Disclaimer: the Chord MOJO featured in this post was lent me by Ongaku Shuppansha, a magazine client of mine whose yearly half-yearly publications and events I shoot. The Mojo's been on and off my shooting table for several days. Whilst editing photos, I shot it, RMAA'd and briefly listened to it. This is not a review.
A trusted audiophile/photophile friend of mine calls it ugly. I call it alien. No, not that sort. This sort:
And to be honest, handling Mojo is a bit alien. While large and unmistakable, its buttons have obvious central axes. Miss them and they do nothing. Whilst setting my Fujifilm GX680 to 2s and mirror up, and my Hasselblad CFV-50c to something similar, I had to on turn and off turn the thing because it wouldn't respond to off-centre jams.
But three buttons is nice. As this Mojo isn't mine, I didn't bother with the manual. And there was no need. It hooked right up to my iPhone 6 through the Apple Camera Connection Kit. No wait, no bother. And while some people swear that transport matters (with no end to subjective complaints), Mojo, powered by the iPhone 6, totally rocked.
Mojo is super powerful. It is so powerful in fact that I had to test it at two input sensitivity levels: +6dBV (Mojo at ~90% volume) and +18dBu (Mojo at 100% volume). (The former is matched to Astell&Kern AK380 / Onkyo DP-X1 max output levels, the latter to desktop amp levels.) The differences are minor, but measurable. At +6dBV, it is marginally bested by high-end DAPs. At max volume levels, it flattens the competition in nearly all metrics. Again, I hope that no one ever listens to such output levels.
Mojo is good enough that I'm tempted to make an uneducated guess that it is pushing the limits of the Lynx HILO to properly digitise analogue signals.
Speaking of: let me take a moment to praise the Lynx (Headphone output RMAA here - review here). It has transformed my desktop listening life. It has transformed my desktop digitising and analysing life. I feel like a new man. Transfers are easy, settings are myriad and customisable; and coolio for a bloke like me: its branding, marque, and sturdiness (not just performance stability), are phenomenal. Want for a better DAC/ADC I could not. If one exists, I doubt I budget for it.
Back to Mojo: Look at those SNR and DR numbers. At pre-max (not optimal) volume levels, Mojo stands up to the most expensive DAPs out there, and it can go further. Unimaginable power. Chart-definingly low IMD and THD numbers. Three eyes.
For 600$, I don't think you can do better. For much more you still probably can't. I've got my eye on Yahoo! Auctions now. But, despite its sweet performance, I probably won't use it for much beside reviewing portable amps. Why? I don't like stacks. I appreciate what some stacked gear is capable of. But I'm cognisant of the fact that at normal listening levels, nearly all modern gear performs roughly the same. Slight differences in voicing may exist, but they're not enough for me to bother with.
And, the final reason I reckon I'd not much use Mojo is this: it has a small, but noticeable level of background hiss. It's about on a level with a 1st-gen AK100. Too much in my opinion, but considering its power, probably a worthwhile tradeoff for a stack-fiends that want the best quality. And most audiophiles were 100% happy with the AK100. This is my nit to pick.
Honestly, an iPhone 6 and the Mojo should be all you need if absolute performance from a mass-marketed consumer audio setup is your goal. If you prefer a different transport, go ahead: knock yourself out. And while I've not tested other transports with the Mojo (for a number of educated reasons) and can't claim definitively one way or another, I am youthfully confident that your hi-end player and Mojo cannot outperform the iPhone 6/CCK/Mojo. In fact, it may woefully underperform it.
But it's your life. If mo' money in your transport brings you mo' joy, and subjective surety of performance, have at it. Remember: I freely admit that my expensive Leica M240 and Summicron 50 are personal favourites. I wouldn't dare claim the M240 outperforms a Nikon D800. It costs more. It's wonderful. I think it's the best FF camera out there for me. But its sensor performance woefully underperforms in many areas. I can love using it while admitting that its peers are all years old. Audiophiles: you are free to make any claim you want, but please feel free to add: it is my opinion, before punctuating the sentence with the phrase sound character rather than sound quality. That is, unless you're NWavguy.
Anyway, onto measurements.
The following Rightmark Audio Analyzer tests were conducted through this equipment.
Source: Chord Mojo
ADC: Lynx Studio HILO LT-TB
Computer: 2012 27" iMac
Cables: 1,5m Hosa Pro 3,5mm stereo to dual 3-pin XLR (around 8$)
NL - no load
SM2 - Earsonics SM2
ES7 - Audio Technica ES7
DT880 - Beyerdynamic DT880/600
24-bit results @+6dBV (HILO input sensitivity)
24-bit summary @+6dBV (HILO input sensitivity)
24-bit results @+18dBu (HILO input sensitivity)
24-bit summary @+18dBu (HILO input sensitivity)
Mojo blows by most if not all hi-end DAPs. It blows by many, if not most bleeding-edge desktop DACs and headphone amps. Sure, they may supply more voltage into high-Ω loads, but no all-rounder I've tested even comes close. Not even close.
Careful though, not all USB connections are created equal. My mains-fed iMac's is nutscapes. Rest assured: if all you've got is an iPhone, Mojo has the power to transform it into the sort of beast you never even fathomed. And, part of that is that you have to expect a bit of hiss.
Absolutely ho, but some hum. Well done.