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.