Chord MOJO vs MacBook Pro Touchbar 2017.

  1. donkeywalker
    * I'm looking for an A/B switch box to help with my testing and I wonder if anyone knows a god passive A/B headphone out switch box?

    Out of all the hype, I ordered MOJO on amazon and finally arrived today, and I blocked a whole night try to make a conclusive test on MOJO's SQ against MacBook Pro (note that this is not against iPhone or any mobile devices).

    Before the purchase, I have seen https://www.head-fi.org/threads/macbook-pro-2016.825335/ claiming that the MOJO sounds no different and could be worse than the MacBook Pro Touchbar, but I just can't believe how this was possible as MOJO is so well claimed and also not cheap.

    Gear used in the test: Chord Mojo, 2017 MacBook Pro Touchbar, LCD3 Fazor, T1, LCDx, HD800s.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    TL:DR - Yes, the MacBook Pro and MOJO sounds about the same except maybe HD800s on string instruments.

    Technique for the test:
    1) I first volume matched my MBP output and MOJO as much as possible.
    2) I found that MBP is able to switch from MOJO (which showed up as "Mojo" in System Preference > Sound)) to headphone jack (which showed up as "headphone" in System Preferences > Sound) automatically when the headphone is unplugged from MOJO and vice versa, this makes the test a lot easier. *
    3) Songs are played through Spotify maximum quality. For each song, I listen from the beginning 5-10 times, and I did a MBP > MOJO > MBP > MOJO > MBP ... pattern. This is really time consuming and I was only able to do 5 songs in one night.

    * I'm planning to make a output switching box so that I can switch from two sources passively seamlessly.

    A selection of representative songs:

    1. La La Love You by Pixies. Tested on LCDx.
    The first 30 seconds of the song features prominent drum and slams, and this is where I paid attention to the most. I chose LCDx as it has a decent bass extension allowing me to listen on the layers of the drum well. From repeated listening, I could tell very little difference between MOJO and MBP when it comes to the amount and weigh of the slam, however, I can tell the drum to be ever slightly more clearly separated from the guitar on MBP, but I can't verify and reproduce this feeling all the time. The only thing I can repeatedly verify is the drum kick's suspense sound is audibly sharper and faster on MBP, making the drum solo more exciting on the MBP.

    2. Unchained Melody by Lykke Li on T1.
    IMO this is a very well recorded vocal piece by Lykke, and it's well within T1's strength. This is where I really started to feel disappointed by MOJO. In all honestly, I couldn't perceive at all much difference in the first two or three A/Bs until I started to pay attention to the piano. Keep in mind T1 is a 600Ohm headphone and I'm at 90% volume on the MBP when I did the volume match. When I started to listen to the piano in the song, I feel MBP has an overall higher dynamic difference between the piano and vocal. MOJO added a slight grain to the piano while reducing the overall dynamic of the vocal when compared to MBP. The vocal/piano saparation on MBP is cleaner, with more detail in dynamic and less grainy.

    3. Quartet in G minor for Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello, K 478 II. Andante by Emanuel Ax/Mozart on HD800s.
    My ear was already getting a little tired when it came to the 3rd song. I was paying a lot of attention to the overall soundstage, air, and treble on the violin, and I repeated the 2:20-2:40 for 10 times just to understand the dynamic differences. I have to say that MOJO in this case produced a sharper attack and a fuller sound for the violin between 2:20 - 2:40, but it's very very slight difference. I'm not sure if the fuller sound is due to lack of detail as MBP sounds slightly more nuanced and uncertain on the violin. The soundstage is about the same, the rest of the performance are about the same.

    4. Irreplaceable by Beyonce on HD800s.
    I chose this song on HD800s because it has a terrible recording and super bloated bass section with a lot of string and vocal energy, and I want to see how well both devices can reveal the flaws especially the sibilance in vocal as well as overly bloated bass. In this case, I feel MOJO and MBP again sound exactly the same. On a side note, I never heard HD800s had this amount of bass until I found this song on spotify.

    5. 2049 - Benjamin Wallfish Blade Runner 2049 by Hans Zimmer on HD800s.
    I think Han Zimmer is really good at pushing dynamics in drums and artificial ringtones, thus choosing this piece fo the test. It's tricky to the volume matching on this song as it is just really quiet most of the time. I do feel MOJO has slightly more boom in the first few notes in the drum kick but that's about it. The rest of the sound, spacious, big, epic, exotic synthetic sounds are all performed in the exact way on MBP to my years.

    6. Let's Have A Kiki by Scissor Sisters on LCD3f
    This is a pop song with plenty of dynamic. Switching from HD800s to LCD3f brought a lot of warmth that I liked. Now back to MOJO and HD800s. Similar to my comparison group 1, I feel MBP has a more clean separation on the vocal narration from the drum and the shaker, and there is nothing MOJO is doing more than MBP.

    ------
    Now let's take a look at the marketing copy of MOJO in the back:

    [​IMG]

    To a un-informed consumer, let's break everything down:

    Mojo is an award winning way to hear more from your headphones. I have plenty of (decent) headphones, I did not hear more from my headphones.

    Turns your smartphone, tablets, games console or computer into a high-resolution music player. I didn't get higher resolution from my MBP.

    Works with .... - Mojo makes them all sound better.
    No it doesn't.

    What we're looking at is a product with basic false claim printed on the box, doesn't do what it promised to do, winning many awards here and there. If it is not that the tolerance in Headfi community is this high, this would require a total product recall :).

    I'd like to see other opinions on this.

    Edit: I just discovered obviously MOJO sounds the same to the newer iOS device as well
    https://www.head-fi.org/threads/chord-mojo-vs-ipad-iphone.834358/

     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2017
    Intensecure and Roybenz like this.
  2. Music Alchemist
    You were lucky, I guess.

    I used the Mojo with more than a few high-end headphones (as well as my speaker system) and it sounded far better than my laptop headphone output, cheaper DACs, amps, and DAC/amps, and even some more expensive DACs. Even with ultra-budget headphones, it blew my mind.

    You can find countless others who got better sound quality with the Mojo in its thread:
    https://www.head-fi.org/threads/chord-mojo-dac-amp-☆★►faq-in-3rd-post-◄★☆.784602/
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2017
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  3. donkeywalker
    The device A/Bed here is specifically a MacBook Pro 13' Touchbar version, which itself is a ~$2K device. I guess the discovery is the onboard dac/amp section on the latest generation MBP is as good or better than Mojo.

    Another note is the test doesn't involve IEMs and I will do some IEM comparison as well.
     
  4. Music Alchemist
    Hmm, yeah, I think a more fair comparison would be against a cheap laptop and more affordable DAC/amps. Then the benefits of the Mojo should be more apparent.

    (Side note: I'm kicking myself for spending $1,400 on my laptop when I could have gotten a much better custom desktop PC for that price.)
     
  5. donkeywalker
    I think MBP's most cost goes to the screen/construction/trackpad/touchbar as the hardware performance spec is not as all impressive comparing to other laptops, and I think it is totally possible for a sub $1k laptop to use the same dac/amp circuitry as a MBP but it seems like that wouldn't be a priority.

    Meanwhile, custom PC gives a lot more potential on sound card, if you're getting a ASUS XONAR ESSENC sound card I can see no reason how it wouldn't sound better than a MOJO.

    Back to the merits of MOJO - I guess it is ultimately designed for mobility, so the test isn't fair in that way. But if you look at the link in the end of the article there are enough impression that the iPhone 7 or later also sound the same as MOJO. I'm getting a converter right now so that I can test with my iPhone X, but then any iPhone is at least a few hundreds dollars more than MOJO, and the iphone doesn't have 3.5mm jacks and doesn't have optic in, while MOJO doesn't allow you to install apps or play games :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2017
  6. Music Alchemist
    I don't see how a sound card could ever be technically better than a Chord DAC. See below.

    Although it was obviously designed to be used in a portable context, it can also be used as a desktop DAC/amp/preamp (I used it with a 5V 2A micro USB wall charger), and, as with all Chord DACs, was designed with performance that technically/measurably exceeds all other DACs and DAC/amps regardless of price (including ones that cost six figures) in certain aspects, including:
    • Timing accuracy thousands of times more precise
    • Tap lengths orders of magnitude greater for a more intricate interpolation filter / reconstruction algorithm
    • Noise shaping trillions of times more advanced
    • Zero noise floor modulation (unlike all other DACs)
    • Zero jitter (unlike all other DACs)
    It also has top-level performance in the following areas:
    • The amplification is in the DAC's analog output stage and is cleaner and less colored than even the line outs of conventional DACs
    • Ultra-low distortion
    • Low output impedance
    • High dynamic range
    • Quote from Rob Watts, the designer: "the path from the digital domain to the analogue is very short and simple; it's just 2 resistors, two capacitors, one amplifier, and of course the pulse array elements. This simplicity radically improves transparency, as every component in the chain has an influence - particularly in terms of depth perception."
    • You can use it as a digital preamp with high precision and no loss of quality
    • Enough power to drive nearly all headphones to whatever SPL level you want
    • You can even drive sensitive passive speakers directly from it (with the right cable) for potentially higher transparency
    So some people can certainly subjectively prefer other things over Chord, but in many cases it's because that other thing is less accurate in a way that is more enjoyable to them.

    Of course, entry-level Chord can't compare to their five figure flagships (DAVE & Blu MkII), particularly in terms of the power supply, pulse array elements, and tap lengths.

    And if you read through the Mojo thread, you will find countless people who got better sound with the Mojo.

    I drove the HD 800 from the $4,300 Simaudio MOON Neo 430HAD and thought the Mojo sounded about as good with that headphone.

    Some are cheaper.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2017
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  7. donkeywalker
    Thanks for comforting me on my purchase. I guess at this point I'd consider MOJO more as a piece of art/statement/gemstone with all the right material hitting the right angel than the utility value of it. We all know that technical accomplishment doesn't transfer to sonic listening experience once it surpass a threshold, but I agree that holding something as technical achieved in terms of a concept itself can create value of ownership. This can be said on so many other equipments in audio as you mentioned.

    MOJO is not simply a dac/amp, it's a concept.
     
  8. Music Alchemist
    You should try high-end DACs. That threshold is yet to be found as far as serious audiophiles are concerned.
     
  9. Swiftfalcon
    I have not heard the MacBook Pro but its on my coveted list for its coaxial output.
    I use Mojo on a daily basis and I have compared it to iPhone 7 Plus stock lightning 3.5mm adapter as well as iPad Pro 9.7.
    My findings mojo>ipad>iPhone. To me the Apple devices sound like they are half assing, things meld together and spatial features are lacking. There is absolutely no feel for the recording atmosphere...sounds like reconstructed stuff.

    Mojo is audiophile entry level sound. Its got weaknesses but it definitely makes it to acceptable quality of sound for me especially with 16bit and over files.

    At work I have the Jotunheim with dac and mojo>jot dac>ipad.
     
    Music Alchemist likes this.
  10. naqvc
    I have both the Chord and Macbook Pro so can compare. In terms of headphones, I have had a huge variety to compare the two. I am only responding as the author stated that he found no difference between the two. I tried my Sennheiser HD 700 just with the macbook pro and even though they are 150 ohm resistance, compared with 300 ohm for say the 800 or 800s, the macbook could not power them at all. Therefore, I'm not sure how he came to his conclusion. The sennheiser hd 700 sounded very dull to the point that I just couldn't listen to them. I would be shocked if he can run the HD 800 or 800s direct from a macbook.
    For tV/Movies etc, the difference is significant. The mojo make low quality streamed tv/film audio tracks sound digital, like going from 64kbps music to 192kbps. The soundstage in all of the phones I have used is opened up significantly and more background data brought out, which was missing with native.
    I have used,
    Sennheiser HD 700
    Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless (wired mode)
    Bowers & Wilkins PX (wired mode)
    Sony H3 in ear
    Bowers & Wilkins P9
    Sony MDR-1000X
    Sony 1000XM2
    Sennheiser HD 800S
    Bose Quietcomfort 35
    B&O H7

    In all cases there is significant difference between using mojo and not using mojo. In the case of HD 700, I can't power them at all using the macbook pro! I am not an audiophile and am one of those that would not spend thousands of pounds for a 5% audio quality difference, but the mojo makes mediocre headphones sound really really good!
    I'm going to try my new Trankstar 82 Pro as have heard loads of good things about them and am on the verge of buying Sony MDR-Z7.

    Also, I love my Sennheiser HD 700's, the best headphones I have listened to for gaming, films and tv shows etc. Much better than the 800 or 800S. Even for music (not classical) the 700s are better as the 800's are just too wide in terms of soundstage and too analytical.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2018
    Swiftfalcon likes this.
  11. DiscoveryHead
    I have a Macbook Pro (15inch touchbar) and I use Hugo 2 with HD800S and I've also got Mojo with IE800 IEMS for when I'm not in the office. I've never tried to run the HD800S directly off the Macbook Pro, so in the spirit of fairness will give it a try. But I will say to the original poster, did you try the comparison with a better source than Spotify? In Extreme Quality setting this is only a 320Kb/s data stream, which relates to a pretty lossy sample. CD quality (16bit / 44.1kHz) represents a bit stream requirement of 1.35Mb/s which is 4 times more information dense per second. The Mojo DAC is obviously highly capable of playing far more information dense music files due to it's support for 24bit depths and sampling rates of up to 768kHz in PCM. Even starter hi-res stuff at 24bit 96kHz is clocking 4.39Mbp/s and thus 14 times more information dense per second. Therefore, my point is what does the Macbook Pro sound like against the Mojo when fed hi-res audio. When I play hi-res audio through the HD800S with the Hugo 2, the difference is night and day compared to Spotify Extreme. I will do a back to back with Spotify / Tidal and some Hi-Res audio tracks in Roon. I will post back to the thread.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2018
  12. jlikestofly
    I can't wait to hear what you discover, DiscoveryHead.
     

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