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Chord Hugo 2

  1. Rhamnetin
    Extraordinary At Home or On the Go
    Written by Rhamnetin
    Published Aug 18, 2018
    Pros - Incredible transparency and detail, very revealing DAC. Will make the entire frequency spectrum so much more transparent on a revealing enough system.
    - Breathtaking attack, speed, crispness, and decay.
    - Wonderfully clean, airy treble.
    - Extraordinary three dimensional sound stage and precise imaging.
    - Bass monster without artificial boosting required. With a no compromise system, makes the Stax SR-009 slam home.
    - Class A output stage, very good single ended headphone amp even for less efficient planar magnetic headphones like Fostex T50RP and its variations.
    - Portable form factor with long battery life.
    - Good amount of input selections and three analog outputs.
    - Excellent aluminum build quality and aesthetics. Chord makes some of the most gorgeous audio products.
    Cons - It's expensive (some will take issue with the price relative to the amount of hardware inside), but based on my experience I think I would prefer it to all DACs at any price point, except for Chord's own Hugo TT 2 and DAVE.
    Not only is the Chord Hugo 2 simply the best portable DAC/amp on the market right now, it is flat out the best DAC I have heard to date, surpassing much bigger, heavier, balanced DACs to my ears.

    Reviewing a DAC might seem tricky at first, but I don't believe it will be for the Hugo 2. The improvements it adds to most systems I've used is night and day. I will write about the Hugo 2's sound in the following systems:
    • Standalone portable DAC/amp powering the ZMF Ori and Blackwood headphones.
    • DAC for the following headphone system: Mjolnir Audio Pure BiPolar amp, Audeze LCD-4 headphones (200 ohms version), Kimber Kable Hero interconnects
    • DAC for the following headphone system: Mjolnir Audio KGSSHV Carbon amp, Stax SR-009 headphones, Kimber Kable Hero interconnects
    Other DACs of note I have owned are the Bel Canto DAC 3 (used only in balanced mode), Chord Mojo, and Denafrips Venus (used only in balanced mode). An interesting sample set as the Bel Canto DAC 3 represents a high end, more traditional delta sigma DAC, and the Denafrips Venus represents one of the better R2R DACs one can buy and offers both NOS and OS modes.


    I will not delve too much into how to use the device; it is button controlled but also has a remote control that I have never used. It has a 3.5mm coaxial input (44.1kHz – 384kHz – 16bit – 32bit), micro USB input (44.1kHz – 768kHz – 16bit – 32bit), optical TOSLINK input (44.1kHz – 192kHz – 16bit – 24bit), and bluetooth (44.1kHz – 48kHz – 16bit). It also supports dual BNC input via adapters using its 3.5mm coaxial input (44.1kHz – 768kHz – 16bit – 32bit). It also supports DSD64 (Single) to DSD512 (Octa-DSD). I have tested only optical TOSLINK (fed by a Breeze DU-U8 level 3) and USB directly from a Samsung Galaxy S9+, and I hear no difference.

    The Chord Hugo 2 is battery powered (2x Rechargeable custom Enix Energies 3.7v 9.6Wh Li-ion (lithium-ion (2600mAh) batteries) which is charged using its other micro USB input. You can keep it plugged in without worry of overcharging, the Hugo 2 is a very intelligent device. It will even automatically set itself into a desktop mode if left plugged in for 24 hours, during which the battery neither charges nor discharges and auto shutoff is disabled.

    It can be set to line level output which is fixed at 3v RMS, which is ideal if using it only as a DAC. The Hugo 2 features two headphone jacks (1/4" and 1/8") and dual RCA outputs, and the output stage is pure class A.

    General Tonality

    The Hugo 2 is a neutral sounding device that is extremely transparent and resolving. Not laid back at all like R2R DACs or the Chord Mojo, it does not refrain from making all details extremely obvious. And it is a bass monster; if you are upgrading to the Hugo 2, expect a new body of bass dimension and much more bass slam to be added.

    Of all the DACs I have owned (refer to the significant ones listed above), the Hugo 2 is the bassiest of them all, and it is not artificial bass boost, it is simply not recessing these frequencies. It sounds closest in tonality to the Bel Canto DAC 3, while the Chord Mojo and Denafrips Venus are both notably laid back with 1-2 KHz less treble extension (the DAC 3 also has 1-2 KHz less treble extension but isn't laid back sounding).

    Those trying to create a laid back sound system (which is very common among high end audio enthusiasts) will have to plan around the Hugo 2 not being laid back whatsoever. I don't call it bright, it's just not laid back.

    So it is neutral, extremely transparent and resolving, and has awesome bass. What else? It also has zero noise floor, breathtakingly clean treble performance when the rest of the system can keep up (this is very important), and incredibly full bodied, weighty, impactful sound for all instruments unlike every other DAC I have owned. Strings, piano, wind instruments, horns, everything sounds and feels as if there is no barrier between me and them, as if they are right there in front of me and I can reach out and touch them - this is of course with the Stax SR-009, KGSSHV Carbon, and Kimber Kable Hero interconnects. The attack is so quick and crisp and clean, the decay is much faster, adding to the transparency, snappiness, speed, and PRaT. Other DACs sound sluggish and blurred in comparison.


    Other noteworthy attributes of the Hugo 2's sound are incredible 3D sound stage and imaging, far outdoing every other DAC I've owned here too. This may all sound like exaggeration, that a DAC can make such huge differences, but I will clarify: the differences are much less pronounced on non-electrostatic headphone systems. But when used with my Stax SR-009 + KGSSHV Carbon system with quality analog interconnects, every aspect of the sound is infinitely better than any other DAC I have owned!

    But notice my emphasis on the rest of the system being up to par. If using generic interconnects or Audioquest Evergreen interconnects in the Stax SR-009 + KGSSHV Carbon system, there is notable treble harshness and sibilance. The same would occur if I had a much lower end amplifier I assume. But, insert the Kimber Kable Hero interconnects, and the difference is night and day, pure magic. No more harshness, no more sibilance, so much more airiness and so much better bass slam and body, instrumental impact and weight, sound stage and imaging, attack, decay, transparency, treble extension.

    So if you're hearing rough treble, it's not the Hugo 2's fault, it is something else in your system.

    The filters do make obvious changes to the sound, sacrificing treble for all the people overly sensitive to it. Crossfeed presents an interesting sound stage that is more centered and in front of you, but with any of these filters I hear some degradation in transparency and refinement, so I use none.

    As a Standalone Portable Device

    When using the Hugo 2 as a standalone device, it is supremely impressive. Of the three test systems listed above, this is the 2nd most impressive (and I expected it to be most impressive here, but I was wrong). True Hi-Fi sound in your pocket, or bag more realistically. Only in the modern era do we get to carry around a top notch DAC and high end single ended class A headphone amp bundled in one device. For this reason, I have referred to the Hugo 2 as a necessity for any traveling music lover.

    The Chord Hugo 2 alone allows the ZMF Ori and ZMF Blackwood, which are inefficient planar magnetic headphones, to truly shine. Compared to the Chord Mojo as a standalone device, I hear the following differences:
    • Less laid back sound signature, upper mids to treble transition is more forward.
    • Significantly cleaner upper mids to treble transition and treble response, better treble extension and a bit more "air".
    • Greatly increased bass slam, bass is now much more full bodied and less recessed (biggest difference to me).
    • Improved transparency.
    • Slightly improved sound stage and imaging but nothing significant here to my ears with this system.
    I felt the Hugo 2 was definitely worth the price difference vs the Mojo. Truly high end sound on the go, it's still hard to believe today how good portable sound can be nowadays.

    The Hugo 2 also made my Schiit Lyr 3 at the time redundant, so I sold it. Adding the Lyr 3 to the chain with these headphones just slightly worsened the transparency of the upper frequencies if anything, not a big difference though.

    But adding a good enough amp will of course come in handy. The Mjolnir Audio Pure BiPolar brought the ZMF Ori and Blackwood to a different level, as my review of those headphones describes.

    As a Standalone Desktop DAC
    This is the only way I use the Hugo 2 now. I don't even listen to music on the go anymore, because I've been so spoiled by the Chord Hugo 2 + Mjolnir Audio KGSSHV Carbon + Stax SR-009 + good interconnects that I no longer want to listen to anything below this.

    But first, let me share my experience using the Hugo 2 with a high end non-electrostatic system, the Mjolnir Audio Pure BiPolar + Audeze LCD-4 using Kimber Kable Hero RCA interconnects with Neutrik RCA to XLR adapters. With this system, I compared it again to the Chord Mojo, and my impressions were... exactly the same as my impressions in the previous section, only less pronounced.


    The sound was slightly less laid back again, with improved and more forward upper mids to treble, with more "airy" sound. The bass improvements were still there, but less pronounced - it was a night and day difference before, but now not quite that. The difference in transparency was there but not as huge, sound stage and imaging improvements seemed about the same though.

    I don't think the Hugo 2 is worth the price difference when using something akin to the Mjolnir Audio Pure BiPolar amp and Audeze LCD-4 or ZMF Ori/Blackwood headphones, but keep in mind these headphones are deliberately designed to not be the most revealing sound. A Focal Utopia with this same amp would certainly benefit more from the Hugo 2.

    With an Extremely Revealing System
    Enter the Stax SR-009, Mjolnir Audio KGSSHV Carbon, and Kimber Kable Hero interconnects (same as above). Some have noticed that I can't shut up about this combination here on Head-Fi. There's a reason for that, never before have I been blown away by an audio system or any audio upgrade that much. Not even when going from a Cooler Master "5.1" gaming headset to the AKG K7xx / Beyerdynamic DT 880, not even when comparing a Sennheiser HD 598 Cs to a Sennheiser HD 800/HD 800 S.

    This Stax system is what made me really want to write this review. It makes the difference in analog interconnects and especially DACs infinitely more obvious than any non-electrostatic system. This system is why the only DACs I will ever use have to be from Chord Electronics. I will only use the Hugo 2, Hugo TT 2, DAVE, and any successors from now on, and never will I use interconnects below Kimber Kable Hero (in fact I will start exploring top tier interconnects soon).

    The Chord Mojo is great for the price, but absolutely ruins this system. Honestly, anything other than the Hugo 2, presumably Hugo TT 2 and DAVE, and maybe Qutest will ruin this system to my ears. With the Mojo, the treble sounds like it's locked away in a cardboard box, all that air up top is trapped. Transparency is way down, many details are far less obvious, bass is gone, sound stage is now flat and two dimensional and seems to extend nowhere. Imaging is blurred and generic, the opposite of precise. And the Mojo is probably the best DAC below $1,000 (pretty sure I'd think so at least).

    In this system, the Denafrips Venus sounds like a much better, cleaner version of the Chord Mojo. The Venus is in the same price range as the Hugo 2 and is a beast of engineering: isolated dual mono PSU with two huge power transformers, four 0.005% precision matched resistor ladders per channel allowing for 26-bit PCM and fully balanced 4.4v RMS output, excellent digital processing. Impressive engineering for the price.

    But compared to the Hugo 2, it is too laid back, and I believe this speaks for most R2R DACs, since it is not deliberately designed to sound this way, and it reminds me of how the Holo Audio Spring DAC level 3 sounds. A lot of people will like this about it, laid back "slow" sound is really popular these days, but I prefer what sounds more realistic to me.

    This laid back sound from the Venus not only really lowers treble response (but without ruining it like admittedly even the Mojo does, since this is comparing a $500 DAC to DACs valued at over 5x after all) and extension by 1-2 KHz, it really blurs/soften the attack, slows decay, and oddly/unfortunately lowers bass presence and impact, creating a slower softer sound with less PRaT. Plenty of people like this (see all the HE1000 fans), but this reduces transparency. The SR-009 stands out for its speed, attack, crispness and clarity, and is a bass monster with the Hugo 2 and good interconnects.

    Ultimately this system allows the Chord Hugo 2 to shine, demonstrating that it is incredibly transparent with superior treble extension and quality, and compared to every other DAC I've owned, is so significantly superior in bass slam and body, sound stage, imaging, bringing out detail. If you have not seen my extremely positive review of the Stax SR-009, check it out here, and realize that a Chord Hugo 2, or presumably the Hugo TT 2 or DAVE, is required for that review to be so positive. And so are interconnects at least as good as the Kimber Kable Hero, because even with the Hugo 2, so much of that magic is lost with cheap interconnects!

    On a no-compromise system, the Hugo 2 injects layers of transparency into the entire frequency range like nothing I have ever heard before. The way it is able to not only clean up any treble harshness, make the attack much crisper and cleaner, and speed up and improve decay, but it is truly extraordinary how much cleaner and more transparent bass, mids, and treble all become. It opens up a window into the music that was previously sealed shut. Its improvements are hugely evident in all genres, and probably the most impressive to me in metal. Without the Hugo 2, instruments sound so much smaller and softer and less clear.

    My next DAC will be a Hugo 2 TT, and I will eventually get a Hugo M Scaler for it. It sounds to me like Chord DACs (Hugo 2 and above) are the only ones that sound "right," it seems as if Chord not only has the best formula for DACs, but it's a formula that allows for such quality to be made in a portable form factor. Seems too good to be true, so I am very thankful for these products.
      teknorob23, zdrvr, Pokemonn and 5 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Rhamnetin
      alota - Most if not all amps for Stax headphones convert single ended signal into balanced, so you just need RCA interconnects with XLR adapters.

      Currently though I am actually using Kimber Kable Silver Streak Balanced interconnects with RCA on one side and XLR on the other; I requested this directly from Kimber who happily obliged, but thecableco will also do this.

      Rhamnetin, Aug 23, 2018
      alota likes this.
    3. alota
      thank you. really interesting. i didn´t know this. i thought that Dr. Gilmore amplifiers accepted only balanced input. so i presume that the output voltage of hugo 2(and qutest) it´s enough for the amplifier.
      alota, Aug 23, 2018
    4. Rhamnetin
      @alota Definitely, 3v RMS is a fine and more typical value. With the KGSSHV Carbon and SR-009, my volume is always between 9 and 10 o'clock so tons of room to spare. The 4.4v RMS Denafrips Venus had me lowering the volume even more but it didn't matter in the end.
      Rhamnetin, Aug 23, 2018
      alota likes this.
  2. ngoshawk
    Hugo2 yougo there, but take H2 with you anywhere..
    Written by ngoshawk
    Published Jan 4, 2018
    Pros - Small transportable. Stellar sound out of any source. Colored light scheme is logical, once you understand. Superb imaging and sound signature.
    Cons - The "see-through" of the two halves. Not much else. Somewhat costly for a portable, but once heard....well...
    Chord Hugo 2-5.0


    Initial impressions:

    Upon finding out I was on the tour, I was pretty psyched. I was in somewhat of a lull, review-wise; so the addition of such a lauded component was a definite boost to my repertoire. I anxiously awaited, but was quickly distracted finishing other worthy equipment, in the review department. And as such, life took hold and distracted me mightily from almost any reviews. Thankfully, I am back, albeit in a different form, and with different goals (mostly), thus this may be somewhat a departure from my previous reviews, but the rough-“edge” will still be there…me hopes…

    The Chord Hugo 2 retails for $2,379, and with the reputation of the first gen Hugo, and worldwide acclaim of the Mojo, high hopes were anticipated. Maybe not in the Apple iPhone X-genre, but the enthusiasm from the portable/desktop community was just as fervent. A fact I found upon my many readings while waiting for the critter to arrive in Middle America, USA.

    Having never heard either the original or the Mojo, I was cautiously optimistic. I am a huge fan of UK stereo equipment, owning the wonderful Arcam AVR350 (called The Answer in some reviews…), which plays through our ProAc Tablette 8’s Signature Series, Paradigm sub (Canadian, I know…) and my Linn Sondek Axis TT. Not TOTL, but enough to make me appreciate the finer aspects of each company. To me my next upgrade, would be McIntosh, plain and simple. So, if you have not figured it out, I do appreciate a warmer signature. My portable gear echoes this, through my Shanling M1/M3s/M5, and iFi iDSD Micro BL/iTubes2/iDAC2. The Hugo 2 would be an excellent chance to add to my listening field, while hopefully garnering experience as to what a TOTL DAC/AMP should sound like. The closest I have come is the ampsandsounds Kenzie, which I would purchase in a heartbeat, had I the space to properly set up such a system. My BL is a quite acceptable substitute in the mean time.

    Going back a bit (I hate to say old school, but I did of course throw in Stevie Ray Vaughan), I mainly listened to older Coldplay songs during my time, including the incredible YouTube vid of Technicolor ii. What a visual masterpiece, and throwback all at the same time. The Puppetry is first class and exemplary. Timing, scenery, and visuals themselves are enough to put a smile on Oscar the Grouches face, even with the filming faux pas.


    Over and over I listened and watched that wonderful song. Just fabulous, and quite a parallel to the point at which I am in my life right now. PM me, and I might fill you in…a bit…

    Follow that with Sky Full of Stars, and I do harken back (again) to my son’s College Freshman year playing soccer. Ahhh…memories. And they are National Champions to boot. Uplifting, challenging music for most anything worth it’s weight, both were exemplary through the H2, and I began to feel like I was becoming indoctrinated into a small fervent, passionate club of aficionados, and I was glad. Glad indeed to be chosen for this, and hope of worthiness, that my review would befit the H2’s sound. It was a good start.

    This is what I thought, as I went for my run, a thunderstorm approaching. I delved deep into the lesser knownst of what I do not know of the H2, and all that I had read up to this point. Trying to decipher what I had read, trying to understand what I did not, as the bolts flashed around me. Quickening my pace (a bit), to match the rain, I began to understand the impassioned following of the Chord club. I understood that to purchase and own a Chord product was a major step for some, a “cliquish” thing for others, but most not without thought and questions similar to mine. Will this be all I need? Will this work with what I have? How will it sound with my XYZ2-c headphones? The questions rolled at me almost as fast as rain and lightning. Luckily, I was on the return and did not get too wet. I would not have cared. As I entered the abode known as ours, my wife smiled lovingly at me knowing full well that I had accomplished more than “just a run.” Glad, indeed.


    Testing equipment:

    MacBook Pro (mainly)

    iFi Micro iDSD Black Label

    iFi iTubes2/iDAC2 added into my gear, but not tested directly against the H2

    Unique Melody Martian

    Grado GH-2

    Audioquest Nightowl

    Shanling M1 (Bluetooth)

    iPhone 6+ (Bluetooth)

    While I did try portable DAP’s, I decided my main focus should be where I would most likely use the critter in Q, a desktop situation. While I did read a fair bit about Transportability of the H2, and I would most definitely use the H2 in that manner, this would mainly be a desktop situation for my purposes. And a worthy one it would be…

    Befuddlement turned to paucity of appreciation at the orientation light-wise on the buttons. Once you realize (Thanks @-RELIC-!) that the color combination works like a light spectrum from “cold” to “hot,” a logical sequence is followed. The Scientist in me should have thought about that, but....


    Specs of the Unit are from Chord's Website:

    Technical specifications:

    Chipset: Chord Electronics custom coded Xilinx Artix 7 (XC7A15T) FPGA

    Tap-length: 49,152

    Pulse array: 10-element pulse array design

    Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz +/- 0.2dB

    Output stage: Class A

    Output impedance: 0.025Ω

    THD: <0.0001% 1kHz 3v RMS 300Ω

    THD and noise at 3v RMS: 120dB at 1kHz 300ohms ‘A’ wighted (reference 5.3v)

    Noise 2.6 uV ‘A’ weighted: No measurable noise floor modulation

    Signal to noise ratio: 126dB ‘A’ Weighted

    Channel separation: 135dB at 1kHz 300Ω

    Power output @ 1kHz 1% THD: 94mW 300Ω

    740mW 32Ω

    1050mW 8Ω

    Weight: 450g

    Dimensions: 130mm (L) x 100mm (W) x 21mm (H)

    Boxed Dimensions: 220mm (L) x 122mm (W) x 85mm (H)


    Music used:

    Coldplay- Technicolor ii

    Coldplay- Sky Full of Stars

    Coldplay- White Shadows

    Coldplay- Paradise

    Coldplay- Lover’s in Japan

    SRV- Mary Had A Little Lamb

    SRV- Look at Little Sister

    Daft Punk- Give Life Back to Music

    Daft Punk- Giorgio from Moroder

    Daft Punk- Beyond

    Daft Punk- Motherboard

    Build qualities/opening:

    I was a might bit surprised at how small (but a bit hefty) the H2 was, upon opening the box. A tad heavier than my iFi BL, but not overly heavy in my book. Lighter than a decent Smartphone extra battery charging pack, certainly. As RELIC pointed out, both tour units had slightly mismatched aluminum halves. As such, the “light show” shown through the gap. Not bad mind you, but at this price I would hope the QC would tighten up for production. One aspect I did like was that looking through the RCA connections on the back. You had the distinct pleasure of staring Wall e in the face…to me anyway. And we really like that movie, too.


    Also mentioned were the loose fitting buttons on the top end for the main controls. Again, I do not mind that much, but would hope for a bit better fit. That said (and others have, too), the volume wheel rotates tightly and with good authority. Other connections were tight, and solid from the dual RCA connections to the 3.5 and 6.5mm headphone jacks. Even to me, the USB connection on the front was on par with other devices I have tried. Overall, I would rate build/fit-n-finish a “B,” and would hope future iterations attained that “A” level. And we all know the sound is what we are after…that sound. And I can concur with the other reviews right off the bat; the sound is definitely at the head of the class. In fact, this could be considered that star student who went away for the summer, and came back even stronger academically, having spent the summer doing snow-melt research in the Antarctic, or something worthy of their time. Reading parts of reviews, which shared the comparisons between both versions, I can concur only that the H2 is nie-on phenomenal. And if this is a step up from the H1, then that is a certain accomplishment.


    Switching between my Grado GH-2’s and the Unique Melody Martian was simply put, a treat. Then throw in the Audioquest Nightowl’s, and I was one satisfied listener. Easily switching between headphones, and listening formats, the H2 did all of that with nary a qualm. Change headphones? No problem. Change from RCA to Coax to Bluetooth? No problem. The majority of my time was spent with the Martian, due to family considerations, but when I was able to open the Grado or Nightowl up, let’s just say, that my wife would not approve of my volume choice! All the while no signs of distress, or overburdening of the H2. No sibilance, no going over the threshold, the H2 just worked. I like devices that just work. No fuss, no messing with hook ups, do your job, behind the scenes, and let me enjoy. The H2 did this with not a hint of argument. Over and over and over I listened and watched Coldplay’s Technicolor ii, gaping at that puppet mastery. Marveling at the doltishness of the adults. The sheer wonder in the eyes of the kids. I found myself enjoying the song through the bespeckled eyes of the young girl in the video. The one who KNEW what a treat this was, and that it was as real as she needed it to be. The adults did not…It was real. It was music, and it was pure. It was marvelous…

    A good bit has been written about how the H2 presents a detailed listening environment. And I would concur. The level of detail is such, that one can easily pick out exactly where the instruments and vocals are on stage, or in the studio versions. Presentation from the Engineers product is exactly as it should be…where said Engineer intended it to be. Every breath, every note, every pluck of the guitar, or slap of the drumstick is clear and concise. Detailed, and full of an almost explosive sound. Not the best interpretation, but if you pay attention to the small details in Technicolor ii, then you get it. There are small details (intentionally placed), which one might not actually see, due to the visual appeal of the overall video. But with the H2 going, you cannot miss them. That cymbal falling (and subsequently picked up by the roadie), the conversation details going on behind the show (before the song actually gets completely going, during the India-detailed opening), or hearing the chains move of the “scenery.” All parts are full and detailed more than almost anything I can remember. This is good stuff, indeed.

    During Talk, by Coldplay, hearing Chris Martin enunciate syllables perfectly is a fantastic treat to the already wonderful videos. I cannot stress this enough, the level of detail along with the embodied soundstage is extremely impressive. I can honestly state that I have not heard this combination of detail and soundstage before. I could just state that this is the most detailed I have heard the music in which I listen, and end my review right there….right…bloody…there.

    But what is the fun in that? One must justify ones position, otherwise ye be knownst as a crackpot. And I hope to dispel that “rumor.” I am becoming enamored with this little critter known as the H2, and am beginning to understand how versatile this is, period.


    Running the filters at the various settings, I could not really tell a difference, as some have mentioned. I would state that I thought I could between filter out and setting three, but I cannot logically verify that, so I am calling it a wash; especially with my high-end hearing loss.

    Unsure I was hearing the big difference others had heard, I fell back to a standby album Daft Punk’s excellent (and varied) Random Access Memories. A solid bass would be an insulting-way to describe the album’s foundation. Bass, which IS the underlying foundation allows the Moog synthesizer, drums and assorted support instruments (electronic and “real”) to indeed come out and play. Inside the H2’s electronic gismos, I swear I can see the capacitors jamming like a fine German Discotheque. One where all are admitted, you simply sit back grab your drink and enjoy. Tight bass, like no other DAC/AMP I have used defines this foundation to me. While still running that slightly-too-small-for-me sound stage, this can be forgiven because the sound is so pure and clean. BLACK background without ANY hiss is not something to be shy about when mentioning the H2.


    That almost blackness of trepidation, or anticipation, or heart pumping like a horror show at what might be lurking around the corner is how I would describe the H2/Daft Punk union. Scary from the outside, but once in, you marvel sit back grab your single-malt scotch, and simply say cooooooll. That smile of now knowing what it is like to be on the inside of one of the best DAC/AMP’s out there, pretty much regardless of price. And let me tell you, that Scotch was darn fine inside that aural psychedelically lit disco. Just incredible, it is.



    Running through more music fit for the H2, the above-mentioned script holds. SRV’s masterpiece, Mary Has A Little Lamb from Austin City Limits is timeless and nie on worthy of inclusion into that “Disco.” As is the effortless Look at Little Sister, replete with the seamless guitar change. Another Scotch verifies the coooool nature of where you stand in the crowd. The hierarchy of DAC/AMP-ness. It is as if I have been invited into an extremely exclusive club for as long as I want. As long as I can stand the inclusion. All of my other gear gets ignored. Not to exclude them, like they are not worthy of accompanying me, but because I must devote full attention to the H2. After all, I was invited into the H2 abode, without reservation, and without recourse. My other gear understands, knowing I will appreciate them all the more after my night at the Disco ends with a hangover. Not from the Scotch, but the intoxicating vibes of the music provided in that Disco. Daft Punk, SRV, Coldplay and twentyonepilots reverb through my cranial matter for days after. My only recourse is to play my music again, through my gear. A reminder of what we have, what we could have and where this industry has gone. Skyward, while staying underground in discos such as the H2, or Mojo. Not secrets, mind you, but tickets needed. Tickets with which you must be invited. None are exempt mind you, but some will not take that ticket, be they afraid of the cost (most spend more on vacations than this…), or the trepidation (unfounded what with Chord’s history of the Hugo & Mojo, transportable-wise), or the lack of understanding as to what this little Disco can do (more than I could state here, but others more worthy than I have penned such words and experience), or simply for the lack of “need” (ummm…drawing a blank here, what exactly do we NEED in order to enjoy our music; but this would rank at the top of that “need” list). And it would be a shame not to for they miss a night, which would go down in their memory neurons as worthy of imprints upon that gray matter. I had a night in St. Louis like that many moons ago, and I still recall it as if it was yesterday…much like the H2, once it leaves…

    As I finish my time with the H2, I play Coldplay (anything and everything…) through my iPhone 6+ and the H2, ending in my Martians. I marvel at how good the music actually sounds. I am awash with mixed feelings…how can something so small sound so darn good? And actually make the Smartphone sound very decent? Awash with the price, too…you certainly pay a premium price for this sound. $2400 US is not small change by any means. Personally, I put together a very worthy iFi system for less than ½ the price, and with as many configurations, too. But for those who marveled at the H1, and the Mojo, they will probably gladly pony up the money, knowing (well before I…) the reputation Chord had for such fine products (home and portable). To those users, they will not think twice. Unfortunately I did, and ended up with the system I more than happily use, without regret or recourse. I would, though take an H2 in a minute, should the finances be available. It is quite good, and well worth a look for those that like the quality sound it presents, and want an all-in-one package.


    I want to thank RELIC & Barra for inclusion in this fine tour. I bring up the rear, which isn’t at all bad. I have had the pleasure of reading the thread, and the reviews the most as a result. Plus, my time has extended a bit (oopps!) as an upshot, too. I heartily thank Chord for the use of their excellent Hugo 2, and wholeheartedly recommend the H2. It does cost a pretty penny, but as stated above and here, if we cannot enjoy our music, we have lost part of our soul. The H2 is that top class Discotheque where you go in knowing you must be in a pretty exclusive place, but the patrons do not act that way. They welcome you, fill your single-malt and tell you to sit back and enjoy, like no night you have before. It was worth the dressing up, too.

      Henrikfi and proedros like this.
  3. ray-dude
    DAC Quest: Chord Hugo2 vs Mojo/DAVE & Chord Magic
    Written by ray-dude
    Published Nov 12, 2017
    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.

    UPDATE: I did not have my Blu2 in time for this review (I originally wanted to do a comprehensive review of the Chord Mojo to Hugo2 to DAVE to BluHugo2 to BluDAVE), but have since received it, and posted a second part to this review covering all things Blu. You can find it here: https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/chord-blu-mk-ii-digital-cd-transport.22848/reviews#review-19675


    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?


    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.


    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)


    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.


    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.

    • 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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    1. adcustom
      Wow, this review is incredible. Standing ovation.
      adcustom, Jan 16, 2018
    2. apmusson
      Amazing review. Love the comparison and your description of the differences. Also I've added a number of your test tracks to my library.
      apmusson, Aug 1, 2018
      Jimbo2me likes this.
  4. Malfunkt
    Chord Hugo 2 - uncompromising, beyond transparency
    Written by Malfunkt
    Published Oct 20, 2017
    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.


    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.


    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.


    1. hugo2.jpg
      x RELIC x likes this.
  5. makan
    Truly a desktop replacement
    Written by makan
    Published Oct 18, 2017
    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.

  6. howdy
    Written by howdy
    Published Oct 17, 2017
    Pros - Sound!!! Sound!!!
    Cons - Price and Build quality for this price

    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.

      Wildcatsare1 and x RELIC x like this.
  7. betula
    Chord Mojo vs. Chord Hugo2
    Written by betula
    Published Oct 12, 2017
    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.


    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.


    (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.)


    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.


    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.



    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.



    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.
      proedros, ZappaMan, YtseJamer and 9 others like this.
  8. highfell
    This is nearly as good as it can get
    Written by highfell
    Published Oct 10, 2017
    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.


    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.


    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)
      proedros, commtrd, x RELIC x and 6 others like this.
  9. Mediahound
    Sweetly Resolving
    Written by Mediahound
    Published Oct 4, 2017
    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:


    1. 22157233_113931459359983_4790853358023868416_n.jpg
  10. jarnopp
    Hugo2 vs Mojo
    Written by jarnopp
    Published Sep 30, 2017
    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.)


    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.


    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.


    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.



    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.


    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.

      proedros, commtrd, x RELIC x and 5 others like this.