While attending the first ever CanJam London event last fall at London’s Hotel Russell, I chanced to meet up with Chord Electronics Managing Director John Franks and with the firm’s consulting engineer and resident digital audio guru Rob Watts.
“Will you be able to attend the product roll out event we will be holding at the Shard in London this October,” asked Franks. I indicated I would try to attend, but that if I was unable to come over from the ‘States, then at least one of the members of the Hi-Fi+ UK team would be on hand.
Sensing that something good might be afoot, I asked, “Can you give me any hints as to what you’ll be announcing?”
“I can’t really say much at this time,” said Franks with practiced nonchalance, “except that it might be Chord Electronics’ most important new product announcement to date.” Given the characteristic penchant for British reserve, I took Franks’ meaning—if translated into American-speak—to be, “You don’t want to miss this one, because it’s going to be huge!”
I glanced over at Mr Watts, who had a certain glint in his eye and a subtle, Cheshire-cat-like grin on his face. “I can’t give any details away, but I promise you this one’s going to be a bit special,” which for a gentleman of Watts’ inherent English modesty is really saying something.
With curiosity piqued, I left the two men to finish their breakfast in peace, but as I walked away I remember thinking something of serious audiophile significance would likely be arriving from Chord headquarters at The Old Pump House in Maidstone. And Chord did not disappoint, since the then secret and now fully released product in question was none other than the firm’s remarkable new Mojo portable headphone amplifier/DAC, priced at £399 (US$599), and built in the UK.
To grasp the significance of the Mojo, it is necessary to turn back the calendar a few years to consider the impact of another breakthrough product from Chord: namely, the Hugo portable headphone amp/DAC, priced at £1,400 (or about US$2,495). Upon its inception, the Hugo won critical acclaim as perhaps the finest and most versatile portable headphone amp/DAC the audiophile world had ever seen or heard. For those serious about high-end headphones and top-flight sound quality, the Hugo became the device to have—the product that served (and still serves) as the standard against which other devices of its type would be compared. What is more, astute listeners soon discovered that not only was the Hugo a best-of-breed product, but that it also stood as one of the most sophisticated and accomplished high-end audio DACs then on the market, regardless of price or physical format.