Review: Chord Mojo Portable Dac – The Magical Black Box

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The Chord Mojo is the newest product launch just this Mid October by Chord Electronics. Mojo, the short form of Mobile Joy, is the 3rd battery powered DAC by Chord and also the smallest and most affordable of the series at just S$899. Hugo(S$2800) and the Hugo TT(S$6500) before it are many times the size and price yet provide the performance that almost any audiophile will rave about. Will Mojo rise up to the standards of its predecessors?  In short, totally!

Design

Mojo-2The Mojo is the size of a park of card and maybe a little thicker. Made of solid aluminium coated black with 3 round balls as buttons with various sockets. The words and icons are laser etched to the surface and the black matt coat is relatively scratch resistance.

A total of 3 digital inputs and 2 3.5mm stereo outputs are found on the Mojo. There is no analogue in or balance ports, the whole design purely focusing on its DAC and output to portable headphones. The digital inputs are Optical, Coax and USB, covering most input types that a DAC could consume.

The 3 balls work as buttons, with 1 as power and 2 as volume. Each of them will light up in a series of rainbow color to represent the bit rate and volume. The colors are honestly hard to remember but are really useful and will be described in the next section. The balls spins about in their socket but so far I do not really think they are better then buttons except being fancy.

In totality, the Mojo is a solid design that is relatively small and solid. Balanced out would have been nice in the form of AK 2.5mm but I’m not really complaining at this price point.

In Use

The Mojo in use is rather interesting.

First the the size: Yes it is rather small but it makes stacking with everything touch screen troublesome. The straps will have to go over the screen as most touch devices are rather long and big (16:9 ratio). Considering the market that Mojo is targeting, making a long and thin device would have been better. Other then that, it  is really small for its capability and if you have a AK100/120 or DX50/90, this guy would be right at home as a stack though a little thick. Using a velcro will probably solve the issue, though it will leave a mess when you want to remove it.Mojo-3

Secondly is the ports: They are good but for a portable, I wonder if it would have been better if all the ports are on one side. The issue is wires going in and out of both sides means stacking and putting it into the pocket is rather impossible without hitting the cables on either end. Infact I lost a few connections via USB with my ZX 2 when my digital cable was leaning onto something in my bag. If everything was one side, it would have been a more optimal layout for portable usage.

Thirdly buttons (or balls): Its a love hate relationship with those balls and where they are. I quite love to just fiddle with them and roll them about, but the way they are positioned makes them either really hard to press when stacked, or really prone to being pressed by anything. If you faced the words “mojo” inwards, the balls will need your finger to reach in to toggle them, if you face the words out, anything just touching the device from an angle probably will mess with your volume.

Forth the rainbow colors: This is actually one design I actually love. You can dim or brighten them by pressing the volume buttons together. Knowing the device is on or off is simple with those big balls of glowing lights. The colors initially were confusing but after a while you just need to know red is the lower, green is middle and violet/white is up top. In-fact what I love most is based on the headphones I use and the color I listen them at, I can set the volume before playing easily. There is also a small colored led under the power port. It works rather well to tell how much power is left.

Some other stuff: Line out is achieved by pressing the two volume buttons at start up. This result in two violet lights and if its too high voltage for your amp (3v), just press the volume buttons to reduce it. 3v was too high for my CDM but perfectly fine for the WA22. The device runs for about 8hrs via USB and high res songs, gets quite warm and even hot when its charging. However no worries as there are internal circuitry which will shut itself off at 65c. This prevents damages to itself or accidental burns to your skin.

Sound Quality

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The most important part for any audio device especially a DAC/AMP. Mojo in one word: Superb.

Headphones: Lyra, H6, ESW10, RS1

Transport: ZX2

Songs: Orchestra from FF:Distant Worlds, Gate, Hotel California, Songs by Susan Wong, Songs by Suara

Amps: WooAudio WA22, ALO CDM

Firstly to start of, its a relatively neutral sounding amp, leaning towards energetic and musicality. Hearing it through the many song, I find it has no true preference to any genra, making good work of anything thrown at it without any emphasis or harshness.

The greatest value of Mojo to me compared to any DAPs and DACs till 5k SGD is the energy in the song. No matter which song I played, it always has this energy that no other device I heard could match. The moment I switched to my ZX2, iPhone or my CDM in built DAC, they immediately felt for a lack of words: tired. It is like the vocals and instrument lack that little shim and power. Mojo felt like the performer who just arrived on stage full of energy while the other devices felt like the energy has all been used up and winding down.

Then there is the effortless of the sound. No matter what you throw at it, no sound in the spectrum will feel like its catching up or lacking in energy. This also makes the sound more realistic to me, similar to a live performance.

The other really notable sound quality which I would point out is how realistic the highs are yet never feeling harsh. The cymbals, bells and strings all felt really natural, especially in this tracks of distant worlds, no matter how much the bass or number of instruments, the highs will always be notable yet never distorted in any form.

Lastly the bass of this device is quick, punchy but without the feeling of emphasis. If the songs have little bass, like those from Suara, they felt well balanced in the background as support elements. But in Gate, a mid bass heavy track, its quick, punchy yet never bleeds into the vocals or mask the highs.

The only complain if I really want to squeeze one out about the sound is it sounds “Matter of Fact”. The output of the device just sound right, but sometimes this can get boring and this is where amping comes in. By default, Mojo vocals in most track felt well centered with good mass, running it through the WA22, the vocals spread out a little more and in general more soothing. Between raw or amped in this case is more of a preference. The CDM however shows some interesting improvement which I will cover in the next section.

Drive and Matching

On its own, the Mojo is really powerful. I do not think any headphone will have insufficient volume or authority. Everything I thrown at it sounds great. It may not be the absolute best of each headphone, but definitely no complains and enjoyable. Even with the harder ones like LCD2, it sounds perfectly fine.

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However to put it at its best, to me a ALO CDM acting as its amp, sublime. It actually adds even more energy to the sound, providing a touch more air especially in the vocals and highs. Euphoric sounding, it may just be the best stack that can fit into a bag.

Value

Of all the audio gear I purchased, I rate this the best value product. It sounds great, small enough and could be used by itself perfectly fine. At a sub S$1000 price, it beats DAC/DAPS twice or even triple its price. I really can’t think of a source device that provides more value based on the performance it provides.

In conclusion, Mojo to me is Magic in the pocket. A worthwhile purchase for any audiophile who wants the best without paying a king’s ransom.

2 thoughts on “Review: Chord Mojo Portable Dac – The Magical Black Box”

  1. I’ve been using the dac magic xs with some hifiman he400’s and am very happy with the sound. Lately though, the usb connection keeps cutting out, and I have to unplug it and plug it back in again.. anyone have any ideas what this could be? I thought either the usb ports have broken, that there’s some driver issues, or that the dac magic itself is breaking. No idea which, nor what if anything I can do about it.

    1. Maybe the cable is faulty? Tried another software or reinstalling driver ? Possible of some clash or corruption there.

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