I was lucky enough to be invited to a launch by Chord Electronics at London’s iconic Shard. As soon as the invitation came through the post I was immediately very curious about the product that Chord had up their sleeves.
For them to be inviting people to an 8 course meal at Hutong in the Shard the revealed product just had to be special.Various different ideas were banded about as soon as Chord announced the event in public, from a DAP to a power amplifier for the Chord Hugo but these were all way off target. Information soon came in from Chord Electronics with an attached NDA (non disclosure agreement) and pictures of their new, latest product, alongside all of the collateral such as specification and release information. I skipped all the product information and immediately opened the images to see what they were planning. Once the high resolution image finally loaded on my screen I was very, very excited. I hadn’t been this excited about a product since hearing the Hugo at the store, and I hadn’t even heard this product yet. My screen was adorned with a small black unit with glowing balls of light and the word Mojo etched into the top of the casework with the Chord logo neatly placed underneath. I began scrolling the the rest of the images and one appeared next to a Chord Hugo. This gave me an instant sense of scale and it was clear that the Chord Mojo was small…..really small. Are Chord looking to make a scaled down Hugo with fewer inputs at a lower price? The images showed just 3 inputs unlike the Hugo’s 4, with the coaxial input being changed with a 3.5mm socket. Looking closer at the images there were some immediate enhancements that I could see over the Hugo, for instance all the connections being flush mounted. This will enable greater flexibility with those wanting to use their “upgraded” cables. All of the inputs and buttons also had finely inscribed icons next to them offering easily explanation of them. The Chord Mojo was completely black and checking over the specification stated an aircraft grade aluminium case with a non finger marking black finish.
The countdown had begun to 14th October at 2pm in the Shard. I was exceptionally eager to get my ears on this little portable device to see how it performed. The Shard event was absolutely fantastic and I want to publicly thank Chord Electronics for putting on an awesome “show” on the day with excellent food (Highly recommend Hutong), company and presentation. The afternoon began with us meeting at the Shard and then being ushered to our tables, where in the room, I could see John Franks standing at a podium next to a large TV with a Mojo presentation that read “It’s all about the phone” – Chord really are focusing heavily on using the mobile phone for accessing music. After a brief introduction from John Franks about Mojo it was clear that a lot of thought had been put into this product and that they had been able to achieve the original brief only by very recent technological innovations such as the new high temperature batteries and Artix 7 FPGA chipset.
After the highly informative introduction a small plain white box was place on our table with a glossy “Mojo” text written over the top. Sad i know…but my heart rate increased and I began to peel back the void sticker that had been preventing me from getting access to the device. Once I had lifted off the top of the packing I was astonished at the size of the Mojo. The only thing big about the Mojo is the shock I got when lifting it out of the packaging. The solidity was not what I was expecting at all and is not properly portrayed in the images. The Mojo is a beautifully crafted product that feels as though it’s worth a thousand pounds in the hand. It is incredibly solid and well made and not something I would expect from a £399 DAC. Looking over the Mojo the attention to detail can be seen with literally no gaps at all between the inputs and the chassis. The light that is handily set into the casework under the charging port to display the power and charging status of the unit. Pressing and holding the power ball initiates an authoritative click and the Mojo comes alive. The power ball fades through a number of colours and the volume balls glow against the black casework. I don’t even have it connected to a phone yet and I am thoroughly enjoying playing with it. Even turning the volume up and down offers a different experience from the usual dials seen on other portables.
We had a range of units to try the Mojo out on, from tablets running android, to laptops and iDevices all dotted around for us to connect up. I had familiar music on my Note 4 phablet and I had the foresight to take along my pair of ACS Custom’s. Upon initial listening I knew that Chord were onto a winner. I do however have a pretty massive admission, Mojo is not an audiophiles product…..Mojo is an everyone’s product. There is nothing quirky about it. It’s curves are reminiscent of popular iOS devices and it shouts quality from the tallest building (possibly the very top of the Shard). It’s simple functionality and usability means that anyone can simple and easily connect up their phone and instantly get higher quality music to their favourite earphones or headphones.
Now to the audio. Initially the power output was the first thing that grabbed me. Irrespective of how loud you took the unit the soundstage remained beautifully laid out, all the instruments were clear and effortless with immense amount of detail and nuance being delivered through my earphones. Usually when you just have sheer brute power in a product there is no delicacy or refinement to the presentation and it gets lost the louder you push it, however with Mojo the music stays in context and sounds just as intimate at low levels. I will continue to use that word to represent exactly my thoughts on the audio reproduction from Mojo. Intimacy sums it up entirely. There are certain things you notice when using Mojo which usually takes a lot of concentration when listening with other DACs. Intricacies are heard rather than sussed out after listening to the same track over and over. I tried listening to a song that I only really enjoy on vinyl due to it’s completely analogue sound. I find that Phil Collins – The Roof Is Leaking to either make or break a system. Through the setup in front of me it completely blew me away and it was the closest to the vinyl replay I have ever heard. I didn’t need to concentrate on what was going on, but I was subjected to an aural explosion. The delivery wasn’t forced upon me and the finer details were delivered as if they were the main part of the music they were so clear. The timing of the music made me relax into the experience and noted that I couldn’t get bored of this sound. I wanted to play another track and see what that was like. This time I wanted to mix it up and played J Cole – G.O.M.D a punchy track that has an underlying bass that completes the song. Too many times the bass is lost and the track ends up being limp. 30 seconds into the track the bass slam hit and the song carried along wonderfully. My time with Mojo was over at the Shard as others wanted to grab a listen but I was already in awe…..
To conclude on a question asked earlier “Are Chord looking to make a scaled down Hugo with fewer inputs at a lower price?”…..No. Mojo is, in my opinion not scaled down. Yes, it certainly is in size but performance wise there is no decrease in scale. The sound is smooth and lush and amazingly enjoyable to listen to for hours and hours on end….Well until the batteries need recharging. Chord have created a “game changing” product in Mojo that is easily accessible to everyone and offers stunning sonic performance at an affordable price.