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Chord Electronics Mojo 2 ‘review’

  • Today the embargo lifts on news of Chord Electronics’ Mojo 2 DAC. News that first hit hi-fi press and worldwide distributor inboxes in December 2021. A few press folk also received product samples. That extra breathing room has allowed me to ditch the supplied press shots and shoot my own. Nor have I relied solely on Chord’s press release for information gathering. I chatted at length with Mojo/2 designer Rob Watts last week in order to gain a little extra insight into the new model’s development, which reportedly began back in 2018.

    The Mojo 2 is an update to the original Mojo that made its debut in 2015 and went on to become one of my favourite DACs (at its price point) and one of my favourite products of the last decade. Like the original Mojo, Mojo 2 is a transportable D/A converter and headphone amplifier. It will connect to any Mac, PC, smartphone, tablet or network streamer to drastically elevate sound quality. Mojo 2 has more micro-dynamic jump factor, more top-to-bottom musical presence and better sub-bass reach than the original — three qualities that will further cement the baby Chord as the DAC to beat at less than $500. If I had to put a number on the audible jump from Mojo to Mojo 2, I’d say 15.34765% (because numbers in this scenario aren’t very helpful).

    Number enthusiasts might wish to know that the Mojo 2 pushes 90mW into the 300 Ohms shown by harder to drive ‘audiophile’ headphones. Consumer-grade headphones tend to clock in at around 30 Ohms into which the Mojo 2 will deliver 600mW. Low-impedance IEM users should know that the Mojo 2’s output impedance of 0.06 Ohms is low enough not to cause any frequency response weirdness.

    Is it worth the upgrade for existing owners? Only you can answer. Only you know your disposable income level and your portable audio priorities. One thing’s for sure, we’ll likely see a good number of original Mojos hitting the ‘for sale’ boards in the coming months. But sound quality is only one reason to upgrade.

    What else is new?

    Form factor unchanged, we note four polychromatic buttons, not three. The new ‘menu’ button has a significant role to play. We’ll get to that soon enough. A pair of 3.5mm headphone sockets sit at the business end of Mojo 2. Just like the original. Use one – and use the other to share your music with a friend. At the opposite end, something new: a USB-C data input, tucked away bottom left so as not to disturb compatibility with the Poly streaming add-on. To that end, the Mojo 2’s TOSLINK (24bit/192kHz), 3.5mm coaxial (32bit/768kHz) and microUSB (32bit/768kHz) data inputs remain in place. Ditto the microUSB recharging port where improvements to the recharging circuit have reportedly shortened recharge times, elevated battery capacity by 9% and pushed its runtime beyond 8 hours.

    New to Mojo 2 is its ‘Intelligent Desktop Mode’ that trickle charges the battery until full before disconnecting it from battery power to leave the unit sucking 5V from the wall. Here, Chord Electronics contractor Rob Watts made improvements to the power supply to ensure no drop in audio quality when run from the mains.

    The extra couple of thousand taps added to the Mojo 2’s WTA filter running on the internal FPGA’s 40 DSP cores is more evolution than revolution. That is, according to Watts. And yet we’re likely to see the Mojo 2’s 40,960 tap count become a significant (and perhaps single) point of focus in the broader conversation surrounding the new model. And it would be a pity to boil Mojo 2’s sound quality down to a single number when it also features improved noise shapers and DC-coupling (with a digital DC servo) that, again, according to Watts, elevate the unit’s overall transparency and tighten its bass. The warmth and softness of the original Mojo have been largely eradicated.

    Knowing this might upset Mojo die-hards, Watts added a four-band EQ:

    • Lower bass 20Hz -9dB/-9dB in 1dB steps
    • Mid-bass 125Hz shelf +9dB/-9dB in 1dB steps
    • Lower treble 3kHz shelf +9dB/-9dB in 1dB steps
    • High treble 20kHz +9dB/-9dB in 1dB steps

    With this EQ, we can dial the Mojo 2’s sound back to the original Mojo’s; or to suit our headphones/IEMs; or hearing profile; or loudspeakers. How does one isolate the Mojo 2’s sound when it has 130,321 (19^4) possible frequency response combinations (aka personalities)? Once we factor in unmeasurable qualities like detail retrieval, soundstage size and dynamics, we’re back to a far more complex audio picture than a frequency response graph can capture.

    Did you know that all other digital EQ implementations are sonically lossy? I didn’t until speaking with Rob Watts. To overcome this issue for Mojo 2, Watts developed the world’s first UHD (and sonically lossless) DSP with 1) a 104-bit custom core that 2) processes the audio signal at 705kHz/768Khz with 3) extensive noise-shaping of each EQ node.

    This UHD DSP isn’t only for sound profile customisation. It adds the crossfeed elements found in Dave and Hugo2 to the Mojo 2: three levels of (subtle) crossfeed intensity helps headphone listening sound closer to loudspeaker listening where each ear is exposed to a mix of both L and R audio channels for a more solid centre image.

    These DSP options are accessible via Mojo 2’s new ‘menu’ button. The unit can now be locked to avoid in-bag knocks to the buttons whose brightness can now be dimmed. Having the manual and/or quick looks cards on hand is essential, at least for the first few weeks of use. Alas, the continued use of colour-coded buttons means this (still) isn’t the DAC for the colour blind: 8% of all men and 1 in 200 women. It’s also worth noting that Mojo 2’s startup time is almost twice that of the original.

    Anyone hoping for a review today (January 31st) will be disappointed. I alighted the DAC review train last week and Chord’s press release has embargoed review coverage until tomorrow (Feb 1st). In my book, one embargo is fine but two smacks of manufacturer overreach.

    This article contains 90% of a review’s ingredients, including a few words on the Mojo 2’s sound. The missing 10% is comparisons to other products – similarly-priced rivals and/or Chord’s own Qutest. A review isn’t a review without comparisons.

    The Chord Mojo 2 is made in the UK and is available now for £449. You can listen to Rob Watts discuss Mojo 2’s design process in detail here.

    Further information: Chord Electronics

    Written by John

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

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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    Podcast: Rob Watts on the Chord Mojo 2