CanJam NYC 2022: Chord Electronics and Meze Audio

Chord Electronics' new Mojo 2 portable DAC/headphone amplifier packs plenty of mojo into a small but substantial package. To my mind—and ears—it was one of this CanJam's highlights.

The tracks I listened to through the Meze Audio Empyrean planar-magnetic headphones (which are spec'd at 31.6 ohm impedance and 100dB/mW sensitivity at 1kHz) with the Mojo 2 sounded right—realistic—on both good and less-good recordings. The music had a seamless quality. Details were present in full but were not overhyped. Tonal balance was neutral. Music felt 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 a the same kind of immersive atmosphere I'm used to hearing on very good two-channel systems. Guitar strains seemed suspended in air; gentle, steady beats subtly supported the track. Bass lines were well-defined.

I revisited some classic R.E.M., first Murmur—one of my 2021 R2D4 picks—then a couple tracks from Automatic for the People. The combo provided a sense of open, uncrowded space populated by bodies, voices, and instruments. On "Radio Free Europe," in 24/192, I heard the quick, soft shaker in the right channel more clearly than usual. Michael Stipe's odd vocal intro to "Pilgrimage" rendered him as expected, somewhere in the distance within an echoey space. Instrumental timbres seemed spot-on. Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" brought funky fun. The low-end riffs went deep. The Beastie Boys' rowdy shouts and grooves on "No Sleep Til Brooklyn" felt and sounded tight.

Chord's Colin Pratt told me how the Mojo 2 is different from the original Mojo. Updates to the customized field-programmable gate array (FPGA) 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 supply). The aluminum-encased Mojo 2 has longer battery life (spec'd at ~8 hours) and lower operating temperature than the original Mojo. According to specifications, the Mojo 2 is capable of putting out 90mW into 300 ohms (5.2V RMS) @ 1kHz or 600mW into 30 ohms (4.25V). Specified THD is 0.0003% at 2.5V into 300 ohms.

The Mojo 2's USB-C connection is for data only, Pratt explained, not for fast charging. Why not? It's not good for battery longevity, Pratt noted. One of two micro-USB inputs is for charging; the other is for 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 aren't independently controllable.

The Mojo 2 can be mated with the Chord Poly streamer accessory via the micro-USB connection. User-adjustable options are set via the menu. This includes tone controls for boosting or cutting bass and treble, crossfeed, and a lockdown setting to disable all controls—while it's in your bag, for instance.

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 (WTA) filter algorithm plays a critical role in timing accuracy; simpler filters are more prone to timing errors, Watts explained via a packet of information provided by Chord. Increasing the filter's processing power enables more precise reconstruction of the original signal, and that is reported to improve reproduction of pitch and timbre, soundstage locations of instruments, transient starts and stops, and so on. These factors are said to enhance realism and musical enjoyment. I won't argue.