Sound Impressions

Tonality

Understanding the tonality of the Mojo starts from the understanding of why Chord produced a mobile, more reasonably priced product, that could capture the heart of the portable user with an iPod Touch, iPhone, Android, or laptop. Chord clearly intended to reach out to the masses along with the majority of audiophiles by pleasing them with a more fitting sound signature and resolution, without losing the qualities that made the Hugo sound so good.

If one was to remember the feedback of the Hugo user, in terms of referencing, it was all about the supreme quality of the Hugo DAC for them and what it did for their enjoyment. It was, and probably still is, the ‘final word in detail’, but perhaps the amp itself was a bit analytical, brighter, and too “audiophile” for modern pop and rock sensibilities. By going into the mass market, Chord needed a greater emphasis on musicality and the ‘fun’ factor much more than being an audiophiles’ referencing nirvana.

As such, there are a few important accents in the Mojo’s tonal profile that make it stand out from the Hugo and stand on its own two feet. The first thing that grabs you about the Mojo tonality is that it’s very natural sounding with a hint of low end warmth and fullness that never sounds unbalanced. Mojo does away with any overriding analytical behavior, sounding neither flat nor dead neutral. This is a musical, smooth sounding DAC/Amp. It certainly is a DAC/Amp that you could listen to for absolutely ages without a hint of fatigue.

That doesn’t mean though the Mojo is some syrupy languid, and romantic sounding affair. Not a bit of it, and this leads me to the second item that grabs you when listening to the Mojo – the sheer detail that shines through. Nothing is lost, smeared or sucked out artificially to avoid any harshness, especially in the treble performance which is wonderfully balanced for relaxed but detailed listening. Articulation and dynamics are excellent and with a discernible turn of speed that is present right across the full frequency range. In short the Mojo may just about have everything I look for tonally in a portable DAC/Amp and that is rare.

Bass

Bass on the Mojo indeed extends very well with a nice full sounding weighted performance with a hint of warmth. What I like most about the Mojo bass performance is the speed and detail it offers making it sound very controlled yet punchy and engaging. The Mojo doesn’t seem to resort to any crass tuning, such as over emphasized mid-bass or intolerably short decays to reproduce a snappy bass performance. As a result, this makes it a very versatile DAC indeed. Stick on LMFAO and it sounds detailed, but full and intense. That is very convincing indeed for EDM lovers. Switch over to something like Enya’s Let It Be and the Mojo’s bass still has the articulated chops to allow that very delicate double bass’s presence underpinning the very the bottom of melody to be heard.

Mids

The Mojo’s mids are full sounding and spacious with a very slight hint of vocal presence elevation, but nothing artificial or too forward. Overall it struck a very balanced and linear tone for me. Timbre on the Mojo is natural sounding. The Mojo’s pleasingly vocal presence does not come at the cost of a thin sounding or sucked out lower mid-range. Rhythm and bass guitar work is as full sounding and clear as you could want it to be with tremendous detail and snappiness. Earphones such as the Wizard Savant’s delicate profile will enjoy this mid-range and then some. I would not describe the Mojo as having a vocal centric profile, rather it simply does sibilant free vocals very well indeed and surrounds them with excellent instrumental spacing.

Treble

The Mojo’s treble performance is a rare thing indeed. Those who tend to love a very white performance from their treble and crave a ton of sparkle will not get this from the Mojo, but somehow I cannot see them being terribly disappointed. The Mojo’s treble reproduction is neither forced or strident, with very little, if any, peakiness and yet positively brimming with articulation and detail. It is clean, clear and lacking in any sibilance or grain unless it is already present in the recording and even then it is a very forgiving reproduction. The upper harmonics control is excellent, especially on cymbal and percussion work. Thankfully, Chord have wisely stayed away from pushing forward the treble to give a perception of increased articulation and performance. This is not a bright sounding treble range but the Mojo has no need to sound bright to sound convincing.

DSC01148

Matchability

The Mojo is built for pairing to smartphones, selected DAP’s with digital connectivity and of course laptops and desktops running Windows, Linux and Macs/OSX. It is a pretty connectible device with a stellar 125db of dynamic range and a tonality from the amp that I find endearing indeed. It comes as no surprise then that I find the Mojo to be a very matchable device, indeed both technically and tonally.

OTG/iOS

I have experienced zero connectivity issues here with both an 6th Gen iTouch and a Sony Ultra Z running Android v5.1.1; simply plug in the right cable combination and it works. That being said you will have to basically buy your own connection cable kits as sadly Chord only provides a short micro USB to USB A cable with the Mojo. Luckily I have a few small micro USB to micro USB OTG cables hanging around so connecting to Android devices didn’t have to entail spending a buck or two to get up and running. OTG cables thankfully go for around a buck or less in most electrical stores these days so not the most challenging to acquire.

Android Apps

It is worth mentioning though that zero connectivity issues in Android  includes both stock and dedicated audio apps so you have a wide range of sampling rates available to you. Apps such as HibyMusic Player, Onkyo and USB Audioplayer Pro, basically the best apps for audio are good to go. Any app that drives digital audio to USB will work just fine with Android phones and plenty are free these days.

iOS

For iOS devices you will have to get the Lightning to USB Camera Adapter which is around $30 from Apple. I tried connecting with a micro USB to lightning cable from the Mojo direct to the iTouch but sadly it didn’t recognize the Mojo. That is a shame because the added girth of the 2 cables as opposed to one slim line cable is rather less appealing. on iOS platforms. The Android OTG way is definitely the most discreet way of connecting for now.

IEMs

Noise

Hiss free on even the most sensitive of earphones, the quad-BA Jupiter and the 8 ohm SE846 from Shure using OTG from the FiiO X7. That is very reassuring and very mobile friendly indeed. The natural and balanced tonality of the Mojo worked with pretty much all the earphones I threw at it with perhaps a personal preference for those IEM’s that didn’t have an inherently dominant bassline as I found the Mojo to play true to form with these IEM’s and produce just that, an inherently dominant bassline.

Transparency

That is not the fault of the Mojo, there is a high degree of transparency at play here, so earphones that are not my cup of tea will not magically transform into something else using the Mojo. The RHA T10 still has all of its bass heavy qualities still very intact with the Mojo as a subjective example. The Campfire Audio Jupiter still possesses an excellent mid centric energy and vibrancy with the Mojo as another example.

What you do get though with the Mojo attached is a consistent delivery of excellent dynamics and resolution as well as efficient power handling making volume control a breeze even on IEM’s such as the Jupiter and SE846. The first click on the volume and balanced audio can be heard cleanly and clearly, albeit at a low level. It sort of reminds me of how good the Theorem 720 sounds paired to less efficient IEM’s but with a little more warmth and less inconsistencies you tend to get with analog pot based designs.

Best Pairings

CIEMS

Best Mojo to IEM pairings during this review went to Vision Ears always excellent V6XC CIEM and the ADEL A12 with the IE800 and Campfire Jupiter on the universal side. The VE6XC’s spacious sound has always been a vote winner for me but the additional fuller and smoother sounding Mojo worked wonders on the sometimes edgy treble reproduction the VE6XC can spit out on lesser DAC’s. The ADEL A12, while not as spacious sounding as the VE6XC, has the low end chops to really take advantage of the Mojo’s punch and tight bass performance, particularly on EDM, pop and rock. Detail and clarity was excellent right across the frequency range for both CIEMs.

Universals

The IE800 required just a little more juice on the gain than the Campfire Jupiter but sounded excellent once the sweet spot (red orb level) was found. Bass was planted and impactful, treble was very controlled showing nothing of the brittle lower treble you can often find with a poor match on the IE800. Both the Mojo and the IE800 (Snugs half shell fitted) were actually great bed buddies for EDM groups such as DeadMau5 and hip hop-electronic specialists LMFAO where articulate bass and treble can really make a difference. The SE846 came a close second to the IE800 for EDM matching but my preference went to the “bigger” sounding IE800 which made the SE846 sound just a bit flat in comparison.

For rock and more mid-centric vocal orientated work I veered to the Jupiter and the Mojo match which proved to be the more energetic and forward of the two in question. The Jupiter’s more natural sounding mid-range pairs really nicely with the Mojo’s balanced presentation. Arena rock artists like Simple Minds and Def Leppard sound meaty and realistic. Metal male vocals such as Ivan Moody, Karl Sanders and James Hetfield previously mentioned as being already excellent on the Jupiter sounded very detailed indeed paired with the Mojo.

Headphones

The Mojo is not just an efficient AMP/DAC for IEM’s, its got some power in it also. During our dinner meeting, John whipped out his trusty HD800 and asked me to try that with I believe an AK120 if memory serves me right. Dang if that pairing wasn’t butter smooth, accurate and well behaved. He had me as a believer in about 15 minutes that the Mojo was indeed a very capable pairing for headphones.

K501

For dynamic headphone power handling I always like to wheel out my trusty K501 which I consider to be a devilishly hard dynamic headphone to drive despite what the specs say. If the Mojo can drive this, it can drive just about any dynamic headphone. It has beautiful mids, one of the best out there but if underpowered it can get tinny real fast with a steep roll off at both ends. You do have to juice it up the volume of the Mojo considerably compared to IEM’s though, double light blue to be exact but thankfully bass performance was satisfyingly full sounding with the usual K501 impact which is linear but present (it is not a bass head headphone). Treble was controlled with excellent extension and that fabulous mid-range was very alive and focused.

This pairing was spot on for jazz vocals, acoustics and solo vocals such as Diana Krall and Shelby Lynne, but it did a more than adequate job with rock and metal. I still think I can get a bit more out of the K501 for metal, and rock, but that’s normally strapped to the 12kg Class A Hifiman EF6 amp so I consider this one a win.

HD800

John’s demo of the HD800 was alluring indeed and testing of the HD800 back at home brought out those same assured tones and in many ways whatever the K501 did well with jazz vocals the HD800 brought it up 2-3 notches in accuracy and detail. In short it’s a great match for a mobile DAC/Amp and does go some way to validating Chord’s assertion that the Mojo can handle just about any headphone up to 800 ohms. Power wise the volume setting was much the same as the K501 with a double blue configuration on the volume orbs hitting the sweet spot.

Now let me say at this point that the Mojo will not change the inherent tone of the HD800 which is still analytical and unforgiving with a huge soundstage. What it will do is control it to an extent that none of those nasties in the HD800 profile pop out such as the 7k peakiness, sounding too cold or sterile or shallow. The Mojo’s neutral to warm full sounding tonal quality kept the HD800 on the musical side of neutral. Rock acts that I normally steer clear on the HD800 such as the really synth heavy Brother Firetribe (think burning star bright) from Finland was more tolerable with a heavier than normal bass presence and a treble performance, though bright, never painful.

That being said I will still found the most comfortable genre pairings with the HD800 to be similar to the K501 but throw in orchestral works and higher pitched female solo vocals in particular Enya’s rendition of May it Be and Aniron of the LOTR Fellowship of the Rings Soundtrack. The increased soundstage of the HD800 over the K501 was more in keeping with Enya’s ethereal approach to singing.

LCD-2 Rev 2 (Pre-Fazor)

I still give the edge in pure amping terms to the almighty Bakoon HPA-01M for dynamics and power on the LCD-2 Rev 2. That is a hard amp to beat but the Mojo competes very well indeed and is an absolutely beautiful pairing for hard rock and metal, particularly anthem rock with a meaty and excellent bass extension and clear and details mids. Treble is excellent also, more so than I thought possible without a desktop solution. I have always preferred the slightly darker tones of the pre-Fazor LCD-2 rev 2. It has a touch more sparkle than the original LCD-2 but still has that relaxed treble performance and excellent sub-bass extension. The Mojo takes nothing away from that, driving the LCD-2 extremely well indeed (lower double blue on the Mojo’s volume).

Ether C

Required slightly less power than the LCD-2 rev 2 (double sky blue) and doesn’t quite have the raw visceral low end grunt and thickness to its signature as the LCD-2 but wow was it smooth, quick and detailed with the Mojo. One of the best portable planar pairings I have heard yet. The detail and space in the treble and mid-range was superb for a closed headphone and whilst props to Audeze for the best bass performance out of the planars tested, the Ether C bass performance nevertheless sounded confident and well defined. Certainly the Mojo/Ether C’s bass extension was deeper and better defined than the HD800 or the K501.

Imaging is excellent also, which I know has always been a big thing for Dan’s team right back to the Prime. The Mojo really lets the Ether C show off its moves. Check out the start of Whitesnake’s “Looking for Love” the first 3-4 seconds of those tubular bells chiming in from such a crazy deep position I almost thought my computer speakers had cut in. Ironically, and by all accounts I hear Rob Watts of Chord has ordered an Ether C, perhaps he is onto something here.

Page 3: Select Comparisons

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About The Author

Editor

Founder & Owner of headfonics.com. I first started reviewing in the late 80s (ouch!). Back then it was albums, rock concerts and interviews with a typewriter for the local rag. Now its desktop/portable and digital 2.1 audio on a rather nice laptop. How time flies.

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  • John Walker

    Surprised you did not mention the iFi Micro iDSD, the other portable device (at a slightly lower price point) that features 768k PCM and DSD256 – the only direct competitor of the Mojo.

    • headfonics

      Noted yes I didn’t mention simply because I do not have one and rarely follow iFi stuff but maybe I should get one now and compare? 🙂

    • Ritwik

      John, not only this site but I have been looking for the comparison between the two everywhere and found nothing pitching the two directly at each other. That’s smart way to avoid ‘loss of sales’ for either company. Since both are fairly good, in the same price range and targeted at the same consumers, you will not find anyone reviewer doing that. Although, I haven’t heard them both as per experience the difference maybe a little bit of tonality …one being a home grown DAC and other being a Sabre based.
      From friends who have heard them both…one said iFi is little ‘analytical’ and Mojo little ‘musical’ and other guy said ‘Mojo blows everything out of the water at the price range’. 😛
      I am in the market for a nice DAC but will not jump on the hype train.

      • headfonics

        That is actually not true at all and we are in discussion with iFi about obtaining a unit who are only too happy to give us one for comparison. Our only delays is the fact they do not have a distributor near where I live. So stay tuned, if we get one we will do it no questions asked.

        • canali

          Still awaiting that comparison review…I have both and they’re far more similar than not….then again I don’t have golden ears.

          • headfonics

            Good news and bad news. We finally got an iDSD for review but not directly with me but one of our other writers in the US – Mike. I am not sure he has a Mojo to compare with but we will be putting out a review of it in a few weeks.

      • Dean

        I used to work in professional audio many years ago, so I became accustomed to listening to expensive studio set-ups using active reference monitors. I’ve been using a Mojo for a few months now and I absolutely love it. It works very well with monitoring headphones with an 80 ohm impedance. I’ve tried it with headphones with a higher impedance and they’re much harder to drive and the volume control has to be turned up higher to achieve the same level of sound pressure level. Feel confident it will sound good with a decent set of 80 ohm headphones. if you’re in the UK, with the Distance Selling Regulations we have for purchasing items over the internet from UK sellers then you have 7 days to try it out and you can return the item back to the retailer for any reason you like and receive a full refund. So it gives you chance to test it out and see if you are happy with it. I’m confident you won’t be returning it.

        • Dean

          Don’t fall into the trap of plugging in an expensive pair of headphones and expecting the Mojo to sound good. I plugged in some very expensive headphones, and whilst there is more detail to the sound in individual notes played, there’s a characteristic sound stage to the headphones which I’m not liking, so I went back to the cheaper headphones. My advice is, have several headphones to hand and experiment with getting the right combination, that *you* like. And that might be different for someone else. Don’t write the Mojo off if you don’t like the sound and you’ve only tried it with one pair of headphones. Experiment.

          • headfonics

            Thanks Dean and I do agree with you, the Mojo punches way above its weight but I still prefer a properly powered desktop solution for my flagship headphones.

  • Juan Luis Quiroz Guevara

    How compared with the Shiit Stack (Modi 2 uber + Magni 2 uber) ??

    • headfonics

      Its better.

      • Peter Hyatt

        agreed. I compared it to Bifrost, too. Mojo is in a different league, sound wise.

  • Peter Hyatt

    I’ve never heard anything like the Mojo. It has replaced my stack at home and portable on the road. It is now all in one unit. It has the “wow” impact that even some highly recommended desk top DACs do not.

  • Matthew Wingert

    You mentioned in your Noble Savant review that the Savant is like a junior ADEL A12 which you state pairs very nicely with the Mojo. With that in mind, is it safe to say the Savant would be a good pairing with the Mojo? If so, is it on par with the Jupiter/Mojo pairing or do you still consider the Jupiter a better Mojo mate?

    • headfonics

      The Savant is an excellent pairing actually but I love the musicality of the Jupiter more. This maybe simply a preference thing.

  • Forrest

    How would the Mojo compare to the Oppo HA-1 or HA-2 as a line out DSD DAC? Either unit will be connected to my Emotiva XMC-1 processor most of the time so headphone usage is secondary. The Processor and amplifiers are all balanced if that is a factor.

    • headfonics

      I wouldn’t compare the HA-1 with the Mojo – two very different beasts since the HA-1 is also a desktop amp of considerable clout. The key difference is the tonality and decoding capability with the Mojo able to decode at a higher DSD and PCM level than the HA-1 and has a more forgiving tone than the cleaner more neutral HA-1. However the HA-1 is a balanced all in one dac/Amp with more power than the Mojo.

      The HA-2 is the baby of the HA-1 in terms of tonality as it uses Sabre DAC’s also and whilst it has a few more knobs and whistles than the Mojo it is not as resolving as the Mojo. As a line out I wouldn’t buy the HA-1 purely as a DAC. I would rather get the ALO Audio CDM for that kind of money as it is much smoother though can only do DSD64. The HA-2 on the other hand is half the price of the Mojo so that is something to consider.

  • Sergey

    What I don’t get is why no one mentions a strong interference with a mobile signal? I bought a mojo to use it with my android phone and ended up returning it because it was unusable without an Airplane mode. None of my DAPs have this problem.

    • Martin K.

      Why not return the phone instead?

  • Juan Luis Quiroz Guevara

    How performs with he400s?

  • Juan Luis Quiroz Guevara

    You can make a list who the best headphones paired under 500$ with mojo??

  • Dean

    Field Programmable Gate Arrays don’t really help that much with audio, because they’re digital only! You might do some digital filtering in the logic of the FPGA, but you still have to feed the digital signal into a DAC. That’s not to say they are not using a mixed signal ASIC, comprising both analogue and digital components on a single die, but that’s not an FPGA. It’s a very different thing.

    • headfonics

      I think what you mean is the amping part? The DAC part is handled by the FPGA which as you say is very digital but like all of these units they do need an amp stage and of course the Mojo has one.

      • Dean

        The digital code has to be converted into an analogue voltage or current. Digital FPGAs typically only output binary signals at say 5V or 0 volts (or 3.3, and 0v). There are a number of architectures of DAC but essentially you need some analogue devices like operational amplifiers, resistors to generate that analogue voltage or current that’s a function of the digital input code, and they tend not to be on an FPGA.

        Then after you’ve converted the digital signal to a voltage or current you need to feed it through a low pass filter and that tends to be analogue too, and then you can feed it into an amplifier with low output impedance and higher current output to drive the headphones.

        • headfonics

          I think we are in agreement here Dean.

          • Dean

            Yep, thanks for that Muataz, that’s useful. That’s basically what I suspected. The designer hasn’t entirely said, but I infer he’s using an oversampling technique (where you increase the sampling rate to higher than 2xFS ( greater than 2 x 44.1 KHz), what happens then is that the ‘images’ of the audio signal that are produced are spaced out further in frequency (a side effect of the digital to analogue conversion process), which then means you can use an anti-aliasing low pass filter on the output of the DAC of lower order, of less steep cut-off rate, which means it’s simpler, cheaper and has fewer components. Few components in the signal path is a good thing. I wonder which discrete DAC they’re using. I have no plans to take mine apart to find out! And they’ve probably removed the marking from the chip anyway.

            Great, thanks.

    • Sergey Sedlovsky

      FPGA might not make sound in and of itself, but FPGA allows the companies to write the logic on how to work with the digital data to turn it into an analogue signal the right way, so stop your bullshit science and go listen to music.

      • Dean

        Mate, suggest you re-read my post again. I did say, I quote “might do some digital filtering in the logic of FPGA”. Do you know what filtering is? It comprises a variety of filter types, including, low pass, high pass, band pass, parametric filters, which means the FPGA has the capability, if so designed, to change the audio. You’ve just simply repeated what I have said. Stop mouthing off. I used to be an integrated circuit designer and I hold a degree in electronics. And I used to work with a professional audio company that made equipment for most of the top recording studios around the world, including Abbey Road, Capitol, Air and all manner of others. I’ve probably heard gear the likes of which you have never heard. Cut the rudeness please.

  • Sreeni

    I already have a good Amp and was looking for just a DAC. How would you compare the DAC section of the Mojo with the DAC section of the Oppo HA 2?

    • headfonics

      It’s in page 3 of the review but note Oppo just launched the ha-2se so I would look at that also

      • Sreeni

        I did see that. But aren’t those impressions basically for both the DAC and amp together? I will be using the DAC with a portable tube amp like the Continental v5.

  • canali

    have had my mojo for a few months but seldom use it as mostly I’m now a portable music listener (walking with ipod touch and dragonfly red)…but just ordered the extender kit (costs too much imo but anyway…) and once I get a small pocket camera carrying pouch with shoulder strap i hope to swap out the dragonfly red and enjoy the mojo in its place…before when it required the 2 cables was a PITA…cumbersome and the connection often broke down.

  • Matti

    Out of curiosity;
    I know the Mojo is great with well recorded lossless music, but how forgiving is it when it comes to stuff that’s of lesser quality, like a 320kbps mp3/ogg stream from SoundCloud or Spotify?

    This has been my problem with many “audiophile” DAC/amp combos – they’re great for the 256bit/96million-khz-DSD-MQA-BlahBlah-whatever-format geezer jazz that retired dudes in Hawaiian shirts listen to, but are brutally analytical and overly bright for the peasant music that phleb-millennials like me enjoy.

    Chord markest the Mojo to the streaming generation (or so you say in your review), so am I right in assuming it doesn’t totally spit on my “uncultured” post-rock or house/techno bootleg quality streams like so many other well reviewed DAC/amp combos do? What’s your take on this?

    Thanks.

    • headfonics

      Ok first up ” retired dudes in Hawaiian shirts listen to” – Tyle has not retired yet as far as I know 🙂

      Second the Mojo is pretty darn good with most rates, it has that nice pleasing musical profile that works most bitrates I have thrown at it thus far and I listen to 80’s rock cassettes a lot!

  • ChristopheDLX

    Hi, I am hesitating between Oppo HA-2SE and Chord Mojo.
    It’s to be connected to an Ipod Touch 6th Gen with Meze 99 Classics.
    Prices are quite different but I want to get the best sound.
    What would be the best choice ?

    Regards …. Christophe