Comparisons

Hugo

Perhaps the obvious starting point given the Hugo laid the groundwork for the Mojo. It really comes down to what you want from your DAC and how it should sound because the other differences are rather clear. The Hugo costs three times the price of the Mojo. It is about 4 times the size and has the inputs and outputs that make it more of a system module than a portable amp/DAC. It can however become a portable Amp/DAC should you wish to use it in that manner. The Hugo also carries a wider range of accessories

Codecs

Note also the codec sampling rates favor the Mojo at present with the Mojo capable of 44kHz to 768kHz PCM and DSD64, DSD128 and DSD256 whereas the Hugo is stops at 384KHz and support both DSD64 and DSD128but not DSD256. It would seem the Mojo is the better deal sampling wise at present, but do remember FPGA, being what it is, I am sure Hugo can easily upgrade the DAC potential in the Hugo should there be a need. Right now there really isn’t a huge amount of DSD256 floating around. Note also the Hugo can connect to both iOS and Android as well as desktop systems via both SD and USB, optical and Coaxial. It can also output the same digital and analog converted signal giving it a clear system edge over the Mojo.

Battery

The portability crown clearly goes to the Mojo with regards to size and usability as well as sampling rates at the time of writing. Interestingly though the battery rating on the Hugo exceeds that of the Mojo by around 2 hours on paper (8-10 hours for the Mojo and 12 hours for the Hugo). I did not expect that given the purposing of the Mojo as a truly portable device but real life usage among owners seem to suggest that anywhere between 6-10 hours is more likely and, truth be told, I didn’t get anywhere near 12 hours during review time. Ultimately, battery life depends on how you wish to use the Hugo.

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Tonality

Tonally the Hugo has an edge in terms of clarity, resolution and detail retrieval. It is the analytical one, the “correct one”, but also the less musical one and the less forgiving one. The Hugo is brighter and more neutral than the smoother and fuller sounding Mojo. Truthfully I can live with both and there are times I would want one over the other depending on what music I am playing or what mood I might be in. Artists such as Johnny Cash and his 90’s American Recording’s collection with its sparse acoustic tones and fantastically gruff Cash vocals play out better on the Hugo for me 90% of the time but on certain instances when the accompanying piano burst hit the low registers it sounds that bit more emotional and musical with the Mojo.

Switch over to something completely different such as Jane’s Addiction’s The Great Escape Artist (2011) and the Mojo starts becoming the slightly more engaging choice. Once again’ I have to emphasize that technically the Hugo has the edge over the Mojo. It is not night and day but it is there particularly in staging qualities, width and height. What the Mojo has is a bit of a smoother approach with a fuller sound which really suits edgy arena rock such as Jane’s Addiction over more intimate acoustical moments from Johnny Cash.

The Mojo also plays out a bit better with EDM than the Hugo. That slightly thicker fuller bass response of the Mojo gels much better with the likes of Benny Benassi and Dash Berlin than the Hugo’s more neutral and flatter bass signature. Admittedly though the Hugo has a much more spacious sound to it than the Mojo and the brighter signature in general can often add missing sparkle in some EDM that really needs the top end to shine. Overall though it is about the bass body and weight for the majority of EDM and the Mojo is the more musical choice in that respect.

Overall asking me which one sounds better though is not the right question. If you want something pocketable for long listening periods on the go with a wide assortment of music, then the “budget priced” Mojo is the right choice for you. If you want something at the heart of your system for more critical listening and something that seeks out every last ounce of detail, then the Hugo is the correct choice. It is testimony indeed to Chord that a comparison with the Mojo and Hugo is even on the table given the huge price difference and even greater testimony to John and Rob that it is not a home win for the Hugo.

Oppo HA-2

Form factor for stacking with smartphones and some DAP’s is with the HA-2 with its slim line smartphone type build and dimensions. Whilst it is a sturdy build its not got quite the tank like qualities of the Mojo’s solid aluminum design so I would place my bets on durability with the Mojo over the HA-2.

Functionality

The HA-2’s ABC input output system is on the same fiddly level as the orb implementation of the Mojo but once you get the hang of it (i.e. read the manuals) both are fairly simple to use as DAC’s to computers or laptops or OTG/Lightning to Android and iOS. Unlike the Mojo the HA-2 though does not need the CCK kit to connect to Apple gadgets which does give it a slight advantage when it comes to svelte connection setups. The HA-2 does also come with a few more cables such as an OTG cable and lightning cable unlike the Mojo.

Power

Battery on the HA-2 is rated at around 7 hours using the DAC function which is 1-2 hours less than the Mojo’s capability though the HA-2 can operate purely as an analog amp to whatever source DAC you are using to prolong it to 13 hours unlike the Mojo which is a more closed DAC and amp system. Both have line out capability though the HA-2 can take a line in and “double amp”.

Codecs

Codec capability is clearly with the Mojo with a much higher sampling capability of up to DSD512 compared to the HA-2 more standard DSD256 limit. That is still an advantage purely on paper given the majority of recordings on DSD still around DSD128 but nevertheless future proofing is with the Mojo. The HA-2 is also a “DAC chip” user rather than the Mojo’s FPGA programmable implementation so at some point with major technical advances you could surmise the Mojo has the greater capability to keep up with audio codec capability than the HA-2.

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Tonality

Tonally I have always found the HA-2 to be very competitive with a neutral and dynamic quality but with a bit of shimmer in the top end typical of the ES9018K2M DAC chip. Throw in a bass boost option and it can slam pretty good also. It retails a reasonably musical edge overall. The Mojo on the other hand has a fuller low end response with better detail retrieval and a more natural sound that is far less strident than the shimmering treble signature of the HA-2 by comparison. You do not get the option with the Mojo of bass enhancement or low/high gain but it doesn’t really need it. The Mojo far outstrips the HA-2 in terms of dynamic range, black background and musicality.

Aurender Flow

The Flow is portable but only just and probably belongs more alongside the Hugo than the Mojo. It has a slightly more spartan set of inputs and outputs than the Hugo and critically lacks Coaxial input compared to the Mojo. Instead of a micro USB socket for charging and DAC connectivity the Flow prefers a USB 3.0 connection and supplies a rather longish cable to boot making it less challenging to use purely as a portable device. The Flow screams desktop or transportable compared to the much smaller Mojo.

Connectivity

Note though the Flow comes packed with a ton of extra cables to help with connectivity to smartphones both Android and iOS though it also requires the CCK kit for iOS connectivity unlike the HA-2 which is direct to lightning. Playback time is around 7 hours placing it on par with the HA-2 DAC capability and about an hour or two less than the Mojo.

Codecs

It also uses the same ES9018K2M DAC chip as the Oppo HA-2 though the implementation is limited at DSD128 compared to DSD256 for the much cheaper HA-2 and DSD512 for the Mojo which is priced about 50% less than the Flow. I see no indication yet that the Flow will make the jump to DSD256 though it could be possible via firmware updates since it uses the same chip as the HA-2.

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Tonality

Tonally the Flow’s implementation of the Sabre DAC is much more refined than the HA-2 with much better control on the treble and sounding far more natural in return. The treble on the Flow is more in keeping with the natural smoothness of the Mojo in that respect making it a far less fatiguing experience. The Mojo however has a far more planted low end with better body and impact than the Flow’s more anemic and neutral bass response. Both have excellent dynamics and the Flow does have a very slight mid-bass elevation but nothing as impactful as the Mojo.

Mids wise the Mojo again sounds more authoritative and energetic than the Flows more standoffish and polite midrange. Rock and pop is not the Flow forte, it won’t take on rock and metal vocals with the same level of conviction as the Mojo. I would stick with the Flow if you want a bit more treble shine and something slightly more forward in that department. The articulation on the Flow is still very good indeed. If you need a system DAC the Flow is the better choice but for everything else including portability the Mojo wins out, particularly mid-range performance.

iBasso D14

The D14 is probably the cheapest all in one portable DAC/Amp option of the select comparisons in this review at $229 but it a very competitive performer and one I highly recommend for those looking to get audiophile level quality for a few less bucks. Compared to the Mojo the build is very old school but solid. Its typical iBasso with a rectangular box, analog pot and switches to the front and rear for input and charging. The Mojo’s design is much more solid but also heavier in comparison.

Power

Unlike the Mojo the D14 can also act purely as an analog amp prolonging its battery life to a whopping 20-25 hours depending on usage. The DAC battery numbers are a very healthy 13 hours also making it one of the most portable friendly DAC/Amps on the market today. That’s much longer than the Mojo’s leaner 8 hours of playback.

Codecs

Codec wise the D14 is no slouch but it to, much like the Flow and HA-2 carries the almost ubiquitous Sabre32 ES9018K2M as its core DAC chip. With the XMOS USB receiver the D14 can churn out up to 32bit/384kHz PCM and native DSD up to 256x in DAC USB mode. That’s only half way up the Mojo ladder so once again the Mojo has the future proofing edge right there.

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Tonality

Tonally The D14 is much in keeping with the 3 other DAC’s in terms of being slightly neutral to bright but the D14’s treble performance I rate as being slightly smoother than the HA-2 but a bit on the drier side as a result. Certainly its much less liquid and natural sounding than the Mojo particularly in the mid-range where the Mojo feels a lot more solid and engaging. The D14 bass response is much weightier than the Flow and the HA-2 without bass boost but feels a bit thinner than the Mojo’s full sounding low end.

The one area I thought the D14 competed rather well was on the airiness and spaciousness in its soundstage. The greater accuracy in imaging comes from the Mojo but the soundstage width and air slightly favored the D14. That is somewhat pyrrhic victory for the D14 because on all other aspect the Mojo has the greater detail, the blacker background and the most balanced response.

Final Thoughts

The Chord Mojo is probably one of the best portable DAC/Amps that I have tested in a very long time indeed. I hate getting on the hype train, I really do, but I think that I just bought a ticket for the Mojo express because, tonally, it is leaps and bounds ahead of competing units purposed for the same target market. It is highly listenable, impressively musical, yet detailed, and clear right throughout the spectrum. There is hardly a weak spot in the sound reproduction for something of this price point. The fact that it is a highly programmable design with a super high sampling rate already built into it makes it a portable DAC/Amp that should still stay relevant for a long time indeed.

If I was to nit-pick, then the form factor and the colored orb volume system, doesn’t feel perfect. This is because you do have to memorize the color sequence and, if you are not careful, you could get that wrong setting upon start-up. It is not the most stackable of builds for today’s lithe smartphone designs. It is heavy, built like a tank, but it is a bit on the fat side and keeps stacking a bit unbalanced. Battery lifecycle is not world beating at 8 hours with some competing brands being able to churn out up to 13 hours. Given the decoding ability of the Mojo though 8 hours is probably better sounding than it seems. Some people might miss the old school analog line in for their own sources but you can get a line out. Honestly I am pretty sure the Mojo might be a rather decent system DAC, though not to the level of the Hugo DAC capability.

If $599 is a stretch and you want that OTG and iOS capability, then the Oppo HA-2 and iBasso at a third of the price could be considered but none of them really come close to the Mojo’s full sounding yet balanced and detailed sound. No do they have quite the power handling the Mojo has for the big cans.

What I am sure of is that the market will react and, perhaps by next year, we will have competing devices on the market with similar performance levels. But, for now, the Mojo is probably the best all-around portable DAC/Amp proposition with all the correct connectivity on offer for modern devices and an audio quality that should please a large audience most of the time.

Price: £399.00 / $599

Link: http://www.chordelectronics.co.uk/mojo/

Where To Buy: http://www.sonicelectronix.com/item_107773_Chord-Mojo.html

Technical Specifications

  • Output Power @ 1kHz
  • 600 ohms 35mW
  • 8 ohms 720mW
  • Output Impedance: 0.075 ohms
  • Dynamic Range: 125dB
  • THD @ 3v – 0.00017%
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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