Review: Chord Mojo – Hot or Not?

Switching to my beloved and rockboxed DX90, you can only hook up mojo by Coax (both ends are two-pole connections). I slightly prefer the Coaxial input of the Mojo over the USB-input. It has the same weight body-wise and it is even more musical while maintaining the level of detail and separation from the USB input. The Mojo also matches up great with the DX90 size wise. The DX90 simply still is an awesome DAP and I prefer it over the newer DX80 which we still have to feature on Headfonia.com.

Mojo hugo 2

Hooking the Mojo up to my good old Samsung S4 is very easy as you just need an OTG cable and a good app. I myself use the Onkyo app and the USB Audio Player Pro (€5,99?) app to play my music. The difference with or without Mojo is huge, as expected. Mojo was developed with this in mind and it is what Mojo does best: elevate the sound of your smartphone to a level that wasn’t possible before. Size-wise both units of course don’t really match up but sound quality wise I’ll take the combo over the S4 alone any day.

Head/Earphones

Mojo is dead silent, even with my most sensitive ciems and that’s quite the achievement. At the same time there is enough headroom and Mojo can be set to the lowest of volumes without any channel imbalance: it’s the perfect IEM DAC/AMP in this regard.

The Inear StageDiver SD4 is a very well balanced and fast sounding universal IEM and it sound signature wise fits perfectly with the full bodied yet detailed and clear sound from the Mojo. It’s like as if these were made for each other. The SD4 delivers impactful tight bass, realistic engaging mids with great vocals and enthusiastic inoffensive treble. It’s still my favorite universal IEM, that’s for sure. The new CustomArt 8.2 (the H8P upgrade) is an 8-driver ciem that has a great balance from bass to highs. It has a more linear and neutral tuning with great detail, separation and depth. The synergy however isn’t really there for me as the Mojo seems to take away some of the clarity of the 8.2 and add just a little too much body. It’s not that it’s bad but my ears prefer the 8.2 straight out of the AK70, DX90 and AK380. The new Jomo Samba also is an 8 driver ciem made for the professional. Like the 8.2 it has a more neutral tuning but bass – when called upon – has bigger body. It’s also very detailed and tuned to as reference monitor but the Samba plays extremely well with the Mojo delivering great bass, detailed natural mids and lively treble.

Mojo HD800

The brand new 250Ohm Beyerdynamic DT1770PRO is a great match for the Mojo. That comes as no surprise as the DT770PRO, which is the 1770’s predecessor, also sounds awesome on it. The DT1770Pro’s bass has good body and is tighter and more detailed. Treble is very lively (it’s a Beyer after all) and the mids are realistic and lively with a slightly smooth delivery with just enough body. While the DT1770Pro and DT770 share as good as the same FR-curve, I do find the newest headphone to be the more detailed and precise one, with upgraded bass. Anyway, Mojo makes it sing. The extremely easy to drive Hifiman Edition-S has a warmer tuning where bass certainly is bigger and more important. Mojo gives the S what it needs although I can imagine some people will find the bass and mids to sound a little too thick straight from the Mojo. It’s quite enjoyable for on the go though. One, well two, of my favorite headphones with the HUGO are the Sennheiser HD800 and HD800S. While a lot of people also love these combined with the Mojo, I can’t enjoy them as much as on the Hugo. The sense of naturalness is a bit low for me, and then I’m talking about the more digital sound of the Mojo compared to that of the Hugo. That being said, Mojo does perfectly manage to drive these headphones and it’s more a question of “personal taste”.

Comparisons

Hugo to me is still a level up from the Mojo, especially with full sized headphones. It has a lighter sound signature with a more analog, easier and slower presentation. Hugo is wider, more spacious and goes deeper with better layering. Where Mojo sounds more digital and compact, Hugo sounds more real and has more timbre and feeling. I have to admit that Mojo pairs up more easily with IEMs than Hugo does. I’m convinced both “DACs” are excellent and it’s most likely the amp part that’s really different. Both units have a lot of inputs and several outputs and they both have an excellent value. The Mojo is the easiest to use as it is most portable and stackable.

Another very popular AMP/DAC combo that easily works with smartphones, DAPs and PC is the JDSLabs C5D. Size wise it matches the AK70 even better but sound wise it to me is under the level of the Mojo. Don’t get me wrong as the C5D is extremely good for only $249, costing half the Mojo. The downside for me is that the C5D only “does” up to 24/96 and that at this period of time is a little limited. It also still uses a mini-USB and not a micro-USB connector, so you will need an extra cable.  Sound wise C5D is also very clear and clean but not to the same degree as the Mojo. Detail levels in the Mojo are higher and the sound of the C5D is even more concentrated than Mojo’s. C5D maybe is a little less digital sounding but a part from that Mojo has it beat everywhere. C5D does have 2 gain settings but I have never felt the Mojo didn’t have enough power. The C5D for its price has good sound and is very versatile but Mojo simply plays on another level. Maybe it’s time for a C5D update.

Mojo DX90

Other easy to pair DAC/Amps are the AudioQuest DragonFly units we looked at just last week. I quite like how both the DragonFly Red and Black perform but if you’ve read the review you’ll remember I liked them most with full sized headphones, especially the Red one. With my IEMs I seem to miss out on something, they just don’t do it for me sound-wise, with IEMs. Mojo was made mostly for IEMs and it clearly performs a lot better with them. Mojo, to be clear, of course is 3 to 5 times as expensive as the DragonFly units.

Conclusion

I planned on keeping this review short but I have failed miserably. The main conclusion for me is that the Mojo is more than just the flavor of the month. Mojo is especially good with poor sources like your smartphone, which is the main reason the Mojo was developed. The great thing about the Mojo is that it plays fine with both full sized headphones as well as IEMs, although it seems to be pickier with those.

Mojo AK380

Looking at build quality, design and versatility, the Mojo is as good as it gets. It’s small, it feels great, it can take a beating and it pairs perfectly fine with a whole number of sources. While the Mojo certainly is great I do have two issues with it. First of all, I wish it had a little more of the analog sound, spaciousness and layering the Hugo has as Mojo often sounds a tad too digital and compact to me. Second, a lot of people are using the Mojo with perfectly fine sources that depending on the head- or earphone used, even sound better than the Mojo. Those who have been following me on our social media probably noticed that I don’t always say Mojo is the best, and these are the two reasons why.

The Astell&Kern AK380 in example has a great single ended and balanced output and with my custom IEMs I prefer using the headphone output of the AK380 over the Mojo. It’s more detailed, more spacious and has better depth. It’s exactly the same story for the AK70 and the Luxury&Precision L3 where both the single ended as the balanced 2.5mm output sound really great with IEMS (Of course they each have their own sound signature). It’s a different story with full sized headphones as the Mojo, depending on the DAP you compare it too of course, simply has more power. There also are DAPs like the iBasso DX80 and Cayin N5/i5 which tend to be rather noisy with IEMs and for these DAPs the Mojo is the perfect solution. The only thing I ask is to try the headphone-out-line of your source first before you turn to the Mojo.

Mojo HE400i

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

54 Comments

  • Reply August 9, 2016

    CL

    thanks for the review and out of curiousity, would an amp like the Violectric V100 or a portable like ALO’s National/International give the mojo more “juiciness” (organic, earthy mids)?

    I’m currently using the mojo with the audeze LCDX and HD650, and ALO greenline throughout.

    looking forward to your feedback!!

    • Reply August 9, 2016

      Lieven

      thank you. For both those headphones I fully recommend getting the V100/V200 and I’d stay away from portable gear. Mojo can still be used as DAC with the Line Out connected to the desktop amp. I find myself using the Hugo very often like that

      • Reply August 9, 2016

        CL

        thank you for your prompt response !! btw, do you have any idea if the Lake People 109 would be an affordable alternative for the violectric in terms of tonality? or you do get what you paid for.

        • Reply August 9, 2016

          Lieven

          Check out our 109 review. It’s basically the V100 in a pro costume

          • Reply August 9, 2016

            CL

            thank you

  • Reply August 9, 2016

    David Mayhew

    Excellent review. My only dap is the Sony ZX2 and I have found that I prefer the sound coming directly out of the ZX2 using my balanced Noble K10’s. However I have a pair of Audeze Sines which the ZX2 simply does not drive very well and it is then that I turn to the Mojo to provide the power. Just wish there was an alternative as there are not many cable options to hook up the ZX2 to the Mojo. I suppose i could change the dap but I like the sound of the ZX2 so maybe I need to change the amp?

    • Reply August 10, 2016

      Lieven

      I’m glad to see you prefer your K10s on the DAP output over the Mojo. The Sine, yes, that’s another story 🙂

  • Reply August 9, 2016

    RC

    Many thanks for the excellent review. I have recently acquired the Oppo HA-2 (which I believe you have reviewed as well) and using it with the DT990 Pro and AT70Mx. Wonder whether you could do any comparision to the Mojo…

    • Reply August 10, 2016

      Lieven

      Nathan did the HA-2 review and I did the Mojo, it might be best to ask him in his article

      http://headfonia.com/review-chord-mojo-the-chosen-one/

      • Reply August 10, 2016

        RC

        Seems my question became obsolete. Someone asked it in there already. Nathan’s answer was: “Better in every way.”(meaning the Mojo…) 😉

        • Reply August 10, 2016

          dale thorn

          The HA-2 ain’t bad, but for sound it’s more like a $150 amp than a $300 amp. It certainly looks nice and mates well with a similar-size phone.

  • Reply August 9, 2016

    Bryce Morgan

    The original AK100 is a perfect fit sizewise and with 32GB + 2 slots (SanDisk 200GB) = 432GB. Not bad for small portable stack. I switched to an AK120 Titan – a little bit taller but it has 128GB internal storage for a total of 528GB.

    • Reply August 10, 2016

      Lieven

      That’s a lot of storage! I’ve seen quite the number of AK100/Mojo stacks as well. Seems to be a good combo 🙂

  • Reply August 10, 2016

    Clarence

    Great and spot on review. I too prefer hugo over mojo a lot. I’d like to know more about the HD800(S)/HUGO combo as l’m looking for a headphone to pair with my hugo. Does hugo has enough power to drive HD800(S) its full potential?
    I had demoed the hdvd800 and quite like its sq. How do u compare them?
    Thanks

    • Reply August 10, 2016

      Lieven

      It seems we’re the minority though. Mojo is loved by a lot of people. I wouldn’t say Hugo has the same ability to power the HD800(S) like a full sized desktop ss or tube amp but the synergy with the Hugo is there. Hugo makes it sound more like a tube amp makes the Senns sound, but I like it very much. Full potential, I don’t think so.

      I’m not a fan of the Sennheiser amps. they’re not bad at all, but they have nothing special going for them either. Just “another” amp.

  • Reply August 10, 2016

    Edward

    Lieven, I think it’s only appropriate now to ask how you would compare this Mojo to the AQ Dragonfly’s 🙂

    • Reply August 10, 2016

      dale thorn

      I don’t have the Mojo, but since there’s not a lot of info on comparisons, I figured I’d add this – my new DragonFly Black sounds very similar to the Oppo HA-2, except the HA-2 has more treble ‘splash’, being possibly brighter or maybe having more distortion. In any case I like the DF Black better. But I also have a AR M2 music player in the house that beats both – very smooth treble with just as much detail as the DF and HA-2, but less irritating. The DF Black is a super deal compared to the HA-2 which costs 3 times as much, so if the DF Red is better than the Black, the Red might make a good comparison to the Mojo.

  • Reply August 11, 2016

    ReizeiMako

    Can you please compare Mojo with Fiio X7 / Fiio X7+Picollo? My headphones are ATH-M50X and Fidelio X2. Thank you.

    • Reply August 16, 2016

      Lieven

      They can’t directly be compared as the X7 has different AM modules. Unless you go X7 without AM module to Mojo. Personally I’d use the X7’s dac and the Picollo

  • Reply August 11, 2016

    Barun C

    Nice article Lieven. For me the MoJo would’ve been hot if it’s price was at around $400 or so, especially since the Celsus Sound Companion One is now available at $349 and it’s wireless. I hope more manufacturers follow that route.

    • Reply August 16, 2016

      Lieven

      I agree, it’s a tad too expensive for the SQ but it it very versatile and small.

  • Reply August 15, 2016

    Jeffrey

    was going to sell my ifi IDSD (paired w Ether Cs) and decide between Mojo, Hugo or ALO CDM as the total solution-not a combo of any of the foregoing. With your reviews, I lean now more toward the Hugo (wondering if they would modify to decode higher-res files tho?) now that the price has dropped, or ALO CDM with the Mojo in 3rd place….I go mobile with android/ USB/Tidal frequently but just as frequently use the DAC between my PC (Tidal source) and my full size Classe amp/preamp and Sonus Fabers in my office setup. In one simple recommendation-which would you pick for those multiple uses without going crazy? (also-I wont tube roll, EVER) once I get it right, Im kinda done….

  • Reply August 20, 2016

    Perrin

    I probably will be one if the few to buck the trend when comparing the Mojo to other DAP’s and or other DAC’s

    My introduction to this level of audio equipment came about while researching my potential purchase of the Oppo HA-2. I had been looking for a DAC/AMP for my Android Nexus 6 at the time.

    The only problem was all the reviews I read up until then were mentioning something called the Chord Mojo and how it was a DAC to be considered. My interest was piqued. A few further reviews but now primarily on the Mojo git me doing something I very seldom do, purchasing blind.

    Personally I have not regretted my decision once. I have owned my Mojo since November 2015 and at the time the TOTL DAP was the AK240. I had since purchasing my Mojo compared as best I could side by side the Mojo and Nexus 6 with the entire AK range at one sitting and personally preferred the Mojo especially when taking into consideration the expenditure £399 v £2500. During this sitting I compared headphones from the Grado SR325e, Audeze EL8, Shure SE535, Sennheiser IE800, Audeze LCD2 and Sennheiser HD800 with the Mojo performing amicably with all.

    I have since tried not only many other headphones and in-ears monitors as well as comparing with other DAC’S including those in the Chord range and I still believe the Mojo to have been the right choice for my needs, Hugo I did not find to be vastly superior

    All things considered, SQ alone I have found very little to better the Mojo and I have to include the later AK players which I since listened too. For me it’s the sound stage, imagery and details provided that has not been artificially widened but IMO a truer 3D image of the music as was meant to be.

  • Reply August 25, 2016

    Simon

    Thanks for the review.

    If anything it justifies my love of the Mojo (at 3-4 times the cost an AK380 is way out of the question) but I’m now also very interested in a Hugo for my brother. I was worried that the added cost wouldn’t be worth it, but I think from this review you seem to say it still is. Heck, if I was loaded I probably would’ve got the Hugo instead but the Mojo was at the upper limit of what I could afford and justify and I’m still very happy with it, especially because I don’t mind a darker or more congested sound and I plan to use it with IEMs mostly whereas my brother is mainly interested in full size.

    So thanks again.

  • Reply August 26, 2016

    Mateo

    How to compared with X7 + Am2??

  • Reply September 27, 2016

    JohnC

    Am I right in thinking the lights can’t be turned off while the unit is on? Thanks.

  • Reply December 14, 2016

    E.T.

    Another great review Lieven! I enjoyed the read. Been toying around for a while about getting a simple 2nd setup since there are a couple of used Mojo’s going for decent prices over where I’m at. Although I can’t help but think about the Hugo. In your experience, how is the Hugo with very sensitive IEMs? In terms of gain / noise (quiet background).

    • Reply December 14, 2016

      Lieven

      thanks!. SQ wise I prefer the Hugo but the Mojo is easier to use. It also is more silent with very sensitive iems, that’s disadvantage the Hugo unfortunately has. What IEM do you think will be an issue?

  • Reply December 30, 2016

    Jeff

    How many more times can you tell us the Hugo sounds better? I’m not stupid, I didn’t think Chord were having a laugh by charging £1000 more for the Hugo. But if people’s budget is £400 they don’t want to constantly hear that it’s not as good in this way and that way or the other,this only spoils the excitement and makes it seem like they are purchasing an inferior product.

  • Reply December 30, 2016

    Lieven

    About 11

    • Reply January 2, 2019

      Kenny

      Lol..

      Btw Jeff, Lieven just said Hugo better in some regards, he did not say Mojo was a inferior product, so don’t take it seriously.

      One thing Lieven didn’t mention and Mojo really shine over Hugo. Mojo is a much much more portable/mobile dac, only about 1/3 of Hugo size.

  • Reply December 30, 2016

    Jeff

    ????????

  • Reply January 3, 2017

    Andrea Bolognesi

    Hello and thank you for this review , i have one question , i have the ak 70 , i have connected it with the Mojo by an micro usb but when i play my dsd they became 176… why?

  • Reply January 11, 2017

    Mark

    Hi

    Donyou think the Mojo is a good match for the Audese LCD-XC? And what about the Hugo with the XC?

    • Reply January 12, 2017

      Lieven

      XC and Mojo not really, but with the Hugo it is very nice!

  • Reply February 23, 2017

    Fredrik

    What is best headphone combo with Mojo? I have mojo with DT770 AE. I think with DT770, mojo don’t show it’s full potential.

    • Reply February 24, 2017

      dale thorn

      I hate to just recommend a higher price, but in this case it makes perfect sense. The new Beyers like the DT1770 and the Amiron are “Tesla 2.0”, and will give you a clear, smoother sound with a tighter bass. I have the DT1770, which complements the closed-back DT770ae very well, although the Amiron is open-back.

      • Reply February 24, 2017

        Fredrik

        Thanks for the advise, i also consider to buy DT1770. But i still curious how planar sound. Is it good combo with HE400i or maybe with more expensive HE560 ?

        • Reply February 24, 2017

          Lieven

          I think you’ll enjoy the HE400I most with the Mojo

    • Reply February 24, 2017

      Lieven

      I couldn’t tell you which is best because that depends on a whole lot of factors. I think it’s rather a case of Mojo’s sound signature, if you don’t like it on the Mojo you probably want something warmer with bigger bass. An Amiron could be better with the Mojo

      • Reply February 24, 2017

        Fredrik

        Thanks for the advice. Really appreciate it. I will try to audition the Amiron and HE400I.

  • Reply February 24, 2017

    Joaquín

    Hi,

    Can you please suggest the best DAC/amp or DAP for Shure SE846?

    Thanks.

  • Reply April 18, 2017

    Herbie Vos

    Hi lieven,

    Got a Mojo with the beyerdynamic DT1770 and I think it’s hard to find a better combo for the ????. I know €1000 is a lot of money for the most people, but it’s worth every penny. Mojo vs Hugo is not a fair comparison, €1790 vs €499 is a big gap. But they have the same DNA.

    Greets Herbie

  • Reply September 9, 2017

    Benoît

    Hi

    First at all thank you very much for all your very interesting reviews.
    Do you think the Mojo is a good match with my Ultrasone Edition 8 ?
    If not, do you have a another suggestion ? I use a Galaxy S7.
    Best regards.

  • Reply September 9, 2017

    Lieven

    Thank you. Honestly, the Ultrasone isn’t for me at all. So I can’t really recommend anything for it.

  • Reply December 24, 2017

    Michael Feehily

    Comparing DF red & mojo as I have both .DF red is great ,nice full sound & good separation but mojo is more than double in price and is better in every sense by a good margin.A far more audiophile device.

  • Reply September 21, 2018

    Jagan

    Have u compared or ur opinion on Mojo with Cypherlabs solo dB + Cypherlabs Duet with respect to sound quality (mainly in highs), separation , depth

    • Reply September 21, 2018

      Jagan

      And also the pairing Audeze LCD X with both the setup

  • Reply October 3, 2018

    Joelparisi

    Hello I’m from Indonesia. I want to ask about your opinion. Is a smartphone or portable player more suitable combined with Chord Mojo? I personally often use iPhone and AK 70 when using Chord Mojo as a daily device.

    Is there a difference in sound quality if I use a different source outside the file I use?

    • Reply October 3, 2018

      Lieven

      Sound will indeed be different depending on the source. IT might not make sense but try and hear the difference yourself 🙂

      • Reply October 3, 2018

        Joelparisi

        Thankyou for the response. I honestly ask like this because I am arguing with my friend. According to him there will be no difference in sound because it will still be the same. The difference is the last output, whether we use iem or headphones. But I disagree. Because in my opinion there are still different voices through the iPhone or DAP. For iem, which is more compatible with Mojo, is it Layla or Kaiser Encore? Please give your opinion.

  • Reply February 12, 2019

    Gary Brewer

    Lot of people now having issues with the Mojo.
    Battery seems to die just after12 months.
    Mine will not output sound .
    Seems to be a lot of complaints around the same issue.
    Response from Chord Is woeful

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