Tough and Tiny, the Echobox Finder X1

Fledgling company Echobox recently released their first headphone, the Finder X1. Pitched to me as in-ear monitors that are delicate in size but durable, I was curious to hear what the X1, recently into production after a crowdfunding campaign, had to offer.

Let’s be honest, a lot of crowd-funded campaigns do not go so well. According to a University of Pennsylvania analysis of Kickstarter, 9 percent of funded campaigns fail to deliver rewards. And even after a successful campaign, many companies don’t make it to retail distribution. So while I keep an eye on the ideas that are asking for support, I generally don’t give them much attention until after the goods are delivered and the product is ready for a retail environment.

But although Echobox’s Finder X1 is the result of an Indiegogo campaign, I first encountered them at the Los Angeles Luxury Tech show. Created to complement the Explorer, Echobox’s high resolution digital music player, the X1 are designed to be lightweight and tough. The buds themselves are made of titanium, and the silver-plated copper cable is coated with a rubbery casing. The dynamic drivers are 9.2mm PEEK and have a claimed frequency response of 15Hz to 35kHz with a sensitivity of 96dB/mw and an impedance of 22 Ohms.

The X1 come with three sets of acoustic tuning filters (warm, neutral, and bright) and are available in a version with an Apple compatible remote and mic. Pretty standard entry-level audiophile stuff. You’ll understand then, my surprise when the PR rep told me that earlier that day they had duct-taped a pair of X1 on the pavement at the entrance to one of the busiest freeway on-ramps in Los Angeles and let cars run over them for an hour. (The Echobox website has video of another pair being run over by a food truck and surviving.)

As someone who regularly stresses over dropping planar magnetic headphones, the idea of taco-truck-invincible in-ears was kinda appealing. But only, of course, if they sound good. And for the price, the Finder X1 do sound rather good. While the voicing isn’t flat, the peaks in the highs and lows are pleasantly formed, and the soundstage feels larger than the tiny chassis would indicate.

The filters, while they do temper the sound somewhat, don’t completely alter the X1’s frequency range. The highs between 5kHz and 10kHz is the range that sounds the most affected, while the lows don’t see to be diminished by the red “bright” filter at all. By the same token, even the black “warm” filter still has quite a bit of high end. If you like deep lows in your mobile headphones, with a bright sparkle on top, you’ll really like the X1. Those who prefer a rolled off low end or a warmer, muted high end probably won’t be as pleased, even with the filters in use.

Really though, for a first outing, the Finder X1 are a great start for a new company. The build is comfortable and durable, the sound is large and exciting, and for $199 for a non-mic version and $229 with the three-button remote and mic, they’re affordable as well. I’m excited to see what Echobox does next. And, also maybe run my headphones over with my car.