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Chord Mojo 2 Portable DAC/Headphone Amplifier: Review

If you’re a member of the Head-Fi neighborhood, Chord has been a part of your life for the previous decade with its award-winning, and sometimes groundbreaking merchandise. While most of the British producers merchandise are very costly, there are a rising quantity beneath $1,000 that advantage critical consideration from each headphone lovers and music listeners trying to assemble a first-class system for both the house or desktop. Products just like the Chord Mojo 2 supply a stage 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 residence methods and moveable gear.  

Rob Watts has been the first designer and engineer on the firm and the driving pressure behind some business altering merchandise within the desktop and moveable audio classes.

EIC Ian White, sat down with him on the current 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 maintain the identical type issue and high quality — and nonetheless make it attainable.

Watts has been very vocal about his designs and the way they set Chord other than a whole lot of firms and his ideas about MQA. (Don’t anticipate Chord to assist MQA anytime quickly). Chord is distinct in that they design their DACs utilizing a discipline programmable gate array (FPGA) as an alternative of a devoted DAC chip.

For a small British firm with a handful of workers, it is a huge enterprise. Most firms depend on ESS, AKM, or Cirrus Logic to supply 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; a whole lot of the work is concentrated on the software program which permits firmware adjustments on Chord units that might require {hardware} adjustments in most different firms merchandise. 

Proponents will seek advice from Chord as a real producer whereas different firms 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 increased than comparable merchandise by different rivals.

While which may be true — the truth is that Chord gives a number of the greatest sounding audio parts on the planet and most of them can compete with merchandise which can be considerably dearer.

The Chord Qutest is probably among the finest sounding DACs beneath $3,000 and it doesn’t value anyplace close to that.

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

The Chord Mojo offered wi-fi cellphone customers an choice that was nearly as good or higher than most DAPs in the marketplace. Fast ahead just a few years, and the Mojo remains 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 units now use USB Type-C ports. The Dongle DAC market has shifted expectations of what a conveyable gadget must be as properly; most shoppers now anticipate a smaller and lighter gadget.

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 once I noticed the primary pictures.

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 era Mojo, except a 4-button management system (3 on the unique) and a USB Type-C enter. It is identical measurement and form and I wouldn’t say that the load 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 change, and the quantity adjustment buttons. The outputs are nonetheless twin 3.5mm ports on the tip reverse the inputs; Chord just isn’t a proponent of balanced audio, so I didn’t anticipate to see them bow to business stress and embrace 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 implies that Poly customers are usually not not noted within the rain twiddling their thumbs.   

Internally, a brand new era of FPGA gives 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 fee 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 increased 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 vital bits after which makes use of a suggestions mechanism (noise shaper) to reconstruct the remaining bits relatively than really changing the complete 16 or 24-bit sign. 

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This permits for a velocity enchancment over full depth conversion however implies that usually the micro-details are at greatest, an estimate of what was within the unique observe. 

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

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

The different huge benefit of the FPGA DSP mannequin is that tone controls could be applied 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 supply 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 acquire 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 cut back noise and enhance SNR as the brand new design eliminates the coupling capacitors used within the earlier mannequin.  

The FPGA can 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 hassle 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 underneath the hood, we’d anticipate the brand new Mojo 2 to sound dramatically completely different than its predecessor — however at first hear you may be underwhelmed.

The adjustments to the sound are incremental and the Chord home sound could 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 could take direct A/B testing to essentially discover a number of the smaller nuances.

The space the place I believe the distinction within the unique and the Mojo 2 is most noticeable is within the soundstage the place the Mojo2 has an excellent 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.  

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I’ve usually praised bass enhance circuits that supply small positive aspects whereas retaining the transparency (iFi X-bass), as normally the larger the enhance — 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 acute finish, I do suppose it overwhelms, so even when cleaner than common, I see the true good thing about the tone controls being the primary 3 or 4 steps the place calculated changes could be made relatively 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 moveable DAC/Amplifiers I’ve heard thus far and it competes properly with issues just like the Centrance M8 V2 ($749 at Amazon) which I take advantage of because the benchmark for what a conveyable DAC/Amp could be.

The construct could be very strong and the UI whereas having a little bit of a studying curve, remains to be miles forward of most dongles that supply little or no management floor in any respect. The difficulty for a lot of shall be worth. At $845 retail within the USA, it’s a huge tablet 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 well worth the cash are that it’s the highest decision DAC ever provided in a conveyable gadget and revelatory sound high quality that’s arduous to disregard.

Its tone controls are simply higher than just about some other gadget 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 all the time 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.

The Chord Mojo 2 is close to the highest of the pyramid with issues just like the Centrance M8v2, however it additionally sits close to the highest in worth which is able to maintain it from promoting as extensively as it would in any other case.

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

Chord Mojo 2 Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier Box Back