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The Mojo is convenient, incredibly easy to use, and sounds great, but it’s certainly not the most portable headphone amplifier on the market. There is no doubt that this is a high-end audio product, and if its features are to your liking, the Chord Mojo can offer you a lot of fun and possibilities. Still, is the Mojo a revolution in portable audio? Read our review of the Chord Mojo and see for yourself. The conclusion depends on your taste, application, and synergy with your equipment.
Having a modest price of under $100, the wireless SoundSurge 90 is the second most expensive pair in TaoTronics’ noise reduction lineup below the SoundSurge 55. The SoundSurge 90 also features Hybrid ANC with Bluetooth 5.0, dynamic 40mm drivers, voice assistance, and a 35-hour battery. But how do they work?
Chord Mojo High-Performance Portable Headphone Amplifier Review
Chord Mojo Specifications
AMP: Xilinx Artix 7 FPGA | Input jack: 1x 768kHz/32-bit Micro USB compatible input, 1x 3.5mm coaxial jack 768kHz/32-bit input, 1x TOSLINK 96kHz/24-bit compatible optical input, 1x 1 Amp Micro USB charging port input | Outputs: 2 x 3.5mm headphone jacks | Output power: @ 1kHz – 600ohm 35mW, @ 1kHz – 8ohm 720mW | Output impedance: 75mOhm | Dynamic range: 125dB | THD: 0.00017% (@ 3V) | Dimensions: 82mm (L) x 60mm (W) x 22mm (H) | Weight: 180g (0.4lbs)
The device is delivered in a small box with a sticker. In the box, you will find only the Mojo and a short USB to micro USB cable. There is no user manual, charger, or anything else. That’s pretty frugal for a slightly expensive high-end headphone amplifier. This is a package that would fit better a very affordable device than one like Mojo.
Design & Ergonomy
As usual, Chord has prepared their device to withstand a train wreck. The very strong and durable case with 8 screws on the base provides a solid visual and tactile experience. The build quality is excellent. Despite these small details, the Mojo is very solid. The aluminum housing is polished to perfection and shows the highest quality of workmanship.
The unit is battery-powered and has a battery life of 8-10 hours. It can also be connected to a computer. The optional cable kit includes a USB cable that splits into two MicroUSB cables, one for audio and one for charging. For a laptop/PC, this cable is an excellent choice. The battery gets pretty hot during charging and use.
Audio inputs include 3 coaxial and optical SPDIF systems, as well as a MicroUSB. Outputs include two 3.5mm headphone jacks, which support a 2.9V line output mode (2V under standard conditions).
An additional micro-USB port serves as a charger or backup power source when the Mojo operates in a more stationary configuration. The design of the Mojo in combination with a smartphone makes it overly bulky for those looking for a portable headphone amplifier. There are very few pockets that can accommodate this model, so you’ll need pants with large pockets if you opt for Chord Mojo.
Sure, you could connect a pair of headphones to the Mojo with a cable, then connect the Mojo to your smartphone and throw it in your backpack, but then it would be hard to switch tracks or even change the volume.
The color scheme is easy to get used to, and after a few minutes, it all makes sense: for 44.1kHz to 768kHz and DSD music samples, the switch changes from red to yellow, green, blue, purple, and white.
Mojo supports all audio files from 44.1 kHz to 768 kHz, DSD64, DSD128, and DSD256. It also supports PCM, WAV, AAC, AIFF, MP3, and FLAC files.
The headphone amplifier can run for about 10 hours on the built-in battery; a charger capable of supplying 1 amp can recharge the battery in about 5 hours. The unit can also be charged independently. It can also be charged while playing, although the charging time will be longer.
An LED below the charging port stops illuminating when the battery is fully charged. The same LED also indicates the remaining battery charge when the device is not turned on. As the battery is discharged, the color changes from blue to green, then to orange, and finally to red. The red light will begin to flash for 10 minutes before the unit shuts down.
At this point, the equipment looks very cool. What are the main drawbacks? The problem is that you can’t manually select the source. Instead, source selection is handled by an automated system that operates on a predetermined cycle of input controls. If it detects something, it sticks to it and ignores everything else.
Another drawback is that the Mojo heats up very gently during use, reaching 40°C. The more you need to power your device to run more demanding headphones, the more this becomes a problem.
Compatibility with computers and mobile devices is via a USB connection; OS-X (Apple computers) and Linux do not require additional drivers, as is the case with Windows computers.
There are no restrictions for transferring PCM files; for DSD material, Chord uses the popular DoP protocol, which is almost completely open to users.
Working with smartphones and tablets is more complicated. First of all, you have to use the apps recommended by Chord: Android devices, for example, can’t stream from YouTube to Chord Mojo.
On the other hand, if you want to play high-resolution audio files from an Apple music player, you’ll need to install additional software: an HD playback app. This goes beyond Apple’s system solution, but it’s not a limitation of Chord; it’s a quirk of Apple’s devices.
Chord Mojo must also support the USB OTG data transfer standard, which the smartphone (tablet) itself must meet. If you use Apple hardware (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), there are other surprises in store for you.
First of all, Chord Mojo is not compatible with older devices with a 30-pin connector, but only with devices with a Lightning connector. But even then, you’ll need to use a special Lightning adapter – an additional CCK (Camera Connection Kit) – and “mount” it to the converter’s input with a second USB cable.
The overall sound is coherent and perfectly combines all instruments into a meaningful whole, which conveys the message of the composition very well. If I had to characterize its sound, I would say that it is neutral, with a slight tendency to darkness, slightly “warm.” Overall, however, this is a very relative classification, as it depends on the quality of the source.
With the British Bowers & Wilkins, PX headphones are primarily distinguished by a clear and detailed sound reproduction with superior dynamics. They are comfortable and can be worn for many hours. The sound is very attractive and pleasant to listen to, with attractive female vocals; with the Mojo, the bass is clearer, more refined, and natural.
Instead of having clumsy bass covering everything that dominates the other frequencies, you get well-developed but lively bass. At the same time, the refinement of the bass range improves the resolution of the headphones.
However, it wasn’t the details that impressed us the most, but Mojo’s ability to pull all the information together into a coherent musical whole made it stand out from the crowd.
The low-end sounds are noteworthy. They are not too emphasized or boosted but draw you in with their energy, bounce, and depth. The bass is wonderfully tight and dense, bringing out the lows without accentuating the mids and highs. The bass has all the right qualities, but what sets it apart is its fullness.
The Chord Mojo’s playing style is characterized by the powerful bass. All the while exuding concrete detail and a pretty good soundstage, especially in terms of depth. Overall, there is really nothing to complain about with the Mojo. The soundstage makes a good impression. It’s not noticeable, although I would have liked the midrange to be a little more present at times.
The midrange is rounded and colorful but warm. The upper range of the mid-range is not boosted, nor is it aggressive or harsh. It is relaxing, approachable. The mids and lows perfectly convey the instrument’s physical characteristics, while the highs are sometimes transparent and thin and sometimes sound too hollow.
However, the dynamics and details of cymbals, violins, flutes, and female voices were rendered with amazing realism. As it progressed, however, it lacked a bit of attack. That said, the Chord Mojo headphone amp is a very friendly amp for Blues and calm music. The sound is lively enough to handle fast, booming bass, but Chord Mojo presented is impressive when playing more complex and detailed music.
The treble presents a soft, extended range in which the subtle power of the Chord is fully exposed. In this range, the manufacturer avoided sounding muddy and slowed down the reverberation of an instrument, which would have compromised selectivity. This did not affect my impressions of the stage performance, and the headphone amplifier cannot be accused of being sibilant, harsh, severe, or cold in the upper register. Highs are clear and crisp but somewhat restrained and timid, so you may need an extremely bright headset. Percussion cymbals are clean, well separated, and accurate, with no rustling, blending, or digital sounds.
The Mojo is very detailed and accurate, capturing all the gritty tones and revealing every audio detail. Still, at times, the vocals seem further away than they should, and I wish they were closer to the listener.
In terms of synergy, their warm character fits best with brighter headphones, the newest K702, and the older AKG models K260 PRO, K270 Playback, K400, K401, K501. Beyerdynamics’ DT880 Edition and DT990 PRO/Edition, as well as the HD800, T1, and K812 PRO. In theory, the Mojo can work well with neutral or bright headphones, especially if you want them softer. In practice, it can be different.
Sonically, the Mojo makes a very good impression right off the bat. The more critical we’re about its sound quality, it reveals the more impressive. Initially, I had some doubts about the functional layer and the clumsy design, which forces the user to physically manage the cables to some extent since the correctly configured signal inputs are automatically selected. Nevertheless, one cannot ignore the charming sound quality, smoothness, and consistency of tonal transitions.