I have been kindly loaned the latest portable amp and DAC (digtal analogue converter) from Chord – the Mojo. I have read a lot about it but this has been my first opportunity to spend any amount of time with it.
Chord are well known for their high-end audio kit and their Hugo and Hugo TT have been firm favourites amongst the Hi-Fi community. The thing is, even the Hugo is priced out of the reach of a lot of people.
The Chord Mojo is more affordable but does that mean that Chord has had to cut corners? Let’s take a look.
Chord Mojo design
The Mojo It is solidly built from aluminium, with a lusciously premium black finish. Chord tend to go for slightly… unusual designs (remember DAVE?) but the Mojo looks quite restrained in comparison. Saying that though, there are some hints that this is a Chord product.
The milled aluminium case weighs around 173g and fees really solid. That lovely finish is also said to be scratch-proof. It certainly feels bomb-proof and probably is after seeing the company’s Hugo withstand a tank attack!
The on/off button on the right as you look at it shows the sample rate and the volume controls show volume level. Once you’ve learned your colour codes, it actually works really well and makes sense. A small light below the charging USB socket gives you battery life which Chord claims is ten hours from a four hour charge.
There’s a 3.5mm digital coaxial input, an S/PDIF optical socket and a pair of Micro USB ports – one for audio, and the other for charging. The headphone sockets can also be set as line outputs, bypassing the headphone amplification for hook-up directly from a phone or computer to a Hi-Fi.
The Mojo has some slim grooves milled into the four top corners of the aluminium casing so mobile audiophiles can pop rubber bands around it to clamp it to their phone. I’ve only had the fat bands for this so it might have been a nice touch to include some skinny Chord branded bands in to the package.
Chord Mojo performance
The Mojo will handle all music formats, from the ubiquitous MP3 and AAC, to the familiar FLAC or AAIF, and specialist formats such as DSD (direct stream digital).
The portable Chord can handle sampling rates up to 768kHz and DSD256 and only needs a driver on Windows to achieve this from your PC.
Chord has additionally fitted an optical input with standard Toslink connection and an SP/Dif input on a 3.5mm socket. This output is then made available to a pair of 3.5mm sockets that can either use the on board volume control or be locked to produce a line level output.
Now, this little amp is quite potent. Chord use green to indicate comfortable listening level, and light blue as loud, whilst very loud is dark blue and there are various other blue-purple spectrum hues to warn you that your ears/headphones may start to become at risk.
I didn’t know this before plugging in my Nvidia Shield tablet when I was at work and had my Oppo PM-3 headphones on the desk, When I hit play, everyone in my vicinity were able to hear the output as clearly as if I just plugged in a speaker. So, best to set your volume low and then slowly increase it for the sake of your hearing and and your gear.
I have not had chance to test it in my main rig but I am sure that it could handle the job as it had no issue with being hooked up to my PC rig to power some bookshelf speakers.
Chord Mojo sound quality
The Chord Mojo was created to be portable so, as well as the Shield tablet, I have also tested the Mojo out with my HTC One M9 and the new XDP-100 hi-res audio player from Pioneer.
For headphones I tried it out with Oppo PM-1 and PM-3 and also the new Pioneer on-ears that I was handed a day ago.
I was fairly sure that the Mojo would be able to drive the PM-1s but I was amazed by just how more lively they were when compared with other portable DAC/amps I have tried them with.
The PM-3 seemed slightly more relaxed. The Pioneers, as I only received them yesterday, probably need some more time but they seemed to be quite level but with a slight bloom in the bass range.
The bass is extremely impressive as is the detail of the treble – especially the cymbals and shine of the guitar on tracks such as ‘Go Your Own Way’.
What had the most impact on me, however, was the vocals. Stevie Nicks’s melodies weaving around the keyboard lines was hypnotic and, thanks to the very silent performance of the Mojo, when Lindsey Buckingham comes in it’s almost as if he is stood in the dark only to have the spotlight switch on when he sings.
Playing through choice tracks from Queen’s ‘A Kinda Magic’ with ‘Gimme the Prize’ and ‘Princes of the Universe’ sounding as huge as I remember them when I first heard them on vinyl. The special effects taken from the Highlander film rendered fantastically in the space that the Mojo’s amp is able to create.
Moving to the Pioneer XDP-100R and testing out some Kate Bush tracks through that and the PM-3s whilst going about my business seemed like a good idea. That was until I found myself stopping whatever I was doing as I was transfixed by pretty much having Kate in the room with me. Now, who wouldn’t stop vacuuming for Kate?
In short, you get deep, clean and detailed bass and the same goes through the whole range right the way to a top end that’s loaded with space as well as precision.
The Mojo is outstandingly even-handed with whatever you partner it with and is as surefooted with rock as it with jazz and classical.
Chord Mojo conclusion
I have been amazed by just how much Chord have managed to pack in to this amp/DAC.
True, the Mojo is quite chunky and not as easy to slip in to a jacket inside pocket with your phone as I do with the Oppo HA-2 but the Mojo feels more solid. It’s like having a desktop DAC such as the UA-1 but with the convenience of having an 8-10 hour battery-life so being really portable.
That said, I have no doubt that the Mojo would stand up to most desktop DACs and even some full system ones too.
Most of all though the Mojo shows just how good portable Hi-Fi can sound and at this price, when compared with the rest of the Chord range, it’s practically a bargain!
Chord Mojo price and availability
You can grab some Mojo right now for £399.
Chord Mojo technical specs at a glance:
Output Power @ 1kHz
600 ohms 35mW
8 ohms 720mW
Output Impedance: 0.075 ohms
Dynamic Range: 125dB
THD @ 3v - 0.00017%