Home Before You Buy Series Chord Mojo Review – Still Worth It In 2022?

Chord Mojo Review – Still Worth It In 2022?

The Chord Mojo was one of the most memorable DACS I've ever heard, but is it still worth a purchase today?

by Stuart Charles Black
AudioQuest DragonFly Red vs. Cobalt vs. Chord Mojo

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Part of the “Before You Buy” Series

 

Originally posted 10/9/18.

Updates:

  • 9/12/19.
  • 9/23/19. Article/link cleanup.
  • 12/14/21. Updated impressions/potential problems.
  • 2/23/22. Article revision.
  • 5/23/22. Article revisit.
  • 6/4/22. Article revisit/Aeon blurb.

Greetings mate and Welcome aboard. Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear) all over again, so…

Before we get into the Chord Mojo Review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…

You’ve come to the right place!!

What I will bring you in this review


Table of Contents

Click any of these to navigate the page!


Introduction
Specifications
Features & Usage
Build Quality
Video Shootout
Photo Gallery
Ergonomics
Sound
Gaming
Hooking it Up
Final Word

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!


Introduction


Since venturing down the audiophile rabbit hole, I’ve come across very few Amp/DACs that have truly blown me away.

There have been many I was impressed with, but only a few really stood out. As far as clarity and cleanliness, definitely, Objective 2 is tops in the entry-level desktop category.

Note: Objective 2 has since been discontinued and replaced with the ATOM.

The other in the high-end category was the $1400 Bryston BHA-1 Headphone Amp and the song “Over the Hills and Far Away” from Led Zeppelin. It was the first time I had ever truly heard a song in the way that I felt the artists intended.

It’s a track that I’ve listened to a thousand times but with the HIFIMAN HE400i, the Bryston, and the good source file it was like hearing it in a completely different light.

The clarity, dynamics, instrument timbre, resolution, everything. It was all picture perfect and something I really haven’t experienced since. What is Timbre?

I also can’t forget the Sony MDR-Z1R paired with the TAZH1ES Headphone Amp playing back high-quality source files. That’s a combo that should be heard by everyone at some point.

Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean and Ants Marching from Dave Matthews were particularly noteworthy for their sense of raw energy, Soundstage, and air. It was almost like being in the midst of the artists. Learn more: Sony MDR-Z1R Review!

The only other time I got those same sorts of feelings was with the Mojo.

The Best Headphone Amps & DACS

Enter the Mojo.

Not expecting much, I paired one with the MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Closed, pressed play, and was completely obliterated by the intense and intimate wall of sound penetrating my brain.

The Flow is a perfect example of an upper echelon type of product that is truly worth the price. It combines every good quality that a headphone should have and offers it at a pretty affordable price.

Because of the law of diminishing returns, after the $300-400 mark, you’re getting a smaller and smaller improvement in sound quality relative to the astronomically higher prices you’ll inevitably pay.

The Flow is kind of an exception to that rule. I absolutely would recommend it if you’re in the market for a really good closed back.

Pairing a headphone like the Aeon Flow with an Amp/DAC like the Mojo is something I believe to be an end-game combo for most people.

There’s simply not much else you would ever need besides an open back headphone to compliment it.

The truth of the matter is that as far down the rabbit hole as I’ve gone, the differences in outrageously priced gear are not really worth the investment in most cases.

There are some exceptions, but even then, the high price is rarely warranted when you really start to think about it.

For example, the Focal Utopia is the best and most natural-sounding headphone I’ve ever heard, hands down.

It’s a sound signature that is as close to perfection as you’ll find.

The Best Headphones for Gaming

The King.

Is it worth $3000-4000? Perhaps, but that’s still debatable.

I look at it this way: If you don’t ever plan on buying another headphone ever again, I would say the Utopia is most certainly worth it, given that you have that kind of disposable income lying around.

I for one do not.

Differences in actual headphone sound signatures are much more discernible than the differences from one Amp/DAC to another.

Most of the discrepancies come in the form of pure spec sheet variances like power output and the like.

The HA-2 provides 30mW of power into 300 Ohm, which just makes the cut for my HD600.

The Mojo has much more power than that, outputting 35mW into 600 Ohm.

You can clearly see the difference, as it will output much more into 300 Ohm though there’s no official number (to my knowledge) available.

Now even though the differences between the HA-2 and Mojo aren’t astronomical from a musical standpoint, which would I rather have?

That’s an incredibly easy answer as I would take the Mojo every day and twice on Sunday. It just does music better, in a way that must be heard to understand.

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Let’s find out why it’s so good…


Chord Mojo

Audioquest DragonFly Red vs. Chord Mojo vs. Oppo HA-2

Specifications

Taken from Chord’s website!

Inputs:

  • 1x Micro USB 768kHz/32-bit Capable Input
  • 1x 3.5mm Jack Coaxial 768kHz/32-bit Capable Input
  • 1x Optical TOSLINK 192kHz/24-bit Capable Input
  • 1x 1amp Micro USB Charging Port Input

Output:

  • 2x 3.5mm Headphone Jacks

Technical Specs:

  • Output Power @ 1kHz – 600Ω 35mW
  • Output Power @ 1kHz – 8Ω 720mW
  • Output Impedance: 75mOhms
  • Dynamic Range: 125dB
  • THD @ 3v: 0.00017%
  • Weight: 180g (0.4lbs)
  • Dimensions: 82mm (l) x 60mm (w) x 22mm (h)

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On to features!


Features

& Usage


First, we’ll start with some basic functions of the Mojo that you should be made aware of.

This Amp/DAC is admittedly a bit finicky and temperamental, but once you understand how it prefers to be handled, it becomes second nature and fairly straightforward.

Do be forewarned though: this isn’t your typical average Joe.

  • Before you do anything, charge your Mojo for optimized testosterone-fueled fun 😉

This is often overlooked and can lead to some initial frustration as most Amp/DACs do not need a charge at all. It’s like a dude with low testosterone.

He’s kinda flabby and tends to complain a lot. This is what the Mojo will do if it’s not charged. “I don’t WANNA play music today!” Lol. Wahh.

Anyways…

I personally used a standard 2.1A wall wart. Use the micro USB slot that has a lightning bolt over top for charging. The other slot is for connection to a PC/Laptop via USB.

It takes roughly 4 hours to charge for 10 hours of playback. I suppose this is one of my main gripes about the Mojo.

I just want to be able to quickly play music at any time, and unfortunately, that’s not 100% possible as you’ll need to charge the unit fairly frequently depending on your own personal amount of use.

Still, if you just treat it like charging your phone, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

You can also charge it and play back music at the same time if you have two micro USB chords. These are fairly common and cheap so I would recommend them.

Just keep in mind the unit will run fairly hot. This is normal but you’ll still likely be taken aback by it.

I wouldn’t recommend just using your PC’s USB port to charge this beast, as it will take about 10 hours and isn’t practical at all.

Fortunately, this becomes somewhat of minor concern when you consider the package as a whole.

Chord Mojo USB DAC Review

  • 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 the power globe 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!

  • Take note of the different colors on the power button and what they refer to.

When you’re playing back music, the power button globe will display many colors depending on the sample rate of the song in question. Learn more: Bit Depth vs. Sample Rate!

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.

  • Take note of the volume colors.

The volume buttons also change colors depending on how loud or quiet you’re listening. The pattern seems to mimic the above pattern for sample rate upon intense examination.

On-Board Features

As far as music enhancement features, it’s bare-bones. There is no gain switch or bass boost, but a unit like this doesn’t really need any of that given its raw power and ability to drive any headphone to ear-piercing levels.

There’s zero distortion even at high volumes as well.

Connections

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 input.

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!

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Let’s look at the build first!


Build Quality


AudioQuest DragonFly Red vs. Cobalt vs. Chord Mojo

Volume Globes and Power Globe.

The build of the Mojo is quite solid. In fact, I love how heavy it feels in your hand, and even though it’s also very portable, it doesn’t feel cheap at all.

It weighs about as much as you would expect given its price. For comparison’s sake, the FiiO E10K is solid but does feel like a $75 unit in comparison.

The E10K also doesn’t have an internal battery and is bus-powered, but that’s neither here nor there.

I’m really loving the globe balls on the Mojo and thought it was a nice touch that separates it from other Amp/DACs.

They feel really cool and are very responsive. Sometimes I would rather turn a dial when desiring more volume, but it’s a minor nitpick.

For the most part, I love the way the buttons function, and all of the input jacks are very rugged.

It’s a unit that looks like a toy from pictures, but once you handle it you’ll realize how much work went into the product.

BUILD SCORE: A+

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Let’s take a break and watch a video!

Video Shootout

Check out the comparison I did to the xDSD and xCAN!

Take a gander at some pictures!

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Photo Gallery

Click to see the Mojo! (A couple of pics include the add-on Poly).

ifi xDSD vs. xCAN vs. Chord Mojo
Charge and play at the same time with Mojo.
ifi xDSD vs. xCAN vs. Chord MojoiFi xDSD vs. xCAN vs. Chord MojoAudioquest DragonFly Red vs. Chord Mojo vs. Oppo HA-2Audioquest DragonFly Red vs. Chord Mojo vs. Oppo HA-2Audioquest DragonFly Red vs. Chord Mojo vs. Oppo HA-2Audioquest DragonFly Red vs. Chord Mojo vs. Oppo HA-2Audioquest DragonFly Red vs. Chord Mojo vs. Oppo HA-2

What about ergonomics? Is the Mojo efficient?

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Ergonomics


AudioQuest DragonFly Red vs. Cobalt vs. Chord Mojo

Coax, Optical, Charging, Listening.

Oh yeah, it is, and then some.

The Mojo provides a ton of power and streams files up to 768kHz. For comparison’s sake, most sources come in at 44.1 which is plenty.

In addition to that, it provides 35mW into 600 Ohms which indicates that it will power most headphones with ease. The majority of cans you’ll come in contact with have a much lower impedance than that.

For comparison’s sake again, my beloved Oppo HA-2 provides only 30mW into 300 Ohm. You can see the difference. The Mojo gives plenty of juice for any headphones you may have.

You’re also not going to have to blast the volume on the Mojo, but if you do, it still remains crystal clear even at very high volumes.

It has plenty of headroom which is always appreciated out of a unit like this.

With most Amp/DACs I tend to say don’t expect it to power much over 300 Ohms, but the Mojo is an exception. This makes it extremely valuable especially given its price point.

You’re getting most of the Hugo 2’s quality at a fraction of the price.

In fact, some even prefer the slightly warmer tilt that the Mojo provides vs. the raw detail and sterility of the Hugo.

ERGONOMICS SCORE: A+

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It’s also very good at what it does. Let’s discuss sound!


Sound


I had mentioned at the start how the Mojo paired with a MrSpeakers Aeon Flow was absolutely sublime.

The intimacy that it provides is really what sets it apart from other Amp/DACs.

The sound just comes across as more realistic and natural. While some Amp/DACs seem a bit forced, the Mojo is effortless in how it portrays the sound to you.

You kind of get a sense that you’re up close and personal with the artist, and this is especially true with female vocals.

The sound demands your attention in a way that kind of makes you stop everything and analyze. It does so in a manner that isn’t abrasive, harsh, or claustrophobic.

Not only that, but it seems to improve on everything that your favorite headphone does.

Anything ranging from Soundstage, detail retrieval and resolution, dynamics, clarity, atmosphere, texture, instrument timbre, vocal intimacy, attack, sustain, and decay.

Note: I’ve since become a lot more jaded about Amps & DACS (as in, DACS, in general, don’t really make headphones sound better per se), but the Mojo is still a product that really stood out to me so take that for what its worth.

I believe after the Mojo’s price point, it becomes a lot harder to detect differences in sound quality from a strictly Amp/DAC standpoint.

There will always be marked differences in certain types of headphones, as they are tuned differently and have varying sound signatures. It’s much harder to discern the difference between various Amps and DACs.

Some DAC chips do outperform others, but by and large the differences in actual sound quality from DAC to DAC are fairly marginal.

The Mojo is a clear exception to this law of diminishing returns type of concept, and I do believe it’s worth every penny given what it did to my HD600s. More on that in a sec!

SOUND SCORE: A++

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How does it do for Gaming?


Gaming


The Best Headphone Amps & DACSIt’s more of the same goodness. Part of your audiophile complete breakfast!

Clarity and micro-detail are astounding with this unit.

I would highly recommend a Mojo for something like FPS shooters and really any game you might have or want to buy.

You’re going to get a sense of everything around you, to the smallest minute detail being felt and heard to an astounding degree.

Not only that, but the sounds come across as a bit different. Their natural character shines through in a transparent, raw, and honest way.

It makes you want to dissect the sound – where it came from, how it formed, and why.

As an example, the Sennheiser HD600 is most notorious for having a narrow image. Its instrument separation is extremely good, but the Soundstage is a bit lacking as far as width goes.

I was shocked to find that the Mojo actually improves the Soundstage of the 600s a bit.

It’s not night and day or anything, but I definitely noticed a difference in width. I got a weird out of my head feeling a lot more times than I ever remember with the headphone out of any other amp.

At one point I even ripped the headphones off of my head because I thought the sound was coming from outside. I have a lot of barking dogs that inhabit the doggy playpen outside my window which is extremely annoying.

Anyways, I can’t remember the song in particular, but towards the end, I heard what sounded like barking dogs. I ripped off the headphones in shock, thinking there were some dogs barking close by. They sounded weird and gave me an uneasy feeling.

To my surprise, I rewound the song and the barks were actually coming from the track itself! It came from the right and to the back. So the Mojo in my estimation improved on the depth of the image as well as the width to a degree.

Still, this “out of your head” moment could simply be attributed to the track itself and nothing else – a concept I discussed here.

GAMING SCORE: A+

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Let’s take a look at how to hook it up now that you have one! 😛


Hooking It 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.

Steps

  1. Run an optical cable from the back of your PS4 to the Optical out on the side of the Mojo.
  2. 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.
  3. Turn on your PS4.
  4. Hold the power button on the Mojo as you would out of your PC.
  5. Go to Settings > Sound & Screen > Audio Output Settings.
  6. Change it to “Digital Out.”
  7. The Input format should be Linear PCM.
  8. Go back to Settings > Devices > Audio Devices. The Output Device should say “Chord Mojo” or something similar.
  9. Plug your headphones in and turn up the volume to taste.

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With all that said, what’s my final grade for the Mojo?


Final Grade


After researching and hearing varying complaints over the years, I wanted to come back to this article and warn you of a few things before purchasing a Mojo. I believe they have also discontinued the original but a version II is in the works AFAIK.

Here is a list of things to watch out for if you decide to pull the trigger on one of these.

  1. It runs hot. This isn’t too big of a deal for most people including me being that it’s a Class A amplifier. Plus, I like it hot. OH BEHAVE!!
  2. For many people, the battery fails to hold a charge – usually around the 1-year mark or before.
  3. Customer support seems to be non-existent in many cases.
  4. The unit dies unexpectedly or behaves erratically.

Even despite that, others have come to me and said that you can easily buy and replace the battery yourself without having to send it back to Chord and pay an expensive fee.

I had also read a review that said Chord wanted $200 to replace the battery, so he did it himself. This is simply not acceptable.

As for the burning question:

Is it overpriced?

It’s hard to say. I think if you can get it for around $300 or less it’s a good deal if you don’t end up having any problems down the road. The question is are you willing to take that gamble?

The Mojo indeed can be a bit finicky, but once you understand that it functions a bit differently than a standard Amp/DAC, you’ll likely forget you were ever mad at it. 🙂 Aww, that’s so cute. It’s true love!

Originally I gave the Mojo an A+.

After coming back to this article and shedding some more light on the situation, I think that grade dips to an A-/B+.

Stay tuned for future updates to this article if/when version II comes out! Hopefully, they are working on fixing what went wrong in the original.

2022 Update

I’ve also been thinking about it quite a bit and my infatuation with the Mojo may have had a lot to do with the Dan Clark Aeon.

I’ve talked to a few people about this and we all agreed that the Aeon tends to really do an amazing job of mimicking speakers – to the point where it kind of does feel like the artists are in front of you at times.

This is especially alarming when you consider that the Aeon is a closed-back headphone (at least the one I demoed).

Still, the Mojo will always be memorable to me as it’s still up there with the best DACS I’ve tried. So ultimately I think it’s worth a look.

 

Ready for the next article in the before you buy series?

 

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Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Chord Mojo DAC Review.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.

Marvin, what do you make of all this? Is the Mojo worth a gamble? Are you thinking about getting one? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

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Chord Mojo

4.6

Build

4.9/5

Sound

5.0/5

Features

4.8/5

Ease of Use

4.3/5

Battery Life

4.0/5

Pros

  • Amazing Sound
  • Rugged Build
  • Great for Gaming

Cons

  • Slight Learning Curve
  • Battery Life

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2 comments

L May 23, 2021 - 12:01 am

Hi, thanks for your review! I’m looking to get either the Aeon Open or Closed X, and am wondering if, two-point-five years later, you’d still recommend the Mojo to power these Am considering also Dragonfly Red or Cobalt, or the xDuoo XP-2 Pro

Whilst I’m here, any pref on the open or closed variants? I listen to all kinds of music, but more than anything want clarity and great sound for classical & instrumental music, mostly strings. Any recc’s would be great! I have a quiet house for listening, but many reviews have rated the soundstage of the closed above that of the open for these headphones.

Thanks!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black May 26, 2021 - 3:13 pm

My pleasure, L! Yeah a Mojo is still the best DAC I’ve heard, but you may want to check this out first: https://homestudiobasics.com/before-you-buy-a-chord-mojo-read-this/

I loved the Aeon Closed, haven’t heard the open. The Aeon is actually the best-closed back headphone I’ve heard, and I paired it with a Mojo lol. Musical bliss right there.

A DragonFly Red would most certainly be the safe purchase as it pretty much can’t die and has no issues. I’ve been using one for a couple of years now. Listening now actually but have it hooked up to a tube amp (xDuoo TA-20).

Keep me posted on everything! If you’re willing to take a gamble on the Mojo, it is a perfect pair with the Aeon closed.

Reply

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