unique, they were extremely difficult to drive, and in the end, I even went so far as to have custom 300B monoblock headphone amplifiers made and a REL subwoofer added for the lower frequencies (below 35hz). It was certainly something special and crazy, but the effect still lasts. 

In contrast, the Crosszone CZ-8A headphones are more in the realm of concentrative faculty. The projection of the sound field, unlike the speakers, is hidden from the eyes, but not from the ears. 

The CZ-8A foundation begins with the depth of the image, the non-singular frequency tact, and the fine detail reproduction that escapes the zones of compression. And Crosszone does not take these qualities lightly.


With the CZ-8A's expanded sound sphere, the usual conception of headphones goes beyond the expected limitations and comes much closer to the experience of two-channel speakers. The CZ-8A also evades the information density phenomenon found in many headphones regardless of price. 

 
The closed-back CZ-8A offers a low-resolution aural visor beyond what typical headphones offer due to their size. Without spatial discontinuities, they can create a highyly immersive inner world. 

Many audiophiles and music lovers stay away from headphones, mainly because of the particular sound experience in the head. There are some hardware solutions (crossfeed) or software solutions that expand the sound field, but it's still something that does not happen directly on the physical level. 

 
The headphone experience is far less ambiguous than a high-end audio two-channel momentum, as headphones are more or less spared of comb-filtering and reduce delays and latency to minuscule levels, with far less frequency dip or cancelation, making it better and easier to achieve an overall balancing act and make a piece sound spot-on with primary musical elements. 

With this in mind, Crosszone's dynamics are considerable, with fairly strong clout, and the music is never gnomic.


Because of the way Crosszone is designed, phase and time are more in balance allowing the music to fully unfold. The presentation and lack of phase/time distortion remind me a lot of Bayz Audio speakers, with a high level of internal detail and no ringing effect, which can be present in some even far more expensive headphones of various types. 

Due to the inherited and unavoidable size, most headphones lack extended soundstage dimension and natural sound field. 
 

Orchestral reproduction with the CZ-8A still sounds like a smaller diorama, but the illusions are much more immersive and the best I have ever experienced in terms of listening room feel. 

The CZ-8A is all about timbres, tones, and colors. It is characterized by a unique balance and has the leverage of an open headphone type. , 


Crosszone CZ-8A is a vivid example of Japanese art. Recalling a long tradition of operating in the realms of sound intimately reflecting the darker natural attributes of music, topped with unusual atmospheric depth, vertical and horizontal expanse, rich harmonic complexity, and exceptional imaging, reproducing not only the sound but the music itself, which is the focus of CZ-8A.

 
I have often been asked to recommend the headphones that best reflect the experience of listening to two-channel speakers. The Crosszone CZ-8A comes closest to this notion, as its expansive soundstage allows for clearer three-dimensional anchoring of instruments and performers, as well as a spectacle similar to those experienced with speakers; out-of-the-box sensation. 


For what they represent overall, starting with the packaging, the quality of the material, the execution, and most importantly the thoughtful coherent, and utterly spacious sonic presentation, I grant the  Crosszone CZ-8A Headphones with Mono and Stereo 2022 the Highly Recommended Product Award. 

Pricing

  • SRP US$1800

Technical specifications 

  • Type: Closed Dynamic Stereo Headphone
  • Frequency Range: 20Hz – 40 kHz
  • Impedance: 75Ω
  • Sound Pressure Sensitivity: 100dB/mW
  • Weight: Approx. 435g (Body Only)
  • Accessories: 1.5m Headphone Cable (Φ 3.5mm Plug),
  • 3.5m Headphone Cable (Φ 6.3mm Plug),
  • Owner’s Manual, Warranty Card 

Contact

MuSon Project, Inc.

Web: www.crosszone-audio.com

Email:y-hontani@musonpro.com