April 18, 2024
The iPhone 15 Pro Max with the Chord Mojo 2.
Andy Boxall / Digital Developments

A sequence of occasions and a carefree monetary determination have led me to fall in love with a gadget I haven’t used for a number of years — and it began the day Apple determined to go away the outdated Lightning connection behind and use USB-C on the iPhone 15 sequence as a substitute.

However to inform the story, I should return even additional in time first. Let me clarify.

A gadget I beloved however had forgotten about

The Chord Mojo 2 connected to a pair of Focal headphones.
Andy Boxall / Digital Developments

That story begins not with the iPhone however with a digital-to-analog converter, or DAC. At the beginning of 2022, I reviewed the Chord Mojo 2 DAC — a gadget that matches in between your music participant and headphones, enhancing the sound and offering an enormous quantity of customization, too. It made my iPhone 13 Professional sound wonderful, however to take action, it wanted the Lightning-to-USB Digital camera Adaptor dongle related to a different dongle, this time a USB-A-to-Micro-USB. It was a whole lot of cables and connectors to take care of, and that was earlier than including the cable to the headphones. There are some particular Mojo-compatible Lightning-to-USB-C cables on the market, however shopping for one other cable to interchange present cables I already owned appeared pointless.

I largely used the Chord Mojo 2 with a pair of Focal Stellia headphones, kindly loaned to me by Focal. The $3,000 headphones are excellent and possibly the perfect I’ve ever used, other than the much more costly Focal Utopias I as soon as demoed and virtually refused to take off my head they had been so chic. Having the Stellia paired with the Chord Mojo 2 proper there in my dwelling for an prolonged interval was wonderful. I really put aside time to take a seat down and take heed to music, one thing I’d forgotten the right way to do with Bluetooth headphones, which appear to encourage exercise.

When the time got here to return the Focal Stellia’s to the corporate, I used to be very unhappy to see them go, and, wanting again, it marked the top of these days of stress-free with headphones on, exploring each new and acquainted music — typically simply to expertise the way it sounded. I nonetheless used the Mojo 2 and its silly assortment of cables and dongles with my very own Sennheiser HD660 headphones, however I’ve by no means actually beloved them like I did the Focal Stellia. Time handed, and the cable-tastic Mojo 2 was used much less and fewer.

USB-C involves the iPhone 15

The iPhone 15 Pro Max connected to the Chord Mojo 2 using USB C.
Andy Boxall / Digital Developments

Apple introduced the iPhone 15 sequence in September 2023, and I selected the iPhone 15 Professional Max because the mannequin I’d use for the subsequent yr or so, however the addition of USB-C by no means actually appealed at first because of the lack of true quick charging. However just a few weeks into possession, I remembered the Chord Mojo 2 and its tangle of cables. Would it not work with out all that mess now? Utilizing the engaging braided USB-C-to-USB-C cable that comes included with the iPhone 15 Professional Max, I attempted it out.

Certainly, all that’s wanted to attach the great Mojo 2 to the iPhone 15 — no matter which one — is a USB-C cable. The entire dongle nightmare is over, and it’s not solely rather a lot simpler, however it’s additionally rather a lot neater, too. It inspired me to discover a pair of wired headphones and see the way it sounded, however it additionally jogged my memory that the Focal Stellia had been lengthy gone. Like many, my headphone life has been wi-fi for a while, and any new pairs I’ve bought or reviewed lately don’t have cables.

This was all occurring round Black Friday, which is rarely a very good time to be contemplating any new luxurious product that you simply don’t actually need. Maybe fortunately, the Focal Stellia hardly ever see a significant low cost, no less than not on the stage I might justify them. However I used to be seeing one other pair of Focal headphones round with a temptingly substantial low cost — the Focal Elegia. I like closed-back headphones, and feedback on-line concerning the sound indicated they’d reply nicely to tuning with a tool just like the Mojo 2. Positive, I’d by no means heard the Elegia, making it a dangerous buy, however I wasn’t going to let that cease me.

This wouldn’t have occurred with out USB-C

A person wearing the Focal Elegia headphones
Andy Boxall / Digital Developments

I discovered a brand new set of Focal Elegias for simply 320 British kilos, which is about $400 and fewer than half their unique worth. I knew they wouldn’t problem the Stellia’s, however it will nonetheless be cash nicely spent if they’d even a tenth of the emotional punch. They definitely have the identical great presentation and packaging because the Stellia’s, however out of the field, the sound simply wasn’t fairly there. I couldn’t put my finger on it, however they had been a bit … lifeless.

Plugging the one USB cable into the iPhone and the Mojo 2 felt oddly particular, having not finished so for nearly a yr at this level, as did connecting the Elegia’s outsized 3.5mm jack to the other aspect. That is the place I fell for the Mojo 2 once more, as enjoying with the equalizer to subtly change the sound made a large distinction to how the headphones sounded. I’d discovered the additional sub bass that was lacking, and adjusting the crossfeed helped widen the soundstage —  complementing the great midrange and vocal efficiency that had been already there.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max connected to the Chord Mojo 2, and the Focal Elegia headphones.
Andy Boxall / Digital Developments

Has the Mojo 2 made the Elegia’s sound just like the Stellia? No, in fact not, however its versatility has allowed me to beat the marginally disappointing out-of-the-box sound. It has helped me exorcise the ghost of the wonderful Stellia’s, a set of headphones I perceive I’ll by no means hear once more, and to rediscover the enjoyment of simply sitting down and listening to music. Whereas I’ve written largely about how the Mojo 2 and the Focal Elegia’s sound, I wouldn’t have discovered any of it out if Apple hadn’t ditched the Lightning cable for a USB-C.

Quick charging could not have arrived with USB-C, however one thing equally useful has: comfort. Fewer cables and dongles make the Mojo 2 particularly extra pleasant to personal and use, and it’s probably the identical for numerous different equipment that when relied on further components to function. It has taken some time, however I’ve lastly discovered a cause to rejoice concerning the arrival of USB-C on the Apple iPhone.

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