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For absolute beginners: the Chord Mojo on video

  • With their most recent product, the Mojo (see here), making quite the splash this week, it’s would apppear that the UK’s Chord Electronics have re-calibrated their aim. The US$599 device isn’t only for hardcore audiophiles but for mainstream users, specifically who already own a decent pair of headphones and are now looking to feed them with better sound quality but without surrendering their everyday music source: the smartphone.

    Looking at it from a slightly different angle: rather than develop their own digital audio player a la Astell&Kern, FiiO or Pono, John Franks and Rob Watts have stuck to what they know best: DAC and amplifier design, with the silver bullet being Watts’ FPGA-hosted ‘WTA Filter’ and D/A conversion process.

    Instead of moving into the migraine inducing world of software and interface development, Chord have brought the Mojo to market such that it makes use of your existing smartphone’s interface, with Spotify, Pandora and Tidal all joining the party along side more audiophile-centric/hi-res-capable apps like Onkyo’s HF Player (for iOS/Android) and USB Audio Player Pro (Android only). The key message is that with your phone supplying the ones and zeroes, the Mojo doesn’t discriminate.

    However, Joe Public and his buddies might not be so well versed in the ways of audiophile-grade portable audio. Something that’s probably second nature to Head-Fi hangers. What follows isn’t for those already hip to the scene. With Mojo taking fresh aim at the mainstream, we’d expect to encounter a greater proportion of newcomers. If that’s you, you’re in the right place. My intent here is introduce the Mojo in the flesh, to show how it connects to both iOS and Android devices and to touch on some of the issues when ‘bricking it’: piggybacking a third party DAC and headphone amplifier to one’s existing smartphone.

    My only concession to audiophiles here is this: these videos were shot and edited with iMovie on an iPad Air 2 to which the the Mojo was attached, thus providing D/A conversion and go juice to the HiFiMAN HE-400s – a terrific, streaming-service capable setup from top to bottom.

    Further information: Chord Mojo

    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. No arguments on the guide, JD, it’s great. Thing is, for me at least, this kind of setup is way too constricting. I tried rocking the whole phone-to-dac/amp shebang for a while (borrowed a Leckerton for a bit just recently) but at the end it just felt to cumbersome. I think anyone who has to use their phone to to phoney stuff (messaging, mail, etc) while on the go would agree with me here – not only do you have to contend with something strapped to the back of your handset, but you’ve also got to make sure you don’t unintentionally stress the cable, plus having to work around that fat band in the middle of your screen when you’re swiping stuff. Sure, streaming is big nowadays and you can’t stream without a phone, but like I said, too cumbersome when you actually need to use the phone.

      The only device this makes sense with (to me) would be an iPod Touch or something similar – meaning something that you could hotspotify to your phone for mobile data – in that price segment used as a second device shoved into your backpack, but who actually uses standalone iPods-like devices these days? The only people I know are kids and pre-teens whose parents deem unready for an iPhone (rightly so, considering the cost), and I don’t see many of those getting a Chord Mojo-Jojo. Most members of the legal-aged Joe/Jane Public demographic simply do everything on their smartphones, which brings us back to the issues I made in the paragraph above.

      I’m sure a more expensive DAP would pair fine with the Mojo, but then you’re throwing away the DAC section in your DAP which you paid big money for, so why not just pair it off with a standalone amp instead?

      • You nailed it, Gan – and I concur 100%. (And this is partly why I only own an iPod Touch). As it stands, and like almost every other external DAC/amp coming to market, the Mojo forces the awkward trousers (pants) onto the smartphone. This is a fundamental limitation of the whole ‘strap-on’ practice and not just Chord’s. And let’s not forget that Mojo is *still* a second device to carry; fine for committed audiophiles, but probably less for the man in the street. And if you’re gonna carry a second device, surely a DAP is the way forward. As I asked Michael Goodman of CEntrance when he launched the HifiM8: how does one take a call with the smartphone bricked to an DAC/amp device?

        Then there are the connections cables at each end of the two-fer which means one can only pocket the combo on its side. And – as per the video – rubber bands obscuring the screen.

        Someone needs to come up with a much more elegant way to connect phone and DAC/amp. I had high hopes for OPPO’s forthcoming pouch that puts one’s phone and the HA-2 into a single sleeve but OPPO USA says they won’t be carrying it because ‘it’s not quite there’.

    2. John, is there a better cable option for the iPhone & iPad than using a CCK and another cable (is that micro-USB into the Chord?) – what about a nice all-in-one?

      • I think the CCK is mandatory so that the iPhone doesn’t see the attached device as a power draw threat. Perhaps another reader can chime in here?

    3. I would love to listen to the new SF Pryma headphones on the Mojo. I bet this would sound awesome!

    4. i have to ask, and please excuse me for being a newbie….why don’t more DAPs offer wifi? i would love to find just one unit to do it all, and leave the phone for, well texts, emails sand phone calls.
      we’re in an age where streaming services are growing evermore, and i love the flexibility it offers me….i realize the $$$$ models have wifi but not the more affordable ones…and to me a DAP that is high quality for either android or apple, and can offer WIFI for streaming just makes sense….will we see more of these coming out as the market matures, you think?

      • They do and I agree with you – wifi is hard to live without once you’ve had extensive experience with any smartphone. It’s why I run with a Sony ZX-2 these days. There’s also the all-new Onkyo and Pioneer DAPS that are Android based models and bring wifi and Google Play Store apps to the table.

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