I’ll be honest – the idea of a headphone amplifier took me by surprise the first time I heard of one. Headphones are headphones, right? It’s the kind of simplistic un-nuanced stereotyping you’d expect of, say, Emily in Paris (seriously – for the City of Lights in a less insultingly “ugh” light, watch Paris Nous Appartient or An American in Paris instead) and we all deserve better than that.
Headphone amplifiers raise a low-voltage signal from the source of your music (a PC, tablet, turntable, and so on) raising their overall standard of performance. In short, they are there to give your audio the kind of extra warmth, depth, power, and beauty you’ll never find on Emily in Paris (okay, I’ll stop now) or with standard headphones.
Do you need one to enjoy your music?
Should you want one if you’re an audiophile?
If you are thinking of getting one, and you have a few dollars in your pocket, then the Chord range are exceptional.
I’m already a huge fan of the Chord Mojo so it makes sense the Chord Hugo 2 also makes the list. But what are the differences in the two?
1. Chord Mojo
The big selling point of this model is that it can handle as much as 768 kHz of digital audio. To put that in perspective, CD audio can be up to 17 times less than that. This is a perfect example of why headphone amplifiers are so beloved by audiophiles. The average listener may be content with CD-quality audio, but if you’re a true audiophile or work in music and sound mixing and editing as, say, a sound engineer who really cares about DSD, this is the kind of headphone amplifier you want.
It also delivers good, tight bass, which is good for songs where that extra bit of audio emphasis could make a big difference. While the bass doesn’t deliver the kind of dramatic performance that’s found in other models, it’s still quite good.
This model also comes with preamp controls for the volume, which makes it a lot easier to control the volume settings than resorting to the typical “up” and “down” sliders, knobs, and faders. One of the best things about it is the fact that you can increase and decrease the volume very slightly with great ease, allowing you to make the kind of minute adjustments necessary for nuanced sound editing and mixing.
In terms of power, this model does need to be charged quite frequently, so much so that it’s honestly most convenient to just keep it plugged in and use it that way if you can. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, however, since they not only pack enough power for 768kHz of digital audio but can likewise deal with impedances up to 600 Ohms.
If there’s a downside to this hot buy it’s that it’s, well, a hot buy – as in the cooling isn’t the best and it can start to get worrying and overheat in a hurry.
See the Chord Mojo price and reviews on Amazon
2. Chord Hugo 2
While the Chord Mojo tries to make controlling different elements of audio easier with preamp controls, the Chord Hugo 2 goes in a different direction with a remote. Given the fact that it’s on the heavier side at 450 g (as opposed to the Chord Mojo’s lightweight 180 g), that’s definitely a welcome feature.
It features buttons mounted on the edge – one that indicates the charging status via five colors, one for audio filtering, the input, and the crossfeed. The multicolored button aesthetic continues with a volume control indicator, and then a sample frequency and digital signal indicator that displays 11 colors (yes, really!) to demonstrate the quality of the signal.
Besides showing off more Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge than Kieslowski’s Three Colors Trilogy, all those color indicators come together to offer a comprehensive sound filtering experience. The sound is always crisp, the power is there at 768 kHz of digital audio, and with all of these indicators and filters, you can paint whatever audio portrait suits your listening pleasure.
See more reviews and pricing for the Chord Hugo 2 on Amazon
3. Head to Head
So what does all of that mean for the head-to-head matchup of the Chord Mojo vs Chord Hugo 2?
|Chord Mojo Specifications||Chord Hugo 2 Specifications|
|Weight: 180g||Weight: 450g|
|PCM Support: 32-bit/768kHz||PCM Support: 32-bit/768kHz|
|Impedance: 75m Ohms||Impedance: 0.025 Ohms|
|Power Output: 1050mW at 8 Ohm||Power Output: 720mW at 8 Ohm|
|Size: 3.23 x 2.36 x 0.87 inches||Size: 3.93 x 0.83 x 5.11 inches|
|Battery Life: 10 hours||Battery Life: 7 hours|
One of the big differences that leaps out at you from the table has to be the drastic difference in impedance between the two models. Here, the Chord Hugo 2 has way more than the Chord Mojo. They represent the two opposite poles of the impedance spectrum nicely. Low impedance means you need less power to deliver high-quality audio, which is the reason why most headphones and earphones use this method.
High impedance options, by contrast, are designed for studio settings that aren’t a problem, and can theoretically deliver a wider range of audio performance, though they are also trickier to maintain. This is also why you can see a difference in the amount of power output in wattage between the models – the Chord Mojo uses my Ohms for impedance, and likewise requires more than 300 mW of output at 8 Ohms.
Interestingly, that power output disparity doesn’t extend into the actual battery life of the units themselves. The Chord Mojo has more than 300 mW of power output, but it also boasts 10 hours of battery life compared to the 7 hours offered by the Chord Hugo 2. What’s more, as alluded to above, it’s not just lighter but slimmer as well, making it far more portable, though the remote control is an admirable attempt to compensate for this on the part of the Chord Hugo 2.
The choice of which option is better for you will come down to what you care about most.
If you prioritize power output or battery life, the Chord Mojo is better. If you care more about a lower Ohms or like the idea of operating the unit via remote control, the Chord Hugo 2 is preferable.
Either way, if you want a musical experience that’s as clear as life “Sous Le Ciel de Paris” or intimate as a “Message Personnel,” both of these headphone amplifiers can deliver it smooth and easy as though “Ce N’est Rien.”
Endless hours of experimentation, professional work, and personal investment in Home Theatre, Hi-Fi, Smart Home Automation and Headphones have come to this.
Former owner of Headphones Canada, a high-end headphone specialty retailer.
This post was last updated on 2023-09-28 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.