Today I’ll talk about something different, not photography, but hardware specifically created for a particular two-dimensional substance that is called simply and powerful – Music. My review of Chord Mojo DAC amplifier.
Good music, much like good photograph, is build on aesthetics. Which is – in its purest form – perfectly mathematical. And it evokes emotions.
If we “dig” its mathematics, if we recognize the aesthetics, then we like what we hear. If we like the melody, we experience a flow of emotions. Enjoyable thing it its, and simple.
Plug your earphones in, jam some tunes and it’s all good – dophamine levels are increasing, mood is getting better. Simple and enjoyable
However, there’s this type of people, getting more impressed by the *sound* of Boss Hoss motorcycle, rather than its 8 cylinders.
It won’t cut for them to just plug the earphones and listen whatever they produce. They get “high” not on the music playing, not on the masterful execution, they don’t even particularly like the artist. They enjoy the sounding itself, the smallest nuances and the pure audial quality. The closest representation of sound to its original source – that is the single most important thing for them. They get ecstatic from the clarity of audio waves coming from headphones or monitors. They’re audiophile junkies In terminal stage of audiophilia, individual is no longer interested in music, in notes and instrumental parts. What’s that? Music? Pffft, they’re way beyond that, they listen to individual *sounds*.
And to each particular sound – its own set of high end (and high price) gear. And aforementioned Boss Hoss with its $ 50 000 is nowhere near that.
Here, for example, are the most expensive headphones with their own amplifier HE1060/HEV1060 Orpheus. That’ll be $ 55 000, thank you very much.
The most expensive headphones without their own designated amp – Final Audio Muramasa VIII. For a modest price of $ 8 000.
Speakers are a tad more expensive.
Hart Audio D&W Aural Pleasure.
These are the most expensive speakers that I know of. Price? 5 000 000 pounds sterling. It is unknown though just how much gold, used for coating of these speakers, exactly is in this price. Oh well
Follow-up with a tremendous distance inbetween – Transmission Audio Ultimate. Just 1 200 000 pounds. Meh, pitiful coppers.
To good headphones\speakers – good amplification
No, those aren’t guslis, it is the most expensive amplifier on the open market Ultrasound Otello Stereo amp. Going for $ 600 000. Couldn’t manage to find a better picture, so this will have to do
With such prices for its products, the manufacturer sure as hell can afford itself to have such an old cheap looking website with pictures this bad. The flash they used, I swear to god…
Or Chord Electronics, for instance. English company specializing in HI-End acoustic systems and professional audio gear. Among their customers are Sony Music and Abbey road studios, just for the reference. So you know it’s expensive and cool. And what do you know? Website and photographs are ok!
So why am I telling all this stuff?
For the past 5 years I’ve been living abroad, moving from country to country, change houses. I live in my 8th house now. With life like this, you just have to minimize the amount of things you have around you. There only have to be useful or necessary things, which aren’t always the same, unfortunately.
I love good, quality music. However, I’m just a good photographer, who lives, creates and travels at his leisure. I doubt I’ll ever buy a speakers set for some millions pounds sterling, let alone in a close future. For now what I need is something portable and good. And with price preferably below million point.
Visiting an audio tech specialist Aspiens I was introduced to Beyerdynamic earphones. Granted, I’ve heard the name before, but to know about them and to try them on – is a whole lot of difference. We compared these Beyerdynamics with my current Sennheisers which were about the same-y price, and it hit me that I need to change something in my life. Both were about $300 in price, however the sound was drastically different.
After a while I traveled to Kazakhstan from Thailand, and there, in Yamaha store I found two top models of Beyerdynamic – T1 and T5p. While my son was destroying the minds of staff with his piano skills, I was intensively violating the local gear with two aforementioned headphone models. In the end, I left the shop with Beyerdynamic T5p. Closed type, which is fine for my constant travels. They have a straight 1.2 chord, which is quite convenient. In the end I wasn’t able to distinguish T1 from T5p on any of the amp they had in the shop, so the choice was fairly obvious.
Price sure was a bonus.
From koh Samui, Thailand I could’ve ordered the same T5p’s for $1500, and that’s without warranty. Who in his sane mind would pay 1500 dollars for a delivery without a warranty? In Thailand! Not me, that’s for sure.
And there in Kazakhstan, I lucked out on local currency rate and T5p costed me only $870. With a warranty from official Yamaha reseller, valid in every single country that has such stores. BOUGHT.
Don’t want to go on what, how, from and through what am I listening, that’s for another article perhaps. For now let’s just say it’s pretty much the best you can wish for while traveling this much, save for the amplifier. Truth be told, FIIO X5 I bought without testing was pretty disappointing. Better than nothing I guess, but it’s like installing a cheap lense on an expensive camera. Yeah, the camera is capable of processing a great amount of information, but the lense can only capture so much, and that’s apparent from the photographs.
There was no solution, so I had to settle for that.
And then suddenly Aspiens posts this:
“I have these wonderful headphones Audeze LCD2 and a pretty good combo that I plug them in. But carrying around another 4kg and luggage space is impossible. I’m in pain! But one good person Yury Gordeev introduced me to this tiny box called Chord Mojo. And I decided that I need this box, because in tiny-tiny 200 gramms there is everything I need in my travels. Powerful amplifier and DAC that understands every audio format that I have now and will have in the future. Can both be used with laptop or mobile, which means I can listen to music everywhere, granted that Mojo has its own batery, charged by a standard wire like that in android phones. That’s another plus. And Chord Mojo has two phone outputs, which means we can listen to it together with my wife, with whom I share my musical preferences. I #wantmojo”
Hey that’s exactly my problem too.
So I figured, if Aspiens loved the sound on a portable device, then it must be something absolutely surreal. He’d only spit on any mobile solutions before!
And so the solution was found
In reviews you can find price of 600 pounds, or 800 dollars.
I found one in Bangkok store for $630. Splendid
I’ve already had this quite entertaining experience in buying expensive gear “blindly”. However success of Beyerdynamic T5p convinced me, that Aspiens’ opinion on audio tech is to be trusted. I bought Mojo.
While still pretty far from Russian Post, Thai post nonetheless gave me “this”. With a $630 electronic device inside. Uh
Gladly, the insides were packed nicely, and Mojo itself is made from aircraft aluminum, allowing maximum protection of the guts.
Package includes a USB cable – micro USB.
Along with the amp, I also ordered optical Toslink for $30 – to plug in into my Mac. Why not USB? Because there isn’t one available, and optical slot is merged with 3.5mm audio input. By the way, I don’t think many MacBook Pro owners know that, but you can check it yourselves – unplugging jack from the socket, look inside and you’ll see red light fading. That’s it. You can thank me in the commentary :)
Mojo stands for Mobile Joy
Plugging it for the first time requires registration, something like warranty confirmation, don’t remember exactly now. You just type in the serial number and buying location.
First thing that caught my eye was the size. Mojo is small, a lot smaller than it looks on the pictures in the Internet. Every review said it’s small, but still – it’s really small! Like credit card small, with height about 2cm.
Secondly, pithiness in design.
Mat black aluminum looks serious, leaves no marks. That’s not your iPhone.
Three ball-buttons: On/Off switch. Volume up. Volume down. That’s it.
One end contains two 3.5mm headphones sockets, so you can enjoy Mojo in pair. Or like I have it – Beyers in one socket, and the other is reserved for M-AUDIO monitors. M-AUDIO.
– 1 х micro USB (768 кГц/32 бит),
– 1 х 3.5 мм coaxial jack (768 кГц/32 бит),
– 1 х optical Toslink (192 кГц/24 бит),
– 1 х micro USB for charging
A variety of inputs to say the least.
What baffled me a little here is that Mojo has a separate USB input for charger, not very convenient. Maybe it’s justified from a technical standpoint, but it makes no sense to the user.
If you plug USB, coaxial and optical cabels all at the same time, the priority is given to USB, then coaxial and then optical. Having these inputs, Mojo can play from a portable player, mobile phone, laptop or even in stationary audio system.
After about a month of usage the hood of Tosling started to jam a little, you can see it on the picture. No, I’m very careful with my devices.
Mojo does a wonderful job with any known audiophiles from 44.1 kHz to 768 kHz, DSD 64, DSD 128, DSD 256 and all the others – PCM, WAV, AAC, AIFF, MP3 and FLAC
One interesting feature – buttons illuminate with different colors. And not just to tickle your fancy – it all has purpose. .
Power ball’s color illustrates the sampling rate of played file: 44.1 kHz – red, 48 kHz – orange and so on. White goes for DSD format.
And volume buttons show, quite logical, the volume level – from red to white. There is a comprehensive manual on how to read all these signals, but it’s pretty evident by itself.
So arriving to the main point. How does Mojo sound?.. I’ve been stunned. It has been a true revelation for me. Yes, I bought it blindly, it was a risk for quite the sum, but in the end – it all paid off.
Opener for the test was, as it goes for me always, Depeche Mode.
Never before did the deep baritone of Dave Gahan flow so deeply inside my soul, and Wilder’s rythm section had so much volume and clarity. All the instruments, all the smallest sound nuances, the keyboards, the guitars, backing vocals, drum section – each of those a perfectly distinguishable and yet combined into one single flow of audial joy.
I’m not cut to describe the sound with “warm tube sounding” and stuff like that, I’ll just say that after two months of using Mojo – it’s one of my best purchases. With him in chain and without – there is a huge difference in sound.
It’s like you have -2 sight and you put on new glasses. It was ok before, but now the world has changed dramatically.
Or you’re at the concert, orchestra is playing and you cover your ears with your palms. It’s quieter and more comfortable, perhaps. But instruments will only sound in their full glory when you open your ears again. Ridicilous comparison I know, but it fits very well to Mojo. It basically opens your ears to the music, that you thought you knew well, but only now was able to hear it in its full marvelous recording. This is how it sounds.
It’s great if you have a pair of good headphones, it’s the right decision. If not, even Iphone’s EarPods are enough to feel the difference. Although it’s pretty awkward to have such a device without the proper phones to plug in.
An observation of mine.
Quality music begs for you to play it louder. And if you listen to low quality recordings on a high volume, it irritates you after a while and you want to turn it off eventually. Play it with the same volume, but on a hi-end gear and you’ll never get tired of the sound. Well, obviously we’re talking about reasonable volume levels, it’s never good to go for absolutes, especially when it comes to your health.
So the reason I was getting tired of music is not the volume, but the low quality of sound.
As I wrote before, you can plug Mojo into smartphones
You’ll have to buy micro USB – micro USB cable to plug it into androids, just one wire and you’re good to go.
The owners of iPhone however will have to buy Lightning to USB Camera Adapter for $30. It just doesn’t work without it, I’ve tried every way possible – it sounds very hollow. Lightning to micro USB adapter – is an ideal option. By the way, please tell me if you manage to order one – I’ll get myself another one too.
It is simply impossible to carry Mojo in the same pocket with your iPhone. Wires are organized in such a fashion that it just doesn’t fit inside the pocket.
If you cross the devices like shown here, it becomes ok. The only solution to this that comes to mind – buy a meter cable.
I took my Mojo on my trip to Malaysia. Connected to iPhone with full battery Mojo honestly ran all the way there and back home. I believe in 10 hours promised by the manufacturer.
During these two months I charged the battery in every location possible: USB charger in the car, TV in Immigration office, Power Bank on the road, iPhone charger and laptop USB. It worked just fine.
Well, that’s Mojo for you. It’s a perfect solution for those who want quality sound from a renown manufacturer and for a reasonable price. Just for the reference, next in the line of Chord amplifiers – Hugo – goes for $2950 on the market. And the insides are very close to Mojo’s
Now I don’t ever put my headphones on without Mojo – the difference is just that big and noticable.
Should you buy it? Well, that’s up to you, I’m very happy with it and will carry it with me in every journey to come. It’s one of those things that live with you.
Mojo is easy to handle, small and sounds fantastically. I recommend to at least consider it as your next buy. If you love sound – you’ll love Mojo.
P.S. No, this article is not paid for, as always I just share my thoughts on what I use myself. But anyway, Chord owes me a pint now :)
That’ll be all!
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Sincerely, Eduard Stelmakh.