Since its release in 2015, the Chord Mojo has been one of the most popular portable DAC/amps on the market. While it’s light on features, it crams what seems like $1000 of sound quality into a portable $500 package. In 2017, to help expand the Mojo’s capabilities, Chord released the Poly, a mobile streamer purpose-designed to connect to the Mojo and add wireless streaming capabilities. While the features and sound were amazing, initially customers had some issues and frustrations getting everything connected. Three years later, with a steady stream of updates and usability improvements we’re going to see if the Mojo is still the reigning portable DAC, and how the experience is for new Mojo + Poly users.
The Build and Design
The Mojo is basically a tiny, black aluminum brick with three buttons and some ports on it. The Poly, likewise is a tiny, black aluminium brick with even fewer buttons and ports. I haven’t fully tested the durability of either device, but I’ve heard stories of Mojos surviving falls of third story balconies, or getting inadvertently spiked into pavement with no ill effect, so there’s no doubt in my mind that this is a solid, durable piece of British engineering. That said, when you connect the Mojo and Poly together, the connection is a little less sturdy. Generally I’d recommend adding some external support – whether it’s a cable tie or the official case – to keep the two together.
Functionally, the Mojo can receive input via coax, optical/TOSlink, or USB ports, and outputs via two 3.5mm headphone jacks. You can use both headphone jacks simultaneously if you want to share music with a friend, or – more likely in my case – do side by side testing of different headphones without having to constantly swap back and forth. There are also separate USB ports for charging and audio input, which allows better noise isolation while charging and listening simultaneously.
The Poly eats up all the input jacks on the Mojo and instead provides various wireless connections and an SD card input. When combined, the Mojo and Poly share battery charge and charge through a single micro-USB charge port.
By itself, the Mojo has a very simple interface. It has a power button, and volume up/down buttons. The color of the volume buttons changes as you get louder starting with pink at the quietest with white as the loudest. The power button also serves as an indicator of the bitrate of the signal with red indicating CD quality or below going all through the spectrum with white for full resolution DSD signal.
Adding the Poly is where things get interesting. When you connect the two, turning on the Mojo also turns on the Poly. The Poly initially turns on in Wireless Hotspot Mode, which enables you to either connect to it the old-fashioned way, by connecting directly to it via wifi and then using a web browser to access the IP address for the Poly configuration, or by taking advantage of the latest improvements and use the Gofigure app on your phone to set it up (I highly recommend using the app). You have three options for configuring the Poly:
- Wireless mode will have you connect the Poly to a wireless network where it is set up as an Airplay speaker or Roon endpoint.
- Bluetooth mode lets you pair with it like you would Bluetooth headphones or speakers.
- Wireless Hotspot mode lets you connect directly to the Poly as a wireless hotspot to playback music, but you would lose the ability to connect to any other network.
Wireless mode is the preferred mode for use at home on a stable wireless network, provides the ability to serve as a Roon endpoint, and also the only mode that provides 100% lossless high resolution audio. Bluetooth mode will work just about anywhere, be it at home or on the go, but with the somewhat limited capabilities of Bluetooth A2DP. Wireless Hotspot mode is more of a niche case, but could be useful on the go or on a plane if you don’t need to use the internet on your phone for other purposes.
I had tried to set up the Mojo and Poly in the past, before the last round of updates, and found the experience to be a bit frustrating. After following directions, some things worked properly, while others didn’t. With the most recent updates, the experience has been streamlined and the bugs have been all worked out. Following the provided instructions got me setup for wireless streaming in only a few minutes with no bumps on the road.
The Chord Mojo is basically the smaller, wallet-friendlier version of the incredible Hugo 2. The output is incredibly detailed and clear, with an excellent soundstage. In terms of tonality, the Mojo is just a little bit on the warm side of neutral, and the treble is smoothed out more than the Hugo 2. So the signature is not quite “reference” but the output is incredibly high quality and detailed.
In terms of power, the Mojo performs quite well for a portable unit in its price range. It won’t be your first choice to pair with a HiFiMAN Susvara, but it will handle most dynamic headphones without any trouble, and even provided a generally solid performance with the Meze Empyrean. While it provides great dynamics and impact with headphones like the Meze 99 Classics and HiFiMAN Sundara, the Meze Empyrean didn’t quite have the physical slam it can deliver with a dedicated headphone amp, the general tonality and dynamics were quite good.
On the other end, working through our stack of IEMs in the office, I couldn’t really find anything that didn’t pair well with the Mojo. The only issue I had was an almost imperceptible hiss with the notoriously sensitive Campfire Andromeda. Overall, the Mojo works great with just about any IEMs and most over-ear headphones, excluding very high impedance models and the top end of planar magnetics.
The Poly, in theory, neither adds nor removes anything from the Mojo’s sound – at least depending on which mode you’re using. Wireless and wireless hotspot modes are lossless – or close enough to lossless that my ears can’t tell the difference between the USB cable and the wireless signal. Bluetooth results in some loss of quality which may be bigger or smaller based on where you’re getting your music. The Poly’s Bluetooth A2DP provides about 1/3 of the resolution of CD quality audio, so at 250-300kpbs, A2DP matches the bitrate of Spotify’s “high quality” option. My first reaction to listening in Bluetooth mode was “This is actually really good!” but side by side comparisons, reveal that with high quality digital files, and Qobuz streams there is definitely noticeable degradation in the audio quality.
The Bottom Line
The Chord Mojo is one of the best DAC/amps for the money. With the various improvements to the firmware and Gofigure app since its launch, the Poly has gone from being a fickle but useful add-on to a stalwart companion. Whether you want the wireless streaming capabilities for at home setup or for travel and commuting, the Chord Mojo + Poly is an incredible combo.