CanJam NYC 2022: Chord Electronics and Meze Audio
Chord Electronics’ new Mojo 2 portable DAC/headphone amplifier packs a lot of mojo into a small but substantial package. In my eyes and ears, it was one of the highlights of this CanJam.
The tracks I listened to through the Meze Audio Empyrean planar magnetic headphones (specified at 31.6 ohm impedance and 100 dB/mW sensitivity at 1 kHz) with the Mojo 2 sounded right – realistic – on the good and the worst recordings. The music had a seamless quality. Details were present in full but were not overhyped. The tonal balance was neutral. The music sounded natural.
On “Thinking of a Place,” The War on Drugs’ extended solos and quiet breaks swirled and meandered amid Adam Granduciel’s Dylanesque vocals, creating the same kind of immersive atmosphere I’m used to. hear on very good two-channel systems. The guitar strains seemed suspended in the air; soft and regular rhythms subtly supported the piece. The bass lines were well defined.
I revisited some classic REM, first Murmur – one of my R2D4 2021 picks – then some Automatic for the People tracks. The combo gave the impression of an open, uncrowded space populated by bodies, vocals and instruments. On “Radio Free Europe”, in 24/192, I heard the fast, soft shaker in the right channel more clearly than usual. Michael Stipe’s eerie vocal introduction to “Pilgrimage” delivered it as intended, somewhere far away in echo space. The instrumental timbres sounded perfect. Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” brought funky fun. The low end riffs went deep. The Beastie Boys’ screams and rowdy grooves on “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” felt and sounded tight.
Chris Pratt from Chord explained to me how the Mojo 2 is different from the original Mojo. Custom field-programmable gate array (FPGA) updates improve signal decoding/conversion for more accurate playback, he said; this FPGA also increases power efficiency and controls battery charging (via the included 5V DC power supply). The aluminum Mojo 2 has longer battery life (specified at around 8 hours) and lower operating temperature than the original Mojo. Depending on the specification, the Mojo 2 is capable of outputting 90mW into 300 ohms (5.2V RMS) at 1kHz or 600mW into 30 ohms (4.25V). The specified THD is 0.0003% at 2.5 V into 300 ohms.
The Mojo 2’s USB-C connection is for data only, Pratt explained, not for fast charging. Why not? That’s not good for battery longevity, Pratt noted. One of the two micro-USB inputs is for charging; the other is for the signal. There’s also a TosLink input and a 3.5mm coaxial analog input. Two 3.5mm outputs allow you to connect two pairs of headphones, but they are not independently controllable.
The Mojo 2 can also be paired or paired with the Chord Poly streamer accessory via the micro-USB connection. User-adjustable options are set via the menu, with its multi-color backlit control switch. This includes tone controls to boost or cut the bass and treble, crossover power, and a lockout setting to disable all controls, such as when it’s in your bag.
Chord’s chief designer, Robert Watts, designed the Watts Transient Aligned (WTA) filter used in the Mojo 2 and has continued to upgrade it over the years. The Filter Algorithm (WTA) plays a critical role in timing accuracy; simpler filters are more prone to timing errors, Watts explained via an info packet provided by Chord. The increased filter processing power allows for more accurate reconstruction of the original signal, resulting in improved pitch and timbre reproduction, instrument soundstage locations, transient starts and stops, and more. . These factors are said to enhance realism and musical enjoyment. I will not argue.