Chord Mojo 2 DAC/Headphone Amplifier. Includes history, designer info and a visual tour of Chord

The cheeky chappy is back! Updated, more features but still retaining that compact form factor and matt finish, Paul Rigby reviews Chord’s headphone amplifier/DAC, the Mojo 2 and features an extended Q&A interview with the DAC designer, Rob Watts

CHORD: https://chordelectronics.co.uk

00:00 - Intro
1:20 - Rob Who?
2:10 - DACs, the early days
3:44 - Innovations
4:30 - Talking to Rob Watts
6:42 - Tech Notes
7:42 - Closer Look (inc. interface and 'in use')
15:32 - Sound Quality
17:00: vs ATC HDA-P1
17:29 - vs iFi Nano
18:08 - vs Mojo 1
20:20 - EQs

1: Why has it taken so long to produce a ’sequel’?
I have no interest in doing simple upgrades. If I want to do a change, it has to represent a major improvement, and these things always takes considerable time.
2: I hear that the 2 has been under development since 2018?
Yes, the project started in 2018. There were major changes in the hardware and major changes in the FPGA code. We did five revisions of the PCB, sometimes just to improve very minor issues. Each issue of board, along with testing and the redesign cycle, can take as long as six months.
On the code side, this represented a major investment of time with the new ‘UHD DSP’; pretty much all of the audio processing code was new.
3: What has formed the bulk of that development time?
The big effort was on the new UHD DSP. And this was also very interesting intellectually: being able to ‘do’ tone controls without them affecting sound quality. Getting it to be fully transparent was more challenging than I expected: it's much more involved than simply going for more bits of processing. The rewards to this approach, I felt, were potentially revolutionary for audiophiles: being able to make something warmer or brighter with ease, and without it impacting transparency or musicality could have profound consequences in the future.
Another large effort was the power dissipation and the battery charging. This was essential, as the sound quality benefits I wanted with Mojo 2 needed much more power on the FPGA and this had to come from efficiency improvements in other areas. Also, I wanted Mojo 2 to be able to charge and play at the same time, without the casework getting too warm.
4: I know you like your coloured marbles interface but why do you prefer them to a standard interface?
I can't claim credit for the ‘coloured marbles’, that came from John Franks, Chord Electronics owner, founder and Chief Designer. But, I really like the concept, as once you get used to it, it's easy to see (across a room) the status, such as volume or sample rate, which is why the DAVE and the Hugo TT2 have displays, plus the colour coding.
The other reason in not using a display is one of cost. Chord Electronics is a relatively small audio company, not a multinational making millions of mobile phones. Using a mobile phone-type display would dramatically increase the retail price, with no benefit for sound quality.
5: Were you tempted to go for a different form factor for the 2
During design, I have a free hand about what I do and why, for both the FPGA and the electronic design. But, the industrial design is down to Chord Electronics and we agree a top-level specification concerning size and shape at the outset. The primary requirement for Mojo 2 was that it had to be compatible with Poly to retain the ability to become a wireless streamer/player, and the overall PCB size the same.
6: Was there ever a danger of feature creep on the 2? The ‘Why not add this feature? And this! And this?'
Absolutely. I wanted lots of features, but with intuitive use. One of the reasons we went through the many prototypes was so that people could try things out, and the user feedback enabled things to be better. Design is often about compromise, as a product can never be all things to everybody. I think we got the balance right with Mojo 2.

#chord #headphones #dac #digital #amplifier #mojo2 #audiophile #hifi #review #paulrigby #theaudiophileman

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