- 9/24/19. Article/link cleanup.
- 1/29/21. Article/link cleanup.
3,174-word post, approx 4-5 min. read
Hey there friend, and Welcome Aboard!!
Let’s start with a quick chart!
Before we get into the Audioquest DragonFly Red vs. Chord Mojo vs. Oppo HA-2, grab a snack, sit back and relax because..
You’ve come to the right place!!
I’ve had quite a bit of experience demoing each of these, and they all have slightly different features and intended uses. We’ll run down each category one by one and put them up against each other. By the end of this article, you should have a clear idea of which one is best for you!
Table of Contents
Click to navigate!
Features & Usage
Console Set Up/Gaming
The most interesting thing about this comparison is how my impressions escalated from amp to amp. When I first heard the DragonFly Red I was floored. Soon after I got a chance to demo the Oppo HA-2 and thought it actually sounded better than the DragonFly. I ended up buying an HA-2 from a good friend at Audio Advice and haven’t looked back. I’ve since gone back and listened to both and my impressions changed slightly. We’ll get into that in a bit so stick around.
When I finally heard the Chord Mojo, I was completely flabbergasted and I’ll tell you why as well!
I talk a lot about the law of diminishing returns in my articles, but this time around it’s a bit more complicated with regards to the Chord Mojo.
This little puppy is about the size of a thumb drive, so there’s not much more to say. Its got a cap that covers the Amp/DAC when not in use and comes with a small black sleeve. The build is great. No complaints, but that’s to be expected. You would hope/think a flash drive’s gonna hold up over the long haul. XD
- Weight: 0.77 oz. (22gm)
This thing is fairly heavy but deters any doubts you may have had about it being worth the investment as soon as you hold it in your hand. It feels amazing to the touch and has those rolling globes for volume control and power. Connections are all solid.
- Weight: 180g (0.4lbs)
The HA-2 is slick, elegant, and sleek. Its build is extremely solid and compact. The volume knob feels solid to the touch, clicks when you turn it and has a sandpaper type feel for grip. Connections and ports are all solid. You really know where your money went when you hold it in your hand!
- Weight: 6 oz. (170g)
We’ll look at what each has, then put it into practice discussing best uses.
This is about as bare-bones as it gets, but can be used with a phone with this cheap and effective Anker USB-C to USB 3.1, and for Apple, the Apple MK0W2AM/A Lightning To USB Camera Adapter will work.
Outside of that, the only other feature on the DragonFly Red is the LED light-up feature that displays different colors according to source file/sample rate. Let’s take a look.
- Green = 44.1kHz
- Blue = 48kHz
- Orange = 88.2kHz
- Magenta = 96kHz
I wouldn’t worry too much about the sample rate. Bit Depth is a much more important indicator of sound quality. Learn more: Bit Depth vs Sample Rate
Aside from that, there aren’t any features on the DragonFly itself. When you plug it into your PC and it’s recognized, just use the volume controls on-board (whatever your PC/Laptop uses).
With the Mojo, it’s more of the same as far as features are concerned. The globes are a nice touch, and do light up different colors according to source file/sample rate, kind of like the DragonFly. The difference is that the Mojo supports higher sample rates. Let’s take a gander:
- Red = 44.1kHz. Orange = 48. Yellow = 88. Green = 96. Light Blue = 176. Dark Blue = 192. Light Purple = 352. Purple = 384. Plum = 768. Light Plum = DSD.
One big difference is that the Mojo supports up to 384kHz vs. only 96 for the Fly. Again, not really a big deal. Humans can’t hear over 20kHz, and also we must consider the Nyquist-Shannon Sampling Theorem, which states that the upper magnitude of a piece of digital audio will top out at half the sample rate. So if you think about it, even a recording at 96kHz will only top out at 48, which is still more than double what the average human can hear. So yeah, these silly numbers are kind of like snake oil in a way. Vastly overrated in my opinion.
- Take note of the volume colors.
The volume buttons also change colors depending on how loud or quiet you’re listening to it. The pattern seems to mimic the above pattern for sample rate upon intense examination.
- Check the led indicator for the Mojo’s charge status.
It’s located under the second micro USB slot (lightning bolt). This is also a source of confusion per my research and experience. I’ll make it real simple. The color of the light indicates the battery level. Blue = Fully Charged. Green = 75%. Yellow = 50%. Red = 25%. Flashing Red = <10 minutes life.
- Once the Mojo is fully charged, plug it into a USB slot on your PC.
From there, hold down the power button globe ball for 2 seconds. After you hold it for 2 seconds, the Mojo will turn on, and the volume globes will also display colors. The unit should be recognized by your PC almost instantaneously. Once it is, find it in your Control Panel’s Sound section. It should say “Chord Async USB 44.1kHz – 768kHz.” Right-click and set it as your default device!
- It takes roughly 4 hours to charge for 10 hours of playback. The HA-2 gets 12 hours of playtime as an analog amp and 7 hours as a digital Amp/DAC. The DragonFly Red doesn’t need a charge.
Fortunately, the HA-2 has a laundry list of features. Let’s see:
- Volume Potentiometer. This knob feels great, and upon turning it on, it makes a satisfying click with an LED also lighting up green.
- Gain Switch. This gain switch basically enables the HA-2 to become very versatile with a wide variety of headphones. Not only that, but it’s got a really cool mute/fade-in function. This means that you won’t blow your ears out if you forgot to turn the volume down before switching it on. After flicking the switch, it starts off low and then gradually reaches peak loudness. A great feature!
- Bass Boost. I find that because the bass boost is performed by analog audio circuits, it avoids re-digitization of the signal. This results in a much cleaner and more tastefully done bass that you will immediately notice. Some bass boosts are rather harsh and kind of sloppily implemented. The HA2’s feels natural and adds just the right amount of sub-bass as well as mid-bass impact to the track.
- Power Check/Charge Button. On the side, you’ll see 4 tiny green LED lights that show the status of the charge in 25% increments. That’s all well and good but what’s even cooler is that you can charge your phone with the HA2! Just use the white cable supplied. Plug one end into the large USB port at the bottom, and plug the micro end into your phone. Then, hold down the button on the HA2 until the 5th LED lights up Blue. You should notice your phone’s charge meter switch over to a lightning bolt and begin charging. Another nifty feature!
- Charge Time. The HA-2 gets 12 hours of playtime as an analog amp and 7 hours as a digital DAC/Amp. Related: What is a USB DAC?
- Portability. Take it on the go or use it on your desktop!
I found that the HA-2 holds a charge better than a Mojo, and also is very quick to charge. This is one of the main reasons I cannot part with it. It’s given me absolutely zero headaches since December of 2017. I really wish Oppo was still manufacturing them!
This switch is located at the bottom left of the unit and is important. If you’re not hearing any sound, the switch may be set to the wrong letter. All you have to do is make sure that it corresponds to what you’re using it for.
- A = Apple. For use with the USB to Lightning Cable, Line Out from phone.
- B = Android. For use with the Micro USB to USB Cable, Line Out from computer, and to charge the unit.
- C = Audio In. For use with Analog Audio Sources such as a portable music player.
Let’s take a look at some of this in practice…
As mentioned earlier, plug and play with your PC or use it with your phone with those adapters I linked. 🙂
Or “Mobile Joy”
The Mojo features 2 micro USB slots (mentioned above), Optical out, and Coax. It can be paired with anything that allows audio out via these connections. Some examples include your console, PC/Laptop, Smartphone, tablet, music player, DAP, etc. It also has 2 separate 3.5mm headphone jacks for the purposes of easily comparing headphones as well as gaming/music/movie sharing with a special woman friend (or guy). Pretty neat and nifty!
For gaming, you would simply purchase an optical cable such as this one, and run one end from the back of your PS4/Xbox to the Mojo’s optical out. Then run the USB from the front of the console to the micro slot on the Mojo. We’ll get into more specifics in a bit!
So for PC, all 3 can be used for Gaming. With your console, only the Mojo can be used.
- It’s got a line out jack and a 3.5mm audio in. The line out is labeled AB, and the audio in is labeled C. So basically, use a 3.5mm interconnect. Plug one end into the line out and the other into another source like your phone or laptop. If you’re using it with your phone, switch it to A. If you’re using your laptop, switch it to B. C is just a straight analog in. I don’t use 3.5mm interconnects often, but when I do… Lol. I got nothing. If you have an Android, these are much easier to find than a Micro USB to Micro USB cable. You can also use the line out to a separate Amp if you so desire. Just grab an RCA to mini and you’re golden!
- Full-Size USB port labeled “A” (for Apple) for use with that USB to Lightning cable that we discussed earlier. Just plug the small end into your iPhone/iPad and the big end into the HA2.
- Micro USB port labeled “B” (for Android) for use with the Micro USB to Micro USB OTG cable. As mentioned before, these are a bit harder to find. If for whatever reason you can’t find one and you have an Android phone, a 3.5mm interconnect will always work.
- Connection to PC/MAC for use as a USB DAC. This is what I primarily use it for. I just plug the white cable from my laptop into the port labeled B and I’m good to go. You will likely have to download a driver if you’re on PC, so keep that in mind.
With its 2.1V of power, it can drive nearly any headphone you may have. It powers my HD600 with ease and should be enough for nearly all HIFIMAN offerings as well as some very inefficient AKG’s. Learn more: What is Sensitivity in Headphones?
In short, I wouldn’t worry at all about it. Plan on using it and enjoying it with anything.
Chord Mojo & Oppo HA-2
Good golly the Mojo is powerful. You can turn up the volume to basically ear-piercing levels with zero distortion. Instead of DAC chips, Chord uses in house proprietary technology and software to get this buttery smooth sound, and boy howdy does it deliver. More on that in the sound section.
As far as power goes, this beast is like Thanos during steroid season (which is every day for Thanos).
35mW into 600 Ohms to be exact. For comparison’s sake, the HA-2 only gives you 30mW into 300 Ohm, which just makes the cut for an HD600. Anything over 300 Ohm I would probably not bother with as far as an HA-2 is concerned.
Console Set Up
Graphic Coming Soon!
PS4 Set Up
(Xbox users will follow a similar protocol)
We already discussed in depth how to hook it up for a PC/Laptop, but with Gaming, it’s much more straightforward thankfully.
- Run an optical cable from the back of your PS4 to the Optical out on the side of the Mojo.
- Run a USB cable from the front of your PS4 into the micro USB slot on the Mojo. Make sure you plug it into the slot with the USB icon and not the charging port.
- Turn on your PS4.
- Hold the power button on the Mojo as you would out of your PC.
- Go to Settings > Sound & Screen > Audio Output Settings.
- Change it to “Digital Out.”
- The Input format should be Linear PCM.
- Go back to Settings > Devices > Audio Devices. The Output Device should say “Chord Mojo” or something similar.
- Plug your headphones in and turn up the volume to taste.
Video Shootout (Coming Soon!)
Click to see them in action!
To be quite honest, there’s not too much difference between the Audioquest DragonFly Red and HA-2. I had a really hard time discerning anything vastly different going on in terms of clarity, dimension, spacing, dynamics, and instrument Timbre. What is Timbre?
Both have a somewhat mellow sound, but also sound very detailed and crisp. Perhaps the HA-2 has an ever so slightly smoothed over character but it’s very very subtle and may just be my imagination.
I think part of that perception may be power output and volume. The HA-2 is the mellowest sounding out of this bunch and sometimes lacks raw energy. I notice this paired with an HD600 at times.
The Mojo is definitely a step up from either of the other 2, and I can say that without reservation. It portrays music in such a delicately beautiful way that it’s hard to even talk about without wetting myself.
Everything just sounds much more organic and natural, with a lush buttery-like quality that’s about as true to life as you can get out of headphones and an amp (what I’ve heard at least).
There may be a better amp out there, but after listening to the Mojo, like me, you might not even care.
With the Mojo, the vocals sounded so real that I almost could swear the girl was singing specifically for me instead of just me hearing a voice through a device. At the time, I was using the MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Closed and it was really a match made in heaven.
I don’t say it often, but this is a case when the upgraded, more expensive option is worth it. Above the price tag of the Mojo, the law of diminishing returns kicks in rapidly, and even more so than headphones. Also of note is that the Mojo really stands alone in this regard.
What I mean is that there are a lot of great headphones in the roughly $300-500 range that I would consider. Generally speaking, there are nearly always marked differences between the sound of headphone A vs. headphone B, and I’m sure we can all agree on that.
As far as Amps and DACs are concerned, the differences are kind of minuscule, and there’s no real reason to purchase anything other than a Mojo or an iFi micro iDSD Black Label if you’re looking for an end game type of scenario.
I’ve heard the Hugo 2 and I would almost never pay that price tag. In fact, the Mojo actually sounds a bit better to me as the Hugo tends to be overly clinical and sterile sounding. Still a great DAC, but for $2700? No way. It’s just not worth the money in my opinion. Related: Chord Mojo vs. Hugo 2
Even if you don’t quite have the funds for the Mojo, the DragonFly Red will provide 90-95% of what you need to hear in music, paired with great source files and/or Tidal. The other 5-10% is supplied by the Mojo, and you can hear a difference. Is that difference worth $300 more? It’s debatable.
The HA-2 retailed around $350 but has been discontinued by Oppo. You can still find one online but be careful who you buy from and don’t spend over $350. If you need all of the extra features then I would say go for it. It’s a fantastic solution and I’ve had mine since December of 2017. I honestly don’t want to sell it for any reason. It’s really hard to part with.
So: for the best portable solution without any bells and whistles, but something that will also work fantastic on your desktop, the DragonFly Red is amazing.
If you can snag an HA-2 at a great price, I’m all for saving money. I got mine at a discount from my friend Chip at Audio Advice, and I can’t imagine life without it. It does everything well and has never given me any issues. It charges ridiculously fast and has fantastic battery life. Again, don’t pay over $350 and pay close attention to who you’re buying from. 🙂
The obvious step up from both of these is indeed a Chord Mojo. Out of the 25+ Amps and DACs I’ve demoed, the Mojo certainly has the most natural, life-like quality to it. This is also a versatile piece, as it will work with your phone, for Gaming with a console, and as a dedicated desktop set up.
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Audioquest DragonFly Red vs. Chord Mojo vs. Oppo HA-2 Shootout.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
Hey Marvin, what do you make of all this? I would love to hear from you.
Until next time…
All the best and God bless,