Link to Specifications
Recently, I’ve been searching for a DAC that would go effortlessly with my vintage Adcom system. I desired something simple, and if possible, with a very small footprint. I had tried various USB stick DAC’s. While they were nice and the perfect size, I always felt they were a bit compromised sound-wise. When the opportunity came to review the Chord Mojo I knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity.
I will admit that in my mind I wrongfully expected the Mojo to be larger in my mind than it actually is in reality. I had I assumed a case some 6” square. In truth, the Mojo is similar to a deck of playing cards, measuring 3.25” x 2.5” x 1”. Upon unboxing, I immediately noticed the heft of the aircraft grade aluminum case and impressive finish quality. The three translucent balls grooved-in along one side garner immediate attention. The trio has multiple functions; the left is for power (holding a couple of seconds to start) as well as the color-coded sampling rate. The middle and right are for volume with ten different colors depending on output level. The balls brightness can be reduced, though they are still quite noticeable. The opposing edge is also grooved for the painted Chord emblem.
The other two sides house the various inputs on one each of: COAX (3.5mm), micro USB audio, micro USB charging, and Toslink. Unfortunately, the only cable is included is a short micro USB to standard USB cable. Chord’s website does offer various add-on cables, cases, etc. The opposite side of the Mojo houses two 3.5 mini headphone jack outputs. All connections have a solid, tight click and feel.
The Mojo does come with a small amount of energy in the rechargeable battery for a quick check by the owner. After that, it needs 4 hours to fully charge. While the unit gets quite warm, Chord designers wisely added four rubber feet for airflow. Setting up using my MacBook music server was a snap. Just open the sound panel, select “Mojo”, and enjoy. Windows users will want to consult the manual for driver information.
The Mojo was built for road warriors, combining the sleek unit with an iPhone 8 is a definite step above anything else I’ve heard while traveling. The ability to play DSD is impressive enough. Add in the capability to handle just about any set of headphones including Sennheiser’s HD 650 is impressive. Just make sure to keep a 3.5mm headphone adaptor jack handy if needed. Whether you stream Qobuz, Tidal, or stored files on your phone, the Mojo’s size makes it easy to enjoy on a plane or airport gate.
Listening at home or away to the latest Chesky Records hi-rez release of jazz duo Shelly Berg and David Finck’s “Fellini’s Waltz”, I immediately noticed how well the custom DAC chipset designed by Chord’s Rob Watts performs. The piano strikes are clear and smoothly decay. Chord points to Watt’s Field Programmable Gate Array circuitry claiming greater accuracy than typical DAC chips. Design aside, the Mojo provides an excellent musical experience.
Keeping various instruments high frequencies truly separate is a Waterloo for budget DAC’s. The guitars, keyboard, and cymbals in R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” have a clean individuality with the Mojo, something stick DAC’s struggle to define. Just as impressive is the clarity of vocals, especially when the recording doesn’t place the lead front and center to open the song as in “Shiny Happy People”. Once the lead does come forward, the chorus vocals have a fine soundstage placement.
The Munich Symphony’s rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty” suffers from a somewhat clogged sound. Yet, the Mojo was able to pull out the ringing of the triangle, as well as the hits on the bass drum. On the other hand, a hi-def recording of Mozart’s Violin Concerto in G major yields all sorts of delicious inner detail of the strings. The Mojo flat out nails the basics and finds plenty of nuances in the symphonic genre.
A good sounding top and bottom end will only get one so far, it’s the midrange that makes or breaks any piece of gear. The Mojo’s ability to extract details and artifacts in vocals, acoustic, and electronic instruments belies its now lower $399 price point. The musicality of Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris in their underrated All The Roadrunning album begs for a quality DAC to deliver the abundance of sonic treats, and the Mojo delivers. To be fair, the Mojo can’t quite match my reference Simaudio 300D in depth of resolution, it delivers a bucketful of pleasant bliss.
As a self-confessed miser, I’m always on the lookout for great performance, killer value, and multi-purpose usefulness. The Chord Mojo nails all three. From first-rate construction, attention to design details, and a combination of sound quality and musicality that jumps way above its price, the Mojo is an absolute winner.
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