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Apple set the bar pretty high with the iPod. Unfortunately, the company recently stopped tinkering with their music players. The hiatus has caused a plethora of startups to come up with their own versions of the next best portable player. Most releases, like Neil Young’s Pono Player, aren’t great and offer mediocre sound quality that you can get from a smartphone.

The only device that really stands out from the sea of rectangular mainstream players is the Echobox Explorer. Shaped like a fancy, wooden flask, the handheld machine is in a class of its own in the world of hi-res audio. Just to set the record straight, you can’t store drinks in the device. The top piece actually functions as a universal knob for volume and power.


Powered by Android

Inside, the gadget is running a stripped down version of the Android OS. You can’t make calls with it, but you can use it for streaming. Individuals have the option to use the clean and snappy version of the firmware or the startup’s own smooth platform. “Explorer is a high-fidelity portable audio player that runs on Android and is designed for all music lovers. The design will look familiar, and that’s because when something fits and feels right, there’s no reason to change it. And the sound? Explorer delivers natural, detailed sound, far better than any smartphone,” wrote ListHunt.

Explorer supports TIDAL, Jay Z’s music streaming service, as well as its competitors (Spotify and TuneIn Radio). The company may have been in talks with the struggling platform during the development of the player. TIDAL’s logo can be seen on the home screen, and the group plans to offer a free trial for its customers. The deal isn’t bad at all, and if anything, Echobox is taking a huge gamble at bringing the controversial service on board.


Flexible Audio Formats and Ordering Information

The device dishes out serious audio quality with resolutions up to 24-bit/192 kHz. You don’t have to rely on the streaming functions of the unit for your daily music fix. Individuals have the option to load their own library of tunes, as long as it meets the standard formats of WAV, AIFF, FLAC or MP3. Internal storage starts at 64GB with an expandable microSD slot that can hold an additional 128GB of memory. For multi-tasking purposes, the portable player is loaded with 2GB of DDR3 RAM. On top of the device, you’ll find a responsive knob, a 3.5mm port for your headphones and a digital audio jack. The location of the controls allows for easy access when the small machine is in your pocket.

Echobox is currently running an Indiegogo campaign for the Explorer. Pledging as an early adopter will let you order one on the site. The first generation pod is currently going for $249, which includes a complimentary TIDAL subscription for six months. Color options include mahogany, maple and black walnut. Other packages come with the startup’s savvy headphones: the Finder X1. Shipping for the device is scheduled for April 2016.

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