Picture Sunday – Echobox Explorer

Today, we hop in our time machine and take a look at the good (?) old Echobox Explorer.

 

The Echobox was launched in 2015 as an Indiegogo campaign and Echobox wanted to provide audiophiles an alternative solution for portable listening. I’m not sure the brand still exists at this time but the explorer still remains. Let’s take a look and see if the player is still up to today’s standards.

Echobox Explorer – The Design

The Echobox Explorer design is interesting in its own way. Roughly, the player is just an android device embedded inside a box of wood. From afar you can easily mistake the player for a a flask, and that’s exactly what they aimed for and succeeded to make.

There were various type of wood available during the order process – mahogany, maple, ebony, zebra – but I ended up with the ultra classic maple version. The light wood contrasts nicely with the black glass panel of the Explorer, even if it doesn’t match the old Colorfly C4 retro style.

To mimic the flask even more, the Echobox Explorer wooden case is slightly curved. Top it with a metallic volume wheel that looks like a “cork” et voilà ! From the rear view, the illusion is perfect and no one would dare to question your drinking habit. Alas, it’s just a DAP, too bad for you.

The upper and lower side of the player are covered by an aluminium plate. It’s thick and honestly the build is on par with major players out there. Even the volume wheel feels sturdy and premium, mixing metal and wood in a a very stylish way. The headphone output and line out are perfectly fitted, gold plated and look like they will last forever. Same can be said for the USB port, located underneath the explorer. Even for today’s standard it’s a great design.

All of those features outshine how bad the center zone looks and feels. Running your fingers from the metal part, to the wooden case, and finally upon the screen, feels like going to your nearest Kebab after going to a Michelin Star Restaurant : quite rubbish.

Echobox Explorer – The Specs

The Echobox Explorer’s goal was to give you a smartphone like experience, with audiophile performance. At the core of the player, we have a Rockchip RK1328 and a Texas Instruments Burr-Brown PCM1792, an out-dated DAC replaced by the PCM1792A but still very capable. Echobox promised a 300mW power output, thanks to the TPA6120A2, although they didn’t say if it’s @32ohms or more.

Supporting all PCM formats up to 24/192 and even some DSD, the Explorer had 64Gb of internal memory and one micro-SD slot.The CPU is too slow for modern apps but since you can only use Android 6.0, that won’t be an issue. With WiFi connectivity, the Explorer can be used for music streaming, it even comes with 3 month of Tidal subscription. Installing Qobuz, Tidal or Spotify is a bit tricky though…

… because it’s a hellish experience. Wifi is amazingly slow, UI is sluggish and everything feels bottlenecked. Worse, some pops will occur during your listening if you use the WiFi, so that’s quite complicated if you want to stream through Tidal… Battery life also takes a huge toll if you use Bluetooth and WiFi, even with the 4000mAh battery don’t expect more than 4h if you stream… Not Calyx M short, but still not good enough !

Sound is good, even very good most of the time, but as always DAPs have evolved by leap and bounds over the last years. At 599€, you can find a better player now, even for a lower asking price. Still, if you top it with a good bargain and stick to local music it might be an interesting player. The design itself put the Explorer on my collectible list, even more with the wooden dock, but if you just want a good player, you might look elsewhere.

Love the design though, really love it.

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A nerdy guy with a passion for audio and gadgets, he likes to combine his DAC and his swiss knife. Even after more than 10 years of experience, Nanotechnos still collects all gear he gets, even his first MPMAN MP3 player. He likes spreadsheets, technical specs and all this amazing(ly boring) numbers. But most of all, he loves music: electro, classical, dubstep, Debussy : the daily playlist.

    4 Comments

    • Reply February 3, 2019

      Feyyaz

      Looks Great

    • Reply February 3, 2019

      MisterRee

      Expensive paperweight in my opinion. A horrendous user experience and extremely limited when 1st released and even more so in 2019.
      Even if offered fro free I would advise against it.
      A great concept that in my opinion failed to deliver.

    • Reply February 3, 2019

      Alexey

      Regarding the Explorer vs AK SR15, had a chance to listent to both. In my opinion AK SR15 can be a better player overall (UI, features) but not sound wise – Explorer sounds much much better in my opinion!

    • Reply February 4, 2019

      Ozzie Joe

      I got one of these via IndieGogo, and initially it seemed to be a total flop..The pricepoint initially was OK, but their retail was never going to get them anywhere..I took it with me to Japan in 2017, and was able to load offload content from Tidal and Spotify, the battery seemed to last me most of the 10 hours flight, but overall the poor battery life killed this, especially when you factored in BluTooth and Wifi..

      The app they packaged it with – an Echobox skinned version USB Audio Pro was TOTAL RUBBISH, and for the first few months I would get pops via the codec built into it, especially when Hz rates changed from say flac 96 – 192..It was annoying and Echobox denied it.. remarkably about 18 months ago someone found the HyBy audio app worked and since then I haven’t had a problem. I like the audio quality and the fact it can play DSD iso directly via the app.

      I mainly use it to listen to music in my car

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