REVIEW: CHORD ELECTRONICS POLY MUSIC STREAMER / PLAYER

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by Matthew Jens

5th May, 2018

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REVIEW: CHORD ELECTRONICS POLY MUSIC STREAMER / PLAYER

Chord Electronics' Poly is a portable music streamer/player that combines with Mojo to wirelessly stream from connected devices and playback from its Micro SD, all with smartphone control. We take a hands-on look along with the highly anticipated GoFigure app.

Chord Electronics

Poly

Music Streamer / Player

Let me start this review by clearly stating, I love my Chord Electronics Mojo.

The Mojo portable headphone amplifier and DAC has become part of my everyday carry; it’s always in my bag and goes everywhere with me. It’s one of the most versatile pieces of audio equipment I’ve ever used and has been my benchmark for audio testing for years.

You can read Marc Rushton's review on the Mojo if you are not familiar with all it can do. Incidentally, with over 23,000 readers this review has become one of StereoNET's most popular.

So, when I heard that the Mojo was getting an expansion module, I jumped for joy. Software upgrades are one thing, but an entire new hardware module? This is huge!

The recently released module is named “Poly”.

Poly plugs directly into the Mojo and giving it a potent injection of connectivity. It enables Micro SD card playback, Bluetooth, Apple Airplay, Roon compatibility, and Wi-Fi playback.

The Poly is locally priced at $999 - but shop around and can find the Mojo + Poly bundle for $1500.

With the Poly, Chord Electronics offers an impressive spec sheet, versatile playback options, and answers many Mojo owner’s prayers.

This is all great on paper, but did Chord nail the execution?

Build

In typical Chord fashion, the Poly is insanely well built and from tip to toe, it's solid anodized aluminium. The design is entirely consistent with the Mojo - from the flat-black finish of the unit, the sleek body, and even the lettering on top.

The connection ports are cleverly designed; the male ports on the Poly are positioned to exactly fit the female ports of the Mojo, and the two units come together with a very satisfying and positive click.

The rubber feet underneath are perfectly placed, complementing the existing feet on the Mojo. At first glance, the MojoPoly combination looks like it was meant to be one single unit from day one.

When paired with the Mojo, the combined weight is around 260 grams. Solid but not hefty, and the entire unit feels neatly balanced.

For physical I/O, there are just the essentials: One charging port (Micro USB), and a micro SD card slot. For status checks, there are two LEDs: “P status” (Poly) and “M status” (Mojo).

Poly's battery is a 2200mAh rechargeable, which is rated for 9+ hours of playtime. My testing over a few weeks found this rating to be mostly true.

It also supports 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connections and Bluetooth 4.1 (which is sadly limited to the A2DP/SBC codecs).

When using one of these options, support for most major file types is here (ACC, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, OGG VORBIS, ALAC, WMA and MP3).

All of this can be neatly added to the already vast specification list that the Mojo carries.

The user experience

Connecting to the Poly via Bluetooth is easy - the pairing process is not dissimilar to pairing a smartphone and Bluetooth headphones.

Connecting with Wi-Fi is a little more advanced - and depending on your usage scenario, this likely requires a little bit of technical know-how to get by.

There are three ways to connect with Wi-Fi. You can connect to a local 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi network, creating a mobile hotspot network with your smartphone, or finally by using the Poly in “hotspot mode”. The latter mode lets the Poly create its own Wi-Fi network, which allows for direct connection.

To play files from a Micro SD card, you'll need to use a third party DLNA app to remotely browse the files via Wi-Fi.

The entire connection and playback process with my Android device was admittedly quite fiddly, even for my technically-inclined mind.

However, there is salvation: the long-awaited new Chord Electronics GoFigure app (IOS only) was released while I was in the process of this review.

Once I jumped through the necessary firmware update hoops on the Poly to enable compatibility, I was able to connect directly to the Poly using this app.

The GoFigure app certainly made connection and setup much easier, with the process becoming much more streamlined compared to the manual method.

Whilst the GoFigure app works well, Chord Electronics' Robert Wong tells me that there is an Android version planned in the future. I, and I imagine many other Android users are eagerly looking forward to this release!

Unfortunately, even with the GoFigure app, I could not get the Poly to connect to my home Wi-Fi network at all. Evidently, the Poly is a little fussy with the kind of network it wants to join. Fortunately, I had no problems connecting to my phone in hotspot mode, or the Wi-Fi network in the office.

Being able to charge both the Mojo and Poly at once is also a very nice and welcomed touch.

There's no official compatibility with Spotify Connect just yet. There is assurance from Chord though that this is coming. In this reviewer’s opinion, Spotify Connect is a “must-have” for a Wi-Fi enabled audio device, so this is another feature that I'll most certainly be waiting for.

Sound

Back in Marc's review of the Mojo in late 2015, he wrote enthusiastically about the product and eventually roped me into buying one too. I’m glad he did.

The Mojo quite clearly blew Marc away with both its sheer versatility and sound quality. He said:

Those that were lugging a HUGO around in their backpack can now relegate it to desk duty. MOJO is up to the task.

I enjoyed the original HUGO, and at the time of its release, it was ground-breaking. It wasn’t enough though to get me into headphones, nor to purchase one myself.

MOJO sucked me in. I use it daily. It’s compact, convenient, and it just sounds bloody good. And it’s mine. I bought this one.

The Mojo then promptly received both the “Best In Class” award in the DAC/Amp category, and the “Outstanding Value” award.

Marc’s experience is not dissimilar to my own - as soon as I tried the Mojo, it become part of my daily listening arsenal as well.

The true power of the Mojo isn’t just from its ability to deliver huge power and ridiculous volume upon request, but also from its versatility. It has absolutely no issues driving my ultra-sensitive custom IEMs with zero hiss and plenty of volume steps to choose from.

The addition of Poly enhances this existing versatility and adds a few more tools to the already extensive kit that is the Mojo swiss army knife.

For example, I can use my Mojo as a source running into my Retro-Thermionic Sanctum valve headphone amp and Sennheiser HD800S combo. Now, with thanks to Poly, this whole rig can be controlled wirelessly via a smartphone (with full DSD playback). The future is here!

Conclusion

The Chord Mojo is already one of the strongest contenders in the portable audio arena. The addition of the Poly supercharges the Mojo and what was already a hugely versatile piece of equipment.

I'm told there are a few tweaks in the software roadmap that I am personally looking forward to, but overall this is a worthy and essential upgrade for your Mojo.

For more information visit Chord Electronics.

Specifications

  • Portable streamer/player that combines with Mojo
  • Wireless streaming from connected devices at home or on-the-go
  • Built-in unlimited-capacity Micro SD card slot for music library storage/playback
  • Control via familiar smartphone apps
  • Upgrades sound quality from headphones, in-car systems, home audio and more
  • Empowers smartphones as ‘hi-fi quality’ portable digital audio players
  • Chord Electronics’ award-winning sound quality for streamed and Micro SD music
  • Connects via Wi-Fi 2.4GHz (for optimum stability)
  • Rechargeable LiPo 2200mAh battery: 9-hour + playtime and fast-charging via USB
  • Playback support: Roon, DNLA, AirPlay and Bluetooth 4.1
  • Precision-machined aluminium casing with black anodisation, opaque black wireless signal window and silicone feet
  • Support for all major file types including: ACC, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, OGG VORBIS, ALAC, WMA and MP3
  • High-resolution audio-compatible: PCM sample rates: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz, 358.8kHz, 384kHz,717.6kHz and 768kHz; DSD via DoP sample rates: DSD64 – DSD256 (Quad-DSD); DSD from SD card
  • Devices supported: iPhone, iPad, Android phones/tablets, Windows and Mac OS X computers and DAPs
  • Dimensions: 50mm (L) x 62mm (W) x 22mm (H)
  • Over-the-air software updates
  • Hotspot mode: Poly can create its own hotspot where networks/devices/countries don’t support tethering
  • Integrated Access Point: allows configuration of connected networks (up to 32)
  • DLNA server and renderer (SD card); SMB Server (SD card); MPD player (SD Card)

Gallery

Matthew Jens's avatar

Written by:

Matthew Jens

Constantly keeping himself busy, Matthew is a production manager, Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, Head-Fi fanatic, coffee enthusiast and all-round cool Dad.

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