Chord Hugo 2

Average User Rating:
4.68/5,
Tags:
  1. ray-dude
    5.0/5,
    "DAC Quest: Chord Hugo2 vs Mojo/DAVE & Chord Magic"
    Pros - World class DAC, in a transportable/portable footprint
    Significant step up from a Mojo, and a worthy younger brother to the DAVE
    Cost effective way to get the experience of driving high efficiency speakers directly from your Chord DAC
    Future proof, with connectivity to integrate with the mScaler in the Blu2 and Davina for 1M taps
    Cons - Case design impractical and annoying
    Will make you want to buy a Chord DAVE
    Disclaimer: The black Hugo2 unit described below was provided by Chord as part of a demo tour, in exchange for posting an honest review when I was done with the unit. The loaner unit has been returned to the tour organizers (thank you @Barra). No other consideration was given nor received.


    Background

    After many years of life getting in the way of enjoying high fidelity music, a couple years ago I went through a process of upgrading my two channel system (documented here: http://thingssoimpossible.blogspot.com/2016/10/speaker-quest.html), then diving deep into headphones to be able to take that experience with me (documented here: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/adv...-head-first-into-the-head-fi-deep-end.824351/ )

    After spending countless hours with delta sigma DACs of various levels (mostly with my Oppo HA-1) and R2R DACs (mainly Schiit DACs, all the way up to the Yggy), I saw a posting pointing to $400 Mojo’s on the German Amazon site (score!). In my initial research, it had come down to the Oppo HA-1 vs Mojo/Hugo, but I went with Oppo because the Chord DACs were so butt ugly (and didn’t have a remote, but the ugly part makes the story better). $400 was too good to pass up, so I jumped into the Chord world.

    On first listen Mojo was awesome, but also disorientating for some reason. It took a couple weeks, but my brain adjusted to the Mojo to the point where it was very difficult to go back to my Oppo or my buddy's R2R DACs. I considered that my Red Pill moment, where I started to hear things in recorded music that I hadn’t heard before. Based on that promise, I ordered a Chord DAVE and preordered a Chord Blu2. Although my left brain was certain those would be good decisions, my right brain was nervous as hell until the DAVE arrived, and my left brain was proven right.

    I’m now a convert to the Chord sound, and the intoxicating effect of what I call the Chord Magic: music feels real and physical, and the emotionality of the performance becomes tangible. How does the new Chord Hugo2 compare to its two siblings, and how best to capture and amplify that magic?


    Philosophy

    Unlike other audio components, I find it extremely difficult to audition DACs, and nearly impossible to do direct A/B comparisons across DAC signatures. For me, the DAC is a critical component in creating the synergy between source material to DAC to analog reproduction to your brain and how it bends and adapts to what it is hearing. It can take me weeks to really become part of the new system and understand what it evokes. If I focus on any particular detail with a particular DAC, unless the DAC is defective that detail will almost always be there in other DACs if you focus hard enough.

    What matters for me is how the notes come together to something larger, a resonance that is greater than the sum of its parts. Once I hear that something special, I can look for words to describe it (transparency, clarity, etc), but I find it very difficult to listen for those things a priori. DACs are at that crucial pivot point between a recorded representation of the sounds, emotion, and artistry at a moment in time, and recreating those sounds, emotions, and artistry in a different time and place. In a very real sense, it becomes a proxy for the artist, and the new source of all those sounds, emotions, and artistry. When evaluating DACs, I need to let go of the left brain, and immerse myself in the sounds, emotion, and artistry as I would at a live performance.

    As an imperfect analogy of that experience for me, mixing coal + chalk + water + iron filings in ever more precise proportions using ever more esoterically sourced materials won’t result in a child that you will cherish and adore and make the center of your life. Arguing about the purity of the water or where the coal was sourced from and the magnetic properties of the iron changes nothing. The real debate is how they come together, and how it comes alive and becomes meaningful for you.

    The Mojo then DAVE have completely changed my experience of music. For the first time I've gone from “listening to music” to “participating in a performance”. Even with DAVE, different recordings evoke different levels of what I characterize as intoxication or euphoria from the performance. Classic recordings from the late 50s and early 60s in particular are remarkable with DAVE. They give a glimpse of transcending even “participating in a performance” to directly “experiencing an emotional truth” (what I think of as the art of the performance).

    For me, this echos my experience of being delighted to happily listen to an amateur performance in a coffee shop or a subway that I wouldn’t in a million years listen to as recorded music (style or quality or content of music/performance); being in the presence of a real person expressing themselves through music is a magical thing. How close can you get to reproducing that emotional and artistic experience, and not just those noises?

    Chord DACs are the best I’ve ever heard at crossing over from music to performance to even occasionally offering glimpses of emotional truths. I very much appreciate the opportunity to audition the Hugo2, and see where it sits on the spectrum between the Mojo and the DAVE. I was hoping to have my Chord Blu2 delivered in time for this review (to compare BluHugo2 vs BluDAVE), but that was not to be. When my Blu2 arrives, I will update this review with that comparison, with the sincere hope that it will take us even farther on that journey toward experiencing emotional truths.

    As always, the chronicle of the journey is long. For those that want to jump to the end, I have a tl;dr section, and a story to sum it all up.


    Hardware

    Source setup:
    • Macbook Pro and Mac Mini, running latest OS X, content on local SSD, running Roon 1.3
    • Bit perfect either direct USB, or via direct ethernet to a Sonore Sonicoriber SE running Roon Bridge to USB, to the DAC

    DAC setup

    • Chord Mojo ($600)
    • Chord Hugo2 (black tour loaner unit) ($2400)
    • Chord Hugo2 (silver) ($2400)
    • Chord DAVE ($13000)
    • MIA: Chord Blu2 ($13000) (hopefully coming soon)

    Headphone setup

    • Sennheiser HD800 (with SR mod) ($800 used)

    Traditional Two Channel Setup
    • RCA from DAC to Benchmark AHB2 amp ($3000) to B&W 802D3’s ($22000/pair)

    Direct Two Channel Setup
    • RCA direct to Omega Super Alnico Monitors ($2000/pair)
    • For Chord DAVE, XLR direct (in parallel) to JL Audio F112v2 subwoofer ($3700), tuned to room and low end fall off of Omegas (~45Hz)
    • For Chord Hugo2, no connection to subwoofer

    DAC settings
    • For headphones, crossfeed set to 2 for DAVE and Hugo2 (no crossfeed setting on Mojo), unless recording is binaural (0 crossfeed)
    • Neutral filter for Hugo2
    • PCM+ mode, HF filter on for DAVE
    • All DACs volume matched using a SPL meter
    • For A/B/C DAC comparisons, I put all the DACs in the same Roon zone for synchronized playback and switched headphone from DAC to DAC

    Tag alongs for fun
    • Schiit Lyr 2 tube amp ($450) and Schiit Bifrost Multibit DAC ($600)
    • Martin-Logan Motion LX16 speakers ($500/pair)
    • Audio Zenith PMx2’s headphones (heavily modified Oppo PM-2’s) ($1800)
    • Noble Katana CIEMs ($1600)
    • MrSpeakers Aeon Flows headphones (closed) ($800)
    • Grado HP1000 (HP2) legendary old skool headphones ($priceless)


    Content

    My Go-To Chord DAC Demo tracks and what I look for in each:

    Pink Noise (mono), from “The Ultimate Headphone Demonstration Disc” bu David Chesky (Chesky, 24/192 FLAC)
    Yeah, its pink noise, but it tells you a lot about a set of headphones as you get oriented to system. For 2 channel, great way to see if your speakers are aligned and you’re in the right spot. Great baseline reference to make sure things aren’t wonky and you’re in a good place (and it is sort of fun to think about all this technology being using to play a 24/192kHz noise file :wink:

    Murakkaz Ah Ya Muddasin, from “The Splendour of Al Andalus” by Calamus (MA Recordings, DSD64)
    Remarkable recording in what sounds to be a majestic and spiritual centuries old cathedral in Spain. With the right equipment, you are transported to a place you’ve never been to but always want to get back to. When the full group joins in, it is profoundly challenging to reproduce the mids and highs without sounding shrill and congested. When the reproduction is effortless, it is magical (to say the least…my jaw drops every time when it’s “right”) If the sound chain is able to maintain that glorious soundstage, it is off the charts. Todd Garfinkle is a magician behind the microphone.

    Noche Maravillosa, from “Salterio” by Begonia Olavide (MA Recordings, 16/44.1 FLAC)
    Another gem of a recording and performance from Todd. The precision and clarity of the instruments (particularly the percussive ones) is intoxicating and tangible.

    Voglia Di Vita Uscir, fremo “Buenos Airers Madrigal” by La Chimera (MA Recordings, 16/44.1 FLAC)
    Todd also is a master at capturing performances in a more orchestral setting. These performances by La Chimera are a joy.

    Mahler: Symphony #2 'Resurrection’, 1st movement conducted by Iván Fischer (Channel Classics, DSD64)
    Mahler: Symphony #2 'Resurrection’, 5th movement conducted by Iván Fischer (Channel Classics, DSD64)

    Near perfect performance with a perfect recording. The dynamics and power of this performance are vivid and real: the orchestra virtually screams with one voice during the climaxes. This recording beautifully captures the essence of horns and low strings, which are very difficult to reproduce. The closest I’ve heard to the experience of the dynamics of a live orchestral performance.

    Rimsky-Korsakoff: Scheherazade, 1st movement conducted by Fritz Reiner (Analogue Productions Remaster, DSD64)
    The most perfect recording of the most perfect performance I’ve ever heard. Listening to this recording on a transparent system is a life changing experience: you are standing with Maestro Reiner in Chicago as his orchestra reaches for a performance for the ages. A cultural treasure, and worthy of building a world class system around.

    Organ Prelude, JS Bach Magnificat by Dunedin Consort (Linn, DSD64)
    Motet, JS Bach Magnificat by Dunedin Consort (Linn, DSD64)

    A breathtakingly lovely recording! The dynamics and harmonics of the organ can range from a muddy “eh” to “holy crap!” depending on the quality of the reproduction. Standing in the middle of choir is a lovely test of imaging and voice reproduction: the more precise the soundstage the more you can pick out individuals (including depth and height…remarkable).

    Handel: Messiah - Chorus. O thou tallest good tidings by Dunedin Consort (Linn, DSD64)
    Handel: Messiah - Hallelujah by Dunedin Consort (Linn, SACD)

    A magnificent recording, reconstructing the original version of Handel’s Messiah, with a total of 12 singers. The normal complexity of the piece is captured in a way where you can hear each voice in the chorus, and how it comes together into a larger whole. An amazingly intimate performance when the reproduction chain can manage the complexity and dynamics and not have the soundstage become muddy and flat.

    Arnesen: Magnificat - Fecit potentiam by TrondheimSolistene (2l, 24/192 FLAC)
    This is such a lovely recording at any quality level, but goes from incredible to other worldly as the chain scales up. The orchestra, choir, and church should all have equal contribution to something far greater than the sum of its parts. When it all comes together, you can feel the three core elements feeding off each, creating a profound joy that is sweeps you into euphoria.

    Stardust, from “Duets” by Rob Wasserman (16/44.1 lossless)
    Every track on this album is a gem, but this one is particular is a fantastic test of sound stage and imaging. At its best, you hear each backing voice precisely in space, but still presenting as a harmonious whole. In real life, detail and precision spatial placement isn’t hard and clinical, why should it be in reproduction?

    Oh, Lady Be Good, from Bassface Swing Trio Tribute To Cole Porter (DSD64)
    Night and Day, from Bassface Swing Trio Tribute to Gershwin (DSD64)

    These direct to disc Stockfisch recordings are extraordinary. Imaging and dynamics FTW. Recordings like these are why we obsess over the things we obsess about. I’m looking to get lost in the music, and the band appearing to be sitting right there. When tonal balance is just right, these performances just jump off the SACD.

    Shamas-Ud-Doha Bader-Ud-Doja, from “Shahen-Shah” by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (16/44.1 lossless)
    The first track from what was my surprise 2012 album of the year (see http://thingssoimpossible.blogspot.com/2012/12/2012-albums-of-year.html for that backstory, with the surprise ending). A remarkable supremely spiritual performance by a remarkable man, captured in an “eh” recording. The question for me is what these DACs can do to elevate a middle of the road recording that is worthy of elevation.

    Let Me Touch You For Awhile, from “Live” by Alison Krauss (DSD64)
    I adore Alison Krauss. Having equipment that can reproduce the wonderful emotion and musicality of these amazing artists is why I spend so much time looking for the right speakers/cans/etc. Their Live album is special, and you can feel the humanity and emotion in this track.

    Tenderly, from “While She Sleeps” by Art Lande (Blue Coast, 24/88.2 FLAC)
    Cookie Marcenco has a gift for capturing piano, guitar, and voice as if you’re sitting in the room with the artist. If you’ve ever sat next to a wonderfully tuned piano with an extraordinary player, you know how magical that experience can be. The best pianos sing with resonances that envelop you. The best musicians know how to coax beauty and life out of the instrument. This recording from Art Lande captures that magic. The stronger the dynamics, soundstage, and precision of the system, the more lifelike this track becomes for me. I haven’t experienced this track topping out: the better the reproduction chain, the more lifelike it becomes.

    One World, from “Session 1” by Sareena Overwater (Blue Coast, DSD64)
    One World (Instrumental), from “Session 2” by Sareena Overwater (Blue Coast, DSD64)

    Real magic from Cookie. These tracks are wired directly to deeply held memories for me, and the stronger the reproduction chain, the stronger the emotion that they evoke. There are better examples of piano performance and better examples of vocals, but the emotional truth and power of this performance is unmatched. More on this track at the end of this review.

    99, from “Blue Coast Special Event 43” by Meghan Andrews (Blue Coast, 16/44.1 FLAC)
    Cookie knows how to record guitar too, and Meghan Andrews knows how to bring a performance that is worth catching in a bottle.

    Vous et Moi, from “Night and Day” by Willie Nelson (SurroundedBy Entertainment, 24/96 FLAC)
    What if Willie Nelson was in a dispute with his label, got pissed off, and invited the best musicians he knew to the studio to record an instrumental album in full surround? Yeah, this actually happened, and it is as awesome as you think it is. The album is amazing in a musical surround setup, but a proper 2 channel system puts you right in the middle of the band. Incredible stuff.

    Music in My Room, from “The Folkscene Collection, Vol. 3” by Cheryl Williams (Redhouse Records, 16/44.1 FLAC)
    We’ve all had the experience of being in a coffee shop or small venue, when someone with a guitar and something that has to be shared commands the attention of everyone in the room, and you have a moment where the whole room is one. These CDs where engineer Peter Cutler captured intimate in studio performances at KPFK in Los Angeles are replete with those moments, but this performance by Cheryl Williams stands out for me. With a great reproduction chain, the guitar is real and present, and the voice and singer connect at a deep emotional level. A jewel of a moment, waiting for the right equipment to be a moment again.

    All I Want, from “After Blue” by Tierney Sutton (BFM Jazz, 16/44.1 FLAC)
    Tierney Sutton has a striking clear and present vocal style, and that is on full display on her “After Blue” album of Joni Mitchell standards. I continue to be amazed how ever better DACs extract ever more nuance and subtly of performance from top tier vocalists. It is a joy to hear the depth of craft and art of vocal performance on tracks like this.

    Rosa fresca, from “Il viaggio d’amore” by Arianna Savall and Petter Udland Johansen (Carpe Diem, 16/44.1 TIDAL Lossless)
    “The journey of love” is a marvelous exploration of love through the ages, from multiple cultures and times. The whole album is a joyous wonder, but the opening track (“Fresh Rose”) of a traditional song from the 1500s is an invitation to join in joy and unbounded hope. The company of players is feeling it, and you do too. When you’re hearing every string pluck in the strums and the voices comes together into something much larger than the sum of its parts, you’ll be glad you accepted that invitation.

    L’Amor, from “Bella Terra” by Arianno Savall (Alia Vox, 16/44.1 FLAC)
    If “Rosa fresca” makes you fall in love with Arianna Savall singing about love, you’ll want to seek out her “Bella Terra” album. An accomplished harpist and vocalist, Savall is at her best when she brings both together: voice and instrument are one, and evoke marvelous sound and emotional resonances in each other.

    Traveler, from “Little Crimes” by Melissa Menago (Chesky, Binaural 24/192 FLAC)
    Airplane, from “Little Crimes” by Melissa Menago (Chesky, Binaural 24/192 FLAC)

    A gem of a recording from Chesky: direct binaural recording, made in a church while it is raining outside. Like all Chesky binaural recordings, you are there sitting with the performers (Airplane), with special magic from the sound of the rain outside of the church (Traveler). Fantastic test of soundstage and spatial detail.

    Hold On, from “Sessions from the 17th Ward” by Amber Rubarth (Chesky, Binaural 24/192 FLAC)
    Don’t You, from “Sessions from the 17th Ward” by Amber Rubarth (Chesky, Binaural 24/192 FLAC)

    More Chesky magic. No rain this time, but Amber’s rich voice + violin + guitar + percussion are amazing on any system, but the sense of being there scales beautifully as the reproduction chain improves (it is magical when your system crosses some threshold of transparency…all of a sudden you are there).

    Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of, from “Open Your Ears” by The Persuasians (Chesky, Binaural 24/96 FLAC)
    One last gem from Chesky. There is a profound difference to listening to a recording of a group of people sing, and being with a group of people that are singing. This is another recording that (at least for me), when you cross some magical threshold of transparency, the people become real.

    Karamawari, from “Gamushara” by YAMATO the drummers (TIDAL MP3)
    Drums are notoriously difficult to reproduce in the way you experience them in person. There is a physicality that is lost in most systems. Hearing a group of percussion masters really bring it on a system that can approximate that in person experience? Amazing.

    Get Lucky, from “Random Access Memories” by Daft Punk (24/88.2 FLAC)
    Another track that transcends pop when played back through equipment that really reproduces the full range and dynamics of the recording. The subtlety and layers on Nile Rodgers’ guitar work is incredible, and the recording is outstanding so you should be able hear it all. I listen for whether it is washed out, and how well I hear all the (considerable) nuances in his playing.

    Take Five, from “Time Out” by Dave Brubeck (Analogue Productions SACD)
    An excellent test of dynamics at the high end. As an aside, these Analogue Productions remasters are off the charts!

    No Love Dying, from “Liquid Spirit” by Gregory Porter (24/192 flac)
    Another lovely recording and performance, that on a balanced system hits a resonance that is next level for me (just sounds “right” and get the “wow!”) When things are not in balance or boomy/shrill, I hear it loud and clear.

    Beethoven: Symphony #9, 4th movement by Suitner (OG Denon, 16/44.1 lossless)
    This was the first CD I ever bought in 1984 (first CD ever made?) I know every second of this movement and every nuance. My current 2 channel setup was the first time I had ever heard the entire movement without a break (every other system I’d ever had/auditioned had some break at some challenging passage).

    So What, from “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis (Japanese single layer SACD version)
    One of the finest recordings and performances of the 20th century. Always the last track I play during any audition. Until there is a time machine to take me back to March 2 and April 22 1959, I will buy every new remaster of this album, and play it on every piece of high end audio kit I can find.

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    Physical Impressions

    Yeah, our listening session was a bit out of control (see photo above). From left to right, you have a lovely Scott Radke marionette, my JL Audio F112v2 sub, my beloved B&W 802d3 speakers, Omega Super Alnico Monitors (with some $100 speakers I forgot about sitting on top), Martin-Logan Motion LX16’s, a buddy's Silver Hugo2, a buddy's modest Schiit stack (Lyr2 amp + Bifrost multibit DAC), Black Hugo2 (tour loaner), and my Black Mojo. Heading down, you have my Chord DAVE (with Sonicorbiter SE hiding behind it) and my Benchmark AHB2 amp.

    The Hugo2 is (physically) a mixed bag. It was much lighter than I expected (esp. after the Mojo) while still feeling very robust, but the sharp corners seem unnecessary. As a transportable, you’d definitely want a case to protect the unit and protect everything else in your bag. The weight of the Hugo2 was also surprisingly reasonable (esp. compared to that mini tank that is the Mojo). It could easily be an everyday carry device.

    Having the silver and black Hugo2 side by side, both were very nice. Chord did a lovely job with the finish on the silver unit, exuding a refined sense of quality and depth. The black is consistent with what I have on my Mojo and DAVE, and my preference to keep everything in the family. I think most people would be delighted with either finish.

    I was shocked at how horrifically bad the button/light design/scheme was for the unit. Any modern device where you have to study the instructions and fiddle with garish buttons and obscure color schemes to figure out what the hell is going on has taken designer affectation way too far. The only saving grace was that I had a clear favorite filter (so I could ignore that button), only used USB input (so I could ignore that one), and cross feed has such an obvious sonic impact that it is hard to screw up what setting you’re on. As frustrating as the button/light scheme is, the remote makes everything better. Keep it close and keep your sanity.


    Listening Impressions: Headphones

    Lets start with the most important question, and settle the debate that has been raging: Silver Hugo2 vs Black Hugo2?

    After 40+ hours (maybe it was seconds) of critical listening, I can definitively state that they sound the same (sorry @doody :wink:

    With headphones, the comparison between the Mojo, Hugo2, and DAVE is much more interesting. What does each 5x step in price at each level buy you?

    I went through my full song list, switching back and forth between the three sibling DACs (see end for my detail notes/impressions). The differences were clear and consistent, regardless of track/genre/etc.

    Mojo was very satisfying, and created a better listening experience than almost any other non-Chord DAC I’ve heard, but it only hints at the sense of euphoria and emotional engagement I get from the Chord DAVE and Hugo2. I consider it the best value DAC available anywhere, even up to 5x its price, but the danger is you hear that “something more” and your brain gets that rush of being in front of real musicians, and all sense of fiscal control goes out the window (guilty as charged).

    With the Hugo2, those hints of clarity/reality become sustained. Spatial resolution goes WAY up, and individual instruments and people become much more resolved and distinct. Phrasing (vocal and instrumental) becomes vivid, and the musicality and emotion of the performance goes next level. An incredibly emotionally satisfying sense of presence at the performance, and a window into the artistry of the musicians.

    With the DAVE, what the Hugo2 does so well goes off the charts. For me, this is the musical crack, tapping right into the emotional centers of my brain. Whereas with the Hugo2 I can hear individuals and their performances really for the first time, with the DAVE I get a vivid sense of how they are feeding off each other and the space they are performing in. Mesmerizing and enthralling, and emotionally vivid. This is an experience I never thought was possible with reproduced music, and like any good junkie, I want more MORE MORE. I can’t wait to hear what the Blu2 will bring to the party.

    Some quick summarized impressions from headphone listening:
    • Mojo is better with crossfade, even if no longer bit perfect (bite the bullet and set up the filter in your playback software)
    • Musical congestion (large scale orchestral pieces, etc) really challenges resolution on the Hugo2, but is revelatory when a DAC like the DAVE can keep up (so much power in groups of people expressing music together)
    • As you go up the stack, there is a big difference for nuances in vocals, strings, drums, etc. The artistry really becomes palpable
    • Resonances and ambient reflections make a big difference for reality and balance. Space and mix get so much more natural as you move up the stack
    • The nuance of vocals and performance in a group setting is startling when you are able to start hearing it. I've changed my music listening mix to include far more choral and orchestral pieces than I ever listened to before (from <1% to maybe 40% now)
    On my non-scientific impression scale of 1-10, calibrated so the Mojo was at the low end and DAVE at the high end so it is easier to see where the Hugo2 lands in between, the Mojo came in around a 2, the Hugo2 a 4, and the DAVE around an 8. Interestingly, this is close to the ratio of additional bits of temporal resolution as you go up the Chord stack (+1 bit from Mojo to Hugo2, +1 1/2 bits from Hugo2 to DAVE)

    On this scale, almost any other DAC I’ve heard wouldn’t even get above 0. Rob’s DACs are in a league of their own. Within the Chord stack, the differences are not subtle, the experience fundamentally different and better, crossing some sort of phase transition from listening to music to being part of a performance. Great stuff, and I can’t wait to hear what the next +2 1/2 bits that the Blu2 gives us.


    Listening Impressions: Traditional Two Channel

    My perception of what I think of as the Chord Magic is more subtle in my traditional two channel setup. Like most things I’ve experienced with these kinds of high end system, you can move the needle in obvious ways, but very difficult to get transformational changes.

    As I went from Mojo to Hugo2 to DAVE, there was progressively more richness and reality, and I know enough of what the rush from that Magic felt like that I’m able to find it easier and easier as you go up the ladder. However, you do need to listen for it, rather that it overwhelming you like the headphone experience.

    That being said, this was with the Benchmark amp, which is a particularly fast/low distortion/low noise amp (to say the least). With the Schiit Lyr2 tube amp, the Chord magic was basically gone.

    I’m fairly certain that a fundamental transformation of the traditional two channel listening experience will need to wait until Rob’s digital amp becomes available. I’m very eager to hear what my B&Ws can do once the digital amp becomes available.


    Listening Impressions: Direct Two Channel

    Based on Roy’s (@romaz) recommendation, I’ve long been intrigued about connecting the DAVE direct to a high efficiency single driver speaker like the Omega Super Alnico Monitors. If you can eliminate the power amp and the cross overs and the imbalance between different speaker drivers, could this be close to the ultimate two channel experience?

    For this eval, I ordered a set of Omega Super Alnico Monitors (thank you Louis!) so we could try them in a traditional 2 channel setup (DAC to amp to speaker) and direct from the DAVE and Hugo2. During our listening tests, we also discovered the marvel that is near field listening with these single driver speakers. For kicks, we also did listening tests with the Martin Logans (high efficiency multi driver speakers with what should be a fast a ribbon tweeter)

    Starting with the Martin Logans, the traditional two channel experience was OK for what you would expect for a modest bookshelf speaker (nothing special here). The Hugo2 (~1W) wasn’t beefy enough to drive them direct, but the DAVE (~2W) was. In far field, imaging was very limited and at best OK. I had zero sense of depth, and very limited spatial resolutions (maybe 4 distinguishable zones, and virtually no height). Dynamics were muffled, with no pop or attack. In general, playback was smeared, with limited detail. Piano sounded like a recorded piano, not a real piano. I’d give it maybe 1/10 (for the price) even driven directly from the DAVE. Not an auspicious start to our experiment.

    Near field with the Martin Logans direct from the DAVE was a much better experience. Imaging may have improved to maybe 8 zones, but still no depth. For complex orchestral pieces, the soundstage collapse to seem like it was coming from two speakers. The speakers also lost musicality at low volumes. Maybe 4/10 (for the price). Better, but at best incremental and not transformative.

    Net net: the Martin Logans are OK mid to low end bookshelf speakers, and except for brief flashes can’t keep up with the Chord kit, and can’t recreate that Chord Magic. Big miss.

    On to the Omegas. With single drivers (no cross over, no concerns about matching the tweeter with the mid/bass driver, etc), and fast and responsive Alnico magnets with a low mass cone, we should get near perfect phase alignment between the channels. So how do the Omegas do? The Omegas were a completely different experience, and one of the finest experiences of music reproduction I’ve ever experienced and enjoyed.

    Driving the Omega’s in traditional two channel setup (DAVE to amp to speaker) was incredible: vivid imaging, ultra fast and effortless highs, with amazing spatial resolution. Good resolution for height and depth, and a real physicality for things like horns and strings. The bass extension was surprisingly rich and deep, and highly musical. You can get away without a sub, but the right sub (fast enough to keep up with the Omegas and low distortion) adds that something extra that takes it over the top. Piano now sounds like a real piano, and you can close your eyes and see where people are standing in the choir. Let’s call it 7/10 (for the price, even though the Omegas are 4x the price of the Martin Logans)

    Listening to the Omegas near field in a traditional two channel set up was next level again: depth and height imaging became fantastic, with a much more spatially balanced soundstage (esp. for more complex orchestral pieces). The musicality was preserved whether at loud volumes or extremely low volumes (amazing). Left right resolution is excellent, up down OK, and depth resolution very coarse (but it is there). Piano even more real, and voices the same. Call it 9/10 for price. An incredible two channel experience, well beyond anything I had ever experienced before getting the Chord DACs.

    With all that, the real revelatory experience was going direct from the DAVE to the Omegas. In far field, soundstage becomes massive (all dimensions) and precise. Scheherazade is everything you dream it to be…you can almost hear individual instruments (almost), violin is angelic and soaring, and you can look in an arc around the orchestra like you’re standing in the conductors spot. Choral recordings cross into real territory, where you don’t have to use your imagination to imagine what the setting was like. Strings much more precise and real, and Stardust is a wonder…the vibrations on the bass are distinct and blend with the voice marvelously (interestingly, the precision of the bass vibrations makes the bass sound like it goes deeper). Much better depth resolution, and height resolution, and piano takes me back to sitting next to a real piano as my daughter is playing it. Cheryl Wheeler on guitar is that coffee shop experience (the humming of the guitar strings is what it sounds like on my guitar). 100/10 for the price…absolutely incredible and an experience that you must seek out.

    As incredible as DAVE direct to Omegas is, listening to them in near field takes it to a completely different level: INSANE imaging, depth, height, evenness of soundstage…it is a real world stage. Everything that was awesome in far field made more incredible by the depth and vividness of the soundstage. The low volume musicality is off the charts….you can hear everything and lose no musicality by losing volume. 200/10 for the price. I am restructuring my living room so I can have this experience going forward.

    Omega’s driven directly by the DAVE is (without hyperbole) among the finest music listening experience (reproduced or live) I’ve ever experienced. If this is any indication of what we can expect with Rob’s digital amp is available, I am grateful to still have the hearing to be able to appreciate something this amazing.

    So what about the Hugo2? Can that tiny little box with <1W output touch that magical experience of driving Omegas directly from the desktop DAVE with its <2W of output? Incredibly, the answer is a definitive yes (with some notable asterisks).

    First of all, it is otherworldly to hook up a Hugo2 direct to speakers and hear that kind of volume and music from a tiny portable. It seems like magic and an impossible thing emanating from that tiny box, but you can drive extremely satisfying music levels direct from the Hugo2. The experience is very reminiscent of the DAVE direct experience, but a similar step down as what I heard from the DAVE to Hugo2 with headphones. In this case, going from 100/10 to 50/10 far field, and 200/10 to 100/10 near field is a wonderful first world problem to have to deal with. In the right circumstances, Hugo2 driving the Omega Super Alnico Monitors is dollar for dollar the best musical experience I’ve ever had.

    So what are the asterisks and right circumstances and all the caveats clouding the last paragraphs? For less complex pieces, like vocal, small jazz ensembles, etc, this is an ideal pairing. Make sure to be careful to adjust volumes for different albums that are mastered to different levels, since it is easy to over push the Hugo2 and start get some harshness (esp. in far field…in near field with comfortable listening levels, I never had to worry about it). With more complex pieces (orchestral pieces or pieces with driving bass or trashing hard rock), you lose the magic quickly: things just collapse back to “normal” (a very nice normal, but the magic is gone). The poor Hugo2 has limits on the complexity and dynamics it can drive on the Omegas vs what the DAVE can do.

    If this is the path you’re going, I would drive direct Hugo2 to Omegas as much as possible, even if it means changing what you listen to. For pieces that overwhelm the Hugo2, get a nice baby amp like the Temple Audio Bantam Gold and swap it in when you want to rock the house, or spin up a large scale orchestral piece. Yeah, swapping wiring is a pain, but you’ll be very very happy. If you can swing the extra expense for DAVE, you’ll be happier still, esp. how amazing large scale orchestral pieces are with the DAVE direct to the Omegas.

    For those use to full range two channel setups like mine, what does this mean for you? If you have a highly musical sub (like my JL Audio) that is fast enough to keep up with the Chord kit, low distortion, etc., you’re left with a very very hard choice. The combo of DAVE direct to the Omegas and JL Audio (via DAVE XLR outputs) is breathtaking. Do I really need full range $20k speakers and all the goodies/baggage that come with them?

    (Note: I did not try to drive the Omegas and sub directly from the Hugo2, so I can’t speak to whether that impacts how far you can push the Hugo2)

    For now, I’m structuring my living room to have a “Direct Chord/Omega” zone, and a separate traditional two channel zone (B&Ws, Benchmark, etc), and waiting to hear how Rob’s work with his digital amp progresses. If Rob can even approximate what I’m hearing from the Omegas direct through the B&Ws, that will be an amazing experience. I can’t wait to see where this goes.

    If/when I again have a private office at work, the headphones will get put away and I’ll have some Omegas on my desk in a near field configurations, being driven by a Hugo2. Until then, I’ll be using my close Aeons, driven by my Mojo (pending an upgrade to a Hugo2 once I sort out what the BluHugo2 brings to the party).


    Listening Impressions: Scaling headphones with Chord DACs

    I did the bulk of my critical headphone listening tests with my Sennheiser HD-800’s (with the SR mod), which I know well and scale nicely with my DAVE. But what about other headphones? How do they scale with the Chord Magic as you go from the Mojo to the Hugo2 to the DAVE?

    For this test, I did a matrix comparing AudioQuest Nighthawks to MrSpeaker Aeon Flows (closed) to AudioZenith PMx2’s (modified Oppo PM-2’s) to Sennheister HD-800’s (with SR mod) to Noble Katana custom in ear monitors to a vintage set of Grado HP1000's. I did not evaluate which headphones are best from the usual criteria of tonality, distortion, etc (that is highly subjective, with different tonal signatures appealing to different people). Rather, I listened very closely for that unique Chord Magic of resolution and speed and musicality and physicality. Which cans were able to express the extra Chord awesome sauce as you go up the Chord stack?

    To my ear, the Sennheisers were the best (consistent with my experience with my DAVE) with a surprising close second place going to the Aeon Flows. Katanas came in a bit behind, then the Grados, Nighthawks and PM-x2’s. Since Rob uses the Nighthawks in his development of these DACs, that was a surprise to me.

    For the Mojo and Hugo2, there were differences, but all the cans were very close. It wasn’t until you got to the DAVE where the differences were more pronounced. I suspect that the Blu2 will do more to help find out where these cans top out.

    Based on this test, I am motivated to sample some of the other TOTL cans. If there is anybody in the San Diego area with Hifiman HE-1000 v2’s or other cans that are well matched to Chord kit, drop me a note and we can try to set up a listening session.


    tl;dr
    • Source material matters. Try to get as close to expertly mic’ed and minimal mixing as you can, and avoid compression like the plague. High res content is a bonus, but the Hugo2 elevated traditional redbook to high res levels (including lossless TIDAL streaming). Since getting my Chord DAVE, I don’t purchase high res music anymore, and the same applies to the Hugo2.
    • Hugo2 is surprisingly light, but really needs a case to avoid cutting up things. Definitely transportable, and portable for the committed.
    • Hugo2 delivers more of the Chord magic than the Mojo (at 5x the price), but not in the same league as the DAVE (at 5x cheaper). The differences are not subtle, but you’re going from very good to great to world class awesome.
    • Going direct from the Hugo2 or DAVE to high efficiency single driver speakers like the Omega Super Alnico Monitors is a revelation, and everyone owes it to themselves to find a way to hear these things…wow!
    • There is not quite enough oomph in the Hugo2 amp to direct drive the Omegas for complex music (how amazing would that have been?), but a remarkable experience at modest volume levels and more intimate music. One of the best dollar for dollar musical experiences I’ve ever had.
    • It takes surprisingly little of the suboptimal or wrong stuff (Martin Logan speaker, Schiit Lyr2 amp, etc) between the Chord kit and your ears to completely kill the magic. It takes very little for things to collapse back to normal (a very nice version of normal, but no longer transcendent). Minimize everything you can between the output of the Chord DAC and your ears. The more you can eliminate and more you can simplify or lighten, the more the Chord magic can shine through.
    • In theory BluHugo2 and BluDAVE should be very close in audio quality, but I can’t test that theory yet. If that theory works out, a reasonable play would be to put the money you would put into a DAVE into a Blu2 to go with a Hugo2. Stay tuned.
    • For those that have already taken the red pill, the Hugo2 a VERY worthy upgrade to your Mojo, and a great approximation of the DAVE at the office and when out and about. For those that haven’t taken the red pill yet, grab a Mojo if you’re nervous if the hype is real. If you like the hints of what you’re hearing, you’ll love the Hugo2.
    • Headphone experience can't touch the experience of DAVE and Hugo2 direct to Omegas (not even in the same zip code, with even Sennheisers….TBD if other headphones can close that gap, but these are the best Chord Magic headphones I have right now)
    • Winner scenario for sane people is Hugo2 direct to Omegas in near field, with a reasonable amp like the Bantam Gold as a stop gap when listening to more complex/dynamic music. Add a fast musical sub like JL Audio F110 to fill out the bottom and be in awe of what you’re hearing. Down the road, dive into Blu2 and Rob’s digital amp once that dust settles and cost gets better.


    A closing story

    I’ve shared this story publicly and privately to Rob and Cookie before, but I wanted to share it here to give a sense of why I care about this stuff and what it means for me.

    Earlier I mentioned how Sareena Overwater’s “One World” (Blue Coast Records) is wired directly to startingly deep emotions for me. When I listen to it, I’m taken back more than a decade. My older daughter is in college now, but when she was younger she was a very serious pianist. As she began to blossom as a musician (around age 8), we needed to upgrade from our ratty console piano to something more appropriate.

    After 6 months or so of looking, I found a used 1924 Steinway in Rhode Island that looked perfect. The woman who owned it had received it new as a gift from her parents when she was around age 8, but no longer had room for it as she moved into the final phases of her life. A miraculous instrument, maintained and played with love. My daughter was and is the second owner, and I am hopeful she too will be able to enjoy it for many decades to come, and pass it to some deserving musician when it is her time to do so.

    I spent countless hours lost in the sound of my daughter playing that piano, and know the sound and feeling of that vintage Steinway in my DNA. Cookie Marcenco also has a vintage Steinway in her studio at Blue Coast Records, and she is the most gifted person I’ve ever heard at recording piano. With the Chord DACs, I listen to recordings of Cookie's vintage Steinway, and with some of her musicians I have the visceral experience of going into a time machine and hearing my daughter play piano all over again. It is like catching a smell or hearing something that instantly transports you back to your mothers kitchen: the emotional connection is intense and overwhelming, and the closest I can be to experiencing my daughter's music now that she's at college. The feeling and emotion of my daughter playing her piano is made real in Cookie’s recordings.

    My daughters piano is in long term storage, waiting for the day she has her own place and is able to enjoy making music with it again. While I can’t wait to hear her play again, I am grateful to be able to enjoy the echoes and evocations from Cookie’s studio, via Rob’s DACs.

    When I first listened to this song (which I knew well and loved as a song) with my Mojo, I felt glimpses of reality in this song and felt the emotional presence of my daughter. It persuaded me to order a DAVE sight unseen, reaching out for that completely unexpected hint that I had felt in the music. Listening to this song with my DAVE, I am overwhelmed with emotion and end up weeping every single time. With Hugo2, while not as intense as with the DAVE, the emotion and sense of connection is very real, and I am swept away in memories and a sense of overwhelming love and pride for my daughter.

    Can I put a finger on what combination of timing and taps and noise floor modulation and voodoo and whatever else can take a piece of well known recorded music and turns it into an emotional time machine that brings me to my knees every damn time? I can't, but I am enormously grateful to feel the presence of my daughter and her piano again. An unexpected and precious gift that was hidden in the music all along, without me knowing it was there. Thank you Sareena, Rob, and Cookie for helping me find that emotional connection all over again.



    APPENDIX: Detailed Ratings and Notes

    Note: these ratings are calibrated so that Mojo is on the low end and DAVE on the high end, so it is easier to see where the Hugo2 falls in between them.

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  2. Malfunkt
    4.0/5,
    "Chord Hugo 2 - uncompromising, beyond transparency"
    Pros - Audibly transparent, room-to-room portability, feature rich
    Cons - Expensive
    Disclaimer: I received the Hugo 2 as part of a the Canadian Hugo 2 Tour put on by Moon Audio and organized by Relix. So thank you first off!

    Reviewer Background & Bias

    My intentions and where am I coming from: first off, I think its important that I give you a brief on my own biases. I’ve heard great things about Chord, and have read a number of Chord's posts including those in the Sound Science forum that have made me take interest. I have heard top of the line DACs and amps before but mainly for floor-standing 2-channel setups. Mostly Classe and Rotel, but only for periods of hours here and there over a span of years.


    In my experience, I feel obsession and gear can get in the way of creativity and enjoyment. Not just for music listeners, but also for the musicians themselves. The long and short of it, if someone was to come to me and want to know what the best audio experience can be had on a budget I would just point them in the direction of a JDS Labs O2/ODAC + HD660S, tell them to listen to quality files (lossless or high bit-rate) and most importantly quality recordings across many genres. I’d also tell them to stay away from these forums and just enjoy the music. I’d assure them, that they would be getting pretty much the best experience in headphone audio possible and that they are best to not go down the rabbit-hole.


    Of course, I read similar advice over a decade ago, and here I am.

    Overkill

    The Chord Hugo 2 is pretty much an outstanding, full-featured unit, that is made to what appears to be very high-standards, by a boutique electronic manufacture. This is reflected in the cost.


    I have a friend who is an incredible intelligent electrical engineer. He can build pretty much anything, but mostly makes controls for HVAC systems for skyscrapers. Custom hardware and software. His stuff is more costly than off-the-shelf, but is made to the highest spec. To me that’s what the Hugo 2 is.



    Down to the Sound



    Well, truth be told, its effortless, and I feel like I can listen to it continuously. It’s audibly transparent as far as I can tell. I feel like comparing it to a known reference like the O2/ODAC will invite either scorn or contempt for my post so I’ll leave it there and I think that says enough :wink:


    Again, I’m a skeptic, but I’m open minded to say that although I may not be able to entirely discern or distinguish all the differences, it doesn’t mean that an overall effect is not transmuted to the brain. That would be very difficult to measure. I feel like with the Hugo 2, perhaps I’m drinking the cleanest possible water. Yes, I have water sources that are healthy, but with the Hugo 2 it is near the purest possible. For an audiophile, drinking from the Hugo 2 may bring lifelong benefits. Or not…





    It’s Not About the Sound



    What? Isn’t this how its marketed? Well, yes, and I won’t pretend to really understand the very basics of electronics. But I do understand marketing quite well. I would say that on sound alone, you may be able to find less expensive or perhaps even more ‘pristine’ options - perhaps even Chord’s Dave. Really, it’s the entire package that is on offer here and is what I think can justify it's expensive. Whether you need all these functions is up to you.



    Crossfeed Options


    The crossfeed functions are well implemented and I had no trouble distinguishing between the different settings. For those having difficulty, just listen to some earlier jazz recordings where you have some hard-panning. One of my test pieces for this review was John Coltrane Blue Train 24bit 192 khz and all the settings worked very well. This is one of the best crossfeed implementations I’ve heard. In some software based implementations, I’ve heard issues with the bass becoming to overblown and other artifacts.


    Wireless

    I did have a bit of issue with the wireless setup and my iPhone, it didn't quite sound right. :/ But really, why would one bother with wireless with a DAC like this?

    Final Thoughts

    For those who need the most functionality for desktop and portable, may find the Hugo 2 hit the sweet spot.

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  3. makan
    4.5/5,
    "Truly a desktop replacement"
    Pros - Transparency, clarity, output power and remote control
    Cons - Price
    Thanks to Chord and Craig for organizing the Hugo2 tour in Canada. There have been many excellent photos and reviews on the Hugo2 already on Head-fi. I would like to first provide the context of my review, so that readers can benefit maximally from my comments, and also not to be misled either. I am a late 40s guy who enjoys the headphone experience that have a pretty flat FR, but also enjoy and am probably more tolerant of the more pronounced treble. I am not well-versed in the audio/headfi terminology and tend to use plain language to describe my experience. I have owned and still own a variety of planar, dynamic and electrostatic hps and accompanying DACs/amps, but the rigs I use the most are the HDVD800, Oppo HA-1 and Gungnir (non-multi bit)/Bryston BHA-1. As for headphones, the main ones are the HD800, LCD-XC, and Oppo PM2.

    Well, in a word, the Hugo2 is transparent. It does not colour what is coming into it. I tried various combinations of DAC/AMP with the Oppo HA-1 and HDVD800, and at the end of the day, the Hugo2 provides to me more clarity than the other 2 desktop setups. So, in what matters the most, the Hugo2 puts out the most details, and will let your headphones dictate how you want to experience your music. I thoroughly enjoyed the Hugo2 with my main headphones, more so than the Mojo (from memory) that I had before. The Hugo2 is also solid to feel and hold.

    For a desktop setup, it is nice and small as you can see from the photo. I am not sure how many of us would truly use it as a transportable, and it is too big as a portable for most. So, I would say it is certainly a desktop replacement for those looking for one. I was feeding it with a Fiio X5 and Sonos connect as well.

    As you have heard from others, the controls on the Hugo2 are unique and for some, the lights on it at night may bother some, but they do have a lower level setting. Personally, I did not hear any difference between the filters, but that may be because I don’t have golden ears. The output power was certainly sufficient without any discernible distortion or clipping.

    The remote control is fantastic for volume control as I usually listen to my music at night with lights out and eyes closed. That by itself is a great selling point as not all DAC/AMPs have a remote. I did not use the Bluetooth feature, but stuck to optical and coaxial and they worked flawlessly.

    The one downside is the price of admission. However, if you are going to replace your desktop rig and space is a premium, look no further…you also then have the ability to transport it at minimum in your house, and if so desired, perhaps to work. I am seriously considering selling my 3 rigs and replacing it with the Hugo2….but honestly, I just like having lots of toys…and so, probably 3 toys are better than 1 for me. Having said that, the rational thing to do is get the Hugo2, save money, save space and enjoy the music.

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  4. howdy
    5.0/5,
    "HUGO2"
    Pros - Sound!!! Sound!!!
    Cons - Price and Build quality for this price
    CHORD HUGO2
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    As always a little something about me, I am 43 year old married man with teenage kids so when I need to "get away" I really enjoy listening to music. Im not so caught up in having the latest and greatest but just having something that I enjoy listening to, which generally comes with a higher price tag. I do not consider myself a an Audiophile in any sort of the word, but like I said someone who enjoys music.
    When I first saw the Hugo2 come out after just borrowing a Hugo1 from a fellow headfier for about 3 months I was very excited to compare the two. I really enjoyed the Hugo1 with my Oppo PM3s a lot more than with my assorted IEMs that I have. So here is my simple mans review.

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    Boxing:
    Not sure why everyone gets overall excited about the boxing, just something Apple started, but for me, as long as it secures everything during shipment Im happy. This was done nicely by Chord. All the basic accessories are included to get you up and started.

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    Build Quality:
    The build quality seems really robust as it should for this price, however as seen in the picture below there is a gap in the middle but closed on the ends and I read that other had the same issue. Hopefully this is something they will address as this is not acceptable at this price point. Everything else seems great as for build, all the plugins seem tight and able to withstand years of plugging.

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    Sound Quality:
    I used mainly my Oppo PM3s but also used My Alcair RSMs CIEMs and my new favorites the Isine20s which really do sound great with the HUGO2 as well and I breifly tried my DUNU DN2Kj.
    Music was used a lot via Bluetooth from my LGV20 and Tidal Hifi, but also used my Onkyo DPX1 as a source for the HUGO2 as well. I like older rock but also listen to a lot of the newer stuff like Hollywood undead, Rage but also like a lot of country.

    Here are some of the music I have listened to many times and my thoughts on it compared to other sources like my Mojo.
    Metallica, Holier than thou- Ive heard this song a million times and know it really well, i thing I noticed right away was that there was noticeably more separation between instruments and I could really see where each instrument was. The detail was very precise with not going over board, which generally means that it would not be meant for long time listening.
    Dave Matthews, Dont dring the water- Again very detailed. One thing I like about listening to Dave Matthews band is how well all of there songs are recorded, you cen tell it was done at a great studio with top of the line equipement.

    Guns and Roses, November Rain- Very detailed and you can really hair the rain in the back ground which with some sources you have no idea that its even in the recording. Everything on the Hugo2 is very balanced and to me on the warm side of Nuetral ever so slightly. To some this will change as it also depends on the headphones and or IEMS you are using as there is such a thing as Synergy between all of the devices in the line.
    As for the Filters, they are subtle but noticable, I used white the whole time as this was the one liked the most.

    Bluetooth was really good, I could get about 30 feet which is acceptable.
    As for sound comparisons I will do them if you ask but to me when you get up in the higher dollar amount everything sounds similar with certain flavors that appeal to your tastes. I could think a 100 DAP could sound better than this because of its sound sig only and thats why this is a wonderful hobby because it only matters what I think (or you, for your own personal opinion).
    So if any has questions I will respond below, thanks for reading! for more inforamtional reviews there are plenty on here this is just my personal feeling on this device. If I have the extra money some day ( like after the kids get out) I would definetly buy this with some kick ass headphones to go with it.
    Thanks for Reading,
    Andy AKA Howdy.

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  5. betula
    4.5/5,
    "Chord Mojo vs. Chord Hugo2"
    Pros - amazing sound quality, portability
    Cons - price
    I am very grateful to Chord for the opportunity to spend two weeks with their new Hugo2 DAC (£1799) as part of the Hugo2 UK tour.

    I am the happy owner of a Chord Mojo since its release (using my second unit), and I have to say I was hesitating to sign up for the Hugo2 tour as I was a bit worried I might not be able to enjoy my Mojo anymore after I have heard and returned the Hugo2.

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    It is difficult to talk about Hugo2’s sound in different points (bass, mids, treble etc.), as the listening experience is so coherent, complete, one whole. When you go to a live concert, you do not start to analyse the mids and the treble, you are just enjoying the experience. It is similar with Hugo2, therefore I won’t spend paragraphs explaining these parts separately, but talking about the sound in one bigger section.

    Most of my listening was done with my Audioquest Nighthawk (also liked by Chord engineers), and I also tried my Flare R2pro IEM. The source was my computer (+Jitterbug) with Foobar2k bitperfect, mostly Flac files and some DSD.

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    (English is still not my first language, so excuse me for any unconventional wording.)

    Box, package, built quality:

    Hugo2 comes in a nice quality box with a generous amount of accessories. (No accessories with Mojo, keeping the costs as low as possible.)

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    Built quality is exceptional, as you would expect from a device at this price point. Only the plastic remote control (which is extremely handy) felt a little bit cheap compared to the device itself.

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    The remote control proved to be very useful. It works in wide angle, so you do not necessarily have to point it straight to the device. Having dedicated buttons for different inputs on the remote makes selection much easier than pressing the same button several times on the DAC, often missing the input source you want just to start the circle again.
    I also much prefer setting the volume on the remote instead of turning the large marble button on the device which is a bit stiff and changes volume quite a lot for even a small movement.

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    Sound:

    As I mentioned before, listening to Hugo2 is a coherent, complete experience. Hugo2’s sound is much closer to reality than Mojo’s.
    Three things are immediately obvious apart of the more natural sound: 1,the soundstage is much wider on Hugo2, or I would rather say Mojo feels narrow. 2, Much more details are coming through on Hugo2 and 3, the sound has much more thickness, body, weight and impact, especially the bass.

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    Hugo2 feels much more dynamic with more energy, Mojo sounds light, thin and sometimes lean in comparison. Mojo is not bad at all, still beats pretty much every DAC I heard under £1000, and with its natural sound definitely beats all the portable DACs I have heard.
    However in comparison to Hugo2, Mojo feels like it is just trying to be like the new Hugo2. Mojo still does not sound artificial like most other DACs do in its price range, but it feels it is just mimicking the naturalness of Hugo2. Like Hugo2 was the ‘real deal’ and Mojo tried to be like its bigger brother. I have to admit, Mojo does this mimicking job extremely well for £399, but LeBron James’s 9 year old cousin will never beat the NBA star, even if he has some good moves for his age.

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    Despite of the bigger soundstage on Hugo2 I feel I am closer to the music and to the instruments, therefore it is a more engaging experience. Any distance between the music and the listener disappears. Hugo2 is much more refined than Mojo, the sound is punchier, the presentation much more accurate. I can’t emphasize enough the weight, texture, body and thickness of Hugo2’s sound compared to Mojo. It is much more realistic with much more details.

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    Bass kicks much harder, and the sound and instruments have a better contour, definition.
    Everything feels to be in its place, and I am not just talking about imaging and instrument separation but the whole sound experience. I would not change anything in Hugo2’s sound, it just gives you exactly what you need from bass quantity (and quality) through soundstage to natural voices.
    I found the crossfeed function very useful. From the three levels of crossfeed I preferred the medium setting. The lower setting was not enough for me to provide a natural experience, the highest setting sometimes came through as exaggerating this effect, medium setting was just perfect, loved it. (Crossfeed offers a natural, ‘room like’ experience vs. the conventional stereo separation.)
    I heard minimal differences using the filter settings (additional warmth, treble roll off). Most preferred the completely neutral setting with my Nighthawk. On brighter headphones however these filters might be useful.

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    Hugo2’s sound feels very coherent, one whole complete. Mojo in comparison falls apart a little bit into bass, mids and treble sections, almost giving the impression of a ‘W’ sound while Hugo2 is completely linear. (I am not talking about graphs here, but an impression of sound presentation.) Mids on Mojo are more forward compared to Hugo2, and certain instruments sometimes can overshadow the less prominent parts of the music, while on Hugo2 everything is in line, and everything is more equally audible. More space + higher resolution = more details.

    IMG_20170928_160752705.jpg

    In my opinion Mojo’s sound has one advantage over Hugo2, but I have to talk about Hugo2 first to be able to explain this. Hugo2 offers a very complex and very satisfying listening experience, one thinks about words like ‘bliss’ and ‘perfection’, when it comes to describing the sound. This hugely satisfying experience however demands all your attention all the time. When you are listening with Hugo2, you can do nothing else just be with the music. After a couple of hours I felt I had an experience, and my brain needs a little rest. (The way you feel after watching a long but good film.) Hugo2’s sound is not fatiguing at all, it is a smooth and realistic sound, but compared to Mojo it contains much more information for the brain making it a more intense listening experience. With Hugo2 I couldn’t browse the web and listen to music at the same time (which I occasionally do), as it was just too much. Mojo with its lighter and leaner sound is an easier listen, more gentle to the brain. Mojo doesn’t demand all your attention all the time, but you can still be immersed in music exclusively, if that is what you want to do (and most of the time that is what we want to do, with some exceptions).
    Hugo2 has more power and dynamism. Bass and everything else feels much tighter. Also the space where the music is happening is much more natural on Hugo2: effortless and lifelike, where Mojo again feels like it is just trying to mimic that space.
    The Bluetooth function of Hugo2 worked easily for me, many will find it useful.

    IMG_20170928_161054718.jpg

    Conclusions:

    The first conclusion of these two weeks is that Mojo performs extremely well for £390, which is only 22% (!) of Hugo2’s price. The second conclusion is what an impressive level of sound quality can be achieved, if money is not an issue. Hugo2 is an obvious step up, another world compared to Mojo but it comes with a hefty price tag. If you can pay £1799 for your new DAC without surviving on bread and water for three months, then buy Hugo2 right now. The rest of us will keep on enjoying Mojo for a little longer.
  6. highfell
    5.0/5,
    "This is nearly as good as it can get"
    Pros - A step change better than Mojo
    Noticeably better than Hugo1
    Amazing retrieval of detail and the natural timbre of the instruments shine through
    Cons - It isn't cheap !
    IMG_0010.JPG IMG_0008.JPG
    I listened to Hugo2 as part of the U.K. Tour for ten days. Subsequently, I decided to buy one and so this review is as a result of listening for around two months now. @Relic has produced the definitive review, so mine won't focus on the machine's specs.


    Design


    The new interface with the coloured buttons make the unit easier to use. I find the new design slightly too much in your face, but that is kind of the modern way.

    The new design makes it easier to set up the unit and use the cross feed function or select the type of source eg coaxial, optical. I used the remote control a few times and it is easy to use and nicely designed.


    I don't like the rattle of the four balls/buttons - I think that has an effect of cheapening the design, but that is a very small and ultimately irrelevant point versus the quality of the music that Hugo2 can produce.


    Initial impressions


    Wow! The first thing that I noticed about the Hugo 2 was the unbelievable stunning detail it provides. It doesn't matter the quality of the source or the genre of music, the Hugo2 will extract layers of detail. It didn't matter whether I listened through my 'steady' Sennheiser 600s, detailed Beyerdynamic T90s or my stereo speakers with my Valve amplifier, it just produces musical lushness, combined with that detail retrieval. With my Shure SE 846s, on some recordings the immediate impression was it sounded slightly bright but if you believe what Rob Watts writes that is because of the extreme detail being revealed compared to the 'warm mush' (my words) of other DACs. However, then you realise that any bass that you hear isn't missing any depth. Overall, I was suitably impressed and when I switched back to my Mojo, the difference was like night and day, with the Hugo2 being so much better. I had already sold my Hugo1, but what I find interesting is that it never was a 'step change' better than the Mojo, unlike Hugo2 which definitely is.


    Music listened to : Piano & Violin concertos. A lot of Vivaldi. Progressive Rock - Pink Floyd, Riverside, tons of Yes in album , live & bootleg form. Mostly CD, but some Hirez and MP3 (320k).


    A few specific examples:


    Pink Floyd - Dark side of the Moon on the Introduction to Money is the superb bass and smooth saxophone, and what you can hear better is the different instruments that make up the sound compared to an overall mush of sound. I also listened to the Pink Floyd Friends' version produced by Billy Sherwood. The simple piano solo at the beginning of A Gig in the Sky was memorable.


    On Animals, the opening acoustic guitar is right in your face, it could be being played right in front of you. Vocals are crisp & clear.Later on the searing, distorted guitar that wants to cut you in half. Synthesisers that soar effortlessly.Pigs snort like real ones , so realistic that it initially gave me a shock


    Love - the Beatles is an interesting album as it showcases songs that you all know so well but subtlety rearranged with tons of musical quirks going on around you. So it's an ideal challenge for Hugo2. The Hugo 2 devours the music and spits it out effortlessly somehow making sense of everything that is going on with beautiful musical simplicity.


    Apocalyptica Special Edition - Bitter Sweet : haunting violins/ cellos, followed by the deep bass voice and then the unexpected juxtaposition with the tenor "she's the one that I adore " - the natural timbre of voice is just as if they are singing live to you. And listening through my SE846s, there is no lack of bass.


    I have mainly listened to Hugo2 being fed by Coaxial via a DX90, but also via a Sony CD player and Panasonic Blu-ray with digital out. I listened through the headphones mentioned above and also through my valve stereo Sytem, through a Denon unit & mini speakers and through the car stereo systm. Much of my listening has been done on the train with my Shure SE846s.


    What I find interesting is that it just doesn't matter what medium you chose or how audiophile it is, the Hugo2 has the ability to make the end result, well, just musical bliss.


    Through my Valve Amplier, the combination of the instrument and musical extraction from the Hugo2 and the sublime smoothness of Valves is simply stunning.


    Like Hugo 1 ,there is little or no Mobile phone interference on the train unlike the Mojo which does pick up interference from either your phone or other ones around.


    Conclusion


    The Hugo2 extracts stunning detail and will reveal new layers of sound from all of your favorite CDs. It is able to pick up the unique timbre of every violin, guitar, drum, saxophone, piano etc. and to distinguish the starting and stopping of their individual notes. The instrument separation here is so good that they have a clear edge to them.


    A few people have mentioned that Hugo2 is more digital sounding than Hugo1,but I don't find this to be the case. I feel it retains a very analogue sound of its predecessor. All in all it is a musical marvel.


    In my old world, the differences between Hugo1 and Mojo or in fact Hugo TT and Hugo1 (when I compared the two on the TT tour), were there, but not necessarily immediate apparent. Hugo2 to my mind is that good that it was immediately clear to me that it would beat those other DACs.


    For me, Hugo2 is so good, it doesn't make me want to use the Mojo in its place and in fact I have since sold my Mojo.



    So should you buy the Hugo2


    1. If you don't own anything remotely equivalent - YES

    2. If you own a Mojo - YES (but bear in mind the mojo is portable whereas Hugo2 like Hugo 1 is more transportable, i.e. you can use it when stationary but less easily when walking around).

    3. If you own a Hugo1 - YES ( but the upgrade is maybe more worthwhile/apparent in my experience through non IEMs headphones or stereo speaker set up in order to allow you to really appreciate the difference to its fullest extent)
    commtrd, x RELIC x, xxx1313 and 5 others like this.
  7. Mediahound
    4.5/5,
    "Sweetly Resolving"
    Pros - Highly resolving, transportable, looks very cool
    Cons - Price, a bit less of a lush sound than other Chord offerings. May not pair well with brighter headphones
    The Chord Hugo 2 is a nice evolution and step up from the original Hugo. If I could only have one DAC/headphone amp, this would be it! The Hugo 2 can be used portably on the go (although not quite as conveniently as the Chord Mojo), or permanently in the home or office. It even includes a remote.

    The chassis and overall architecture is definitely not as refined as on my desktop Hugo TT however, and while the Hugo 2 has more digital taps in the FPGA and this can certainly be heard and appreciated, the TT includes things like supercapacitors, galvanically isolated USB and a more beefy chassis and better analog stage, all things which contribute to the sound.

    While the Hugo 2 sounds really excellent, I found it's sound signature slightly leaner and less-sweet in the midrange spectrum only, than both the Hugo TT and the Mojo. Hugo 2 is still a great joy to listen to though I did find myself longing for a bit more of that lush, almost tube-like vocals and electric guitars that seem more 'right on' in my other Chord devices.

    Vocals with the Hugo 2 sounded a bit less full bodied/lush than with the Hugo TT and even Mojo. That said, the Hugo 2 does have an ever so slightly wider soundstage overall which was noticeable although not dramatically so. It’s like there's a sweetness with the Hugo 2 towards the highs and overall resolution. The different filters that you can set help a bit in making the Hugo 2 a bit more warm and lush sounding, but even the most warm one was still not as warm as my other Chord devices. I also believe it's best to use the Hugo 2 in the most resolving filter setting (White) as that will let you take full advantage of the higher number of digital taps and provide the most detail retrieval, so it's almost like you may as well use that most of the time. (Rob Watts has called this filter setting almost like a mini DAVE!).

    I also like the crossfeed feature in the Hugo 2. I use that mostly in the low or medium setting when listening to headphones with my Hugo TT and also tested this with great results in the Hugo 2. The Mojo doesn't have this although I don't miss it that much when listening to the Mojo, it's something that is certainly nice to have.

    The Hugo 2 still has impact when called for such as when listening to hip-hop or EDM. I'm happy to report that the sublime Chord sound is there with aplomb. Hugo 2's sweetness however tends to lean towards a more crystalline type of sound signature and therefore sounds a bit more solid state than tube-like than both my Chord Hugo TT and my Mojo.

    I really want to purchase the Hugo 2 though I don't know if I can justify it given that I own the other 2 Chord devices.

    Equipment and headphones used:
    Sony MDR-Z1r
    Audioquest Nighthawk
    Audioquest Jitterbug (USB input)
    iMac 5K
    iPhone 7 Plus
    Only lossless AIFF files or high res/MQA files were played via Roon (Onkyo player app on iPhone)


    I also did a video review as well, if you're interested:

    images

    1. 22157233_113931459359983_4790853358023868416_n.jpg
  8. jarnopp
    4.0/5,
    "Hugo2 vs Mojo"
    Pros - Detailed, powerful, handy remote
    Cons - Tonal balance can be lean, filters not a benefit
    Firstly, let me thank Relic and Barra for organizing the Hugo2 tours. It’s been a great opportunity to demo and now – my very first formal – review. I’ve been a huge fan of Chord since receiving my Mojo shortly after launch in October 2015. I didn’t demo it but took a chance based on the head-fi thread and other reviews. I said and continue to think that in all my years of audio, it has been the best investment I have made. This is mostly in “bang for the buck” terms, but also generally speaking, as I haven’t felt the need to upgrade or try many other options, as I have with preamps, amps, speakers and headphones.

    In December 2015 I heard Rob Watts speak and demo the Dave (he even signed my Mojo!), and it was a revelation. While the Dave was only played through speakers in a room full of people, a Mozart piano piece was played alternately on Dave and another high-end DAC (forget which). It was amazingly apparent to all how much better the Dave was at resolving the piano and the timing of the notes. Better than Mojo, obviously, even from that brief listening. This is what I am looking for in Hugo2. (I have never heard the original Hugo or any other Chord DAC.)

    IMG_1001.jpg

    And so, the focus of my Hugo2 review will be “Do I need to upgrade?” This is the question every Mojo owner is asking themselves. If it helps, I’ve been seriously into audio for over 30 years. I didn’t get seriously into personal audio until about 3 years ago, and quickly went up the learning and equipment curve. Most of my listening is done via Roon (Apple lossless and AIFF or Tidal hifi), Mojo, Cavalli Liquid Carbon and HifiMan HE-6s (highly modified). I find it a most harmonious combination. About half my listening is alternative/indie rock from the 80’s to the present. About 20% is classical and jazz, with the balance a bit of everything else (but not much pop or country).

    I’ll skip all the unboxing and how-it-works commentary, as these have been well reported already. Photography is not a strength of mine, but I have some comparison shots so people get a sense of the different dimensions. I will say, the Mojo interface is simple and works well after a brief learning curve, and Hugo2 is similar, but with more functions, a bit more confusing. The remote is a gift in this regard, particularly in a desktop application. I would not see using the Hugo2 in place of a Mojo or similarly sized DAC, given its size, cost, and complexity of operation, particularly the volume, for on-the-go use.

    IMG_1489.jpg

    SOUND - Headphones

    As mentioned, all listening was done using CD-quality files either streamed or directly connected. Streaming was done primarily through Airport Express and optical or from a Western Digital Wireless Duo to iPhone with USB out. I did all the testing using battery power only on all devices. My initial listening was using the HE-6 headphones (quite inefficient) powered by the Emotiva BasX A-100 speaker amp. Hugo2 has great bass impact, with Mojo sounding slightly muddy in comparison. Up top, Hugo2 sounded “brittle” and not smooth, like Mojo does. This was evident on several tracks from 10,000 Maniacs Unplugged album.

    In this first session, I also noticed two additional things that held up throughout the listening time: the timing reproduction is so amazing that you get the sense the Hugo2 is playing more notes than the Mojo on the same tracks. It’s a similar effect to getting Mojo from something non-Chord, but more so. It’s like listening to the 1981 Glenn Gould Goldberg Variations and then switching to the 1955 version, when he is younger, playing faster and more technically, and with more repeats in the arrangement. The other observation was that much of the tonal difference was in the midrange, where both male and female voices were lacking some body and fullness, compared to Mojo. I think this is due to some increased presence in the 250-300 Hz range on Mojo (around middle C on the piano) or decrease in Hugo2 and another increase in Hugo2 in the ~1kHz (maybe as high as 2kHz?) range compared to Mojo. I wish we had more details from Rob Watts on how he “tuned Mojo to be warmer.”

    In the treble, the Hugo2 has more detail and air. This contributes to the wider soundstage, which was generally also more focused, than that of Mojo. I think of the difference almost like two different rooms or halls. Hugo2 is a performance in a larger, livelier hall, while Mojo is the same performance in a more intimate venue. Along these lines, several times when Mojo was plugged in, I forgot I was supposed to be listening and just got caught up in the music. (Cliché, but it really surprised me and I wrote it down, because I was supposed to be “working”!)

    The bass was also deeper and more detailed, faster and clearer on the Hugo2. This is one area where there was clear superiority with no trade-offs, in my opinion. This was apparent on most tracks, but stood out with I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry and Sweet Jane from the Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Sessions, as well as Eric Clapton Unplugged.

    After this combo, I tried the Hugo2 directly with the HE-6. Amazingly, it drove them to very satisfying levels with really good results. The most transparent I have been able to hear those phones. I think this is a real strength of the H2. While Mojo can drive almost anything, I would say that the Hugo2 actually can drive anything. It would depend on the type of music, and your listening levels, but for reasonable levels of rock, jazz, and classical music, it was a great experience that you cannot get from Mojo. There may be some brain burn-in by this point, or the Emotiva may be to blame, but HE-6 direct from H2 is a good combo.

    Other headphone combinations were HE-6 with Cavalli Liquid Carbon and the H2 directly with the AudioQuest NightHawks, the thinksound ON2s, and the FLC 8S iems. With the LC, the smoothness returned to the top end, removing the brittleness I heard with the Emotiva. But, on some tracks, there was still a bit of glare present. This may be the state of modern recording given the loudness wars, but I was trying to use some of the best-recorded tracks. While the detail was there with the H2, the “I got tubes” feeling with the LC just wasn’t as present when being fed by the Hugo2 compared to the Mojo.

    Using the thinksound ON2s, I noted clean sound with no mid bloom, but slightly thin sounding piano on Pink Floyd’s San Tropez (from Meddle), which is a great all-around track for testing out gear. Compared to the Mojo, which exhibited some mid-bass bloom but a more natural sounding piano. Overall, the thinksound’s sounded pretty good on the H2, more clear and detailed than with Mojo, and easier to make out the lyrics in tracks. This is despite the tendency for people to think of these as slightly bright headphones, so go figure.

    The AQ NightHawks (I’ve changed the pads to the HM5 sheepskin) are generally full, clean, slightly rolled sounding with the Mojo. With the Hugo2, they sounded faster, with a similar sweet presentation, but with vocals still not quite as full as Mojo. The X-PHD ‘1’ setting (red) seemed to improve this presentation. (More on X-PHD later.) In fact the AQ was the headphone where overall the Hugo2 was preferred to the Mojo.

    The FLC 8S (used with red bass filter, grey mid filter, and gunmetal nozzle) were more of a toss-up between Hugo2 and Mojo. In several cases, Mojo could have more balanced and smooth sound, but H2 could also be sweet with more detail and better vocals, if a bit less dynamic sounding. Certainly the Hugo2 was more resolving than the Mojo, even in the bass, but maybe not quite as impactful.

    IMG_1488.jpg

    SOUND – Speakers

    I got into personal audio because my family – shockingly – didn’t appreciate me hushing them while I blasted speakers throughout the house for hours on end. Now that we’re empty nesters, my wife still doesn’t appreciate it, but I get more opportunities. I generally run the Mojo directly into an Odyssey Stratos Stereo Extreme amplifier feeding Volent Paragon VL-2s. That amp is known as a neutral, powerful SS piece, and the VL-2s (stand-mounted 2-ways with ribbon tweeters) are known for their deep, fast, detailed bass and clean, detailed top end.

    The presentation on speakers was similar to the HE-6 presentation with the Emotiva, except lacking much of the noted harshness and brittleness. Where Mojo painted a full sound with intimate soundstage, Hugo2 was larger and more detailed, but a bit leaner. H2 also had more air and treble presence, which seemed slightly lacking on Mojo. For example, on Sweet Jane, through the Mojo you get the wonderful Fender tube amp sound. Through H2, you get more apparent detail but slightly less “warm tubey.” Again, H2 is a bigger room, more detail, but less intimate and less body than Mojo. But in contrast to my primary headphones, it’s a presentation I could live with, trading off the body for the extra detail and air.

    IMG_1487.jpg

    FILTERS and CROSSFEED

    Others have commented that the filters are not that noticeable. In contrast, I thought they made a big difference (except green), so especially orange and red, the “Mojo” filter. But, while it makes a difference, I did not find that it was anything like the Mojo. It did not restore the body and the balance (increase the lower midrange/decrease the upper midrange, as mentioned above), but rather muddied up the sound and rolled it off, without achieving the same tonality as Mojo. I was not a fan of any filter setting and would not use them.

    I tried the X-PHD as much as I could and, as noted above, I did find the lowest setting improved the AudioQuest NightHawks generally. But more often, in other setups, I found that any level of X-PHD sounded harsh or added glare. Just weird to me, with more bass but also added distortion. I may need more time experimenting with different tracks and different levels, but as of this point, I am not a fan.

    CONCLUSION

    I have no idea if my recollection of the Dave was accurate, or what it sounds like. But, I was looking for Hugo2 to provide me with that kind of experience, virtually making me upgrade my Mojo (you know how it is!). While the H2 has some technically better qualities than the Mojo (soundstage, detail resolution, power), its overall presentation is not as much to my liking, with my music and equipment, as the Mojo. I will definitely try to audition the Dave in home (at some time when spending that amount on equipment is in the realm of reasonable), or the Hugo2 TT. I could even live with the H2 in my home system, but on balance, I think it would only be a slight improvement, and not in all areas.

    IMG_1004.jpg
  9. dmance
    5.0/5,
    "Hugo2 - A Desktop DAC Mini Marvel"
    Pros - Stunning Sound Quality
    Powerful Headphone/Speaker Amp
    Battery Power Isolation
    Cons - Burn In - Takes a while to sound best
    Filters aren't so different
    Hugo2 - A Desktop DAC Mini Marvel
    Daniel Mance


    IMG_20170915_091727.jpg


    INTRODUCTION

    Every marketing professional knows that the best way to influence a buying decision is through word of mouth – so Chord’s use of ordinary Head-Fi posters to review a product is a stroke of genius. These reviews are grass-roots opinions from community members who want to be honest, technically accurate and write an enjoyable read. And we’re doing so without monetary or in-kind compensation.

    My review of Hugo2 is to focus on its use as a desktop DAC driving a loudspeaker system. I will not be commenting on headphones at all. Nor will I be discussing mobility or nice leather cases – nor emphasizing features. I will focus on sound quality in absolute terms – not coached by ‘value for money’ or ‘based on portability’. I want the best the H2 can deliver so I will be working to extract the best sound quality I can by reconfiguring and tweaking my system. And then I’ll do some comparisons against other desktop DACs.

    Thanks to the many posts of Rob Watts and HeadFi’ers, I have come to appreciate what ‘transparency’ can mean, what to listen for, what to avoid and to wean myself off false euphonics. Loudspeaker setups, generally speaking, are more complex than headphones, much more expensive and require more effort to better. At some level, you reach a plateau. Yes …some loudspeakers are more revealing in detail or tighter bass extension and some amplifiers can improve musicality or low end and, of course, cables and power matter. However, I hope I can say my review system was as resolving as I could get it within a reasonable budget – leaving an objective reference to report only on the impact of the H2 and comparison DACs.

    These are the system components used:

    DACs: Hugo2, DAVE (offsite), DirectStream Jr., Antelope Pure-2, Copeland 215, DragonFly RED
    Source: Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro 1370, Windows10 (Creators Edition), Bitsum Process Lasso
    Playback: JRiver Media Center 22, Google Play Music, Tidal HiFi/Masters
    USB: Cables: Audio Sensibility Impact, Cleanup: Musical Paradise MP-U1 + Intona Industrial
    Interconnects: Analysis Plus Silver Oval-2 (3ft)
    Speaker Cable: Analysis Plus Silver Oval-2 (8ft)
    Preamplifier: LTA MicroZOTL
    Amplifier: LTA ZOTL40 MkII (w/custom Mundorf caps)

    Loudspeakers:
    DIY Voxativ AF-2.6 – Single full-range driver, no crossover (10ohm,99dB)
    Finale Audio Vivace Mini – Single full-range driver, no crossover (16ohm,92dB)
    Coherent GR12 – Co-axial driver, inductor + capacitor crossover, (8ohm,96dB)
    Power: Nordost QB8 Powerbar, QV2, QK1, QKore1, Qkore3, Heimdall-2 Powercords,

    Room:
    13’x22’. 9’ ceilings. Rug, Fabric furnishings. No sound treatment.
    Speakers on the long wall. 9’ – 10’ spacing. Customary toe-in to seating position


    SETUP

    A high-end DAC deserves a place of its own on the top shelf of an audio rack but given the H2’s diminutive size it looked lonely by itself so it shared space with an objet d’art.

    IMG_20170914_114412.jpg
    Hugo2 and Friend

    I was not enamored with the H2’s disco lights display but once you get used to the color scheme it’s a distinctive part of the product experience …and it produced quite nice ambient lighting. I faced the row of H2’s lights toward my seating position and controlled volume and filter settings from the remote.

    Getting things running properly was not a problem. Drivers loaded on my Windows10 laptop, the DAC was detected and my smoke-test of a low-volume playback all worked fine. I am pretty determined to ensure noise-free/bit-perfect USB transport of music to my DACs and although I understand why people buy dedicated streamers and fuss with digital cables I’ve had great success producing phenomenal sound with ordinary windows running optimized Process Lasso and JRiver. I know that my USB cleanup (MP-U1 + Intona) isolates and removes most any vestige of source analog noise – and this was used throughout the test.


    IMG_20170915_085210.jpg
    USB to MP-U1 to Intona to Hugo2


    My H2 was directly hooked up to my ZOTL40 MkII amp and to my Voxativ AF-2.6 DIY, Finale Audio Vivace Mini or Coherent GR12 speakers. I used single driver speakers in this test to improve imaging and reduce (or eliminate) any cross-over artifacts. My JRiver playback volume was set to ‘disabled’ and I let everything up to PCM 768khz sampling and DSD512 pass directly. The H2’s chassis RCA openings were too small to allow me to secure the connector locks on my Analysis-Plus interconnects – so I undid them. I did not use a subwoofer but if you wanted to its easy to connect the parallel 3.5mm jack to an RCA splitter cable.


    IMG_20170915_085324.jpg
    RCA openings still not large enough for my interconnects


    I prepared my curated playlist of excellent audiophile tracks obtained from both legitimate and dubious sources. I used about 25 tracks for this review – a good mix of Redbook, Hi-res and DSD, including a handful of DSD256 and several tracks in various lossless and lossy formats. When I am critically evaluating for sound quality, I look for specific points in a track that highlight the differences I hear and A/B those – over and over. I also prefer live in-studio or in-venue or in-concert performances over electronic or over-produced content. A partial list of my tracks is provided at the end of this review.


    speaker pic.jpg
    Finale Vivace Mini, Coherent GR-12 and Voxativ DIY


    IMPROVING SOUND QUALITY

    My first order of business was to maximize the H2’s sound quality and try out the ideas and comments raised in several Head-Fi posts.

    Burn-In
    Initially, I felt the H2 sounded very bright through my speaker setup - too bright. I was almost ready to return the unit …but after a few days of regular usage it just settled down. Was this burn-in? I was the last of the tour reviewers and the unit most certainly had many hours on it. Was it the connection to my power amp that removed the last vestiges of cobwebs in the output stage? Unsure …but the transformation was real and not a situation of ‘brain burn-in’. The H2 was screechy for a few days then became sublime. So, buyer beware, a longer home audition may be needed for your H2 to become best friends with your speaker setup.

    Filters and EQ
    Maybe I’m sensitive to these things but I found the H2’s crazy detail to be almost the detriment of a pleasing presentation and dream weaver listenability. I expected the filter settings to dramatically change things but I found it very hard to hear any differences. Every setting still had huge amounts of high frequency, although it seemed like Red sounded the smoothest. With H2 you’re paying for taps and I didn’t want to lose out on the 256fs up-sampling so, in the end, I went with Green and dialed in a touch of JRiver EQ high shelf to tame down my Voxativs. This setting worked very well for all music genre’s and all bitrates.

    I noted that H2 revealed so much new information in my reference tracks that they sounded like different recordings. It’s like the H2’s FPGA snuck a few more singers and performers in the back door. I was expecting ‘more of the same only better’ but instead I got doses of unfamiliar depth, hidden voices and instrument nuance – all beautiful. H2 really was transformative to the music and reaffirmed how important accurate sources are when determining what other aspects of your system may need attention.

    H2 thru Pre-Amp – Yes or No
    Audio pre-amps buffer input/output impedance and provide gain with a volume control. The H2 incorporates a digital volume control more accurately than any pre-amp and has a well-designed output section to allow direct input to a power amplifier. So, easy-peasy, no need for a pre-amp with H2, right? Well yes and no. If you really need a pre-amp to support phono or analog inputs, be aware that I found the H2’s ‘line-level’ setting of 3V RMS to be too high for my microZOTL. I obtained a much more pleasing sound when I dialed my pre’s volume gain to near maximum and set H2’s sound volume to below 2V. I suppose this is something to do with the interplay of DAC/Amp gain/impedance curves. Direct to my ZOTL40 amp the H2 sounded better as confirmed with several back-and-forth tests. I was after transparency so I ran the rest of my review with DAC direct to amp.


    IMG_20170915_085842.jpg
    LTA microZOTL Pre-Amp


    IMG_20170915_085445.jpg
    LTA ZOTL40 MkII Amplifier


    USB Input – Conditioning Needed?
    The H2 comes with a factory USB cable – nothing special – but it does work quite well directly connected to a computer source. Rob Watts gallant attempt with increased filtering in lieu of proper galvanic isolation has really helped. I compared this with my external isolation and listened intently for distortion signatures I know are due to analog noise intrusion to the DAC. I was struggling with confirmation bias but I will say that my external USB isolation may have brought forth a tad more clarity, snap and a smoother sound. So, I’d suggest that after buying an H2, go shell out for your trusted USB isolation solution …just to be sure.

    Power & Battery
    The importance of clean power feeding a DAC cannot be overstated – as any negative impact on the small signal D/A processing becomes quite audible when amplified. H2’s battery operation definitely gives it a huge advantage here – obviously making it immune to AC noise and ground loops. I got 6-7 hours battery operation and while charging I could discern no difference in the sound. The brilliant engineering by Rob Watts really works to isolate the delicate bits of the DAC from the terrible world of household power. This feature alone has me rethinking the value and importance of floating my entire source chain off the grid: laptop, USB cleanup and DAC. Then I can be assured that my RCA interconnects carry the DAC’s absolute best quality analog signal to my amplifier. Thank-you Hugo2.

    My other review DACs all relied on AC power and definitely needed power conditioning to sound best. To offset the H2’s battery-only advantage over other DACs, I tried using a UPS (APC SmartUPS 1500) to provide a maximum of about 90 minutes of power to each of them. This may have helped - although the H2 still embarrassed the lot by dominating in sound quality. More below…

    I was fortunate to have demo Nordost QKore ground units during my review. These work to silence spurious noise on the AC mains as well as component signal ground – like sticking a proverbial thumb on the buzzy spot. The H2, being battery powered, was not bettered by improved signal grounding. Other AC powered DAC’s, however, did marginally improve (deeper silence I felt) and were thus configured during my comparisons. Mostly, QKore delivered the best benefit to my AC powered ZOTL40 amplifier by grounding the RCA inputs (and by extension, the DAC’s RCA outputs and analog section).


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    Nordost Power Conditioning


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    QKore Ground Units


    DSD vs PCM
    Rob Watts has made his opinion on DSD well known – and emphasized his PCM-first approach for his DACs. However, somewhere during the development of the H2, the decision was made to give DSD content the same high regard as PCM. Exact details are unclear but I understand it’s a parallel implementation to his PCM approach and the results are very good. DSD playback (64x,128x,256x) plays flawlessly and with the same fidelity as PCM frankly. I looped several tracks for which I have both versions and loved them equally. I’d probably need better ears or a more resolving system to discern the differences.

    Lossless vs Redbook vs Hi-Res
    Any song played from my Google Play Music subscription (at an “effective” 320kbps resolution) was almost as satisfying as the lossless 16/44.1 version from JRiver or Tidal. Using the H2 to stream background music while trying to answer emails or preparing dinner proved highly distracting to the task at hand. Even at muted volume levels, the bass has wonderful impact and even whisper vocals carried great emotion. High resolution lossless versions sounded impressively more smooth and real …but Rob Watts WTA filters really work well across the source quality spectrum. Still, in quiet, intimate listening sessions (like after 1am with a glass of bourbon in hand), there is no comparison to the joy of 96khz music.

    Direct to Loudspeakers
    It has been noted that a Chord DAVE can directly drive high efficiency speakers. DAVE provides about 2 Watts of power into 8Ω to deliver the ultimate in transparency – or so go the comments from those few souls who have this kind of setup. I felt I needed to try it with H2 and even though it’s power output into 8Ω is only about 1 Watt it would be enough to drive my ~99dB efficient Voxativ speakers to listenable volume levels. To connect the RCA plugs on H2 to my speaker cable, I used adapters purchased from Amazon - although directly wiring an RCA end on the cable would probably reduce losses.


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    Speaker wire connected directly to Hugo2’s RCA outputs


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    UXCELL BNC to Dual Banana Binding Adapter with matching RCA connectors

    And the sound is …Holy Transparency Batman! I thought my ZOTL amp was the final word but the H2 directly controlling Voxativ neodymium drivers sounded so much more realistic with authentic echoes from a deep soundstage that transported me to the recording venue. I heard visceral lows, incredibly detailed voices; a beautiful mid-range and effortless highs that just floated off the speakers. The nearly distortion-free linearity of the H2 amp was quite apparent – I noticed a purity in the mids that I found very enjoyable. This was the sound of headphones through loudspeakers. I was transfixed and will join the chorus of persons who say that this approaches the ultimate. For me, it’s the best I have ever heard.

    That being said, I did notice a certain thinness in the delivery: less authoritative drum slam and slightly diminished body in general. Also, the digital nature of the H2 was laid bare without any interconnects or tubes to mellow the sound. So, it was gloriously transparent but at the same time …uncomfortably so. I returned my ZOTL to the mix and got back the ‘meat on the bones’ – as they say - but immediately sensed the loss of definition. Hmm. I wanted to go back to H2’s amp but its battery-based power supply just couldn’t provide the power (current) needed to move loudspeaker magnets with aplomb. Oh boy, what to suggest? Just add a subwoofer and call it a day? Upgrade to DAVE? Wait for Chord’s anticipated Digital Amps? For sure, once you have heard this kind of full transparency, there is no going back.

    Software Up-Sampling
    The H2’s ability to accept PCM768 and DSD512 means it can handle software up-sampled music and only the final conversion to analog is done by the H2’s pulse array hardware. The mediocre SoX up-sampler within JRiver easily ran on my laptop but produced vastly inferior audio. HQPlayer is a well-known media player with a very powerful up-sampling engine – arguably the best in the world. The most recent version includes ‘xtr’ filter options to mimic the ‘Chord Sound’ - says designer Jussi Laako. Despite Chord’s claims to the contrary, modern CPU’s are well capable of filtering at high tap counts and HQPlayer’s can run into the millions. Does this mean we can duplicate WTA filters and turn the H2 into a DAVE, or better? My laptop was not the most performant so I limited my tests to the PCM filters ‘poly-sync- xtr-mp’ with standard noise shaping – and these ran in real-time with no problem.

    The results were interesting. I’d say that HQPlayer produced files almost as smooth as DAVE and there was a bit more lushness to everything. I found the instruments sounded more natural and I believe I also heard a deeper and wider soundstage. But overall, the HQPlayer up-sampling was not as magical as the H2 on its own. This certainly warrants more experimentation. So, you can consider H2 to be both a fantastic up-sampling DAC voiced by Rob Watts or an excellent D/A output stage that can accept software up-sampled PCM or DSD.


    DAC COMPARISONS

    There is nothing double-blind or independently-verified about the comparison below. This is not a shoot-out but rather my considered opinions being as objective as I can.

    My first comparison was with the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red. Direct to amplifier the DFR sounded great and is a phenomenal implementation of the Sabre architecture. Say what you will about this el-cheapo, mass-market device, I’d rate the DFR as being about 70% of the H2 for sheer enjoyment. Although the DFR approaches the H2’s musicality, the H2 just dominates it with more and better details and convinces you of a much wider and deeper soundstage. H2 accurately portrays singers, instruments and layers of performers whereas the DFR was muted in comparison. The H2 just sounded more effortless and real. I don’t think I experienced listening fatigue with the DFR but the H2 certainly provided more pleasure and many more ‘suspension of disbelief’ moments.

    Next came the Antelope Pure-2. This is a professional grade Burr-Brown R2R DAC with the claim of accurate clocking by heating its clock crystal in a tiny on-board oven. The result was a very good sounding presentation with excellent details and timbre. However, on a busy choral or an orchestral flourish the Pure-2 was not as convincing as the H2 which just stood the music up as the real thing. The Pure-2 is a noble attempt to push the limits of classical audio engineering however I just did not want to listen to it after hearing the H2. Rob Watts has expounded on the challenges of R2R designs – that they have terrible noise-floor modulation and are very prone to jitter. These are words on paper but you can hear for yourself how Rob Watts design prowess allows the diminutive H2 to do more with less. Way more.

    PSAudio’s DirectStream Jr is an excellent desktop DAC – made more so with regular (and free) updates to their core FPGA - most recently a ‘Huron’ release – where Ted Smith (DSJ designer) has found, like Rob Watts, that he gets better transparency by removing any and all forms of signal correlated noise and jitter. The DSJ is very close to the H2 and after nearly two hours of back and forth listening it was basically a tie. The DSJ matched the H2 from the lows to the highs and through the details. I’ll raise two comments: (i) the DSJ presented itself as being every-so-slightly harsher with voices and wind instruments and was not as smoothly delineating of layers - whereas H2 perhaps had less low bass. And (ii), my sensitive speakers made the low level digital noise inherent in Ted’s design quite obvious. This is a known and natural side-effect of DSD DACs and perhaps made worse by my ZOTL’s lack of input coupling capacitor. I tried the DSJ gain adjustment but could not get rid of the hiss, hum and swishy sound I heard with my ear to the driver – even at zero volume with no inputs. It took a pre-amp and playing with the combined volume/gain controls to reduce the noise to a manageable level. In contrast, the H2 was absolutely quiet.

    The Copland DAC 215 is an well engineered Sabre 9018 implementation with a tube-based headphone amplifier. This is a very nice DAC and the tubes added some nice euphonics to the presentation. The Sabre32 architecture in the 215 is likely as good as it can be made to sound and I’d say that it matched the H2’s FPGA design for extracting detail and staging information. Where it falls down is in just not matching the musicality of the H2. The 215 certainly made a piano solo sound beautiful – however the H2 rendered a real piano. Its uncanny how the H2’s superior timing is able to find subtle nuances in the notes and draw you into the instrument and performer. I would love the 215 if I had not heard the H2.

    The Chord Dave was launched in 2015 as a revelation. Rob Watts pioneering work on WTA and noise shaping demonstrated that our ear/brain is capable of incredible discernment. All his knowledge was implemented in the expensive DAVE and I hoped H2, although a significant cost reduced version, had all the best bits. I did not have a DAVE for A/B listening tests but in my recent demo I played the same material through the same source and USB chain. The result? The H2 has many of the same traits but comes up frustratingly short of being in the same league. DAVE is so much smoother, richer and presents a much more expansive soundstage. And perhaps I should add the word ‘addictive’. Occasionally, on certain passages of music, I felt that the H2 might have matched what I heard on the DAVE …but overall, sorry, no, the H2 isn’t a DAVE. In defense of H2, I will say that the DAVE system I heard was probably twenty times the dollar value.


    CONCLUSION

    I don’t think audiophiles realize how amazing an achievement the Hugo2 is. It’s a marvel of digital audio engineering in miniature. A transportable cousin to the fantastic DAVE that delivers industry leading sound quality and reveals so much promise for the future of affordable high-end audio. As a desktop DAC replacement, Hugo2 presents a quandary for the interested buyer. Its not a traditional full-size ‘hand-built’ DAC with oversize capacitors and a toroid power supply. It’s a hyper-oversampling DAC in a world where purist NOS seems to be gaining favor. The Hugo2 is impossibly small and its simple glowing balls user interface an affront to the norm. Yet it’s a gloriously good sounding desktop DAC that squashes all and that should alarm the competition – who perhaps will never be able to attain the same levels of performance.

    The Hugo2 is not without faults. Even after two weeks of use I feel it’s still a touch bright and on my high efficiency resolving speakers the Hugo2 needed EQ and filter help to sound best. I know the DAVE has wonderfully natural highs and so did my previous 2Qute. And the Hugo2 can sound much less bright when its fed up-sampled content so I think there is a compromise in the design – perhaps to accommodate headphone characteristics. Also, the filter settings really don’t sound different enough – although, yes, the Red was somewhat less bright than the White. Perhaps this is another situation where a headphone electro-acoustical environment reveals more differences.

    I like listening to music through headphones but I love the ‘in-room’ loudspeaker experience. Its always seemed that the gulf between the two was characterized by huge differences in space requirements, costs and complications burdening the guy like me. My experiment with software up-sampling an Hugo2 driving loudspeakers directly to sonic nirvana gives me high hopes that my personal system can be simple and sound as good as the very best for a small fraction of the cost. The future of music is streaming and with a product like Hugo2 plus the imminent companion streamer then we’ve nearly reached a point of end game – for the industry and consumer.

    -- Daniel Mance


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  10. justrest
    4.5/5,
    "Perfection, Perfected."
    Pros - Amazingly detailed, Sound quality, Power, Solid Built Quality
    Cons - Battery life, Filters are not noticeable.
    I used both Hugo V1 and Mojo, we all know how successful Chord is on the market. When I first heard the Hugo V1, I rediscovered the meaning of imaging and layering. Hugo V1 was the best portable device I’ve ever listened to. Until now. Chord renewed and improved the legendary model and presented us the Hugo 2.

    Before the review shenanigans, I would like to thank to Chord and @Relic for the tour opportunity.

    You can read it also on quantumears.com



    Specifications & Highlights

    ● Chord Electronics Custom Xilinx Artix 7 FPGA Chipset

    ● 10 Element Pulse Array Design (49,152 Tap Length)

    ● Class A

    ● Incredibly low output impedance (0.025Ω)

    ● Power output @ 1kHz 1% THD: 94mW - 300Ω | 740mW - 32Ω | 1050mW- 8Ω

    ● It can be considered light for a DAC/AMP! Only 450 grams.

    [​IMG]

    Testing Equipment

    ● Earsonics S-EM9 with PW Single Core & Eros

    ● NocturnaL Atlantis

    ● Oriolus Forsteni with PW No.5

    ● AAW A3H Pro v2

    [​IMG]


    Accessories | Box

    Just like Hugo v1, v2 comes with a fairly durable, stylish cartoon box. Accessories are good. Here is the list of ‘em!

    ● Charger (Switchable Plugs)

    ● USB Cable

    ● Optical Cables

    ● Remote! (This one shocked me the most, it’s good touch, Chord!)



    Design | Build

    The design itself looks very good and build quality is top notch. Although I must say, I am not a huge fan of the ballsy design (pun intended).

    One other thing is I really like the little window located in the middle of the device. It’s a great touch and it feels like it’s the engineer’s signature. Rigid contour overall makes it look fierce and wild!

    [​IMG]

    Sound Signature

    The Hugo2 has this generally neutral sound with a touch of warmth. It’s a quite musical and high-resolution device.


    Treble;

    Treble became my favorite section of the audio spectrum thanks to Hugo 2. Very natural, well-spaced and it’s not laid back. You can hear instruments reaching their brightest point on the spectrum and somehow Hugo keeps them out of the “hot” area so no piercing crispness. The treble is smooth. I auditioned AC-DC - T.N.T album with Hugo 2 and S-EM9. It was an incredible experience. It had an amazingly clear presentation and there were no congestions, even in the fastest passages. You can hear every single bit of detail and layer in the timbre. When I listen to music using Hugo V1 or V2, I tend to listen the parts that has the most intense upper frequencies. I found myself listening to Le Trio Joubran, Ibrahim Maalouf and similar artists. Treble is just delightful!


    Mid

    Mid frequencies are tad forward. The note thickness is balanced beautifully. It is neither thick nor thin. I believe this greatly contributes to naturality. Mids are relaxed and they feel realistic. Detail level is really high, it doesn’t skip any micro details. Both male and female vocals are articulate and fluid.. I believe I can listen to Norah Jones all day long… The overall presentation is smooth and effortless, I did not notice any harshness in the upper mid section. I listened to Ibrahim Maalouf – True Sorry (one of my favorite test tracks) with the Hugo2 and violin guitar tone accuracy took my breath away.. I enjoyed every second of it.

    I don’t really have any complaints about of the midrange.


    Lows

    Lows are sufficiently prominent, natural, clear and detailed. Also, they are very controlled and tight. The lows are well defined and they are present enough but, honestly I would love to have a little more bass. Well, this is my personal preference of course. Bass quantity, in fact, very near to natural with a touch of warmth.

    When you compare bass against the rest of the spectrum, they are not extremely dominant and they do not overwhelm the other frequencies. There is no overpowered boom-like basshead crazy bass. Sub-bass has an average impact field. It does not hit from a wide area and It only goes deep when the track calls for it.


    Soundstage, Speed, Timing & Dynamics

    Hugo2 has quite a wide soundstage. Compared to Hugo 1, the soundstage is a tad more spacious and wide. Although the margin is small. Soundstage depth is also quite satisfactory. Instruments are scattered widely across the stage and the space between them eliminates any congestion. This helps with the speed and PRAT. Let’s talk about dynamics. Well. I’ve not heard anything quite like this. Maybe LPG. This department of Hugo 2 can be labelled as unrivaled.

    [​IMG]

    Comparisons



    vs. Chord Hugo 1

    Both devices are musical and technically very capable. Hugo2 is generally better than V1 in almost everything. Better transparency, wider soundstage and resolution... Power delivery is similar. With the S-EM9, I was listening at the “green” level with the Hugo v1. It did not change with Hugo 2. Micro detail revealment is better with Hugo 2, treble and mid section has increased articulacy. Margins are not huge though.


    vs. iDSD Black Label

    Black Label is a terrific DAC/AMP. Just like Hugo 2. I see them in different fields but I’ll say couple of things anyway. Both of the devices have relaxed, effortless sound with a dark background. iFi’s XBASS is magical. BL bass has the upper hand, it is more impactful and deep. Soundstage-wise Hugo 2 is more layered, more spacious and airy. I think they’re the top contenders of both price ranges. 500$ and 2000$. Both of em’, great buys!


    vs. LPG


    Dynamism and resolution. Both devices are absolutely great at this. Hugo 2 is tad more detailed and tad faster. LPG is a worthy rival but it falls short in mid section. Hugo 2 sounds very effortless and relaxed whereas the mid section of LPG feels stressed and aggressive. Also there is a huge soundstage difference. Hugo 2 has this wide headroom and airiness. LPG does not have this, at all. Depth-wise they’re on par.


    vs. AK120

    I listened to Ibrahim Maalouf - True Sorry with Hugo 2 and immediately I started to play with AK120.(I really love the AK120 and I won’t sell it) but sound was horrible when I listened. Muddy, treble was like a rolled-off, veiled. Of course, I am not comparing with AK120. I just want to know how good Hugo2 sounds when I listened head-to-head. The Hugo2 has a seriously amazing top end when it comes to the high frequencies and I'm afraid that there is no another device that can stand in front of the Hugo2 in portable devices territory.

    [​IMG]


    Verdict

    Hugo 2. Did I like it? Definitely, yes. It is very desirable. Built like a tank, top tier sound quality, and you can use it as DAC on almost all devices.

    Still, I have several complaints about the device;

    First one is about the filters. Hugo2 comes with 4 different sound filters.

    ● 1th- Dave/Reference filter (White),

    ● 2nd - HF roll off (Green),

    ● 3th - Mojo filter (Orange),

    ● 4th - Mojo HF + (High Frequency roll off) (Red)

    When I tried to change these filters while playing music, I could hardly feel the sound differences between them. The change of sound was very subtle. I auditioned those filters with all the IEMs I have but the result was almost the same. Filters just had subtle differences and unfortunately, I did not find them very functional.

    My second complaint is about the battery life. The battery life is about one hour less than the Hugo 1. I think, maybe the new “light-balls” are shortening the battery life. They’re so lit that you can even use the device as a nightlight beside your bed. (or signal the batman, dunno)

    Apart from those, there is nothing I’d count as a weakness. I cannot easily say “Throw your V1 into the garbage, get a V2!” Hugo V1 is already a very good device and it can be found at fairly affordable prices.

    To finalize, I can say that Hugo2 is a great little product from Chord and it’s definitely a good buy!