Without divulging how drunk I was, I didn’t follow up with Chord about a loaner. Why? It’s because several weeks ago I had one one in studio for a recent magazine shoot. Several days was all it took before I was counting my yennies and scoping out e-earphone’s used pages. So let me say this. If after borrowing Mojo, a reviewer returns it without reserving their own copy, that reviewer is worthless. Mojo is going to define the hi-performance aftermarket DAC/amp space.
Mojo rocks three digital inputs: USB, coaxial, and optical. As an iPhone user, I have to put my trust in the first, thankfully, which performs flawlessly. The other two are very good to excellent. Feel free to take your pick.
Mojo’s performance missteps are metrics to which most DACs strive to attain. And, they are minimal.
But first, let’s chat up Mojo’s hitsteps:
Voltage syncs beautifully between sources, providing perfectly balanced channels at any volume. It is perfectly suited to both sensitive earphones such as the Ultrasone IQ and Shure’s SE846 as well as high-Ω headphones like the Beyerdynamic T1 and Sennheiser HD800. Despite nailing balance between such a wide gulf, Mojo packs phenomenal punch. It easily strong arms the amazing Lynx HILO, and even gives the LinnenberG Maestro a run for its money at moderate to painful listening levels. Bumping up against insanity, Maestro outputs less IMD, indicating more current headroom for high-Ω headphones. But those are killing volumes.
Right now, I’ve got Beyerdynamic’s new 600Ω T1 on my head. And Mojo’s output is fixed at orange, which translates to – let me check the cheat sheet – which translates to … which translates to… which- for chrissake! is low. I take the less sensitive DT880/600 up to yellow – which, according to the cheat sheet- …
Both yellow and orange reside in the lower third of the volume scale, and Mojo sails cleanly, and powerfully, beyond either.
Unloaded and volume-matched, Mojo essentially outputs 25% less THD and roughly 12% less IMD than the AK380, single-ended. Against the same metrics and VS Onkyo’s DP-X1, Mojo outputs 87x less THD and 50x less IMD. Incredible. Plug in an Earsonics SM2 in and Mojo’s superiority above the AK380 is markedly one-sided: 6x less THD and 3,5x less IMD. The DP-X1’s single-ended output hasn’t a chance. Mojo maintains at least 12dB better stereo separation than its closest rival, and it hasn’t even approached its maximum voltage. The best DP-X1’s balanced output is impressive. But unloaded, Mojo at max power, edges past it in every metric but IMD, where it outputs roughly 40% more. But, that’s 40% more than 0,0005%, which amounts to exactly nothing.
In other words: Mojo’s single-ended output is as good, or better than the market’s current best-of-breed balanced DAP, the DP-X1. And, with the exception of loaded (Earsonics SM2) stereo separation, it handles loads remarkably better than that DAP.
Are you looking for a reference-quality DAC that won’t break the bank?
Look no further than Mojo.
How ‘bout a best-of-breed good amp to go with that?
Look no further than Mojo.
That Mojo, an all-in-one, nearly perfectly handles any load and performs to the limits of current HiFi tech, should have other designers running for the drawing board. Even if you’ve already plugged 3500$ into the evolved ultimate Astell&Kern AK380, at 599$, Mojo offers measurable gains, and an input that plays nice with the world of AK.
But being able to skip shoddy software UIs is the icing on the cake. Attached to an iPhone, you’ll get the same amazing performance without forced gaps between songs, random playback order, lost artists, genres, albums, etc.. Yes, Mojo and your iPhone become a stack. Yes, that stack is heavier and less wieldy than an AK240. But their conglomerate mass and audio muscle outstrips the performance of any hi-end DAP. Better yet, that stack will break neither your music nor your bank. And, with 8-10 hours of battery life at your disposal, you’ll still eke out more listening than you will through your 4-figure DAP.
Of course, at normal listening volumes, there’s little to no performance advantage to hi-res anything to good-quality DAPs.
According to John Darko Mojo is piquant. It is that. But there’s more to it than that. It is phenomenally detailed in all frequencies, but favours the low range with a slight compression of stereo separation. This fractionally verves up bass, anchoring and warming Mojo’s signal. Even pushing hard loads at harder voltage levels, Mojo keeps away IMD tizz and THD cotton. Nothing is lost to distortion. Mojo is speedy, wide, powerful. There’s nothing it can’t do.
That said, I’ve uncovered a single anomaly between the unit I purchased and the one I originally borrowed: hiss. The one lent me by Ongaku Shuppansha hissed roughly on par, or a little more, than an original Astell & Kern AK100. The one I purchased from e-earphone outputs slightly more noise than Vorzüge’s PURE II+, which is A-okay in my books.
If you’re looking for balanced headphone outs, Mojo isn’t really set up for that. But, some intrepid wire re-router should be able to dig a balanced trench from the DAC to the outside, wiring Mojo similarly to Sony’s balanced amps, or with an adapter, similarly to Astell&Kern 2,5mm TRRS. Someone will try it. Until then, Mojo is single-ended only.
The caveats aren’t strong with Mojo. Great sound, great performance, tiny, and compatible out the wazzoo, this DAC has so much going for it. But its UI, plugged as it is by non-discrete eyeball buttons whose job it is to do everything Mojo does, and convey every setting Mojo conveys, is both challenging and obtuse. Different isn’t better. Better is better. Finally, Chord may have a QC issue on their hands, illustrated by output noise. Apart from that, I can tell no difference between my unit, and the one I originally borrowed.
Mojo and similarly-sized products that perform on par with it (none currently exist) may spell the death for portable amps. That is, unless you prefer the output of your DAP or computer. If not, Mojo is better than you hoped for. And, at 599$, it and the right cable, makes your favourite smartphone or digital-out into a perfect portable system. Chord could have chosen a nicer font for Mojo, and they could have chosen a less-obtuse hardware notification system. But there is no way you can choose a better portable DAC/amp.