In the battle for the best portable headphone DAC / Amp combo two names constantly end up on top… the iFi Micro iDSD Black Label and Chord Mojo. Both have received rave reviews but audiophiles looking to buy the one right for them are having a difficult time sorting through the praise in order to properly compare the features head to head. So lets look at the gritty details and do a proper comparison review.
iFi Black Label and Chord Mojo Comparison Review
The best way to fairly compare these two portable headphone DAC / amplifier combos is two give a brief description of each product and then chart the main features. So we’ll start with the iFi Audio Micro iDSD Black Label.
iFi Micro iDSD Black Label
Several months back iFi announced their top-dog DAC and amp combo the Micro iDSD Black Label was their #1 seller in Japan so it’s no wonder it’s taking hold of audiophiles in the US like wildfire. This sleek, black electronic powerhouse features some of the best components including the Burr-Brown chipset from Texas Instruments which handles all the digital audio conversions. In addition to that, the iDSD Black Label uses a special op-amp called the AMR OV which has copper lead-frames and 4N gold bond-wire. This ensures a clean, amplified sound directly from your source to your headphone.
Even more than that, the Micro iDSD Black Label is packed with features. Everything from their special in-ear monitor adjustment (IE Match) to special digital filters, a polarity switch and 3 power modes. The Micro iDSD Black Label from iFi also features a custom XBass booster and 3D Sound for an even more intense output. The battery lasts between 6 to 12 hours depending on power mode usage and it can even charge your smartphone through the side USB port.
The iFi Audio Micro iDSD Black Label is a strong DAC / amplifier capable of powering any headphone you can throw at it. It’s flexible, full of features and priced at just under $550.
Chord Electronics has had wild success with the compact and futuristic Mojo DAC / Amplifier. With only three controls (on/off, volume +, volume -), the Chord Mojo is simple to use and connects in seconds. This fine piece of electronics is designed and built in England with care and precision and promises the best possible conversion and amplification. The Chord Mojo features 2 headphone outputs, has a battery life of up to 10 hours, and 3 digital input options (192kHz Optical, 768kHz Coax, 768kHz micro USB).
The Mojo also uses a unique method of displaying volume levels and digital sampling rates. This means you can instantly detect both the sampling rate and volume level when turning on the Chord Mojo by simply looking at the LED colors for the power button and the volume buttons. The power button LED indicates sample rates from 44.1kHz to 768kHz with a color scheme of red to purple. And the volume buttons will show you the current volume levels with a similar scheme. Even the battery has its own tiny LED light with a color scheme for remaining battery life.
The Mojo DAC / Amplifier from Chord Electronics is capable of handling headphones up to 800 Ohms and has a price tag of just under $500.
Comparing all the features between the Chord Mojo and iFi micro iDSD Black Label could take forever. Instead I’ve compiled a list of the most important features that most people are looking for in a DAC / Amp combo. In the final section I’ll give my personal assessment based on these features and the sound of both devices to give you the best idea of which amp is the best for you.
|iFi BLACK LABEL||CHORD MOJO|
|Digital Inputs||USB 2.0, SPDIF Coaxial, SPDIF Optical||24-bit / 96kHz|
|Digital Outputs||SPDIF Optical||none|
|Analog Outputs||RCA Stereo, 6.3mm||2 x 3.5mm|
|DAC Chip||Burr Brown||FPGA DAC|
|Digital Audio Formats||DSD, DXD, PCM||DSD, PCM|
|PC Compatability||Apple OS, Windows, Linux||Apple OS, Windows, Linux|
|Mobile Compatability||Apple (iPhone, iPad, iTouch, iPod), Android||Apple (iPhone, iPad), Android (some models not supported for Android)|
|Battery Life||6-12 hours||10 hours|
|Dimensions||175mm x 67mm x 27mm||82mm x 60mm x 22mm|
To sum up this comparison between two of the top selling portable headphone DAC / Amps I’d say they both have their strengths and their weaknesses. The iFi micro iDSD Black Label has tons more features than the Chord Mojo. The Black Label is also more compatible with mobile devices and digital audio formats. I even found the sound of the iDSD Black Label to be much better than the Chord Mojo. Based on the features and sound I liked the iFi iDSD Black Label a lot. It has so many options and it lots of necessary cables and accessories included in the box. The only major drawback of the Black Label DAC / Amp is the size.
The Chord Mojo on the other hand is compact, simple and powerful. It’s a smart design with fairly intuitive controls. Although the Mojo does have issues working with some Android devices it does work well with most Apple iPhone models and most media players. I found the quality of the digital audio conversion to be excellent and I definitely like the portability of the Chord Mojo. I’d also add that the two headphone outputs are very convenient for sharing music or even movies from a laptop. And the price of the Chord Mojo is just a little bit less than the iDSD Black Label.
When it comes down to making the big purchase it depends on what’s important to you. The iFi iDSD Black Label sounds better and has many more features at the cost of being a little bit larger. The Chord Mojo however has a clean, powerful output in a more portable package. Either way, you’re bound to get excellent sound and boost your portable headphone listening game into the stratosphere.