CES 2015: Echobox Explorer X1 Portable Media Player and Finder X1 In-Ear Phones

So, I'm walking down the isle near the end of day one and Warren Chi grabs me by the shirt sleave and says, "Tyll, dude, you gotta come check these Echobox guys out!" When Warren asks, I listen.

Echobox has a bit of a new tack on digital audio players, one that seems in this day and age particularly sensible: Streaming. The Explorer X1 does have internal storage (16 or 64GB) and can play MP3, APE, WAV, FLAC, WMA, and ALAC formats up to 24bit/192kHz decoded by a Texas Instruments PCM1792 DAC feeding a TI TPA6120A2 headphone amp chip claiming 150mW output power. But the real front-and-center feature for the explorer X1 will be it's ability to hook up to a wide variety of streaming services. The current demo unit could connect to Spotify and Pandora, but future plans include support for TIDAL, WiMP, and Qobuz. The Explorer is expected in the not to distant future at around $450.

Also shown were a dandy set of titanium in-ear phones called the Finder X1. George mentioned these IEMs are laser carved titanium allowing them to include resonance and distortion eliminating geometries; titanium is also non-magnetic and won't interfere with the driver's magnetic surface. The Finders are expected next month and will sell for $199.

Echobox home page, and product pages for the Explorer and Finder.
Here's Echobox's vendor thread on Head-Fi with lots more information.

If you can't see the video, click here.

Stillhart's picture

These guys were caught in a blatant lie on Head-fi regarding the capabilities of their player. I recommend taking everything they say with a LARGE grain of salt.

jcheadphone's picture

Stillhart-what happened? I haven't had a chance to check out head-fi.org yet.....Thanks.

Stillhart's picture

A bold claim was made as to the difference between the DAC chip in this vs the one in the Fiio X5, which turned out to be provably false.

I'll say no more and let people make up their own minds. I have a personal thing about being lied to. Others may not think it's such a big deal.

Uberclocked's picture

That's what he genuinely thought when he researched the two. He did not "lie", but was misinformed. If you read what I posted a bit later:http://www.head-fi.org/t/749496/echobox-the-unveiling-ces-2015/180#post_... the PCM1792A was originally intended to be the PCM1792's little brother, but for whatever reason they made it the same. Because he only saw it used in a few high-end sources, he thought that it was an improvement over the PCM1792A:http://www.head-fi.org/t/749496/echobox-the-unveiling-ces-2015/225#post_...
Keep in mind that he has to do most of this research himself, so of course there is a chance of confusion.

EchoboxAudio's picture

George from Echobox Audio here - It was not a blatant lie, and I wish you would think carefully about the impact a comment like this could have on a new startup business that is trying to sell very legitimate products.

Anyone who cares to know the full truth can read the thread for themselves, but I'll summarize my side here.

What happened is that I (Gilly87 on Head-Fi) researched the two DACs, PCM1792 and PCM1792A, and found that he PCM1792, which is used in our product, was only found in very high-end, hard to find CD players and DACs, whilst the PCM1792A is a less expensive, newer version that is typically found in midrange DAPs and DACs. This is what led to my claim about the PCM1792 having superior potential, which is FAR from a "blatant lie" and, while perhaps a tad hyperbolic (as I openly admitted), still very much supported by the audio quality of the devices these chips are used in.

I understand that you think I was intentionally trying to mislead Head-Fiers, but I think my reputation and trading record on Head-Fi as Gilly87 will speak to the opposite, as will the sound of the Explorer when Canjam LA rolls around!

EvShrug's picture

So, it's pretty reasonable that naming conventions of parts can be confusing. It's also reasonable to expect a product manufacturer to look into a range of parts when researching what to use in a new product. Transitioning from a Head-Fi member (and small-time DIY/custom builder, I don't know for sure, I did zero research tbh) to being a member of the trade isn't easy, I bet you have a lot to do. Personally, I know I'd need to be careful with research and plan what-to-say before the big reveal.

I also have seen many amps that share a chip, yet have different sounds, and that may be the case with DACs and the FiiO X5/ Echobox X1 that were compared in the thread. At my casual knowledge of audio electronics engineering (I don't know everything, just have my experience!) I hypothesize that the Echobox has plenty of room to distinguish itself from the X5 sonically, even before you take the streaming stuff into account.

"Hyperbolic" talking down another manufacturer's product in order to build hype, especially with incomplete research to back it up, was a poor choice, and something to be more fair about in the future. It bugs my sense of fairness too, but one mistake doesn't define your overall way of doing things. It isn't DOOM! either, obviously Echobox is getting attention now (making me think of Coca-Cola and movie stars), being open and acknowledging mistakes during development and yet fulfilling the intent of producing a high-quality product would be a great way of overall maintaining integrity.

/end philosophy. Good luck, be awesome.

EchoboxAudio's picture

I appreciate the feedback. I suppose I didn't understand the range of application these DACs have; not being a real engineer, I never would have guessed that a $3,000 DAC could have the same chip as a midrange DAP. But I'm learning!

It was never my intention to talk down on FiiO; I've heard and owned plenty of their products, and I have respect for how they've opened up the market for budget amps and amp/DAC combos, in addition to their players. My comments were not meant to reflect negatively on FiiO; I just really think we're on to something special with the Explorer :)

The bottom line is, we are doing everything we can to make this thing the best it can be. Our real goal is to bring the best sound quality in the non-exclusive price range with access to as much CD-or-better quality source material as possible; I think even with a 64 GB version, we've done it, but I feel like adding microSD/SD support will make it much more versatile, and a few extra features like line-out/OTG support would really put it over the top.

I appreciate the encouragement :) And you can be damn sure I will be doing my best to deliver the streaming player that mobile music lovers want.

Uberclocked's picture

BTW, it'll support FULL SIZE SD CARDS. Yes, you read that correctly. FULL. SIZE.

EchoboxAudio's picture

Heya Uber! Love your enthusiasm, but like it says in the thread, we're still looking into whether microSD or regular SD will be better. Circuitry for a DAP is a very delicate thing and we want to be sure the sound isn't affected, so whatever works best with the current internals is what we'll go with.

EchoboxAudio's picture

I will say that you're the reason we're considering full-size though! The price difference and potential capacity really does make a lot of sense. I do hope it works out :)