Home » Chord Mojo 2 DAC/Headphone Amplifier: Review
Headphone

Chord Mojo 2 DAC/Headphone Amplifier: Review

If you’re a member of the Head-Fi group, Chord has been a part of your life for the previous decade with its award-winning, and sometimes groundbreaking merchandise. While lots of the British producers merchandise are very costly, there are a rising quantity beneath $1,000 that advantage critical consideration from each headphone fanatics and music listeners trying to assemble a first-class system for both the house or desktop. Products just like the Chord Mojo 2 provide a degree of technical sophistication you don’t see in very many merchandise within the worth vary and even above it.

Some historical past…

Chord Electronics was based in 1989 and spent its early years making amplifiers for the skilled market. Today, they nonetheless function out of their headquarters in Kent, however the product line has expanded to incorporate each house methods and transportable gear.  

Rob Watts has been the first designer and engineer on the firm and the driving power behind some trade altering merchandise within the desktop and transportable audio classes.

EIC Ian White, sat down with him on the latest CanJam NYC 2022 and got here away extremely impressed with each his design philosophy and the myriad of merchandise on show on the present.

We’ve spent a while with merchandise just like the Chord Huei and found that Chord can ship virtually something at this level and preserve the identical kind issue and high quality — and nonetheless make it attainable.

Watts has been very vocal about his designs and the way they set Chord aside from loads of corporations and his ideas about MQA. (Don’t anticipate Chord to help MQA anytime quickly). Chord is distinct in that they design their DACs utilizing a area programmable gate array (FPGA) as an alternative of a devoted DAC chip.

For a small British firm with a handful of staff, it is a huge enterprise. Most corporations depend on ESS, AKM, or Cirrus Logic to offer the DAC chip and data of the inner workings of the DAC.

Chord Mojo 2 Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier in pocket

Chord actually designs their DACs from the bottom up; loads of the work is concentrated on the software program which permits firmware adjustments on Chord gadgets that will require {hardware} adjustments in most different corporations merchandise. 

Proponents will seek advice from Chord as a real producer whereas different corporations utilizing chip DACs are merely assemblers. Detractors will level to the prices of the Chord lineup and recommend that in-house R&D causes costs to be a lot larger than related merchandise by different rivals.

While which may be true — the fact is that Chord affords a few of the greatest sounding audio parts on the planet and most of them can compete with merchandise which can be considerably costlier.

The Chord Qutest is presumably the most effective sounding DACs beneath $3,000 and it doesn’t price wherever close to that.

Advertisement. Scroll to proceed studying.

When the primary technology Mojo (cellular Joy) arrived in the marketplace, the dongle actually didn’t exist but and most of the people have been both utilizing a DAC/Amplifier or a DAP.  It was not unusual to see stacks of gadgets the place one supplied the supply and one other the DAC/Amplifier performance.

The Chord Mojo supplied wi-fi cellphone customers an choice that was nearly as good or higher than most DAPs in the marketplace. Fast ahead a couple of years, and the Mojo continues to be usable however the market has shifted significantly.

For starters, the Micro-USB ports on the Mojo now date it as a result of most gadgets now use USB Type-C ports. The Dongle DAC market has shifted expectations of what a conveyable machine must be as nicely; most shoppers now anticipate a smaller and lighter machine.

The Skinny

I used to be very excited when Chord introduced the brand new Mojo 2 as a result of its predecessor was so good, however was left scratching my head after I noticed the primary photos.

Chord Mojo 2 Portable DAC Headphone Amp Left Side
Chord Mojo 2 Portable DAC Headphone Amp Right Side

The Mojo 2 is similar to the primary technology Mojo, apart from a 4-button management system (3 on the unique) and a USB Type-C enter. It is identical dimension and form and I wouldn’t say that the burden has modified all that a lot. With the exception of the aforementioned USB Type-C enter, the connections are the identical.

The fourth button provides a brand new tone management to the prevailing energy/enter swap, and the amount adjustment buttons. The outputs are nonetheless twin 3.5mm ports on the top reverse the inputs; Chord just isn’t a proponent of balanced audio, so I didn’t anticipate to see them bow to trade strain and embody a 4.4mm port.

Chord Mojo2 Portable DAC/Headphone Amp with Poly Streamer

Those who’ve invested within the Chord Poly that extends the operate of the Mojo right into a streamer will recognize the truth that port placements are the identical as the sooner mannequin; which signifies that Poly customers should not disregarded within the rain twiddling their thumbs.   

Internally, a brand new technology of FPGA affords extra substantial adjustments. Chord calls it the UHD DSP or Ultra-high Definition Digital Signal processor, and whereas a lot of the market debates 16-bit/24-bit DACs, the Mojo 2 makes use of a 104-bit/768kHz FPGA central core.

104-bit?

Yes. We know that there isn’t music but at that bit charge however that’s not the purpose of the design.

Chord Mojo 2 Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier Box Front

The DAC makes use of Delta-Sigma logic however with noise shapers that use a a lot larger frequency than most Delta-Sigma DACs which permits for preservation of the smallest element of the unique sign.  

Chord has a podcast with Rob explaining the adjustments made to the noise shapers and the way it impacts the general sound high quality. In a nutshell, the typical Delta-Sigma DAC converts the 5 or 6 most important bits after which makes use of a suggestions mechanism (noise shaper) to reconstruct the remaining bits moderately than really changing your complete 16 or 24-bit sign. 

Advertisement. Scroll to proceed studying.

This permits for a pace enchancment over full depth conversion however signifies that typically the micro-details are at greatest, an estimate of what was within the authentic observe. 

This is why proponents of R2R desire it over Delta-Sigma DACs as a result of R2R converts your complete sign moderately than utilizing suggestions. R2R brings a bunch of different issues although, so Chord finds one of the best resolution to be a Delta-Sigma mannequin with noise shapers working at a lot larger than common frequency. 

With comparisons made 5 instances extra typically than the usual chip based mostly DACs, extra element is preserved and extra dynamic vary as nicely.   

The different huge benefit of the FPGA DSP mannequin is that tone controls could be carried out on any desired portion of the frequency vary with out degradation of sound high quality. The fourth button introduces a menu system that provides entry to crossfeed changes and the lossless tone controls so customers can tune the Mojo2 to their particular headphone or IEM.

The tone controls provide 4 bands, decrease bass, mid bass, decrease treble, and higher treble with 18 steps of adjustment in every band. The quantity management vary is from +18 dB to -108 dB, with two discrete achieve ranges providing much more flexibility.  

Along with the adjustments to the FPGA, the Mojo 2 now makes use of a digital DC servo with a brand new interpolation filter design throughout the 40 DSP cores. This helps additional scale back noise and enhance SNR as the brand new design eliminates the coupling capacitors used within the earlier mannequin.  

The FPGA can also be employed for battery administration within the Mojo 2 giving it a lot improved charging charges in addition to longer and cooler operation. I had no bother getting a full 8 hours of listening time at regular listening ranges (78 dB).  

The different cool factor is that the Mojo 2 bypasses the inner battery altogether when in desktop mode which helps protect the battery life.

Chord Mojo 2 Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier with DAP

The Sound

With all the brand new expertise beneath the hood, we’d anticipate the brand new Mojo 2 to sound dramatically completely different than its predecessor — however at first hear you could be underwhelmed.

The adjustments to the sound are incremental and the Chord home sound may be very a lot nonetheless in play. The dynamics and element are each improved with extra micro-detail in comparison with the unique though once more, it might take direct A/B testing to essentially discover a few of the smaller nuances.

The space the place I believe the distinction within the authentic and the Mojo 2 is most noticeable is within the soundstage the place the Mojo2 has an ideal dwell efficiency really feel to the sound with instrument spacing and imaging simply besting the earlier model.   

For these that aren’t in love with the close to impartial tonal signature, the tone controls now give the consumer to the choice to make the Mojo 2 as bass heavy as anybody may realistically anticipate and it does so with out notably muddying the sound.  

Advertisement. Scroll to proceed studying.

I’ve typically praised bass increase circuits that supply small features whereas retaining the transparency (iFi X-bass), as normally the larger the increase — the extra it veils the sound.

Chord does appear to have solved this as I used to be ready so as to add +5 steps to each the low bass and mid bass and never lose readability within the course of. At the intense finish, I do assume it overwhelms, so even when cleaner than common, I see the true advantage of the tone controls being the primary 3 or 4 steps the place calculated changes could be made moderately than an all-out assault on the unique signature.

Chord Mojo 2 Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier Kit

Conclusion

There is little question that the Chord Mojo 2 is among the many greatest sounding transportable DAC/Amplifiers I’ve heard to this point and it competes nicely with issues just like the Centrance M8 V2 ($749 at Amazon) which I exploit because the benchmark for what a conveyable DAC/Amp could be.

The construct may be very stable and the UI whereas having a little bit of a studying curve, continues to be miles forward of most dongles that supply little or no management floor in any respect. The concern for a lot of might be worth. At $845 retail within the USA, it’s a huge capsule to swallow when most dongle DACs are retailing at $299 or much less and even the M8V2 is $100 much less.  

The issues that make the Mojo 2 definitely worth the cash are that it’s the highest decision DAC ever provided in a conveyable machine and revelatory sound high quality that’s arduous to disregard.

Its tone controls are simply higher than just about some other machine I’ve examined with out going to a full parametric EQ, and for these already invested within the Chord ecosystem, the Mojo 2 maintains compatibility with the opposite Chord modules (Poly).

Chord has at all times had a cult-like following and I believe the Mojo 2 will proceed that pattern with proponents pointing to all of the technological advances whereas detractors level to the worth.

Make no mistake. The Chord Mojo 2 is the highest of the pyramid and it’ll take one thing substantial to vary that actuality.

Where to purchase: $845 at Amazon | Audio46 (at the moment backordered)

Chord Mojo 2 Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier Box Back