Today we are going to be look at an interstellar champion, a titanium infused monster, the Finder X1[i] from Echobox.
In Echobox’s words, they founded their company “…to help personal audio evolve to a level that does justice to good music. We plan on making good sounding audio products that are well-built and available at prices that are affordable to anyone who is passionate about music…”I have spent the last two months and well over 100 hours with the Finder X1[i] and can comfortably see that the X1[i] encompasses Echobox’s values and beliefs. The X1[i] is one of the most detailed, revealing, and entertaining earphones I’ve come across at any price, routinely impressing during each and every listen, and not just from a sound perspective. They are the complete package.
The Finder X1[i] was provided complimentary of Echobox in exchange for a fair and impartial review. I am not receiving any monetary compensation and all views and opinions within this review are my own. They are not representative of Echobox or any other entity.
You can purchase the X1[i] here: https://echobox-audio.myshopify.com/products/finder-x1
Packaging and Accessories:
It’s always nice to purchase a product that gives you a pleasant unboxing experience, which the Finder X1[i]’s packaging certainly does. The exterior sheath starts things of well with glossy images of the Echobox logo and the X1[i]. The rear informs you of Echobox and their beliefs, and covers some of the unique features of the X1[i]; they use Polyether Ether Ketone (PEEK) drivers, titanium shells, a silver plated cable, and an acoustic filter system. Down the sides you find the earphones specifications, accessory list, and a nice wireframe image of the hard carrying case.
Sliding the sheath off reveals a beautiful matte black box with Echobox printed in glossy black. This black on black design motif is subtle and attractive, and definitely something worth displaying. Lifting off the lid reveals the X1[i]’s housings on display in a matte black, cardboard presentation board, and a curious round flap hiding the neatly wrapped cable and Comply ear tips. I would have preferred ta foam insert instead of cardboard, but it works fine.
Echobox provides a generous helping of extremely high quality accessories with the Finder X1[i]. These include;
– a high quality, spacious clamshell carry case
– three pairs of single-flange ear tips in small, medium and large sizes
– one pair of dual-flange ear tips in medium
– one pair of triple-flange ear tips, also in medium
– one pair of medium T400 Isolation Series Comply ear tips
– three sets of tuning filters (white = bass, red = treble, black = balanced)
– an organizer for holding all these tips and filters
– detailed instruction manual
– three year parts and labour warranty card
The single-flange tips are made from a very comfortable, flexible, opaque, and very grippy silicone. A welcome feature that I haven’t seen on any other tip is the size printed along the bottom inner edge. This is especially helpful as the medium and large tips are quite similar in size and not easy to differentiate at a quick glance.
The clam shell case is probably the nicest I’ve seen provided with any earphone to date. The leatherette material doesn’t slip out of you hands and has proven to be very durable. The zipper slides smoothly but with good resistance. The two mesh pockets inside keep the earphones in place and will hold your spare ear tips with tons of space to spare. That said, you don’t need the mesh pockets to hold the ear tips because of the organizer. Simply put, this case feels expensive.
Some manufacturer’s like RHA offer simple (but beautifully crafted) tip holders that keep the included tips organized and secured. These holders aren’t designed to travel with you. Bringing extra tips requires you to leave it behind somewhat defeating the purpose. Echobox’s solution is brilliant. They include a fitted silicone organizer that securely contains every tip and the spare filters, all designed to fit comfortably in the case along with the earphones themselves.
This unboxing experience and the overall quality of the accessories included give an amazingly positive first impression. It was only after spending some time with the different filters that I found they were quite delicate and easy to damage with normal use. I’ll expand on that in the next section.
Build, Design, Comfort, and Isolation:
Echobox released a short promotional video in October of 2015 to announce their, at the time, upcoming Indigogo campaign of the Finder X1 and the impressive durability of this earphone. How did they do this? They taped it to the road at a busy intersection in Los Angles and let cars run it over for five minutes. The earphones came away unscathed, as you would expect from a promotional video. While I can’t personally attest to them surviving such abuse, it wouldn’t shock me if after being left there all day they came away looking brand new, working just as well as they did out of the box; they’re that well built.
Every piece of titanium is beautifully machined with a very fine, subtly ribbed texture that improves grip and flat out looks damn cool. The small straight jack and in-line control module are well relieved, though the cable feels cat-proof with it’s dense outer sheath. I doubt the strain relief is even needed to be honest. Relief for the ear pieces is in-built, a feature I first came across on the even more compact AAW Q. The only potential qualm I have with the cable is that it’s on the stiff side, though not so stiff that it impedes on usability in any meaningful way.
The inline control module is a little bulky and heavy, offset by the aura of quality and steadfastness on display. The three buttons depress with a satisfying and stable “clack”. This tactile feedback is something other manufacturers should try and mimic. It’s very satisfying. It works well for phone calls, but touch of background static reduces clarity a minute amount.
The filters themselves are quite small and very well machined. I had no issues installing and removing them from the X1[i], though things weren’t all positive. While swapping out the red filters on one occasion the mesh separated from the exterior housing of the filter, sticking to the nozzle. I was able to pop it back in place and have no had any further issues. On one of the white filters the fabric separated from the inner grill and bunched up, thereby rendering it useless. I was able to peel it out of place with a pin, carefully smooth it out, and re-install it. It still works but has a tendency to stick to the main housing if changing filters. This is an area of improvement for the X1[i] given the filters are a primary and defining feature.
Due to the compact size, light weight, and curvaceous housings, I found the X1[i] to be extremely comfortably, even more so when worn cable over ear. They didn’t create any hot spots in my outer ear, nor were there any odd ergonomic quirks to worry about. Just set ’em and forget ’em.
For an earphone with dynamic drivers, the X1[i] isolates exceptionally well for me. I chalk this up to the vents being integrated into the internal strain relief, around where the cable enters the housing. Toss on the included Comply foamies or the included multi-flange tips to improve things further.
Overall they are an unreasonably well-built and comfortable earphone, just be careful installing and removing the filters as they seem somewhat frail.
Tips: If you happened to pick these up and are sensitive to treble, then you’ll do well by tip rolling. The included Complys do a decent job of nullifying some of the most intense treble peaks. Comply’s Sport tips with the added moisture guard are even more effective. Sony’s Hybrid tips also pair quite well, as do KZ’s new star-edged tips. Their bore isn’t as small as the Sony’s and the stiff inner tube doesn’t deaden the treble as much, but they simply sound good and accompany the X1[i]’s well-engineered ergonomics quite effectively. If mass quantities of treble doesn’t bother you, the stock tips are some of the best you’ll find so you can end your search there.
Amping: I definitely recommend an amp, especially if not playing high quality files. The X1[i] is very revealing and doesn’t play nice with low quality source material. “Quality in, quality out” definitely applies. They can be driven just fine from a smartphone like my HTC One M8 but I found adding the Topping NX1 into the chain noticeably tightened up the treble and gave their somewhat soft mid-bass punch some needed authority.
You know that moment when you find something that just clicks for you? You pick up that ‘just right’ pen with ergonomics that mold to your hand allowing a flawless scroll across the page. Or maybe that moment when hunting for your dream car you think;
“This is it. This is the one for me.”
That’s how I felt the moment the Finder X1[i] graced my ears. I was struck with a sense of deep familiarity because they were so similar to my favorite earphone, the JVC HA-FXH30, but improved and better in almost every way. What hit me first was just how clear and detailed they were. I’ve tried a number of hybrid and balanced armature earphones which output a good amount of detail in addition to offering up other typical BA benefits like improved driver speed and response, heightened clarity, etc. etc, but it’s always nice to see a well-tuned dynamic hang tight in these metrics. It’s earphones like the X1[i], and the FXH30 before it, that dull my desire to try all the hyped budget hybrids popping up left, right, and centre. I don’t really feel the need when this single 9.2 mm, PEEK driver pretty much does it all.
Speaking of PEEK, or Polyether Ether Keytone; what is it? Based on some interweb sleuthing it is a semi-crystalline thermoplastic with a few qualities that make it great for use in this particular application; high tensile strength, stiffness, and low moisture absorption rates to name a few. I’m sure you can see how these would be useful in the application of an earphone in which a diaphragm is always moving and inserted in a fairly moist environment, that being your ear. What did choosing this material result in? A highly detailed, quick, accurate, and entertaining earphone with a signature that can be personalized with the three filter options.
The general signature of the X1[i], regardless of filter, is slightly warm with an abundant mass of treble, a crystal clear though somewhat dialed back midrange, with a swell of sub-bass. From the upper treble through to the lower midrange the Finder comes across slightly thin, accentuating their already excellent detail and clarity. Things thicken up a bit heading into the low end giving the X1[i] some much needed body and weight to their sound. While they do not have a massive soundstage, it is evenly distributed and airy enough to give you the occasional “what was that!?” moment as sound whips around you. Imaging, layering, and separation are all quite impressive, backed by a nice black background that lets the detail shine.
*In the manual the white filter is listed as the balanced option and the black as bass, but a quick listen did not support this in any way. It was clear bass and treble quantity overall was reduced with this black filter, and bass quantity, sub-bass in particular, notably increased with the white filter.*
Let’s take a glance at the filters to see how they play around with this general sound, covered from most to least favored.
White – Bass
The white filter brought the X1[i]’s signature more in line with my personal preferences for lots of sub-bass and less mid-bass while maintaining an energetic but not overpowering upper end and fairly prominent mid-range. This to me came across as the most even-handed and refined filter.
Red – Treble
I totally get why these filters are marked as the least favorite in most reviews. They take an already abundant top end and bring it even more forward in the mix. This is a treble-head filter through-and-through and if you’re down for some wicked detail, these little babies will shove it down your throat with a stupid grin on your face. There’s still a clean midrange and notable bass quantity kicking it in the background, but the highs steal the show and can be a little over-enthusiastic at times, even for me.
Black – Balanced
The black filter is the balanced option. It’s not balanced in the sense that it makes the X1[i] a neutral, uncolored earphone because it certainly isn’t that. It simply dials back the bass and treble enough to bring things a little closer together. The X1[i]’s lovely mid-range is given additional emphasis because the upper end’s energy is dulled a notable amount. I found they also significantly reduced sub-bass extension and increased mid-bass response, a shift I wasn’t overly fond of.
JVC HA-FXH30 (~55 USD): The FXH30 confidently held my attention since I first bought them in early August last year. It has continued to do so as a result of it’s high energy sound, unique design, and outstanding comfort, and is still my top recommendation for an earphone under 100 USD. It’s saying a lot about the Finder X1[i] that I consider it a direct upgrade from the FXH30.
It shares many of the same qualities; a speedy, accurate driver with a high energy upper end, cleanly defined midrange, and a robust bassline. The X1[i] adds into the mix even tighter and more prominent treble, enhanced sub-bass extension with reduced mid-bass presence, and a well-rounded soundstage that does more than just depth. If you love the FXH30’s signature and want to step up to something similar but more capable, the Finder X1[i] is it.
Accutone Gemini HD (129 USD): The Gemini HD and the Finder X1[i] cater to very difference sound preferences. Regardless of the three filters installed, the Gemini is warm, smooth, bassy, and quite mellow. The X1[i] is the opposite; colder, quicker, and undeniably more aggressive. The Gemini HD offers up a much more expansive soundstage catering well to it’s more mellow sound, but it lacks the raw detail, clarity, and lazer-focused presentation of the X1[i].
AAW Q (~210 USD): The AAW Q is a pretty unique earphone, sorry, canalphone. As compact as the X1[i] is, the Q is significantly smaller coming in around the same size, all-in, as one of Echobox’s medium single-flange tips. If you want something as unobtrusive as possible, the Q is it.
When it comes to sound quality, as good as the Q is I feel the X1[i] is playing another sport altogether. The Q lacks the refinement and all-round extension of the X1[i]. It’s bass presentation centres a little too much around their mid-bass presence. It is lacking the sparkle and technical prowess of the X1[i] coming across somewhat soft and almost dull, though this does mean it’s the less fatiguing of the two and better for long listening sessions. Soundstage is about the same, with the X1[i] edging ahead in separation. Imaging and accuracy goes to the Q. You can’t beat a tip-mounted micro-driver there.
With the Finder X1[i], Echobox has nailed all the qualities that make an aggressive signature fun. It’s quick, treble heavy, has a robust low end, lots of detail, and it’s isn’t harsh or sibilant. The thing is also built like a tank, excusing the somewhat fragile filter construction.
If you’re a fan of bright, aggressive earphones and are in the market for something around 200 USD, this should definitely be in the running as a top pick. The Finder X1[i] is entertaining as heck and a great value.
Again, a huge thank you to Sam and the crew at Echobox for the opportunity to experience the Finder X1[i]. This is one heck of a successful leap into a very competitive market. Awesome job!
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Daft Punk – Touch
Gramatik – Bluestep (Album Version)
Infected Mushroom – Converting Vegetarians
Infected Mushroom – Deeply Disturbed
Jessie J – Bang Bang
Kiesza – Hideaway
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Run The Jewels – Oh My Darling (Don’t Cry)
Supertramp – Rudy
Supertramp – Asylum