The conception and birth of the Echobox Explorer is a long tale and one I will briefly touch upon.
I first met the Echobox team way back at a Fujiya Avic show in Tokyo, Japan (??/????, perhaps I can local some photos). They were off in on of the side rooms where I usually pop my head in ever so briefly as usually it is high end gear for home systems and I am more of a portable gear type.
I may have been by myself or with the Head-fi team, I forget in the haze of history, but they were quite friendly and showed me their dap, which I wasn`t too keen to try but was interested in holding it as it was a bit different. But I couldn't help but think 'why this stupid flask design?'. Surely If one wants to make it in this business sticking to the tried and true black box or rectangle was the way to go. And I wrote them off as enthusiastic dreamers aiming for a niche market of the smallest proportions.
Over time and a few audio shows I would see them again (mainly Gilly and their Japan representative at the time) and their politeness coupled with friendliness kept me coming back to say hello.
Eventually the reluctant reviewing site Head pie blog began and some how it was arranged to send samples of their Finder X1 earphones which were reviewed in the early rustic days of this site.
I hadn't tried the dap at shows for sometime as I was on a photo essay craze for shows around that time and wouldn't really listen to too much gear except that I was really interested in. Shows would make me fatigued and the rushing around snapping shots to keep the blog punters happy didn't help either.
Eventually around early 2017 I ran into Sam in the flesh for the first time at a local show and we rustled off for a coffee, and I had a chance to show him a great local cafe and to also properly listen to the Echobox Explorer. I was quite impressed as I had not listened to it for sometime.
I was not unaware of the various delays of the Echobox Explorer indiegogo campaign at the time, whilst not as delayed as other campaigns it was nevertheless delayed as are many crowdfunding campaigns. I followed the story on Head-fi and by reading the indiegogo updates and comments.
I was not a backer. I had enough daps and already experienced the thrill of a backing campaign earlier on with another company. So my emotional investment was minimal at best. I do like to follow various companies progress though.
As I had earlier met Gilly (who departed the campaign in due course) and later engaged in some online dialogue with Sam I had high hopes for the eventual completion of the campaign.
In the end the campaign was completed, there were a few build issues which the company addressed, and an early software/firmware update addressed other issues promptly.
In the end my earlier doubts about design were proved wrong and conservative and the general doubts I had about the eventual sonic quality of the player were dispersed.
As it stands my present view of the Echobox Explorer is a positive one, they set out and achieved their initial goal, which was to produce a uniquely designed dap with excellent sound.
An earlier interview with George Gill, previously with Echobox in late 2015
Echobox Finders X1 earphones review from 1/2016
Music tracks were generally in 16/44 FLAC.
I used the UAPP app exclusively.
This has resulted somewhat through choice as well as necessity, having started a new job with minimal commuting and cafe opportunities and also having a baby and son at home limits my portable rig time.
Nonetheless the time I do have is spent well, the choice between grabbing a tried and true dap and a review item at times is fraught with various stresses and XXXXX. The same is similar for earphones.
So it is always a pleasure when I have a review item I enjoy to use and listen to. such as the Echobox Explorer.
The DAC isn't the be all and end all, although each brand (AKM, ESS etc) often displays a certain characteristic aside from the influence of the AMP chip.
The Echobox Explorer uses a Burr Brown chip which usually results in a clean sound, clarity which can be interpreted at times as a slight touch towards the bright side, or more air between the various instruments and sounds. In this particular implementation and in combination with the amp choice it results in enough warmth to please and tame any overly digital signature or to be highs focused.
Ideally I look for a player that is true to the earphones used, and doesn't alter or misrepresent their intended signature.
The Echobox Explorer does this fairly well. generally it has a accurate, clean and natural sound to it.
The music is well matched and fairly even with the vocals.
The sound is engaging, rich with resolution and definition.
The sound stage on the Explorer is much larger on height and width.
The sound stage is increased in the width, slightly in the height whilst not much more in the depth.
Instrument separation is distinct and good, layering is quite acceptable.
The Burr Brown Dac shows its standard signature with clarity, focus, speed and air.
Vocals are well matched to the music, at times slightly forward of them. The vocals being centered and/or upwards within ones skull.
The bass hits where required, when a track demands it..
The signature is a familiar signature neutral with a touch of mid warmth and clear highs, the Burr-Brown dac chip seem to fit in between the AKM dac chips and the Sabre ESS dac chips.
I found I could happily listen to the Echobox Explorer with my various favorite earphones and be quite satisfied whether on a daily commute, or quietly sitting in a cafe drinking coffee.
Tidal and wifi
Each Echobox Explorer comes with a three month TIDAL code.
I tested the wifi within my house, bearing in mind I survive on blazing fast Japan internet. My router is on the second floor.
I found I was able to walk all around my house, upstairs and downstairs with the Echobox Explorer with no drop outs or pauses whilst playing youtube music videos.
The Echobox Explorer is US$599.
It can be ordered from the Echobox website: https://echoboxaudio.com/
Echobox also has distribution in 15 countries.
It fits its price in my opinion.
The Explorer comes stock with four different color options:
Mahogany - Maple - Zebra Wood and Ebony.
Photos from the e-earphone headphone show in Tokyo, Japan.