Echobox interview with George Gill.










First of all tell us a little about yourself and the company.


The company originated three years ago with our current CEO and two engineers coming up with ideas for quality products that could be made affordably. Their first idea was for a hires DAP that was a dedicated streaming device - they wanted to make something with as little internal memory as possible that would capitalize on the surge in streaming audio's popularity, while delivering superior audio quality to a smartphone. Now, obviously we've since learned, as a company, that memory is REALLY important to most people who are actually interested in this type of device, so we've adjusted accordingly. The Finder was a no-brainer - we have one of the best diaphragm engineers in the world, and before starting up Echobox, he was tired of making products for companies that didn't give him any control over what he was designing; hence his desire to be involved during the earliest stages of the company. He was also tired of hearing complaints about the durability of audio products, when he already knew that plastic was just about the weakest material usable for housings, despite its popularity. Titanium represented the polar opposite of plastic - it's ultra-durable, insanely light for a metal of its strength, and looks extremely classy.

I was brought on by Echobox in December last year to help develop their brand, company infrastructure, business model, and alpha-stage products.

As far as tech goes, my background is in sales and product development. I spent four years with T-Mobile in retail sales, and a short stint in inside b2b sales. While working at T-Mobile, I got a really lucky break for someone without a college degree, and had the amazing opportunity to work in sales management and product development with Drywired, a startup company that deals in nanotech-based waterproofing solutions and other industrial and mil-spec nanotechnology products. I was originally hired for my sales acumen, knowledge of mobility products, management experience/training, and understanding of trends in the mobile/telecom industry. While at Drywired, I got to work directly with chemical engineers to troubleshoot new products and fine tuning applications for nanotech-based coating products, and also with the business development team, who helped me start learning what it takes to run a company.








You have several products up and coming. Could you tell us a little about them and how it ties in with your indiegogo campaign.


Well, I can't share too much about our plans - suffice to say, for now, that we've got two more versions of the Explorer in R&D, as well as the next version of the Finder. One Explorer is smaller, with a dedicated music UI (no open Android) and slightly reduced amplification compared to the Explorer. The other has a larger screen and will be targeted at a more traditional hifi price point. The new Finder will be based on an even more ergonomic design, and, depending on the success of our IndieGoGo campaign and first few months in retail (read: how much we have to spend on R&D afterwords), should have replaceable cables.

Unfortunately none of these products are feasible for us just yet - we are really making a push with the Finder and Explorer, and if they do well, we hope to release updated versions in roughly one year.

We also have ambitions to offer products with applications in pro audio production and music education, but I really can't say much about them - we don't want anyone stealing our ideas before we have the chance to make it! ;)








Many people are asking about your DAP, especially the choice of shape. How did you come to decide on that unique shape(for a dap).



Honestly, it started because we really want our customers to feel connected to our products; not just in the cheesey, techy way, but also physically and artistically. We chose the design for the Explorer because it's a centuries-old design that puts ergonomics and functionality first. People have been holding and putting flasks in their pockets for around 300 years, and the design has yet to change; as my grandfather always said, if it ain't broke, don't fix it! We also just think it looks a lot more distinctive and stylish than the traditional "black box" approach.

We chose wood for the body for the same reason: its a familiar texture and just feels really good in the hand. We chose hardwoods to ensure the durability of the Explorer, and because they tend to finish really well and have nice, attractive grains.







Will there be any other shapes available? 



We are looking at alternate form factors for our next release, which should be in roughly 1 year. We really enjoy the shape of the Explorer and want to base all of our devices on the same principles - the overall shape won't be quite as recognizable in the future, because we really want to modernize on it, slim it down, and improve its functionality as a mobile device. But we really love the way the Explorer feels in-hand and fits in the pocket, so we don't want to stray too far.

I'll say this: if you look at the next-gen designs, you would never immediately think "hip flask!" the way you do when you look at the Explorer. Not even a little bit. But we really like the curved design, and we enjoy working with premium materials, so we won't be releasing a black plastic slab.





I enjoyed an early rendition of the DAP this year at the first Fujiya Avic Tokyo headphone show of 2015. I thought the sound was full bodied and also had clarity. is there any particular sound signature you are going for?



So glad you liked it! As a company founded and run by audiophiles and musicians, we really wanted a sound that was as true to the recording as possible. We also feel that most mainstream gear, consumer or audiophile, doesn't usually have a truly neutral signature: most consumer devices have rolled-off highs and bass, and usually a slightly recessed midrange, while many audiophile-focused products pursue a brighter, more artificially detailed sound. We wanted the Explorer to be natural, neutral, and smooth; not emphasizing any part of the spectrum over the others. In our opinion, doing anything else compromises the naturalness of the sound, masks detail, and alters the character of the music in a way that was not intended by the artist (and usually doesn't sound as good).





Is this device mainly aimed at streamers or is it also one I can carry my own library on?  How much memory can it hold?



The Explorer is for anyone who loves music! Seriously, some audiophiles have this misplaced sense of superiority, as though they can hear so many things others can't; it's true to varying degrees, because aural anatomy varies from person to person, and people naturally train their own ears when they become accustomed to listening for tonal accuracy and micro-detail, but if a year of going to both specific audio and more general tech shows has taught me anything, it's that anyone can hear the difference between the type of audio you get from a smartphone and what you get with the Explorer - it's really palpable, and even though most people can't put what they hear into words regarding the differences in tonal characteristics, distortion, extension, and so forth, they can definitely still hear it - and, most importantly, they feel it. When detail or dynamics are lacking, or when tonality is off, it throws our brains off, because we know something isn't right, and when that happens we don't feel nearly as involved in the music.I think if almost anyone without substantial hearing loss were to use good quality headphones (by which I mean NON-FASHION BRAND OR GAMING headphones costing over $200) to compare the Explorer to a smartphone, they'd be really frustrated with the sound of their smartphone from that point on.

The goal of the Explorer as a product is twofold: first, to make high quality audio on-the-go accessible to anyone (read: affordable), and secondly, to provide existing audiophiles and gear heads a way to use streaming away from home with a device that does justice to hires streaming like TIDAL, without having to strap/rubber band an outboard amp to their DAP, or, even worse, a DAC/amp combo to their phone. That's just annoying and bulky. The Explorer may be thicker than a smartphone, but it's also got an extremely ergonomic and pocket-able shape, has a much bigger battery than a phone, and packs an amp circuit that rivals some desktop offerings.

It's got 64GB of storage internally, and has a microSD slot for extra space, though, so your library is safe with us ^_^







Can you share any specs with us?



I thought you'd never ask ^_^


Explorer

Audio

  • DAC: Texas Instruments Burr Brown PCM 1792 - 24/192k capable, All PCM formats; native DSD support
  • Power: Texas Instruments TPA6120A2 - 300mW/channel @ 32 ohms; SNR 128dB
  • Output Impedance: <1 Ohm @ 16 Ohms
  • Outputs: 3.5mm stereo, Coaxial

Nuts n Bolts
  • OS: Stock Android 4.2 JellyBean
  • Processor: Rockchip RK3188 Quad Core Processor @ 1.6 gHz
  • Ram: 2GB DDR3
  • Memory: 64GB Internal, microSD slot
  • Battery: 3700 mAh Lithium-Ion
  • Screen: 3.5” LCD, 720p
  • Construction - Genuine wood (Maple, Mahogany, or Black Walnut); Machined Aluminum
  • Connectivity: MicroUSB, WiFi (802.11 ABGN), Bluetooth (3.0 ), DLNA
Finder

  • Housings: Solid Titanium
  • Drivers: 9.2mm PEEK (polyether ether ketone) Dynamic Driver
  • Cable: SPC (Silver-plated copper)
  • Cable Style: Down or Over-Ear
  • Cable Length: 1.2m
  • Impedance: 22 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 96dB/mW
  • Frequency Response: 15 Hz - 35 kHz
  • THD: <1%
  • Plug: 3.5mm stereo, Gold-plated
  • Accessories: Filter Tuning System (3 Tunings); S/M/L Silicone Tips, Double and Triple Flange Silicone Tips, Comply T400 Isolation Series Tips, Carry Case, Cable Cinch






It also seems that you have made the foray into in ears. Tell us a little about that and any future plans for further products.



The Finders are a lot of fun. Their bass is punchy but well-controlled - the sound is not overly warm, and never masks detail, but has a serious kick to it. It's a very revealing IEM - bad recordings will get shown up for sure. Our engineer is a big fan of female vocals, so the upper midrange is very detailed and carries a good amount of presence - female vocals especially sound really airy.







Anything else you'd like to add?

Please back our campaign! We have some really cool ideas for future products, and really want to do as much as we can to provide support for charitable music organizations like Seattle Music Partners, which we plan to do well beyond our IndieGoGo campaign. SMP does some really amazing things for kids in inner city Seattle, and if we are able to grow, we'd love to contribute to programs like theirs on a much larger scale.

Thanks so much for reaching out to me! I hope this is enough info for your article - if you have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask.

Have a good one :)
Thank you for answering our questions George.

http://www.echoboxaudio.com/





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