At first glance, the Explorer X1 has the look of a hip flask. But rather than offer a wee nip to help take the edge off a chilly autumn stroll, the X1 is aimed at satisfying a very different thirst. Echobox is taking aim at the modern audiophile's pocket with a high resolution media player housed in a curvy wooden jacket.
With a few notable exceptions, you'd be forgiven for thinking that laptop audio circuitry is something of a manufacturing afterthought, with decisions on such things made at the very end of the design process when there's very little money left in the pot. Plugging a pair of top drawer headphones into a notebook's (often cheap and cheerful) audio out jack can therefore be a little disappointing, leading many music lovers to look to the USB ports for help. Though some USB digital-to-analog converters and headphone amps can be a good deal bigger than the laptop they're connected to, and have a suitably large price tag to match, smaller options are available. The successfully-crowdfunded ZuperDAC from Zorloo, for example, is about the size of a USB thumb drive and supports audio file resolutions right up to 24-bit/192 kHz. We've spent the last few weeks diving into our hi-res FLAC and WAV vault for some lossless easy listening.
Over the last few years, Chinese audio maker Fiio has made a name for itself producing high end audio players, headphone amps and earphones that don't necessarily come with the expected luxury product price tags. Though its current line of portable music players certainly deliver on the audio front, they're not particularly stylish or easy to use. Hell, they even have an early generation iPod-like click/scroll wheel. The new X7 is different. Not only does the chunky smartphone-sized high resolution digital audio player feature a multitouch screen and quad-core processor, but it runs Android KitKat.
The rather clunky, chunky steampunk looks of the Colorfly Pocket Hi-Fi C4 pro won't be to everyone's taste, but the high-end portable music player has attracted rave reviews from industry experts and hi-res music lovers alike since first being outed at CeBIT 2010. Where the C4's supported audio resolution maxes out at 192,000 samples per second, each at 24-bits, Colorful Technology's new C10 player bumps the res up to 32-bits/192 kHz and supports native DSD128 decoding.
Back in May, British headphone maker Reid Heath Audio (RHA) announced a new pair of in-ear headphones that debuted something called DualCoil dynamic driver technology. The company had managed to install two independently-powered dynamic voice coils on a micro ring magnet, one to handle lower audio frequencies and the other to take care of the higher end. The T20s promised a true-to-life reproduction and support for high resolution audio. We got to plug in for some hi-res, and lo-res, listening.
Hong Kong-based Zorloo headed to Indiegogo earlier this year to crowdfund some next generation earphones that integrated a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and headphone amp into the inline controller. By the time the campaign closed on February 22, the campaign had attracted over US$85,000, nearly four times the funding goal. Now, after a slight production delay, backers are starting to receive their Z:ero in-ear headphones and the company's Andy Ho sent Gizmag some to try out.
For its first foray into a crowded earphone space, PSB Speakers is aiming straight for the audiophile jugular with a combination of hybrid dual-drivers and its own Roomfeel technology. When the source audio signal reaches each M4U 4 in-ear monitor, the lower frequencies are directed to a dynamic driver while the higher end head for a balanced armature driver. This hybrid system has allowed the company's designers to add back the acoustic signature of a typical listening room for greater space and true-to-life presentation of recorded music.
Many of us enjoy listening to a good tune or two when out and about, and a goodly proportion of that mobile music will likely be sourced from a smartphone or tablet. For those who prefer high quality sounds though, dedicated players like Neil Young's Pono and those from iRiver's Astell&Kern are probably going to be on the menu. The latter has announced a new flagship portable audio player aimed squarely at audiophiles and sound professionals, which is capable of 32-bit/384 kHz bit-to-bit decoding without the need for conversion but comes at a rather high cost.
British headphone maker RHA impressed us last month when its T10 heavyweights landed on the review bench. Now the company has announced the T20 in-ear headphones featuring a brand new dynamic driver technology named DualCoil. As well as promising true-to-life audio reproduction, the new earphones conform to the Hi-Res Audio standard as defined by the Japan Audio Society.
In November last year, British headphone maker Reid Heath Audio (RHA) released a new flagship in-ear headphone model called the T10i that featured interchangeable tuning filters which altered the frequency response from the company's reference signature to focus on either lows or highs. The high fidelity, noise isolating earphones went on to earn the company a Red Dot Award in the Product Design category. RHA has recently added a sibling that's sonically the same but doesn't have an inline control and is a little cheaper, and it's this T10 model that Gizmag has been taking for a test drive.