Translate

Echobox Finder X1: "I'm Titanium!" - [Review] 🇬🇧

Prolog:

Meine deutsche Rezension zu den Finder X1 In-Ears kann hier gefunden werden: http://kopfhoerer-lounge.blogspot.de/2016/03/Finder-X1.html
Dies hingegen ist die englische Fassung.


Preamble:

Echobox Audio (echoboxaudio.com) is a very new American company that has specialised in making portable hi-fi products. In the past year, the start-up company has very successfully financed their first two products, a dynamic in-ear for $199 and a digital audio player for $499 with the help of the community on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo; future ideas and products are already in the pipeline.



The small company grabbed my attention many months ago when they showed a first digital design rendering of the Explorer X1, a quite unique streaming DAP with a rather uncommon design: the audio player with touchscreen has got the shape of a flask, which is both a novelty as well as a risk in the field of digital audio players. During the pre-order phase, I also ordered one Explorer X1 DAP (I reported: http://kopfhoerer-lounge.blogspot.de/2015/12/Echobox.html), maybe I’m also writing a small review if I’ve got the time and desire for it, but I’m quite sure that I will at least post some impressions along with measurements on my German site and probably on Head-Fi as well.
But until then, there is this test of Echobox’ first in-ear headphones, the Finder X1 which are entirely made of titanium and feature three pairs of exchangeable sound tuning filters that allow for individual sound alteration (to a certain degree).


Before I go on, I would like to thank Echobox Audio and especially their George Gill for sending me a sample of the Finder X1 in-ears free of charge for an honest, unbiased test.


Technical Specifications:

MSRP: $199
Drivers: 9.2 mm dynamic
Impedance: 22 Ohm
Sensitivity: 96 dB
Frequency Response: 15 Hz – 35 kHz
THD: < 1%
Cable Length: 1.2 m


Delivery Content:

The packaging the Finder X1 arrives in is quite neat  looking: on its front, it shows a shiny, rainbow-coloured picture of the in-ears (all other pictures and the entire text shimmers with the same, however less distinctive rainbow effect) on planetary background. The back gives information about the cable, the drivers as well as the bodies. Inside, one can find the in-ears, a sturdy carrying case, the sound tuning filters, a quick-start guide, a warranty card as well as six pairs of silicone tips (1x double-flange, 1x triple-flange, 4x single-flange (1x S, 2x M, 1x L)). Three pairs of Comply Foam tips came included, too.
The unboxing experience is quite appealing.







Looks, Feels, Build Quality:

As the in-ears are made of titanium, they are very lightweight an also super sturdy. The bodies are very small plus cone-shaped and a coloured rubber strain relief is visually unobtrusively integrated to the housings, acting as side-markers in addition to the classical letters.
The silver-plated cable is twisted and then coated with clear rubber; flexibility is good, there is no springiness and on every part and transition, there is a commendable strain relief. What I find quite smart is that the left side of the cable cinch is marked with a small tactile dot.
The threads for the filters are precisely cut, so that attaching and replacing them works easy and fast.
The in-ears seem and feel very valuable and beautifully made.



What I like as well is the small zipped carrying case with Echobox branding and two inner pockets.

Although the silicone tips could be somewhat stiffer and thicker, there is one thing about them that is pretty cool looking: they have incorporated Echobox labels together with a size designation.

Comfort, Isolation:

The small titanium bodies are very lightweight and because of their size, the in-ears are also very easy to place and position in smaller ears (which is however irrelevant for my large ears).
The cable can be worn both classically straight down or more professionally around the ears, whereby I, as usual, recommend the latter due to the improved  fit, comfort and the drastic cable noise reduction together with the cable cinch.



Noise isolation is better than average.


Sound:

For listening, the devices I used most of the time were the iBasso DX80, LH Labs Geek Out IEM 100 as well as HiFiMe 9018d.
Music was mainly stored in 16 bit, 44.1 kHz FLAC format.
For listening, I installed the largest single-flange silicone tips.




Tonality:

The Finder X1 arrives with three pairs of sound tuning filters that have a (more or less distinctive) effect on tonality in terms of treble levels. The filters mainly influence the treble and with all of them, the Finder sounds very bassy and sports a u-shaped character.

Black Filters (“Reference”):
The lows’ emphasis starts quite evenly extending at 600 Hz and forms its climax in the midbass at around 60 Hz, though it very slightly rises towards the sub-bass as well. With about +15 dB in the midbass at 60 Hz (compared to something really flat like the Etymotic ER-4S), the emphasis is quite strong; as the upper bass at 100 Hz and the lower root are however less emphasised, the bass appears quite strong, though not as mighty as with many other in-ears that have a similarly distinctive emphasis but whose bass rises with the shape of a hump – as X1’s rises quite evenly and therefore has less middle plus lower fundamental tone and less upper bass, it sounds only very bassy in the low registers but definitely not any bloated at all. That’s what I would call “bassy done very well and right”.
Typically for a u-shaped signature, the mids are somewhat more in the background, nonetheless they are tonally very well made with just extremely little bleed from the bass – voices sound very correct and not coloured, however a bit distanced due to the tuning. Right after 1 kHz, the presence area is pretty correct in terms of level; from 2.5 kHz on level starts evenly rising and forms its emphasis’s climax at 8 kHz with around 8 dB above zero. Above and in the super treble region, level drops and then rolls off; I’d probably wished somewhat more subtle glare above 10 kHz.
With this filter, sibilants are more or less emphasised as well, though they don’t overly hiss with moderate to low listening levels.
On a side-note, I was very positively surprised and happy when I heard that the midrange was very well made despite the tuning.

Red Filters (“Treble”):
With the red treble filters, the high frequency emphasis is even somewhat more present, giving the sound a more metallic timbre and a more sibilant signature at times. Sound becomes sharper, more cutting, and the mids start sounding somewhat hollow.
Who listens at very low levels and/or is not afraid of treble should get along with this tuning; who prefers a smoother signature and listens rather loudly should definitely stay away from the red filters.

Silver Filters (“Bass”):
With these filters that come pre-installed when the in-ears arrive, the treble is in relation the flattest out of the three filters and sibilance is audibly tamed, nonetheless upper treble is still elevated (, splashy, still slightly metallic and bright) as level evenly rises from the lower highs on as well, though the upper frequencies sound the most natural and even with these filters.
Therefore, I am not surprised at all that exactly these filters out of the three pairs came installed as standard.

On a personal side-note: In contrast to many in-ears, X1’s presence area and middle treble are not somewhat recessed but evenly rising emphasised, which could be a small shock for people who come from such in-ears that have recessed middle highs. As someone who loves to listen to music with the very neutral Etymotic ER-4s which is neutral and not recessed in the middle highs, it wasn’t too difficult for me to adapt to Finder’s uplifting treble. As an effect of the rising level in the upper frequencies, X1 sounds somewhat more aggressive than many models and because of having relatively correct level in the presence area, it is also bit more critical with bad recordings.
Who is listening at low volume and doesn’t have a problem with bright, upfront treble should get along with the Finder quite well.
As I am someone who listens at low volume, I can also get along more or less well with the red filters, however the silver ones offer the least sibilance and the best long-term usability with the least fatigue. That’s why I also mostly prefer the silver ones which are still bright however more realistically sounding in the highs.

Resolution:

Very often, with this kind of tuning, a certain amount of control and resolution get lost and it is difficult for an in-ear to maintain a good sound, however the Finder X1 handles it with really good authority. Despite the ample bass emphasis, the lows don’t really sound too soft although the impact is a slight bit slower than usual (which is however due to its distinct emphasis); the bass sounds mighty but yet not boomy at all. In return, the lows are very controlled, relatively clean and also decay comparatively fast. The bass’s impulse response here is good and the lows have got a really nice texture and some good body to them due to the slightly softer character.
The mids remain quite good authority and don’t sag too much; vocal details are quite well revealed although there could be a smidgen more definition and physical closeness (but that’s due to the u-shaped tuning).
The treble is all right, though it sounds a slight bit metallic as an effect of the emphasis and could be slightly more refined with fast music material.
The overall control and dynamics could be very slightly better, too, but both are good despite the tuning and the in-ears still sound fine and I would definitely recommend them for someone who is looking for this kind of sound signature.
In combination with the premium, flawless build quality and the good accessories, the resolution and value are very decent, although solely judged by the pure sound, I would see the price up to $30 lesser, around $170. That the Finder X1 is Echobox Audio’s first in-ear is by the way really not noticeable at all, as it is really well tuned for a u-shaped in-ear, has got decent resolution and is perfectly built. Yes, they are totally worth their $199 price tag in my humble opinion.

Soundstage:

The soundstage is relatively circular, with just minimally more width than depth. In terms of size, I would say that it is slightly larger than average.
When it is about instrument separation and layering, the X1 does a quite decent job although it fails a little at displaying “emptiness”. With faster and more complex tracks, control is still surprisingly good despite the strong emphasis and the soundstage remains quite cohesive.

---------

Versus other dynamic In-Ears:

Sennheiser IE 80:
The IE 80 has got the fatter, darker fundamental tone area and kicks slightly more in the upper bass, the X1 has more level in the mid- and sub-bass (Sennheiser’s screw fully closed). X1’s mids are more correct. IE 80’s lower mids are quite full-bodied and add some warmth but also mugginess to the midrange along with the somewhat recessed upper mids. Here in the mids, the X1 is clearly better tuned.
X1’s bass speed is somewhat faster however not super much. Nonetheless, the Finder has easily got the better control and sounds less muddy with fast music.
Overall, X1’s resolution is higher.
IE80’s soundstage is larger however X1’s instrument separation is somewhat better.

RHA T20:
The T20 has got more upper bass as well as lower fundamental tone; in the mid- and sub-bass, the Finder is once again more present.
The X1 has got the somewhat better precision in the bass (T20’s upper bass sometimes “rattles” a bit unbridled with fast bass strokes although its lows are rather quick for an in-ear with dynamic drivers).
In terms of resolution, both are about comparable, although the T20 is a bit more refined in the mids but the X1 has got the somewhat better bass quality with better control and texture.
In terms of spatial presentation, both are quite similar, with the RHA’s stage being moderately wider.

DUNU Titan 5:
The Titan 5 also follows more a v-shaped signature, however it has a clearly less emphasised bass. In the treble, both are about comparable, though Titan’s upper frequencies sound somewhat more natural.
DUNU’s resolution is a bit higher and it sounds slightly more refined and differentiated.
Titan 5’s bass is somewhat faster, but in terms of control both are about equally good though.
The soundstage of the Titan 5 is somewhat better layered and separated, but pretty identical in terms of size.


Conclusion:

The Echobox Finder X1 is a good “fun” in-ear with u-shaped signature and combines excellent build quality with a very solid sound where really not much is to be complained about sound for a dynamic driver IEM with this kind of tonality. Though, one shouldn’t have aversion for a strong, evenly raising emphasis of both ends of the frequency spectrum when deciding to go for the Finder.
What I’ personally like to see would be a filter which really lowers the bass, as after longer listening sessions, it can become quite mighty and somewhat exhausting. For some people, another filter that tames the treble even more could also be wishful, nonetheless everybody can also try modding their Finder as it is at the moment, because when unscrewing the filter, there is cavity between the filter screen and the driver where damping materials like for example cotton wool could be placed. A small container for the sound tuning filters wouldn’t be bad either.
As a fun headphone, the Finder X1 really managed to convince me.



With a 70%-sound/value-to-30%-rest-weighting, the Finder scores 86.7% or 4.335 out of 5 possible stars.


On a personal side-note: although this is definitely not the kind of sound signature I normally like for indoor use, I absolutely love the Finder X1 for outdoor and on-the-go use, where I often see myself liking a v-shaped sound signature for in-ears. These really are the perfect, engaging “fun” dynamic driver in-ears with a really good sound and excellent build quality for a reasonable price (and you can believe me, there are only very few dynamic driver in-ears that I subjectively, very personally thoroughly love: TE-02, M3, Titan series, LHF-AE1d and now the X1). Yeah, in my book, they are a big success, and I’m really looking forward into what Echobox Audio is going to bring out in the future in terms of headphones.


Very well done, George, Sam & co!