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Testing Ground

Chord Mojo 2 + Poly Test: Portable and connectable high-fidelity DAC/headphone amp set

By Alban Amouroux |

Chord makes devices on both ends of the spectrum: high-end Hi-Fi devices, which are as weighty as they are impressive, and tiny products intended for conversion and headphone listening. We’ve delved into this latter part of their range to take a look at the Mojo 2, a DAC with a headphone amp that fits snugly in your pocket, to explore its versatile functions and Poly portable streamer extension.

The British manufacturer Chord has long been known for its futuristic aesthetic. The current Hi-Fi models are no exception to this; the long tubular legs, the blue lighting and the crop circle-esque designs on the main body just scream science-fiction. These units take up a lot of space too. After all, they’re geared towards top-notch Hi-Fi systems that don’t compromise on space. Alongside this ambitious range, Chord has also created an array of compact products to ensure they can meet all listening requirements: whether you need to save on space or make your music collection portable. The Mojo 2 is a worthy representative of their “portable” series. It perfectly highlights Chord’s expertise whilst still retaining the brand’s aesthetic style. It’s accompanied by the Poly, a well-conceived all-purpose portable streamer extension.

Specifications

● Portable DAC/headphone amp
● Price: 629 €
● Converter: 768 kHz/32 bits
● Connectivity: 1 x micro-USB input, 1 x USB-C input, 1 x coaxial digital input, 1 x optical digital input, 2 x unbalanced 3.5mm mini-jacks, 1 x USB port for charging
● Option: Poly network drive with Bluetooth, wi-fi and micro SD card reader (649 €))
● Dimensions (l x h x d): 83 x 22.9 x 62 mm
● Weight: 185 g

Overview of the Chord Mojo 2

The Chord Mojo 2 is pocket-sized perfection; there’s no other way to describe it. Its black aluminium casing is embellished with the term Mojo in hollow white letters. A small rounded notch at the front of the device bears the brand’s name and is reminiscent of their typical Hi-Fi aesthetic.

The connectors are split into two. On one side are the two unbalanced headphone outputs in 3.5 mm mini jack format. They’re twinned, and there’s no separate volume control. On the other side are the four digital inputs: two digital inputs, one coaxial input and one optical input. These are used to connect Hi-Fi devices such as a streamer or a CD player. The micro-USB and USB-C inputs connect the device to a smartphone or computer.

The USB-C port was clearly an afterthought, considering it doesn’t appear on the original Mojo despite the device’s main frame remaining the same. There’s also a second micro-USB port dedicated to charging the internal battery. These two micro-USB ports are clearly differentiated by their respective icons. Just below this, a tiny LED indicates the charging status of the Mojo 2. You’ll need to leave it plugged in for 4 hours to get 8 hours of battery life.

The Mojo 2 sits on four small rubber feet to keep it firmly in position. This is handy if the device is being used as part of a Hi-Fi system or as a DAC in conjunction with a desktop computer. It’s capable of converting digital audio files from the highest resolutions, up to 768 kHz and 32-bit, capabilities matched by the original Mojo.

The Poly is a dedicated extension to the Mojo 2. It has two prongs that line up with the DAC’s input sockets for a secure connection between the two. However, Chord recommends using the optional cover to enclose and protect both devices for additional security.

Once the Poly is attached, you can no longer access the Mojo 2 inputs, with only a micro-USB port left visible for charging the two devices simultaneously. There is, however, a micro-SD port that can be used. It accepts any capacity and allows the Mojo 2 to become a full-featured music player. But that's not all, as the Poly brings with it Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, turning the whole thing into a streamer (which can still be used either portably or fixed in position).

Using the Chord Mojo 2

The Mojo 2 features the classic Chord controls that we're already familiar with, i.e. backlit bead-shaped buttons. Despite only having four buttons, there's a lot you can do with this device. However, each function and setting corresponds to a colour or colour combination involving multiple buttons, so the controls can be hard to navigate without the manual—you'll need a bit of practice to memorise the colour codes.

Chord doesn't provide a user manual with the device itself. Instead, you’ll need to download a PDF online. This is a benefit in so far as it’s easier to stay updated as changes and updates are made, but it’s not so convenient when it comes to accessing the colour combinations required to control the settings. Essentially, with the four buttons on the Mojo 2, you can control the volume, crossfeed settings for headphone listening and button brightness. More unusually, the device also features a 4-band graphic equaliser with a +/- 9-step adjustment range.

When you link up the Poly, you no longer need to use the coloured buttons to control the settings, as you can use an app that connects via Bluetooth. This app allows you to select the operating mode. Apart from the classic Bluetooth audio link, Wi-Fi can also be configured as a receiver or transmitter (Hot Spot mode). In receiver mode, you need to connect the Poly to your Wi-Fi network so it can play music via Roon, DLNA or AirPlay. In transmitter mode, it becomes a music server, distributing the music stored in its memory card to other audio players connected via direct Wi-Fi.

The Chord Gofigure application can be used to configure all this. The app also provides information on the Poly’s status and battery level. Some settings are exclusive; for example, it isn’t possible to access the SD card through Roon, and the Poly can’t be connected to Wi-Fi and act as a Wi-Fi Hot Spot at the same time (and switching from one to the other will cause the Poly to restart automatically). Finally, amongst other settings, you can activate DSD file playback via Roon or access web radio playback.

Listening Experience

Our tests featured several phases. Firstly, we connected an iPhone to the USB input, then a MacBook to the USB-C, before finishing with the Poly extension in Roon mode to enjoy the built-in Qobuz and our favourite playlists. The BeyerDynamic Amiron Home headphones served as our reference. Note that the power button on the Mojo 2 lights up in different colours to indicate the quality of the audio stream being played.

We started with the album Here It Is a tribute to Leonard Cohen. The cover of Steer Your Way by Norah Jones is superbly reproduced by the Mojo 2. The lightness of the reproduction makes it easy to enjoy all the instruments, thanks to the way in which the device respects the layering of sound. The percussion sounds excellent, as do the vocals and backing vocals which flow seamlessly. When the saxophone makes an appearance, it meticulously takes shape behind the vocals. On Robert Glasper’s album Black Radio III, a myriad of sounds explode out of the headphones, and there’s a real sense of depth, creating a soundstage that feels broad and open.

Justice’s last EP, Planisphere gave us an opportunity to explore the lower frequencies. These tracks perfectly characterise the neutral sound signature of the Mojo 2: it doesn’t try to embellish or emphasise anything. It’s this ability to play everything so smoothly that makes the Mojo 2 a Hi-Fi device in the sense that it respects every musical style—no bassline is over-emphasised, and everything stays in its place. Of course, the 4-band EQ, which we didn’t need to use, is always there to give the sound a little boost if that’s what you prefer.

Listening to Carl Nielson’s Symphonie No. 4 de Carl Nielsen by the Danish National Orchestra, the Mojo 2’s deep respect for dynamics became apparent. Quiet, restrained passages alternate with dramatic sections with incredible ease. The soundstage feels ultra-large thanks to the well-respected spread of the music stands. This separation and verticality means we’re able to differentiate each section of the orchestra, allowing us to concentrate either on one specific section or on the musical whole with little effort. One of the Mojo 2’s best qualities is that it takes a back seat, effortlessly reproducing the music without any exaggeration or artificiality.

Pros:
Full sound
Respect for the music
A DAC that can be used both portably or in position
4-band equaliser to customise the sound signature
Wireless connectivity offered by the Poly extension

Cons:
Tricky to remember the functions of the coloured buttons
Limited 8-hour battery life
Two non-independent headphone outputs

Conclusion

The Chord Mojo 2 is a remarkable portable DAC/headphone amp: it’s undoubtedly a device you won’t regret buying. Compact, ready to go in a few seconds, and capable of playing pretty much all audio formats; there’s nothing it can’t do. Arguably, the ergonomics of the Mojo 2 could be improved as the coloured buttons aren’t particularly intuitive, but this doesn’t detract from the device’s overall performance. The Mojo 2 aims to let the listener lose themselves in their music without having to worry about a thing. Sound is reproduced simply and naturally, with no artificiality. The Mojo 2 won’t take over your headphones or change their sound signature; however, the 4-band EQ will let you correct any of your headphone’s shortcomings or customise the sound if you prefer. The Poly extension opens up all the possibilities that come with a wireless connection, which will be more convenient in many cases. With the combination of these two devices, you have a multifunctional, space-saving, plug-in or battery-powered Hi-Fi playback tool. This level of versatility is hard to beat!