Chord Electronics Mojo
Headfonics 2016

Chord Electronics Mojo Review

Sound Impressions

Summary

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.

Accents

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 overemphasized 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 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 has 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.

Chord Electronics Mojo

Matchability

The Mojo is built for pairing to smartphones, selected DAPs 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 a 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 include 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 a 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 slimline 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 fewer inconsistencies, you tend to get with analog pot based designs.

Vision Ears VE6 XControl

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 were 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 buttery 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.

AKG 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.

Sennheiser 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 were 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.

Audeze 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 detailed 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).

MrSpeakes 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 were 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.

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