Review: Chord Mojo – The Chosen One

Chord MOJO - ISO top-1

Disclaimer: I purchased Mojo used from e-earphone in Akihabara as Chord wasn’t interested in us reviewing the Mojo. I don’t know how this unit got so bloody banged up in the month or so it’s been on market, but its previous owner did a bang up number on it. Not that my Mojo lost its mojo. No portable I’ve used is as full of it. Mojo goes new for 399£ or 599$ USD. You can find out all about it here: Mojo – Your Music. Just Better.

Update: I’ve added notes about DSD playback, nighttime aliens, and done my best to correct grammatical/spelling errors. My bad.

I’d like to keep this short. Short because there’s so little about Mojo about which to rant and stomp my feet.

Form

Mojo and Toy Story’s The Claw-worshipping aliens must have a common, cross-eyed ancestor. Two of Mojo’s eyes work the volume; its final, cyclopic eye, powers the unit off and on. The volume buttons change colours depending on how much voltage is flowing from the jacks; the mains button changes colours based on the sampling rate of the music it sucks. And battery life. It’s a unique, if discursive hardware interface. And, it’s the only thing about Mojo that makes me want to curse.

The rest of the design is rock solid. Chord’s logo is cleft all HiFi-like from the body at a 35º angle. And that body stands out like Østerlars Rundkirke among pre-fab contemporaries. Nothing but its eyes budge. I could throw Mojo through a quadruple pane window. I could throw it through a Vorzüge PURE II+. Østerlars Rundkirke might stop it. Maybe.

Both Mojo’s precision build, and its solid body bely its price. Especially after benchmarking it (RMAA: Chord Mojo @24-bit), and turning it over to determine its country of manufacture, I fully expected it to go for 1000$ at a minimum. 599$ is a steal. And precisely because it is England-grown, I certainly didn’t expect a 90’s-derived ‘Microsoft Works’ logo (thanks, Darko).

MOJO MAX +6dBV 24-44 NL

Function

What you have to steel yourself against is trypophobia. A two-second press makes its mains eye glow, turning Mojo on or off, but only if you pressed it at the right angle. Whilst photographing Mojo for a recent magazine shoot, I had the damnedest time getting its lights to go on without it sliding around my table, forcing me to refocuse my Fujifilm GX680III. It took five tries, the last of which had me rubber gloving it between antsy, frustrated fingers whose work it was to somehow get those eyes on, to get the Mojo back to the table, to switch off the overhead lights, and then to grip the shutter before those eyes again winked out. There’s not drink enough in the world for such frustration.

I get it: they’re part of a unique design. But that design can be a bugger to use. And after just a few uses, those eyes develop finger print cataracts.

Mojo’s tied-died and geekily systematic display of sampling rates and volumes and battery life by colour bands is great- if you have a de-coder handy. Thankfully, confusion ends there. Mojo plugs and plays straight out of an iPhone (if you’ve got a lightning-USB adapter), Android, and Mac. I have no idea what hoops you have to run through to get Windows to play nice with it, but you people exist, and I’m sure there’s a way for your will. If you’ve got a hi-end player, you fire its digital output into any of Mojo’s inputs: USB, optical, or coaxial. 

I should have mentioned this earlier: Mojo whines a bit. When charging, it whines till USB calms. Or something. And it whines when you’ve got it on, but not not got your iPhone or iMac feeding it music. I’m told this is normal. Okay… At least it quiets after a while.

In order to get on with Mojo, there are a number of things to forgive. Like the above. And, like how its eyes are so damned bright. It totally lights up your bedside. It lights up your ceiling, your spouse, and part of the closet- but only just enough. There’s something in there, something dark, slithering, and waiting. Ignorance is bliss. But Chord are English. There’s something about the struggle that matters, that pays off in the long run. And let me tell you… Mojo really does pay off. It zips through 16-bit, through 24-bit, through DXD and DSD. It plugs into your everything. It’s a do-it all that, in the name of compatibility, doesn’t mess with performance.

Romantic types will enjoy plugging in headphones side by side in front of the fire in preparation for plugging and unplugging each other.

But Mojo is hardly about the fiddly, or the fondle.

It is all about performance.

Sound and performance after the jump:

Review: Chord Mojo – The Chosen One
4.05 (80.91%) 132 votes

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

87 Comments

  • Reply December 8, 2015

    Michael Amouyal

    How does it compare to the Alo CDM?

    • Reply December 8, 2015

      ohm image

      Well, I don’t think it does. The CDM is a valve amp that sounds and acts like a valve amp. If you’re into that sort of sound (and I am), it is one of if not the best of its type on the market. And, it has analogue input, which Mojo lacks.

      If you’re into warmth over power, CDM. If you’re into absolute resolution, Mojo.

      • Reply December 8, 2015

        Michael Amouyal

        I am into good sound with iems, powerful, yet detailed and musical. The Lotoo Paw Gold and the 901 are my favorite sounding DAPs. Was not crazy about the Hugo.

        • Reply December 8, 2015

          ohm image

          I’m not familiar with HUGO. I heard it only twice, for a total of ten to twenty minutes. I never got to hardware test it, or even compare it in a quiet room. So I can’t talk about it.

          And Lotoo is the exact same.

        • Reply December 8, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          I’ll be comparing it to the HUGO as soon as my Mojo arrives

  • Reply December 8, 2015

    Tom1206

    Sooo… This little piece of metal is apparently a beast! Probably my next “precious”…

    Does it pair well with the HD650?

    • Reply December 8, 2015

      ohm image

      Technically, it should. I’ve not tried the pari. I’m a DT880 guy. Sorry, I hope we still can be friends.

    • Reply December 16, 2015

      Dan

      I experience it as a decent pair, a bit more likeable than with the Hugo (caveat– not a basshead but still appreciate heft below, clarity, and air, so I tend to prefer a Sabre pairing if using HD6x0 unmodded).

  • Reply December 8, 2015

    Dave Ulrich

    THis looks like an absolute killer!

    • Reply December 8, 2015

      ohm image

      Killer alien, or killer DAC/amp? Which is it? I assure you it is at least one.

  • Reply December 8, 2015

    fiasco1

    Are there significant differences in sq compared to Hugo? Thanks! Oops, sorry, just read the comments below. Never mind!

    • Reply December 9, 2015

      ohm image

      I don’t have HUGO. Lieven will follow this review up with comparison.

  • Reply December 8, 2015

    Uncle Reggie

    My first Mojo had more than a hiss – it was an actual hum that was audible through IEMs with no device inputing signal. Also was evident with an optical input from my AK100 (which is an amazing combo as they are the exact same size) I was told that some Mojos got through the QC process that way. My Mojo was exchanged and now there is no hiss whatsoever. I have not listened while charging – I’m not that impatient, so I can’t say whether that will create any audible hiss. It will increase the temperature though. Now if I can find a Lightning to Micro USB, I’d love to try my iPhone. Bottom line this is an amazing device. With the proper files and headphones, it doesn’t get much better.

    • Reply December 9, 2015

      ohm image

      I’ve not gotten Mojo to work with any micro USB to lightning cable I have. I have one more to try and will get back to you. As mentioned at head-fi, even if a cable like that works, it could change with firmware.

      • Reply December 9, 2015

        Oliverpool

        I have 2 from Taobao and the new Fiio L19 cable. All works fine without the need for CCK.

        • Reply December 9, 2015

          Uncle Reggie

          Anywhere in the states you can get one? (L19)

          • Reply December 9, 2015

            Oliverpool

            I was told by Fiio that there was a great demand. But shippment should go out early Dec to all the countries. I am sure it will be available in the US soon….

        • Reply December 9, 2015

          ohm image

          That sounds great. Having to use the USB-LT converter is annoying.

        • Reply December 10, 2015

          Uncle Reggie

          Do you have a link from taobao? I haven’t been able to locate an L19 in the USA

        • Reply January 13, 2016

          Alf

          does the taobao cable (LT->MicroUSB) works on ios 9.2,, do you have issue since you used it til now?

          • Reply January 13, 2016

            dalethorn

            I think the solution for Apple devices, regardless of iOS versions, is going to be the Lightning to female USB-A cable. With that cable, you add the USB-A to everything else cable (Mini-USB, MicroUSB, etc.), and you’re ready to go. I have a non-Apple Lightning to female USB-A cable, and it does not work, but the Apple cable works with my FiiO E17k, E07k, K1 etc.

      • Reply December 9, 2015

        dalethorn

        I tried some stuff with the E17k and a recent 128 gb iPod Touch – what didn’t work was FiiO’s double-ended MicroUSB cable with the little MicroUSB to Lightning adapter that Apple makes. So I took a short MicroUSB to USB-A cable and plugged that into a female USB-A to Lightning adapter I got from Apple for the new Macbook with the USB-C port. That worked. I don’t know if any such female USB-A to Lightning adapter would work, but the Apple adapter does.

  • Reply December 9, 2015

    Oliverpool

    There are 2 light levels. Press both volume buttons at same time after it is switched on. It will switch between low and normal light levels….

    • Reply December 9, 2015

      ohm image

      I may have missed that because my manual is all in Japanese and I’m not perfect with Japanese. I will try that and add it to the review. Thank you.

  • Reply December 9, 2015

    Dave Ulrich

    I wonder if the Concero HP has finally met its match?

    • Reply December 10, 2015

      ohm image

      Good question. I’ve not tried that DAC.

  • Reply December 9, 2015

    Barun C

    Another good read, but was expecting more pictures. Had ordered the QP1R back when this was making buzz in the head-fi forums. Its a great product at this price point and comparison with Hugo, CDM and HiFi M8 will be exciting to read, if anyone does that. I wonder how good the amplification is compared to the Portaphile 627X.

    • Reply December 10, 2015

      ohm image

      It’s better than the Portaphile 627x in every area except background noise, which is marginally higher. the 627x is one of the best portable amps, but its amplification circuit is bested by this bad boy.

  • Reply December 9, 2015

    vick_85

    @ohm image
    Is that a T1 gen 2 I see in the images??

    Review of the gen2 T1 coming soon??

    • Reply December 9, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      It’s in the works

      • Reply December 9, 2015

        vick_85

        Yay.
        Looking forward to reading the review.

    • Reply December 10, 2015

      ohm image

      Yes sir. Unfortunately I don’t have a T1 gen 1 on hand to compare, but who cares. Beyer fans… let’s get ready for some fun.

      • Reply December 11, 2015

        Tibor

        Hello. I was in a nice shop in Brno yesterday and I´ve tried some Beyer cans (finally, hurray!), DT990 Pro and DT880 (another guy was using T1…) and they were good, but only to the moment till I´ve tried Grado RS2e.. Oh boy, so clearer and richer sound! After that those Beyers were a no go… heh 🙂

        Nevermind, I am going to buy Mojo soon and after I will check those T1´s hopefully (and hopefully those were the 2nd gen) vs RS2e.
        Do you guys like these Grado cans? 🙂

        • Reply December 11, 2015

          dalethorn

          The only Grado woodie I had was the GH1, but the RS series are pretty special from what people say. Their older PS500 was good, but the PS500e may have changed. Is the RS2e the new ‘e’ version of the RS2?

          • Reply December 12, 2015

            Tibor

            Yes! With red painted drivers

      • Reply December 13, 2015

        vick_85

        Looking forward to reading the review Sir.

  • Reply December 9, 2015

    derSchallhoerer

    The Mojo really is that good. I own one myself and love it. I usually don’t fall for the “hype” too easy, but this one is well worth the money if you ask me. Some may even say its underpriced. Who really cares. I am using it mainly on my Mac with Audirvana since my new DX80 really does not need a better DAC/AMP Combo. But that would also work out well. As well as hooking my Yamaha-CDS300 to the Mojo via Coax. You really can’t go wrong with the Mojo.

    • Reply December 10, 2015

      ohm image

      I’ve been pretty nasty to hyped products, but this one is one that, other than some silly stylish choices, is a great product. Interestingly, the USB performance from your Mac may be much worse than out of an iPhone. Mine measures at around 16-bit levels VS obviously 24-bit spec from a Mojo powered by an iPhone.

    • Reply April 7, 2016

      Mário S.

      How does the sound compare with the DX80?

  • Reply December 10, 2015

    Chris

    BTW, cheers for the GX680

  • Reply December 11, 2015

    aras87

    Nathan, any comparisons to Oppo HA-2? Is mojo any better in terms of sound quality?

    • Reply December 12, 2015

      ohm image

      Better in every way.

      • Reply December 13, 2015

        aras87

        Wow! Thanks

  • Reply December 13, 2015

    GraveDancer

    Would these drive the HE1000’s? Perhaps as a pre into my RSA Intruder (for balanced output)?

    • Reply December 14, 2015

      ohm image

      Yes, it will. Mojo packs in one of the most powerful headphone amps around.

  • Reply December 16, 2015

    Matthew Wingert

    Would Mojo be able to drive the MrSpeakers Alpha Prime?

    • Reply December 16, 2015

      Dan

      The pair I heard sounded pretty decent from the Mojo, with plenty of heft [but not to the level of, say, an LHL Geek Out V2(/Infinity) or any of the desktop Schiits].

      • Reply December 23, 2015

        ohm image

        What do you mean “not to the level of, say, and LHL Geek Out V2…”?

        • Reply December 23, 2015

          Dan

          To my ears, the GOV2 at highest gain driving the Alpha Prime has fuller upper mids. When using the GOV2 Infinity at medium gain (450mW) and level-matched to the Mojo, the latter seems more congested in that area but with more pronounced mid-bass.

          • Reply January 13, 2016

            ohm image

            Well, it would be interesting to compare the two through actual hardware parameters to see if there is a collapsing of any part of Mojo’s signal through, or even one in the GOV2, which may favour a certain sound.

    • Reply December 18, 2015

      ohm image

      Yes.

  • Reply December 20, 2015

    Marco Epicoco

    Although not really in the same market, since one is a DAC/Amp combo and the other a portable Amp only, I’d really appreciate a comparison of the Mojo to the Vorzüge Pure II+, which I’ve recently purchased.
    I understand that the Pure II (and its + iteration) has always been among your (@ Nathan!) favorite picks, but – today – which portable amp would you wholeheartedly suggest between the Mojo and the Pure II+, since you surely knows these two amps inside and out?
    Your very positive reviews have certainly managed to push me towards the purchase of the Pure II+, which I couldn’t postpone any further with the recent 20% discount offered by Vorzüge during the Black Friday weekend. Otherwise, both amps are basically in the same price league.
    I guess that for those who do not strictly requires to also have a DAC in the same unit (like me), the most important features to be assessed would be the pure musical/sounding qualities of these two amps. Not that I would ever switch my brand new Pure II+ with a Mojo, but a comparison would be useful for those who are still on the fence for buying a quality portable amp. I’m certainly more than happy with the Pure II+, which is not so widely reviewed online but that you’ve been able to give it justice with a very nice and to the point review. Many thanks for that as well! Cheers!

    • Reply December 20, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      For me, I prefer using the Duet/Vorzuge when using a good source like the AK players or the L5PRO, X7. With other sources where the DAC part isn’t that great, I’d suggest the Mojo. But Hugo is even better 😉

    • Reply December 21, 2015

      ohm image

      Marco, I really need to update my RMAA section to show you where/how certain products truly shine.

      Keep in mind that the PURE II/+ is only analogue input and MOJO is only digital input. They are absolutely not interchangeable. If you use Mojo, you must connect it to the digital output of your computer, DAP, or phone. PURE connects to any old analogue output.

      When driving load, the two are pretty comparable, but Mojo in some places is better, and in others, PURE is better. Thats said, PURE is a bit warmer/richer sounding, and hisses slightly less. I’m splitting hairs here, but it must be done.

      Still, deciding BETWEEN the two is difficult for the simple reason that they are devices with two completely different target markets.

      • Reply December 22, 2015

        Marco Epicoco

        Thank you for putting everything into (the right!) perspective!
        Furthermore, in my previous comment I’ve also completely missed the other key difference of the analogue input of the Pure II+ vs the digital one of the Mojo.
        They’re indeed two products with very different target markets. Although I really enjoy the black background, purity, richness, hiss-free performance and overall sound signature of the Pure II+, those who cannot forgo a DAC/Amp combo would most probably be better served by the Mojo, which really seems to be a true gem. Thanks again!

        • Reply December 22, 2015

          ohm image

          Any time (I find a new comment, which often ends up being late).

      • Reply February 5, 2016

        Duy Le

        I owned DAP X5 2nd gen, could you please advise me which is better to pair: VorzAMP pure II or Mojo ?
        Thanks a lot.

        • Reply February 5, 2016

          ohm image

          Well, if you’re keen on using an outboard DAC, Mojo is the only choice. If you’re keen on having an amp, PURE II is as good a portable amp as exists.

          So, shifting focus from the DAC/amp thing to just sound style, PURE II is a bit smoother and warmer, but only just so. I can’t tell you which you should get, only that if you want to use a DAC, Mojo is amazing and will work with your computer, too. If you’re keen on an amp only, PURE II is, IMHO, as good as it gets.

          • Reply February 5, 2016

            Duy Le

            Thanks for your quick reply 🙂
            I want to choose one of them to pair with my X5 2nd gen so I need you advise which combo will provide the best SQ.
            I can upgrade to AK120ii but I want to build above combo because of following reasons:
            – longer playing time
            – portable (acceptable with me)
            – same SQ (with AK120ii)

  • Reply January 22, 2016

    Juan Luis Quiroz Guevara

    How compared with Theorem 720 or hifi m8?

    • Reply February 5, 2016

      ohm image

      It is better in every way than both. Of course, it can’t do balanced output but it hisses less, is capable of better 24-bit spec (not that you’d ever listen to music loud enough to reveal 24-bit’s improvement over 16-bit), and is smaller than either.

  • Reply February 1, 2016

    Minh Nguyen Ba

    The Mojo didn’t play ball neither with my HTX one M8 nor my Samsung glalaxy S5. Your only hope is to use USB Audio Player Pro and possibly the Onkyo player, both paying apps and only for local files playback, no streaming, Spotify, Soundcloud, etc.
    Whilst I enjoyed having 95% of the sound quality of my Hugo at work, I eventually sent the Mojo back.

    • Reply February 5, 2016

      ohm image

      That’s a shame. I assumed that Android phones were more compatible.

    • Reply February 29, 2016

      Tibor

      Usb audio player can now access Tidal streaming 😉 😉 😉

  • Reply February 4, 2016

    Fernando Perez

    Even they are in 2 different segments (DAP vs (DAC/AMP) I would like to know how the Mojo compares with the FIIO X7.

    Thanks in advance

    • Reply February 4, 2016

      dalethorn

      What source would be driving the Mojo?

      • Reply February 4, 2016

        Fernando Perez

        Iphone with cck

        • Reply February 5, 2016

          dalethorn

          The official word would have to come from Nathan or Lieven, but my big money is on the Mojo.

          Edit: BTW, which music player? One that uses Apple’s library, or one that supports high-res files in its own file container?

          • Reply February 6, 2016

            Fernando Perez

            what music player do you recommend me on this setup that we are talking (Mojo+Iphone+SE846/IE800/Jupiter)?

            • Reply February 6, 2016

              dalethorn

              Lots of people like the Onkyo player, although I don’t use it. I use the Audioforge Equalizer player for the precise EQ, but it’s limited to CD resolution. I use WAV tracks with certain albums where I want highest res., since I’m skeptical that 96 khz res. gets a full treatment on any iPhone players through to a mid-priced DAC like the Mojo. And then there’s the issue of background noise masking the finest details in portable use. With 128 gb of storage, I can keep 150 albums in WAV format on the phone with lots of extra space remaining. But to be fair, someone reliable needs to do a critical review of the iPhone’s music players to see which ones really sound as good as the better desktop players. iPhone DACs need either a DAC that has special Apple coding, or a CCK adapter to translate the digital output for the DAC. I wonder what the translated data looks like and whether it’s as good as what desktop players send to their DACs.

        • Reply February 5, 2016

          ohm image

          iPhone with Mojo will perform better, hands down. And it has a much nicer interface that does gapless even with MP3 and AAC. Dale is right.

        • Reply February 5, 2016

          Fernando Perez

          Thank you both for your answer, I will go for the Mojo and look for a good Universal IEM to mach with it, lot of options in the sub 1k area

          • Reply February 5, 2016

            dalethorn

            I really like the IE800. Most IEMs just sound too bright for me.

            • Reply February 5, 2016

              Fernando Perez

              I like more the warm side (or musical) keeping details and air. How does this one compares to SE846 or Campfire Jupiter? with the Mojo of course, and answering your other question: I use high-res files not apple´s library

              • Reply February 6, 2016

                dalethorn

                No idea about the 846 or Jupiter, but Lieven or Nathan should add a suggestion, knowing which player software you use.

              • Reply February 6, 2016

                Observer

                Can’t tell you about the Campfire, but the SE846 is my personal heaven.
                I frequently give my Oppo PM-1/HA-2/iPod Touch Combo to friends to have a listen. They are wowwed by the performance.
                Then I tell them it’s nothing compared to the SE846.

  • Reply February 29, 2016

    Ddaktiv

    Hi! how does this compare against the CL Duet?

    • Reply February 29, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      Duet of course doesn’t have the DAC but it is fully balanced and the amp is of a higher level to my ears

    • Reply March 8, 2016

      ohm image

      Measurably, Mojo comes out ahead. Everything else is subjective.

  • Reply March 4, 2016

    Juan Luis Quiroz Guevara

    Just out of curiosity , between fiio x3ii + cloud nine vs smartphone android + mojo, who has the best sound quality ?

    • Reply March 4, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      Make that and X5SG or X7/CN 😀

      • Reply March 4, 2016

        Juan Luis Quiroz Guevara

        Among the x3sg and x5sg , who has better dac / line out ?

  • Reply May 12, 2016

    Aakshey

    How does the Chord Mojo compare to the Asus Essence One Muses Edition? I only care about the DAC in both, not the full unit. Thanks for your help!

    Aakshey

  • Reply May 29, 2016

    canali

    Looking forward to when you can compare the new dragonflies (red and black) with the court mojo

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