Sam­sung Galaxy S8+

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

Though we’d love sim­ply to be sat in our lis­ten­ing room all day, thumb­ing through our record col­lec­tion with a glass of what­ever’s on hand to make our heads go fuzzy, its more likely that most of our lis­ten­ing nowa­days is done through our phones. But does that mean we must shirk ex­cep­tional sound, or that the ac­qui­si­tion of such sound must send us to the dark web in or­der to sell one of our kid­neys? Not at all.

Now, chances are you already have your source in this set-up – but for the pur­poses of putting to­gether a sys­tem we’ve opted to in­clude the Sam­sung Galaxy S8+.

The Galaxy S8+ is like an S7 Edge that went away for the sum­mer hol­i­days and hit pu­berty. It’s taller, slim­mer, and with good looks guaranteed to turn heads at the wa­ter foun­tain. Or wher­ever else you take it out of your pocket.

It has a bezel-bust­ing dis­play that fills the front of the phone, squeez­ing more screen space into your hand than any other Galaxy hand­set, with­out mak­ing it feel like you’re lug­ging an un­wieldy mon­ster around.

Per­fect for bath­time

It’s rated IP68 wa­ter­proof, mean­ing it can be sub­merged in 1.5m of wa­ter for 30 min­utes. The head­phone jack (yes, it has one), sin­gle speaker and re­versible USB­C port are all wa­ter­proofed too, so there’s no need to mess around with fid­dly rub­ber port cov­ers.

One of the most im­por­tant aspects when it comes to sound, though, is that the S8+ sup­ports hi-res au­dio, in­clud­ing DSD128 files. The mi­crosd card slot makes a re­turn, too, so you can boost the 64GB of built-in stor­age by up to an­other 256GB and have plenty of space to build a hi-res mu­sic li­brary.

With a de­cent set of cans plugged in, mu­sic is de­tailed across the board, with bass that doesn’t over­whelm and plenty of vo­cal clar­ity. Ap­ple still has a slight edge in terms of na­tive per­for­mance for its full-bod­ied sound, but if you’re think­ing about boost­ing said per­for­mance with a DAC then it’s worth not­ing that the IOS 10.3.1 has had some teething prob­lems when work­ing in con­junc­tion with USB DACS re­cently – hence why we’ve gone Sam­sung here.

And that DAC could only ever re­ally be a Chord Mojo. The name is short for ‘Mo­bile Joy’. Quite.

Home-grown in­gre­di­ents

Un­like many of its ri­vals, Chord has re­fused to use off-the-shelf DAC chips in­side its con­vert­ers. In­stead, the com­pany’s dig­i­tal prod­ucts fea­ture pow­er­ful pro­gram­mable pro­ces­sors loaded with pro­pri­etary soft­ware.

There’s no dis­play as such, but the power but­ton lights up in dif­fer­ent colours de­pend­ing on the sam­pling rate of the in­put sig­nal (red for 44.1khz, green for 96khz, white for DSD). Sim­i­larly, the light­ing colour be­hind the vol­ume buttons changes ac­cord­ing to level. It soon be­comes sec­ond na­ture.

As for in­puts, there are (mi­cro) USB, op­ti­cal and coax­ial – tak­ing the form of a 3.5mm jack rather than the usual RCA or BNC – and a sec­ond USB con­nec­tion for charg­ing only. Out­puts are lim­ited to a pair of 3.5mm jacks. So why have we cho­sen the AKG K550s to com­plete this trio? Some head­phones are more as­sertive than oth­ers, and the K550s don’t equiv­o­cate: their pri­or­ity is in­door use. But should you brave the great out­doors with them, you’ll find that move­ment doesn’t al­ter their sound even slightly and that the cable doesn’t trans­mit any bumps it re­ceives.

They’re big in ev­ery way: large ear­pieces fea­tur­ing 50mm driv­ers, a broad head­band, and a long, chunky cable. But de­spite look­ing like a pair of road-dig­ger’s ear-de­fend­ers, the AKGS are rel­a­tively light and comfy.

Im­por­tantly, the K550s are a les­son in trans­parency. It’s some­times a fine line be­tween neu­tral­ity and dis­pas­sion, but they walk it con­fi­dently, rel­ish­ing lush, ana­logue sounds yet hav­ing suf­fi­cient drive and at­tack for more hard-hit­ting lis­tens. Ef­fec­tively, they’ll give you ev­ery de­tail and sub­tle in­sight emit­ted from the fab­u­lous Chord Mojo.

But it’s not the ex­cel­lent res­o­lu­tion that impresses us most. It’s the Mojo’s abil­ity to or­gan­ise all that in­for­ma­tion into a co­he­sive and musical whole that makes it stand out from the competition.

It de­liv­ers the hard-charg­ing rhythm of Ste­vie Won­der’s Higher Ground bril­liantly, com­mu­ni­cat­ing the song’s un­stop­pable mo­men­tum with real en­thu­si­asm. The pre­sen­ta­tion is solid and full-bod­ied but avoids any hint of ex­cess rich­ness at mid- and low-fre­quen­cies.

Bal­ance and sure­foot­ed­ness

Mozart’s Pi­ano Con­certo No 12 con­firms the Mojo’s con­vinc­ing tonal bal­ance and re­veals a sure­footed han­dling of dy­nam­ics. There’s power and scale when the mu­sic re­quires, but also the fi­nesse to make the most of the sub­tler pas­sages.

There’s re­fine­ment too. The Mojo’s trans­parency means poor record­ings (and sources) will be easy to spot, but this DAC won’t go out of its way to be nasty.

That sense of or­gan­i­sa­tion is clear here, as is the Mojo’s com­po­sure when the piece be­comes de­mand­ing. There’s never any sense of stress; ev­ery note is given the space and at­ten­tion it de­serves.

The key to a great por­ta­ble set-up is ver­sa­til­ity. This glo­ri­ous tri­umvi­rate can be used in­side or out and, in the case of the Mojo and K550s, even swap in for com­po­nents in your main hi-fi set-up should you wish.

“The Galaxy S8+ is like an S7 Edge that went away for the sum­mer hol­i­days and hit pu­berty. It’s taller, slim­mer, and has head-turn­ing good looks”

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