A highly capable headphone amp and DAC, the Chord Mojo 2 sounds great and is stacked with useful features
- Sounds great
- Plenty of inputs/outputs
- Digital EQ and crossfeed
- Still runs warm
- EQ adjustments are coarse
- Menu system is unintuitive
When the original Chord Mojo was released way back in 2015, lossless streaming and hi-res audio were things only a relatively small group of dedicated audiophiles were interested in. The Chord Mojo 2, however, arrives into an entirely different world and, while its illustrious forebear was an instant hit for its high-end features, brilliant sound quality and relatively low price (for a Chord product), success this time around is by no means guaranteed.
With so many more headphone amp/DAC products now available at or below the price Chord is asking for the Mojo 2, it’s going to have a much harder time standing out.
Chord Mojo 2 review: What do you get for the money?
To tackle this, Chord says its new DAC has been improved in all areas. However, in many ways, the attraction of the Mojo 2 remains the same as it ever was. For £449 (only £50 more than the original), it offers the opportunity to sample a slice of audio exotica that otherwise would be out of reach for mere mortals.
For context, this is the cheapest product the British audio manufacturer, Chord Electronics, produces. Its table-top flagship DAC – the DAVE – will scour your bank account to the tune of £9,000 and the next “mobile” battery-powered DAC in the range – the Hugo – goes for a slightly less eye-watering but still not inconsiderable £1,800.
Despite the comparatively affordable price, however, the Mojo 2 is no cut-down product. Like its predecessor, it’s carved from a solid block of matte black aluminium that feels as good as it looks, and it’s adorned with the same trademark multicoloured buttons as many of the firm’s other products. These change colour to indicate the status of various things, from the volume level to the sample rate of the music your source is feeding into it.
For a mobile product, it’s swimming in connectivity options, too. On the input side, there’s a new USB-C input, which is set into the corner of the device, and this is accompanied by the same array of connections as found on the previous device: one micro-USB data input, one 3.5mm coaxial digital input and an optical (TOSLINK) connection. As for outputs, there are two of these, both in the form of analogue 3.5mm jacks, allowing you to use the Mojo 2 to drive two pairs of headphones simultaneously.
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As before, the Mojo 2 uses a rather exotic approach to the process of turning the ones and zeros of digital music into an analogue signal your headphones can understand. Instead of using off-the-shelf silicon like most other products in its price bracket, the Chord Mojo 2 employs a custom-programmed DSP chip, developed in-house by the firm’s resident audio wizard, Rob Watts.
It’s here where the big improvements over the original Mojo begin. While the DSP chip itself hasn’t changed, the custom DAC algorithms have been overhauled to provide greater clarity and lower overall levels of noise.
Not only that, but the new Mojo 2 introduces a “lossless” four-band digital EQ capability (fixed at 20Hz, 125Hz, 3kHz and 20kHz). A “world first” according to Chord, this allows you to tweak sub-bass, mid-bass, lower treble and upper treble according to your headphone or personal preference with no degradation in signal quality.
The Mojo 2 also inherits the “crossfeed” feature from the more expensive Hugo 2 DAC/amp, a setting that’s designed to create a more speaker-like soundstage for your headphones.
The final improvements surround power. Here, Chord has added faster charging and better cooling so the device is less likely to overheat. Plus, the battery itself is 9% bigger, delivering battery life longer than eight hours.
As before, the Mojo is compatible with a wide range of digital signal standards and formats, from standard 16-bit 44.1kHz all the way up to 32-bit 768kHz tracks and DSD256 files. And, thanks to the fact that the ports are all in the same place as on the original Mojo, it will also work with Chord’s Poly streaming add-on.
Chord Mojo 2 review: What does it sound like?
On paper, then, it looks like a big improvement over the first Mojo. The key question is, does it sound any better?
I’ve been a huge fan of the way the original Mojo sounds ever since I bought myself one shortly after it was first released. I’ve used it to listen to music on my phone through my trusty Grado SR325i headphones; I’ve used it to power my active studio monitors, and I’ve always loved its effortless presentation, its mastery of detail, weighty delivery and smooth, warm feel.
In all honesty, while the Mojo 2 sounds slightly different, I’m not convinced it’s any ”better” per se. In its default state, with crossfeed off and the EQ set to neutral, there’s a slightly smoother sound to the Mojo 2. It’s less strident at the upper end of the audio spectrum and seems to have a bit more control at the lower end but, ultimately, there isn’t a huge amount in it. If you’re a Chord Mojo owner and you’re happy with the way your headphones sound with it, I wouldn’t rush out to buy the Mojo 2.
It’s when you start tweaking the DSP and crossfeed settings that the new Mojo starts to come into its own. You may find that the default setting is perfectly to your taste but, if you’ve always found your headphones a touch too harsh at the top end or a little lacking in the bass department, then take another look.
With my Grado SR325i, a few clicks of boost to the lower bass band (20Hz) and a couple to the mid bass adjustment (125Hz) helped to add considerable presence to bass-heavy tracks such as Rival Consoles’ “Pulses of Information” and Christan Loffler’s “A Forest” without swamping the mid-range and treble.
I grabbed my old Denon AHD-2000 next, which I’ve always felt could do with more sparkle in the treble, added in a little extra lower (3kHz) and higher treble (20kHz), and music instantly gained extra zing at the top end. Just a couple of notches of adjustment are all that’s needed to lift the drums on “Caravan” (from the Whiplash motion picture soundtrack) from anonymity to starring role.
The crossfeed feature applies a more subtle adjustment to the audio, but I did find that it added a touch more space and presence to tracks. Again, listening to the same music on the original Mojo revealed a marginal difference, but if you enable the crossfeed and add a few DSP tweaks on top of that, you have an entirely different audio experience.
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Chord Mojo 2 review: What could be improved?
Generally, then, I’d say the Mojo 2 is a step up from the original, but there are a few areas I’d like to see improved. The main one, for me, is that although USB-C has been added, you can’t charge via that port. Power is still supplied via micro-USB, which is very much an inferior connection standard.
I’m not a huge fan of the Mojo 2’s polychromatic buttons, either. Even having owned a Mojo for years, I’ve regularly had to look up what various colours meant – and the Mojo 2 adds another layer of complication to this.
Despite the improvements in charging and battery life, the Mojo 2 still runs pretty warm, at around 35 degrees (rising to 38 degrees when connected to a charger), which means it’s not ideal if you want a headphone amp/DAC to pop in a pocket while you’re using it.
That EQ adjustment doesn’t provide the finest of adjustments, either. It might have added another level of complication but the ability to customise the frequency bands and the sharpness of the filters would be a lot more useful.
And last but by no means least, it would be nice to be able to store more than one DSP setting in the memory of the Mojo 2. That way, if you flip between more than one pair of headphones or use the Mojo in a desktop audio setup when you’re at home, you wouldn’t have to go into each of the frequency bands and readjust every time you switch.
Chord Mojo 2 review: Should you buy one?
Despite those irritations, I’m a fan of the Mojo 2. It takes the sound of the original and, instead of changing things unnecessarily, it builds on it, adding features such as DSP EQ adjustments and crossfeed that help you make the most of its capabilities.
Add backwards-compatibility with the Poly streaming attachment, faster charging and better battery life, and the only remaining question to answer is whether you’re prepared to pay the £450 price. Bearing in mind that mobile headphone amp/DAC products with crossfeed and EQ adjustment aren’t all that common, it might just be worth stumping up the cash.