(Pocket-lint) – Chord’s pitch with the original Mojo was to make the company’s powerful audio processing portable. Whether that’s connected to a desktop PC or your phone while lying by the pool, the Mojo is designed to deliver.
Thanks to an internal battery – and the ability to run from a power source bypassing the battery in desktop mode – it’s there to upgrade your audio experience wherever you happen to be. Now there’s a new version – the Mojo 2.
What is a DAC?
Chord calls the Mojo 2 a “portable DAC/headphone amplifier”. But what does that actually mean? DAC is an abbreviation of digital-to-analogue converter. It takes a digital signal and converts it into an analogue signal.
In the modern world, music is digitally stored (like a CD) or transmitted (download or streaming) and that has to be converted back to analogue so your speakers or headphones understand it.
That’s the job of the DAC. You’ve already got DACs all over the place – in your laptop, tablet or phone, for example, playing all that music you’re listening to.
What does the Chord Mojo 2 do?
The Chord Mojo 2 – and devices like it – take control of the digital-to-analogue conversion. It’s a dedicated device for a dedicated job. It’s sort of the poster child for anti-convergence, taking a task back from a device that’s trying to do it all.
The aim is to do a better job of processing that digital signal into the analogue that you listen to. The attraction of the Mojo is that it has its own battery, so it can be portable, while also supporting a range of inputs. It’s compact and versatile.
The other attractive thing is that it’s using custom audio circuitry, capable of playing files up to 768kHz 32-bit, and DSD 256, with a so-called UHD DSP, which also allows a degree of customisation, which we’ll get into later.
Chord Mojo 2 connectivity
The build of the Mojo 2 is great; it feels like a solid metal block in your hand, with four buttons running one edge and connections on both ends. It’s crafted from aircraft-grade aluminium.
Starting with the output, there are two 3.5mm mini jack connections. This means you can connect two pairs of headphones for the ultimate sharing experience.
On the other end of the Mojo 2 there are a range of connections. Firstly, there’s a Micro-USB which is designed for charging. This charges the battery, or powers the Mojo 2, and that’s all it does.
There’s a second Micro-USB which, like the USB Type-C, can be connected to a source device. That might be your PC or smartphone, for example.
There’s an optical input as well as a coaxial.
You can connect multiple sources at the same time and the Mojo 2 will switch to the input playing music. It will prioritise based on the following order if multiple sources are playing: USB, coaxial and finally optical. However, you can only have one USB connection at a time.
Optical is bottom of the list, because it’s limited in the quality of signal it can provide.
Chord Mojo 2 battery life
The Mojo 2 battery life is rated at 8 hours, which we’ve found be accurate in our testing so far. When it runs out of battery, however, it basically just turns off and you’ll then notice a red indicator showing it needs charging.
The Mojo 2 will tell you if you’ve connected to a suitable charger – most modern mobile chargers will be just fine, but it’s still a little irritating that you have to charge via Micro-USB: USB Type-C would be more convenient everywhere except legacy connection land.
However, there’s a reason it’s still Micro-USB – that’s so that you can connect the Chord Poly, the company’s wireless streaming module. That’s why it’s still Micro-USB and not the more convenient USB C.
The battery charges pretty quickly and there’s some warming of the Mojo 2 when charging, as there is during playback.
Moving onto Desktop Mode, if you leave the Mojo 2 permanently connected to a power source, once charged, it bypasses the battery, so you can just run it from a connected power source all the time. If you’re using this as a desktop DAC connected to your PC, that’s a convenient option.
Do you need special headphones with the Mojo 2?
No, you don’t. Chord says that it will boost the performance of any wired headphones that you connect to it. That’s because the Mojo 2 is doing the hard work to process the source and provide you with the best possible output.
But there’s something to be said for having better quality headphones. The better the headphones, naturally, the more you can hear and having used the Mojo 2 with a range of headphones it’s a no brainer that good headphones give a better result.
We found the results with Sony’s MDR-Z1R headphones to be outstanding, for example, but then this is an excellent set of headphones. But it’s still a great experience with other wired headphones, because you’re really getting the most of out the source.
But because the Mojo 2 isn’t fussy about what you plug in, it can be a step on the ladder towards higher-quality music listening in the long term, whether you’re have headphones you’re not getting the most out of, or if you’ve always wanted to upgrade those cheap over ears you’ve had for years.
Do you need a special source for your music?
No, but yes. One of the things that the Mojo 2 aims to do is make the best out of what you feed it. If you feed it a low quality source … well, you’ll then be missing the point.
Over the last few years there’s been a lot of talk about higher resolution music. Much is driven by faster mobile and broadband speeds, along with cheaper storage, meaning the heavy compression of older music formats is no longer needed.
Tidal has lead the charge for higher quality streaming, with the likes of Qobus (which the Mojo 2 gives you a free trial of), Apple Music and Amazon Music all pushing higher quality music tiers, or just providing access to higher quality for subscribers.
Those interested in the Mojo 2 are likely to be pursuing bit perfect music and that means avoiding processing along the path and letting the Mojo handle that. It means you have to pay some attention how you connect up your devices and the apps you use for playback to ensure you’re feeding the Mojo 2 the right format.
Apps like Tidal and Qobuz make it easier to see what you’re getting out.
It’s satisfying, however, when you know you have a high quality track to see that reflected in the coloured illumination of the power button, with a scale running from red to white for the sample rate.
In the UK we use Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain to remember colours of the rainbow and this is the same order that the Mojo 2 uses to reflect its sample rates, from 44.1kHz (red) upwards. Other regions probably have similar ways to remember ROYGBIV.
Chord Mojo 2 functions
Aside from being portable and processing those digital tracks, there are a couple of additions that the Mojo 2 offers, and these make use of those buttons running along the edges. These are backlit coloured orbs – and they look great and feel great under your fingertips.
But they can be confusing, because despite the Mojo 2 adding a menu button to make control easier, the only visual feedback you get is via the colour of the light. You might want to keep a copy of the user manual to hand until you get to grips with things.
Volume changing through colours is pretty simple (again using ROYGBIV), but the big thing is equaliser functions. This will let you adjust the tone in four bands – lower bass, mid bass, lower treble and high treble. There are nine negative and nine positive steps for each of these four bands.
The idea is that you can change the output to suit the headphones you’re using (turning down the bass if your headphones are naturally too bassy, for example) or you can adjust the equalisation to suit your preference.
It may very well be that you think the album you are listening to needs a bass lift – and you can do that.
You can also change the crossfeed. This allows you to adjust the output through four stages, mixing the left and right channels to make them more or less distinct. Again, this takes a couple of button presses but it will add more immersion and take you away from a harder stereo separation if that’s what you want.
The Chord Mojo 2 provides plenty of opportunities for those interested in enhancing their listening experience. Being able to use this as a desktop device, or take it on your travels to use anywhere, with pretty much any device, gives it a big advantage over some static rivals.
Yes, walking around day-to-day with the Mojo 2 in your pocket will take some dedication, as you’ll either have your phone cable connected, or have to use the Poly and accommodate both – as well as sticking to cabled headphones.
That might work on a 5 hour train journey when you’re sitting, but for the 30 minute commute it would take a special kind of dedication.
Part of the fun of a device like the Mojo 2 is getting all the ducks in a row: making sure you have a quality source, making sure your source device is outputting correctly through to the headphones, all helps make the experience more than just plug and play.
Yes, the Mojo 2 isn’t going to bring simplicity – if that’s what you want stick to Bluetooth headphones and Spotify. But if you want more, the Chord Mojo 2 could well be a big piece of the puzzle.
It’s available now for £449.
Writing by Chris Hall.