Chord Mojo review: Make your smartphone sound amazing
Music breeds obsession. Whether it’s the hunt for that original Beatles vinyl pressing or the pursuit of perfect sound, the love of music can be enough to make the most level-headed person take leave of their credit card. Sometimes, though, something comes along that makes you remember why you loved music so much in the first place, and – ideally – doesn’t completely obliterate your bank balance in the process. Enter the Chord Mojo.
I’m sorry, DAVE
If you’re daunted by the mere thought of spending £400 on a piece of audio gadgetry, then let me provide some context. Chord Electronics is renowned for its mastery of ultra-high-end audio – for instance, combine its top-end DAVE digital-to-analogue converter (yes, it really is called DAVE) with one of the company’s reference preamplifiers and a pair of its matching power amps, and you’ll be parting with the best part of £50,000. Oh, and don’t forget: you’ll need to spend the spare change on a pair of speakers.
The Mojo sits right at the other end of the scale. This is Chord’s attempt at bringing its audio-wrangling expertise to a wider audience. Taking the best bits of the company’s acclaimed £1,400 Hugo headphone amplifier and DAC, the Mojo shrinks the technology down into a far more pocket– and wallet–friendly package.[gallery:0]
By far the biggest appeal of the Mojo, however, is its flexibility: this battery-powered device doesn’t just work with smartphones and portable music players, it works with pretty much any Mac, PC or tablet, or indeed any device with a coaxial or optical digital output. In short, the Mojo has ambitions to become the benchmark for pocket-friendly audiophile kicks.
It certainly looks the part. The Mojo is a sturdy, CNC-machined lump of metal that’s roughly the size of a pack of cigarettes, and Chord’s logo is laser-etched into its side. A pair of headphone outputs are embedded at one end while USB, optical and 3.5mm coaxial digital inputs are clustered on the other, and three unusual-looking spherical buttons are cut into the casing.
Hold down the power button for two seconds and the Mojo lights up; the other two buttons control the volume. Rather niftily, the volume buttons cycle through a palette of colours to indicate volume levels, while the power button’s hue indicates the current sampling rate. Press the two volume buttons simultaneously immediately after switching it on, and the Mojo clicks into line-level mode in readiness for connecting to a standalone amplifier. So far, so good.[gallery:2]
Of the three connections, the micro-USB port supports the widest range of audio-signal inputs, ranging from your bog-standard 44.1KHz sampling rate (what CD plays at) through 768KHz, and right up to the faintly ludicrous DSD256 standard, so-called because it uses a sample rate that’s 256 times higher than CD. You’re a touch more limited on the coaxial digital input, however, which tops out at 384kHz and DSD128, with the optical input reaching 192kHz and supporting DSD64. Regardless of which you choose, though, it’s fair to say that high-resolution audio is firmly on the menu.
The second micro-USB input charges the Mojo’s internal battery, which provides a claimed ten hours of music playback and takes around four hours to charge fully. Thankfully, you can both charge and play music at the same time, even if the Mojo’s metal case heats up noticeably when you do. Oh, it also takes much longer to return to its fully charged state.
Practically speaking, the Mojo’s size means that it is possible to pop the Mojo in a jacket pocket. It adds a large amount of bulk to a smartphone, but if you’re absolutely dead-set on the best sound quality on the move, small indents on the Mojo’s edge make it easy to securely strap to the back of a phone or music player with sturdy rubber bands or, in my case, some spare rubber straps from a Garmin cycle computer. You’ll need to invest in some short, right-angled USB OTG cables if you don’t want a mess of wires sprouting from your pocket, though.
Continues on page 2: Installation, testing and overall verdict