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Chord Hugo TT

Rating:
4.75/5,
  1. tassardar
    Hugo has grown up!
    Written by tassardar
    Published Jun 22, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - A Hugo with vastly improved amplification stage
    Cons - The price compared to Hugo
    I bought the Hugo TT from my local retailer AVOne. Their service is fantastic. The set I purchased is an all black set.
     
    The TT is not the brother of Hugo, its Hugo that grew up and went for some weight training!
     
    The short summary: Hugo grew up with a larger box and a much more capable amp stage. The same boy that built up some mass to wrestle the harder to drive headphones.
     
    Now for the full review:
     
    Hugo TT is the table top (TT) incarnation of the Hugo. It comes now in a much bigger box, with it a remote to control it and a much larger battery that will let it probably last a long time before charging is required.
     
    Design:
    The TT I got is a all black edition. Similar to the Hugo, there is a top panel to see the spartan chip and a little knob with color coded volume. The TT now comes with an additional front panel that shows which input is selected and how much crossfeed is done. Package together is a really nicely made controller that allows selection of input and volume. Personally the remote is even better built then the TT itself. The TT build is a box that is solid unlike other chord product. The big issue however is the side acrylic panel that houses the bluetooth antenna. Out of the box, you can see hairline scratches and no plastic sheet to protect it. This is probably the mot contentious point of buying a brand new TT and not finding it look pristine especially at its price point. That said everything else is all fine and well. Maybe the buttons should have less wiggle, but overall there is very little complain on it. Maybe a nicer design that fits with the ports tighter will give it an even more premium feel.
     
    The TT comes with the following inputs:
    2 USB (SD/HD)
    1 Optical
    1 BNC Coaxial
     
    Outputs:
    2 6,3mm Stereo 
    1 3.5mm Stereo
    1 Pair of RCA 
    1 Pair of XLR
     
    The XLR are probably the biggest addition to the TT. Do note, plugging the XLR and the RCA to same amp seems to overload something that results the need of the TT to be restarted with one of the terminals plug out to work.
     
    Operations are similar to the Hugo, with front buttons doing the input selection and crossfeed. The on off switch is placed at the bottom center of the TT. The remote can control the input and volume, however it does not have the ability to power on and off the device. 
     
    Sound:
     
    Headphones:
    HD800S
    KSE1500
     
    Other devices used:
    Hugo
    ALO CDM
    Cayin IHA-6
    iPad Pro as Source
     
    Songs used:
    Hotel California
    Gate
    Songs from Suara
    Songs from Susan Wong
     
    So how does the TT sound? Wide, Airy, Sparkling Treble, Tight Bass. Its technically everything Hugo is and better. 
     
    Using the HD800S
     
    Vocal tracks of Suara and Susan Wong, they seem to span the entire front of the listener. The vocals felt relax and airy, similar to how it feels when someone is doing it live, with no strain and totally effortless. One can just feel immersed in the vocals from the start to the end.
     
    Sound stage with the HD800S and TT it may be as good as it gets. Non of my other amp gives a wider field then just the Hugo itself. 
     
    Transient is exceptionally fast, everything felt like is moving along naturally in good pace. Be it the violin in a complex track or the vocals with a back ground mid bass constantly playing off, everything feels right in place and never one step too slow. 
     
    Effortless feeling regardless on how intense a track is. In Gate, where there is guitar, vocals and a strong bass that was going off at multiple beats per second, everything still felt effortless, without any feeling of strain. The sound never felt like it is going to run out energy.
     
    Bass is tight, tighter then running of any amp I have. Most other devices I heard would have portrayed it as one large bass thump, but with the TT, you can pinpoint the exact point of impact followed by the deep decay that follows.
     
    Treble is filled with energy and sparkles. From Powder Snow sung by Suara, the Japanese bells have a realistic texture and great decay. I do notice sometime on certain tracks, hot treble could be detected but that may just be TT being less forgiving in that range then the other dacs/amps
     
    Compared to the CDM using the HD800S as a AMP/DAC: (I reviewed this previous)
    The CDM has a warmer tone with a more intimate sound. Vocals off it feels closer like a single sound source infront of the singer with great body.  The TT on the hand is more spread out and airy, similar to a open room with some distance away. The vocals however felt more distinct compared the the CDM which sounds more mixed with the background music. TT has a better instrument separation and a more effortless sound while CDM felt a little forced. The TT treble sparkles with energy while the CDM felt a little diffused with everything else and thus a little dull. With the combination of treble and separation, the TT allows more things to be heard and recognize at any one time.
     
    CDM as Amp: (Dac by TT)
    CDM has a more weighty sound with a center focus for the mids and a overall smoother sound. On the TT, the sound felt more airy with a bigger stage. The CDM did have some nasal like feel for the vocals and a touch less sparkle in the treble. 
     
    Cayin IHA 6 as Amp: (Dac by TT)
    In SE, the IHA6 had no chance against the TT SE. In balanced, its a close fight with more energy and air in the IHA6 at the lost of some sound stage. However the IHA6 sound could be tweaked with the settings which could improve various parts when needed so I kept my HD800S balanced and amped for more flexible setting based on the song I listen.
     
    Overall there is little gain to amp the TT while using the HD800S.
     
    I highlighted the point above as it is pretty much the 2000 dollar question between it and Hugo. The TT sound really close Dac wise to the Hugo. In vocal tracks, there is a touch more air at the end of each phrase. On the bass tracks, there is a little more control. There is a little more separation. Everything is just a touch better which may or may not be heard. This was tested with the KSE1500 which is extremely sensitive and is purely self amped. Put on a headphone or speaker, unless in some sound isolation room, I maybe hard pressed to tell the difference
     
    However switch out to the HD800S and running as a all-in-one amp/dac, the TT trumps the Hugo by a huge margin. The Hugo just sounds muddy compared to the TT edition, with lost of energy, sparkle and speed. Hugo bass felt bloated in relative to the TT. The 2k question pretty much lies here for me: If you are looking for a all in one, the TT is the Hugo with all the muscle, else you will probably have nothing to lose with the Hugo and maybe for the extra money get a much better amp stage elsewhere. Just to note, non of my amps actually improve the TT sound so unless I can get my hand on something significantly better then them, I am not really sure if its something that can be solved especially if you like the Hugo house sound with no coloration.
     
    This sums up my summary of the Hugo TT. Its Hugo grown up with weight training! 
      maxh22 likes this.
  2. TokenGesture
    Everything In It's Right Place
    Written by TokenGesture
    Published Nov 23, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - The sound!
    Cons - Got £3k?
    Introduction
     
    “Musical”: “i) relating to music ii) set to or accompanied by music iii) fond of or skilled in music iv) having a pleasant sound, melodious or tuneful”
     
    “balanced”: “keeping or showing a balance; in good proportions”
     
    (Oxford English Dictionary)
     
     
    I’m no engineer; I don’t do measurements.  For me the audiophile pursuit is a little akin to wine tasting – a subjective struggle to define and describe taste with words, or “dance about architecture”.  There’s another complication – my taste keeps changing.  Or should I say evolving.  It’s a journey I started on with my old Grado 325 and ibasso amp/dac and my upgrades from there can all be charted through my posts on Head-fi.
     
    For a while I was seduced by detail, hearing the things I hadn’t heard in my cherished recordings, for good or ill.  Then I started to realise that detail for its own sake can get tiring after a while – the words “fatiguing” and “bright” entered my audio vocabulary.
     
    Now I’m looking for “balance” and “musicality”.  Details are great, but they are only one part of the overall musical equation.  It’s about tone, emotion and naturalness.
     
    I’m don’t seem to be alone.  To my eyes there has been an upswing in the last year or so for Head-fiers who’s stated aim is something like “musicality”.  And often they have gravitated towards ‘out of the box’ thinking in the DAC world, away from implementations of the standard off the shelf DAC chipsets towards the innovators.
     
    Rob Watts the designer of Chord’s DACs is such an innovator.  He is off on his own road, writing his own code for implementation in something called a 'field-programmable gate array".  Something to do with taps.  I’m no engineer.  But he’s on to something.
     
    Now lets’ talk about the Hugo TT.
     
    Hugo TT
     
    Big brother to the “game changing” Hugo, the Hugo TT is what you get if you let Rob Watts loose with his Hugo software design without the limitations of making a portable device.  Like the Hugo, it serves as a DAC and a headphone amp – there is no traditional amp stage, this is handled by the DAC itself by reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, or something.  (You can use an amp with it if you wish to).  Again, I’m no engineer (had you noticed?), so I refer you elsewhere on this site and the interweb for the tech details.  The TT had been described to me by a dealer as the Hugo on steroids. 
     
    For this review tour organized by OKGuy the TT came along with a Beyerdynamic T90 and a Grado GS1000e.  (Thanks to OKGuy for organizing and including me on the tour!). In addition to those I spent some quality time with my own Audeze LCD-X and Sennheiser HD800 headphones.  Let the games begin!
     
    Listening Impressions
     
     
    Where do you start? You start with “Love Song” by Simple Minds from the “Sons and Fascination” album of course!  A new wave classic, the song is very much the sum of some highly individual parts – a throbbing Derek Forbes bassline, a squalling, shape shifting guitar, shimmering synths, and Jim Kerr’s baritone out front and centre.  The TT does this track so right I know I’m listening to a winner right from the off.  The space between the instruments.  The cohesive sense of a band performance.  The vocals centered and just a little forward, commanding.
     
    The TT exudes authority in its presentation – in the bass, in the weight behind every note.  Which is not to say it is slow or overly thick, like some tube systems can be.  No, its that word “balanced” again.
     
    Moving on to Radiohead‘s “Weird Fishes” from the “In Dreams “ album.  A great test track as there is so much going on that it can sound like a collection of special effects rather than a song. No such problems for the TT, which makes the track cohere effortlessly, managing to communicate the musicality in the rippling synths.  To use another Radiohead title – everything is in its right place.  I rapidly conclude that the LCD-X and the TT is a match made in audio heaven for me.
     
    My other go-to can is the HD800 – known to be picky with sources and amps. Its my first choice for classical repertoire and the TT shows it off brilliantly, bringing out all its strengths in detail, resolution and imaging. I feel no need for additional amplification/coloration, such is the transparency of the pairing.  It is with acoustic music that you can really gauge how ‘lifelike’ the sound is, and the TT came through with flying colours.  Violins sound like violins, brass has the requisite 'parp'  The TT doesn’t turn the HD800 into an Audeze, it is still a relatively bright presentation, and not one I would choose for, say, rock.  My conclusion - the TT is a platform that brings out the innate qualities of your headphones – it is non-interventionist.
     
    Both Beyer and Grado are brands with definite house sounds, both on the brighter side of neutral.  I started to self-identify as a Head-fier with a Grado 325 and my first upgrade was to the Beyer T1 so I have some form with them both. BUT bear in mind in what follows that I moved on from both because I ended up finding them too bright…
     
    The TT presents the T90 like a baby T1 (that’s a lot of Ts) – spacious and with a wide soundstage.  But on Wild Beasts’s “Bed of Nails” from the “Smother” album the drums sound more than ideally compressed, and Tom Fleming’s deeper voice is less clearly delineated as against Hayden Thorpe’s falsetto.  The Grado adds some welcome bass presence and some additional vocal warmth, but for me it still sounds overly bright. Back to the LCD-X and everything digs deeper, and the ‘boogie factor’ clicks in.
     
    In Led Zep’s ‘Black Dog’ from their fourth  album, similar findings, but here the Grado closes the gap a little on the planar, with a good guitar sound and a really tactile crunch to John Paul Jones’ bass.  The extra warmth of the LCD-X means I have to listen harder for that bass texture (though it is still there), but the drums have more impact, there is excellent extension and weight to Plant’s vocal, and again I find myself wanting to keep listening to the rest of the album.
     
    Moving on to Melody Gardot’s “Preacherman” from this year’s all-analogue “Currency of Man” album renders similar results – the TT/LCD-X combo presents a wonderful sense of a full live band, with the ability to follow the individual instruments while maintaining a cohesive whole.  The Grado has a drier presentation, bass is again lovely and crunchy. The T90 is similar, but with a wider (artificially wide?) stage.
     
    Conclusions
     
    Tour headphones first.  The T90 seems like something of a bargain – getting you close to T1 sound quality at a fraction of the price (note I haven’t heard the new 2nd Generation T1).  The Grado didn’t quite click with me – maybe I needed more time with it to re-acclimatize to the Grado house sound.  But for me, personally, both felt a little too dry and bright to be keepers. YMM very well V.
     
    On to the star of the show.  The Hugo TT sounded great with every genre of music I threw at it – indie rock, rock, electronic, orchestral, renaissance polyphony, you name it, the TT served it up with authority and panache.  While the TT played nice with every headphone I tried, its detail retrieval coupled with its shear musicality in my opinion deserves, indeed demands, a highly resolving top of the line ‘phone like the LCD-X and HD800.   The Audeze in particular gets my vote as an ideal pairing.
     
    For the price of the TT you are getting something as near to ‘affordable end game’ as I could reasonably expect, and comfortably the best sound that I have heard in my home. An easy 5 stars.
    1. headphones1999
      lol the pros cons killed me xD
       
      great review mate!
      headphones1999, Nov 23, 2015
  3. highfell
    A wonderful home-based DAC
    Written by highfell
    Published Oct 25, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Musical genius and more assured than the Hugo
    Cons - It isn't cheap

    Introduction
     
    Whilst I have always loved listening to music, it was only after I deciding to purchase a Valve Amplifier three years ago that I began my current obsession in listening to music through better & better equipment.
     
    At home I tend to listen through my stereo system through speakers more than headphones by using my Hugo as a DAC and so the majority of my review is therefore using the TT as a DAC into my home stereo system.
     
    I have a single ended Class A Amplification provided by a Fatman 202. I bought this to try and combat the digital sound of the MP3s I was playing through IPod at the time.
     
    I have since upgraded all the Chinese Valves that came with it to NOS Valves which I roll every now again. My favourite combination are black plate Tungsol 6550s for the two power tubes and a Tungsol JTL 5670 as the input pre-amp tube. I have a pair of GE Jan 5670s as driver pre-amp tubes, but these latter two have less impact on the sound than the input tube.
     
    My speakers are Revolver 3 bookshelf ones.
     
    The TT was fed by a coaxial cable from a DX90 or from the coaxial digital out from a Sony CD player.
     
    Because my fellow TT Tour reviewers have already listed the specs and how to operate the machine so well already, there is no need for me to repeat this information.
     
    I listen to a fairly varied collection of music, although Prog Rock (Yes, Pink Floyd, to Riverside, Steven Wilson & Muse) forms the majority of my collection, but so does Classical and Pop (Blondie through to Adele).
     
    First Impressions
     
    When I first opened up the the Box containing the TT, I was very surprised at the size & weight of the Hugo TT. What immediately struck me was how inadequate my Hugo looked compared to the TT.
     
    The TT simply looks as if it naturally belonged in my sitting room. My Hugo looked like little toy and not the real high quality DAC that we know it is. This statement actually says more about the WOW factor of the TT versus any shortcomings of the Hugo.
     
    Chord have done the right thing by creating a strong statement , ie I am a Hugo TT and I *belong* here.
     
    Musical impressions
     
    And what about the sound of the TT? As you would expect you have the Hugo signature - superb musicality, intimate details of the music and never in a way that detracts from that musicality, but you have more with the TT.
     
    I think these words sum the difference up - greater authority, impact and control. It *is* somehow just more assured.
     
    The drums sound like they are more tightly skinned, the bass guitar has a greater depth of sound and at times of musical climax, the TT has more impact than the Hugo.
     
    I started by comparing the Hugo and the TT on a few tracks, but then just went on to enjoy the TT.
     
    Bijou by Queen - you get the visceral sound of the opening guitar it sounds somehow sharper and cutting through the air more cleanly with the TT, raising the hairs on the back of my head. The opening notes sung by Freddie Mercury hit you harder.
     
    These are the Final Days of our Lives by Queen - the tom toms sound more taught as if their skins have been stretched more tightly.
     
    Love of my life by Queen - the piano is just more realistic, the harpsichord is right in the room with you, Freddie’s voice is more mournful & dramatic.
     
    Famous Blue Coat by Jennifer Warnes - the clarity of her voice is beautiful, you can hear every breath that she is taking, and the saxophone comes in with an exquisite solo.
     
    Joan of Arc - from the shimmering guitars, to the emotional singing of Jennifer Warnes and the duet with the deep melodic bass of the male voice you are taken to musical heaven.
     
    One of my favourite pieces is Relayer by Yes, a 20-minute extravaganza that has some very complex and fast playing mix of instruments during the 'war sequence'. This can sound very mushy on poor systems, unable to get a decent separation of the instruments, but the TT has no such issues. This musical chaos is followed by the calmness of "Soon or Soon the Light" where Jon's voice comes out from complete blackness, combined with melodic soaring & ethereal guitars. The TT copes with all with aplomb.
     
    The Great Gig in the Sky by the Many Faces of Pink Floyd - the opening piano intro is just as if the instrument is being played in your living room by Rick Wakeman, the female singer's orgasmic warbling is lovely and her highest notes are just wonderful.
     
    I guess I am used to the “Tubey” sound of my Amp. The combination of that Class A warmth being input by the clarity of the TT is a strong one. All in all, my Stereo system has never sounded so wonderful.
     
    My Amplifier certainly enjoyed the experience of being fed by the TT -:)
     
     
    Headphones
     
    I also listened to the TT through the two headphones provided which were the Grado and the Beyer Dynamic T90s, as well as my Sennheiser HD600s. All three were driven easily by the TT.
     
    I must mention the beginning of one piece, Speak to me – Breathe by the Many Faces of Pink Floyd, as I was astounded by the imagery of the TT combined with the Grado & Beyer Dynamic headphones. I had never noticed this before.
     
    As a general comment, with the TT imaging is really well defined and you are able to place how many instruments are being played and where these instruments are in relative to other instruments in the room.
     
    I was very impressed by the greater clarity of the two headphones on loan, which both did sound very good with the TT. Although sound wise the Grado's edged the cheaper T90s, I didn't enjoy the actual fit of the Grado's, as the earpieces surround your ears rather than fitting on them. The T90s are now on my list to buy though.
     
     
    Conclusion
     
    The TT serves a different market than the Hugo. The TT for one isn't portable and it also just looks in a different class to the Hugo. When placed next to my Valve Amplifier, it looked right. The TT can exist as an iconic piece of furniture in its own right.
     
    If you are looking for a top of the range DAC and you don't need portability, then the TT could be for you.
     
    You are most likely to keep it in one spot in the house and either use it a headphone amplifier or as a DAC into your desktop Hifi system.
     
    HOWEVER, it has an interesting advantage over many other DACs in that it runs off batteries and therefore you can very easily just disconnect the charging lead and take it with you to another room in order to listening to your music in other room. Chord’s terminology is that it is transportable.
     
    The musicality of the TT is wonderful and if you buy one, you won't be disappointed - that , for me, is a given.
     
    The TT represents an improvement in sound quality over the Hugo, it's not night and day but it *is* there in terms of greater authority and impact. It is a definitely a more assured machine.
     
    If you have a Hugo, though you are unlikely to go out & buy a TT. Logically you would save up and wait for the DAVE.
     
    If you don't have a Hugo, and you don't need portability, then make sure you put the TT onto your demo list.
     
    Finally, a big thank you to OK-Guy for including me on the TT tour and to Chord for entrusting me with their kit. It was a sad day last week when I had to package it up and send it onwards.
     
     
    IMG_1811.jpg
     
    IMG_1924.jpg
     
    IMG_1929.jpg
     

      OK-Guy and Jeff Y like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. highfell
      Thanks both, very kind. I wanted to comment on what I feel the key features of the TT are meant to be. As the other reviewers will appreciate these reviews certainly take a fair while to compile & write !!
      highfell, Oct 26, 2015
    3. TabCam
      I think I will pass on the Dave as it is priced markedly higher than both the Hugo and the Hugo TT. More than double Is the current consensus. I would be interested if they made a Mojo-like step down for the Dave. I am currently most interested in the Metrum Pavane as it has also a very low noise design and has the same authority you describe in your review.
      TabCam, Oct 26, 2015
    4. TomGi
      Great comments on the TT !
       
      What is TT tour ?
      TomGi, Nov 5, 2015
  4. AndrewH13
    Chord Hugo TT - Master of light and dark
    Written by AndrewH13
    Published Sep 25, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Great natural sound quality, Dynamics, Build Quality
    Cons - Only one Coax input (non-standard BNC)
    1509HugoTT15a.jpg
     
     
     
    About Me
     
    I am in my fifties and have loved music and music equipment all my life. From about 8 years old, I had my first exposure to my mother’s reel to reel tape recorder. A few years later, I was bought a slab-like cassette deck from Philips which I used to record chart songs. As a teenager I pored over Laskys HiFi brochures and my first purchase was a pair of big Celestion speakers. Over the years I have had Nad, Mission, Linn, Roksan and Naim equipment. Finally Tag McClaren HiFi where I was a volunteer software beta-tester for their numerous upgrades.
     
    However I always loved the idea of portables and bought a gold Sony Mini-disc player, a Sony A808 and various iPods. But until a few years back when a Google search brought up Head-Fi, I was oblivious to the thriving portables community and the quality of sound that could now be obtained.
     
    Most of my listening is complete albums, and I now have a collection of Hi-Res and DSD music, which in some cases, does seem preferable to my older versions, so will listen using all formats. I work with computers all day, I have no wish to have a laptop anywhere near me when listening to music!  I use DAPs and Sonos multi-room for my digital sources, more explanation later.
     
    At a Head-Fi meet at Cambridge, England, I inadvertently listened to the Hugo.  I say this because although an amp might have been on my long-term buy list for future difficult- to-drive headphones, I certainly didn’t need a DAC as I was more than satisfied with my Fiio X5 and DX90 DAPs.  But I listened to Hugo with Sennheiser HD800s and thought, just maybe, this will be a future purchase. I then listened with my Sennheiser ie800 IEMs. Should NOT have done that, I ended up buying Hugo by the end of the show!
     
     
    Disclaimer
     
    I received the Chord TT for 2 weeks during the British tour and will provide Chord and prospective buyers with some feedback in the form of a review. I want to thank Chord, and especially OK Guy, for including me in this program. Also for including Grado and Beyerdynamic headphones to complete the package. I will give my opinions honestly and with an open mind as to how I find this DAC/ Headphone Amp and headphones.
     
     
    Equipment used for Review
     
    Existing gear:
     
    iBasso DX90 DAP
    Fiio X5 DAP
    Sonos digital player for NAS-stored music
    Chord Hugo (for reference)
    Rega DAC (for reference)
    Sennheiser ie800 IEMs
    Shure 846 IEMs
    Tralucent 1plus2s IEMs (on loan)
    Grado 325e Headphones
    Sennheiser HD800s
     
    Kindly supplied for tour:
     
    Beyerdynamic T90 Headphones
    Grado GS 1000e Headphones
     
     
    About Hugo TT
     
     
    1509HugoTT03a.jpg
     
     
    A black-cased model was supplied, for Hugo I chose Silver which is also available. Hugo TT comes with Optical and USB cables and a Quick Start guide.  Designed for mains use, it actually runs off its batteries so can be moved freely at will. Built like a tank, like it’s smaller sibling, it feels and looks quality. A Remote Control is included; shame it wasn’t purpose designed as many keys are not functional, but it’s useful for subtle volume adjustments and input selection.  Hugo TT has A2DP Bluetooth capability with the AptX codec; not an area that I personally use, but will give a quick try.
     
    The big plus for me is the extra chip inside that enables ‘last-used input’ to be retained, my one gripe about the original Hugo. I thought I had also heard that after turning off, the ‘last volume used’ was also stored, but this wasn’t happening for me. I use digital Co-ax extensively, personally I would have liked a 2nd Digital input like my Rega DAC, but acknowledge that everyone has different needs, many will use USB from a laptop or Optical etc, so it’s pretty well covered.
     
    For those who want full info, I include here the Chord specs, those familiar can ignore!
     
    Hugo TT key features:

    - Remote control allowing input (source) selection and volume control
    - Alphanumeric LED display to show settings
    - Double the battery capacity of Hugo
    - 10,000,000uF (microfarads) of supercapacitor energy storage
    - Fully balanced outputs using XLR connectors
    - Single-ended RCA outputs
    - BNC coaxial digital input
    - Optical TOSLink input
    - Full-sized B-type USB inputs for both SD USB and HD USB feeds
    - Full galvanic isolation on the HD USB input right up to 384kHz
    - Improved analogue stage output current for low distortion into low impedance loads
    - 2x Quarter-inch jack headphone outputs
    - 1x 3.5mm jack headphone output

    Specifications:

    - Advanced digital volume control
    - Crossfeed filter network
    - Battery-powered for power supply isolation 
    - Input selection identification and remote volume up or down indication is via alphanumeric display and colour-changing LED display
    - 26K tap-length filter 
    - THD: 140dB
    - Headphone output: 110dB SPL into a 300ohm headphone load

    Inputs:

    - 1x Optical TOSLink 24-bit/192KHz-capable
    - 1x BNC coaxial input 32-bit/384kHz -capable
    - 1x HD/SD USB B-type input up to 32-bit/384kHz

    Outputs:

    - 1x3.5mm headphone jack
    - 2x6.35mm (1/4-inch) headphone jack
    - 1x (pair) stereo RCA phono output
    - Fully balanced via XLR connectors

    Dimensions:

    - 235mm x 45mm x 225mm (WxDx H)
    - Weight 3Kg
     
     
    There's been an initial disappointment by some on the forums that most of the changes from the original Hugo are in the power side of things, rather than the gate array processing code (this is the clever decoding of all those 0s and 1s that are usually performed by an off-the-shelf DAC chip, but which Chord have coded themselves). It made me think of the many Naim Amps and Streamers I’ve listened to in the HiFi world. All can be upgraded by adding separate power supplies. Sometimes even separately to the Analogue and Digital sides. I've been to demonstrations at HiFi shows and yes, as each better power supply has been added, the sound had greater authority and tighter grip.
     
    Chord have improved the battery and added Supercap energy storage which they claim will improve dynamics and demanding transients. So I have reasonable hopes of an elevation in Hugo’s sound quality.
     
     
    My Testing Environment
     
    I do have a standard Hugo which travels between my bedroom, with much late night listing via IEMs and occasional Headphones, to the garden in summer where my Grados and Sennheisers are utilised.
     
    When I'm in the Lounge, and I'm not using my Roksan TT or Tag CD player, I use Sonos multi room, or Fiio/iBasso DAPs connected to my HiFi for hires. Sound quality was average until I purchased a Rega DAC, £450, which took the sound a fair way upwards and not a substantial drop from CD. This is where I'm very keen to test TT in place of the Rega, and play through PMC GB1 Speakers and my REL sub, but will also attach headphones supplied which will be a first in my living room as never had a headphone out socket on my HiFi or home cinema before! The rest of my HiFi consists of Tag McLaren Pre and Power amps.
     
    I will of course try separately with my Fiio and iBasso DAPs connected digitally via coax 75ohm cable into my Shure 846 and Sennheiser ie800 IEMs. And the very nice looking tour Headphones included, the Grado Statement GS1000e and Beyerdynamic T90s. Particularly interested in the GS1000e because I own the cheaper Grado 325e headphones. But I've also heard good things about the T90s so some exciting times ahead.
     
    Initial listening was delayed as my sources needed an adapter to convert the BNC digital connector of the TT to a standard Phono/RCA socket that all my co-ax leads have. £3.50 at Maplin, and it's solved, the small adapter can then be left on as it locks tightly. Thanks to Fortis, he got his adapter in the post to me before I got into town to get one! However it would have been nicer having a RCA/Phono socket, in fact Chord’s included manual shows ‘RCA Coaxial input’ on its specs!
     
     
    Sound Quality impressions
     
    TT with HiFi & Speakers
     
    The following evening I fire up my Fiio X5 and listen to a recent acquisition, 'Ghosts' new album ‘Meliora’. Now I'm not one to review gear by switching constantly, level matching and playing a small piece over and over again. That to me is no fun and doesn't work for me. I like to spend a fair amount of tracks with a piece of new equipment, and what I hear, how much enjoyment I get from it, is how I judge gear. But just for this album as it's completely new to me, I will first listen via my Rega DAC that lives in my system and is the usual provider to my amp and PMC speakers. Then try the Hugo that I use around the house, and finally the TT. I must say it looks lovely sat on a shelf of my HiFi rack.
     
    First off the Rega DAC adds a flavour of analogue to a diehard like me. Gone is the edge of digital harshness that some equipment possesses. A pleasant listen I'm content with. But I know what happens next, because I've substituted the tiny Hugo in my full system once before. Track 5 from this Swedish Progressive Rock group’s album 'He Is' has a hint of the Moody Blues about it as the heaviness of previous tracks disappears. In comparison to the Rega, The sound has a delightful airiness, the soundstage has opened up in a very natural way.  I play the album now through Hugo TT; ‘Mummy Dust’ is heavier with a rhythmic guitar riff and the TT has added more grip to the bass. Resolution seems to have increased slightly on all tracks. Very nice indeed, enough for me to realise TT seems to add the delicacy of the Hugo but with added detail, grunt and drive. Enough of delving round the back of my rack and changing leads, from now on I'll be listening to TT in its own right, knowing it's something special.
     
    I complete the album and the TT provides some great moments. On 'Deus In Absentia', there is a complete mix of emotions, the choir at the end is so engaging but midway through a ticking clock gives way to heavy guitar but the depth of soundstage remains.
     
    This feeling of switching from quiet moments to dynamic so effortlessly remains throughout my 10 days listening, hence the title of my review, but with all shades in between!
     
    My Sonos system is next used connected via digital Co-ax. A FLAC rip of ‘Video Games’ by Lana Del Ray is an example of the naturalness as her beguiling voice floats above the strings. As more albums are played an analogue feel remains. Any thought of sound quality’s treble, mids or bass disappears as music is just played and enjoyed.
     
    1509HugoTT06a.jpg
     
     
     
    TT with Grado GS1000
     
    I take my HiFi and speakers out of the equation, and play the same album via Hugo TT's headphone out. The tour very generously included the Grado GS1000s, which despite their wood and rather 70s styling, are extremely comfortable. Full marks to Grado for supplying a longer extension cable and a 3.5mm adapter. But the square thin cardboard box does not do this premium product justice.
     
    Definitely my type of sound, and a good match for the TT. Slight drop of depth naturally from the speakers, but all the previous traits shine through but with more immediacy and excitement. I reach for my Grado 325s to compare. The GS1000s definitely have a wider soundstage with better imaging and justify their much higher cost.
     
    So carried away with the listening, I’m horrified when I look up and see its five to two, I should have left for work 15 minutes ago. Blaming a Hugo for being late will not go down well!
     
     
    TT with Beyerdynamic T90
     
    Later, I substitute the tour Beyerdynamic T90s in to the TT’s ¼ inch jack and listen to Hot Chip’s ‘Why Make Sense’ album. What a combination! The distinctive vocal sits nicely above the synthesised dance beat throughout the album. The bass is so gripping with what feels like perfect decay, and the rhythms have you tapping throughout. I like the prominent exciting treble, although some may find it too much. I can’t stop listening until the end of the album.
     
    I said I wasn’t going to keep switching equipment and I now wish I hadn’t! It was sounding so good, I couldn’t help wonder whether my Hugo micro could sound like this. Unfortunately (for me) everything sounded a little bit less. Width is less, soundstage is less, detail is less, and fullness is less. I try to pacify myself that the volume might be slightly lower and raise it. Even noticeably higher, it makes no difference. After 10 minutes, I become accustomed to the less expansive sound, but that was a shock.
     
     
    TT with Sennheiser HD800s
     
    Amazed at the T90 and TT’s synergy the previous day on listening to Hot Chip, I try same album on my HD800s. A lovely open sound with great timing. Less treble power than the 90s and a more refined sound. But the fact the T90s were pretty close in the enjoyment stakes at a third of the price proves them to be somewhat of a bargain.
     
    I change genre to a Hi-Res Norah Jones album, so spacious.  As I listen longer to the HD800s with different albums, I realise just how good these headphones are with the TT getting the utmost from them.
     
    Already I think I want to hide from CHORD and keep the Hugo TT here. Or maybe elope with it!
     
     
    TT with IEMs
     
    Later in the week, I feel I must try with my existing IEMs so I move the coffee table forward, and run Hugo TT off it’s batteries.
     
    The TT brings out the best of my Shure 846s with a delightfully balanced sound. I listen to Joe Satriani’s ‘Time Machine’ album. Tom Toms have just the right decay, sub-bass rumbles and Joe’s soaring super-strat roars away. I come to the conclusion my 846s have never approached this level of sound before. Damn you TT.
     
    Likewise, the Sennheiser ie800s portray more detail than I’ve heard from them before, not quite the Shure’s midrange, but that guitar now sounds as if you were in the studio as it’s being recorded.
     
    I have Tranlucent 1plus2s on loan and have largely delayed listening until the Chord and phones package departs. But a few listens through the TT makes me believe they may be the best IEM I have ever heard, and that includes many of the top models at the recent London Canjam. The TT brings an analogue feel to these exciting earphones. The title ‘Its Only Natural’ from Crowded House’s ‘Woodface’ album just about sums up everything the Hugo TT brings during its welcome stay.
     
    TT via Bluetooth
     
    A few firsts for me here. I link up my iPhone via Bluetooth which is quick and connects seamlessly. It’s been a few years since I used iPhone for music having found DAPs far preferable. So no surprise there is no music stored. I give Beats 1 radio a first listen, and to be honest, things are better than I thought they would be. That’s Bluetooth, Beats 1 and iPhone streaming! Spend 15 minutes listening until One Direction come on live from an Apple festival. My wife says she has Status Quo ‘Aqoustic’ album on her phone and we quickly pair. ‘Paper Plane’ takes me back in time and has decent rhythm. All in all, lower resolution of course but quite listenable. As a net radio player I could see this being quite an added benefit.
     
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    TT returns to HIFi
     
    Before returning and packing up the TT, I return it to my lounge HiFi system, and play via iBasso DX90, a ripped FLAC ‘God Shuffled His Feet’  from the same titled album by Crash Test Dummies.  A track I’m familiar with having played it on a few systems over the year. Unless my memory is kidding me, it had never sounded as natural,  so musical. From the deep vocals, the timing of the track, to the soundstage. I used to play the CD on my TAG CD/DVD that was no mean player; in fact it was costlier than the Hugo TT. But this is sublime, better than any digital playback in my house certainly.
    Who would have believed in those early ‘perfect’ days of CD, that digital playback would eventually sound this good?
     
     
    Summary
     
    Firstly a word about the included tour headphones.
     
    The Beyerdynamic T90s were a big surprise to me. An exciting full-on listen and should be on anyone’s shortlist in their price range and above, unless looking for a warm laid-back sound.
     
    The Grado GS1000e has the same house sound as my 325e’s but with significantly better instrument placement and a nice depth to the sound.
     
    Now the TT. As Rob Watts (Hugo TT Designer) said in a talk at Canjam, a DAC’s duty is not to mirror the input, bit by bit. But to try to replicate the analogue waveform of the original music. Personally I think this has been fantastically achieved and can only say, the more time spent with Hugo TT, the more I will be sad to see it go. And once gone, I think I will appreciate it's strengths even more.
     
    I see TT in a different market to Hugo, which is portable for many. Hugo TT is easily transportable, but will be mostly used as the cornerstone to a lounge, office, or certainly more stable setup. If you want very high quality digital music, and can afford TT, make sure you demo it.
     
    I would like to re-iterate my thanks once more to Ok-Guy and Chord for giving me the chance to review such top equipment.
     
     
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      KT66, OK-Guy, x RELIC x and 1 other person like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. AndrewH13
      Thanks Raypin. Cuddlies are my slant on trying to photo something different from pics already taken of a square black box!
      AndrewH13, Sep 25, 2015
    3. x RELIC x
      Great review. Power supply in the DAC is a huge contributor to SQ. I also agree with your method of testing vs short term quick comparisons. Scientifically it's shown that is how we are wired to make comparisons, though less able to recal information quickly as our primate brethren.
      x RELIC x, Sep 25, 2015
    4. AndrewH13
      Thanks Relic, appreciated. I think its nice that everyone has their own style, disagree when I read 'without level matching, findings are irrelevant'. That's comparing hardware technically and getting away from enjoying music.
      AndrewH13, Sep 26, 2015
  5. FortisFlyer75
    CHORD HUGO-TT REVIEW guest starring... Grado GS1000e & Beyer Dynamic T90.
    Written by FortisFlyer75
    Published Sep 15, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Nice fair advancement in SQ due to amp upgrades, XLR outputs, stable Bluetooth which sounds good, Metal Remote, Design/Footprint, Longer Battery life
    Cons - Digital Coax is a BNC connection, that's it!
    CHORD HUGO-TT REVIEW guest starring... Grado GS1000e & Beyer Dynamic T90.
     
    Equipment been reviewed:
     
    Chord Hugo-TT
     
    Headphones used in review:
     
    Grado GS1000e open back(32ohms)
     
    Beyer Dynamic T90 open back (250ohms)
     
    Sources used:
     
    Sony ZX1 Walkman
     
    Tag Mclaren DVD32R cd player & Naim CDX2 cd player.
     
    HP X360 Spectre with MS Win 8.1 laptop
     
     
    Speaker Hi-Fi set ups used:
     
    1ST speaker set up:
     
    Tag Mclaren DVD32R à Chord Hugo-TT (using Chord Indigo plus coax) àTag Mclaren 250XR mono bloc amps (*using Atlas Mavrox XLR-XLR balanced cables) à B&W CDM7SE floorstading speakers (using Chord Signature cable)
     
    2nd speaker set up:
     
    Naim CDX2 cd player à Chord Hugo-TT (using Chord Indigo plus coax) à Naim Nac 282 pre amp (using Chord Anthem analog rca’s) à Naim Nap 200 stereo power amp à Pro-AC Response 2S speakers (using Van Den Hul Teatrack cable)
     
    *A big thanks goes out to Damien @ Chord Electronics for the loan of the Atlas Mavros XLR balanced cables which has been a long pending desire of mine to be able to try XLR balanced but was missing the link in the chain in needing a XLR balanced cable for trying this and finally got my chance all in thanks to Damien for making that happen and opened my eyes up to running XLR balanced as can be read below in this review….
     
    This is part of the Hugo-TT tour which I am fortunate enough to be part of thanks to OK-Guy and will be reviewing it with the Grado GS1000 open back headphones and the Beyer Dynamic T90 open back headphones. The Hugo-TT is been used in both a head-fi and speaker Hi-Fi environment as one of the Hugo-TT’s new additions is been able to use XLR balanced out as well as RCA out to an amplifier in a Hi-Fi speaker set up.
     
    I am already lucky enough in that I own the original Chord Hugo for the last year and have been fortunate enough to of listened to the Grado GS1000 & PS1000 in the last couple of years at different shows & events so Grado have been on my shortlist of TOTL headphone for a while now (still saving unfortunately otherwise would already own a pair!) and then the Beyer Dynamic’s was my first pair of headphones purchased way back in 1990 which was the DT-770 600ohm which I only let go a few years back and was one of those regrets as it was a very good sounding headphone for the money even back then if memory serves me right £120 of the Queens finest pounds.  
     
    So when the chance came up courtesy of OK-Guy who was doing a Hugo-TT tour with these headphones I could not resist already owning a Hugo and been a previous Beyer owner and already one eye on a pair of Grado’s to one see if the what the difference in sound the Hugo-TT has to the original Hugo which is what many Hugo owners like myself are all wanting to know and find out how it also performs in a speaker set up as this is designed even more than the original Hugo to really sit in the heart of a speaker Hi-Fi set up with the added addition of XLR balanced outputs as well as the traditional analog RCA connectors. 
     
    In addition of course I will be able to report on the two starring headphones on how they sound with both Hugo’s with the Grado’s been a fairly efficient 32 ohms to drive whilst the Beyer T90’s weigh in @250 ohms so will be harder to drive which is where hopefully be able to compare the difference with the amp section for those Hugo owners who were craving a bit more power for their higher impendence headphones to drive.
     
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    Hugo-TT
    Design & Ergonomics:
    To start with the Hugo-TT retains the Spartan 6 FPGA DAC with 26K tap length filter (26,368 to be precise) which made the Hugo receive acclaim for its natural free flowing highly detailed transient analog sound properties has been turned into a desktop hence the TT is for Table Top so an eye to detail has been set for the amp section to have some spit and polish and has had super capacitors fitted as well as full galvanic isolation on the HD USB port with the connector been able to be a type B USB connection on the TT.  The headphone jack ports are reversed on the TT which been a table top model it now has two ¼ jacks instead of the one the original Hugo has and now only has one 3.5mm jack whereas the Hugo had two of these which makes logical sense in the scheme of things all though you will need to ideally both have near matched headphones impendence wise if you want a listening buddy at the helm for a Hugo-TT ride with you as it could get deafening for one of you!
     
    After the original portable Hugo weighing in at only 0.4kg the new TT comes in at 3KG should be renamed Table Tank not just for its weight but due to the robust build once again using the usual preference of Aircraft graded aluminium for its chassis & cover so just to clarify TT here is not some fast sports coupe by a German motor manufacturer although this is no slouch in its own right it must be said once the listener put’s their headphones on. 
     
    This Table top model which is a bigger foot print equivalent to approximately three Hugo’s  which is to house a bigger battery which gives twice as much juice to run on than the portable Hugo and sports USB-B standard & HD connection’s  on the back inputs as well as optical input and Coax which uses a BNC connection.  The outputs now have the addition of XLR Balanced outputs to the normal RCA analog output which is handy if your Hi-Fi amp has these connections as it means you can connect directly to the amp from the Hugo and miss out an additional pre amp as well as XLR balanced improving sound staging and imaging to conventional RCA out/in.  Lest we forget the Hugo-TT also has Bluetooth which uses the APT-X codec again and always held it’s communication with the Hugo when I used my Sony ZX1 from 15 feet away no problems at all. 
     
    The TT also has a new addition in a remote control and have to say this is one of the best looking remotes I have seen as it keeps the theme running by making it out of graded aircraft aluminium and having the rubber buttons recessed into their round holes housings. The overall design of the TT is just right from the dimensions, weight and keeping the main portal window and volume wheel design and love the addition of the green LED input/filter display window which turns off after a while until pressed again which is a nice touch. 
     
     
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    Hugo-TT Sound:
     
    The first impressions upon listening to the Hugo-TT will be the sense of expansiveness in the soundstage and it been so open yet very precise where everything is and the canvass is so black it feels like something Prof Hawking’s would describe if his theories of space were translated to sound as after experiencing the original Hugo it really opens up and feels like the sound field barriers have been removed and so imaging & placement of sounds travel further out or come from further afield depending where the note comes from to start with so is even more  immersive experience in respect to soundstage with the new Hugo-TT. 
     
    The addition of a bigger better amp section has also brought along a deeper bass that is tight and has plenty of rendering in detail and losses no transparency at all which is what the Hugo portrays well in the first place. Listening to tracks from AC-DC Rock or Bust album the bass is deeper more hard hitting with the detail in the mid & sub bass notes which are more distinguishable as well as the high end where those Zildjian cymbals crash clearer & faster with good attack then followed with better decay and more sparkle in detail to each time it is struck which makes listening to the Australian rockers sound more lively & energetic than ever!
     
    The other dimension the TT benefits from is the mid’s with there been slightly more detail and definition improvement to the edges in notes than previously resulting in a slightly more fuller bodied sound due to the amp been able to drive more efficiently and adds more weight to the music with the TT which just adds to the already slick open transparent expansive experience to the listener.
    Vocals with the likes of Tori Amos or Taiga have more tonal realism with the range of vocals having more height with there been more feeling of headroom.  The lead vocals always feel focused and always audible and never feel too far back so never get lost in the rest of the haze and confusion of hectic sessions with bands like Arcade Fire Reflektor or Paolo Nutini’s Caustic Love album which manage to still keep clarity and depth even during their hectic passages in some of the songs they have on those albums. 
     
    The Hugo-TT sounds awesome when you have good mastered High/ DSD files going through it but what I was really starting to love about the TT was albums like Fleetwood Macs remastered Rumours or the first two Dire Straits remastered albums all just standard 16 bit 44.1 khz the TT make them feel with all the improvements with the extra internal hardware is it sounds more analog and naturally smooth than before and can feel like you are listening to the vinyl version of them which is what I think makes the Hugo DAC so special in that regard but the TT’s bigger engine under the hood helps with the speed, transparency and smoothness  to provide albums like Fleetwood Mac & Dire Straits to retain that analog seductiveness we all crave in the new digital domain we live in today. 
     
    Hugo-TT in a speaker Hi-Fi set up.
     
    Firstly I was brought up on listening to music through my Dads Hi-Fi back in the day (so hats off to him for giving me this die hard habit that has cost me £heaven knows how much down the years!) and when I was old enough to acquire my first bit of new kit to replace my Dads hand me down 30 year old separates that had been sleeping in the loft it was a speaker set up first of all and the Headphone inquisitiveness did not come for a few more years and even then it was just to do late night listening for recording without waking up the neighbourhood so I was just stoked to try the TT in my Speaker Hi-Fi which currently consist of Tag Mclaren separates with a pair of B&W floor standers (see speaker set up No.1 at top of page for exact specs) for stereo listening so was able to make the most of the TT’s XLR outputs as my Tag 250 watt amps have XLR inputs so could by pass the Tag processor I have to plumb the Hugo-TT in direct to get best possible sound with this connection set up. (Thanks again to Damien @Chord Electronics as those XLR cables made my day been able to hook it up in this configuration)
     
     
    Using my Tag DVD32R top loading cd player through the Hugo-TT using a Chord Indigo plus digital coax (which is by a separate company for those not aware “The Chord Company” which is another fine British Hi-Fi company which specialises in design & manufacturer of   Hi-Fi interconnects only) helps extract that fine detail to the Hugo. From there I was about to go on another magical journey as I was about to find out the benefits of going XLR balanced and with one of the only unfortunate down sides with my original Hugo was I could not hook up the Coax digital to the Hugo so was never able to use in my speaker set up with my Tag cd player until the arrival of the TT so was now my moment of truth running the TT with my Hi-Fi speaker set up. 
     
    The additional appearance of the suave & sophisticated looking extruded metal remote control which will never shatter if you drop it as it is rugged as a Land Rover is what the TT will need with it been designed to be hooked up to speakers as much as it is headphones so becomes imperative to have a remote for when you are sitting ‘X’ amount of feet away from it. Not all the buttons on the remote are active buttons with the TT as they are designed for other units they have designed but the important buttons are all there for the TT so you never need to get off your comfy sofa to change anything (apart from maybe line out!)
     
    The remote is something I would still really love to see with technology evolving that Chord can still incorporate this into a Hugo 2 portable somehow when that day or year arrives. (I do like to hint now and then…)
     
    Another advantage which is a nice relief the TT will remember last volume and input selection when turned back on with the addition of a separate chip for the program that runs that to go on as the original Hugo did not have any programming room left on the chip so one now does not accidentally blow up their higher sensitive earphones/headphones when plugged in to start a session.
     
    Next step is to turn on the Hugo-TT whilst holding the filter button setting and once the volume wheel turns a solid white colour you know it is set to line out to use with your speaker system so much as I do not like dispensing H&S notices please do not connect your headphones or even worse your IEM's to it at this time as you will likely blow them up and maybe your hearing all in one go which would be a double whammy if one goes there; not to mention you will cry with regret afterwards like a kid who had his candy taken away!. 
     
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    So now already to Rock N’ Roll with line out set is selected….
     
    From the start of pressing play on the cd player the impact and the tightness of the bass notes was immediate and the clarity and control of the highs was not like I had heard before with more room and separation between the highs and mid’s than ever before.  Peter Gabriel’s Hits or Bruce Springsteen has nice extended smooth highs which are so clear and crystal yet feel the tight control of the punch in the low end in the sub bass gives you a nice kick to your guts as you feel the sub frequency as well as hearing it resonate through the floor towards you. 
     
    The mid’s tempo is fluid and are again so detailed as usual with the Hugo but I was still hearing some information come through on songs I had not quite heard in the way that I have listening to it on loud speakers as opposed to headphones, yet again it is because of the black backdrop the Hugo-TT naturally provides plenty of room between each instrument to breath and come through in such a clean delivery of each note it made listening to some older cd test tracks like Madonna Ray of Light album, notably Frozen & Power of Goodbye & Yello – “The Race” plus the “light speed remix” of this track (both remastered) have even more depth, contrast, speed and clarity than I’ve heard trough my system to date.  It just has a natural flow to the music and having that extra weight and punch that can come through a set of loud speakers is where I don’t think any flagship headphone can ever replicate that feeling.
     
    The thing a device as technically able as the TT in what it can do is been able to appreciate music that is not normally in my every day playlist and playing something like the Inception OST has such passages of subtleness building up to powerful crescendos with great depth & height to this soundtrack the Hugo is able to handle the vast range this music is written and played to with very extended highs and sub bass smashes and rumbles it conveys the raw emotion brings back the experience of when hearing the music with the picture when watching the film at the cinema for that first time. 
     
    Another one to send a chill down the spine is listening to the St. Petersburg Chamber choir where it is just spot on at capturing the reverberations and echoes of the choir which fills the room all around you and you actually feel like you are in a cathedral experiencing this and the highs of the female voices alongside the low baritone voices towards the low end is something to be heard on the Hugo-TT through speakers. 
     
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    Then to sober up from the relaxing chill session of choir music put on some Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways and the Hugo can give hard hit of the bass drum with lovely full bodied upper mid’s with nice smooth fast precise naturalness about the timing with this album is like listening to an old 70’s rock band on vinyl type of feeling. 
    Another artist that has consistent good recordings is some Brad Paisley and the guitar sounds slick, fast and responsive notes with a nice tonally balanced sound to any guitar he happens to be playing which is reminiscent to listening to Joe Bonamassa or Kaki King’s guitars all sound tonally just right without any colouration with the TT.
     
    Vocals sound even coarser, gritty, smooth or sharp depending on who’s singing and present/forward in presentation than with my Tag DAC and that is still a fairly good DAC considering it’s age but with the advancement in technology the Rob Watt’s design just adds all round that more solidity & cohesion with the TT with the extra detail and natural smoothness, control & speed which is not too attacking or either is it too laid back to proceedings making it a very lucid with great dynamics yet organic to listen with the TT plumbed into my Tag amps direct as they have a perfect partnership as the Tag like the Hugo has always had the philosophy of making digital source sound pure as can be analog sound.
     
     
    I was also able to try this for a day in my Dad’s set up which is speaker set up two on the above equipment listing at top of review and consist of Naim separates with a pair of Pro-Ac speakers. 
     
    Although with the way Naim use propriety connections meant we could not try it direct to the amps so just hooked up to the Naim pre-amp to loop through and the Hugo brought a calming zen to the Naim’s natural trait of wanting to attack with pace and merged the natural smoothness of the Hugo was a surprisingly good pairing with the Naim set up. 
    Once again everything was so expansive, deep and precise with placement of instruments and imaging like it was on my Tag set up yet it was the same level of detail and separation just with a different flavour to the signature as the Naim amps sound more warmer and attacking still taken into account the Hugo already subduing that side of the Naims inherent nature yet for first time from my time listening to his Naim set up felt the Hugo-TT had opened up the Naim and made it more airy and transparent without losing the ability or Naim traits of it’s attacking warmth to deliver nice low controlled bass notes and vocals are projected more than before with intervention of the TT.  The end result was the best of the Naim still inherent but with Hugo-TT just been a positive addition in every aspect which would be a good pairing for the Naim set up just for the TT’s DAC alone.
     
    I also tried my Sony Walkman ZX1 via USB which works well as a transport and is a nice way to play a few thousand songs back to back, just a shame the battery does not last that long! So if you already have a media streamer or Media player in your racks you will be in for a treat using with the Hugo whether using it via USB or Digital coax/optical in.
    I did try to see or shall I say hear the difference between the optical sound and digital coax but it was never going to be a fair comparison as the optical was a Wireworld SuperNova 5+ optical cable due to never really needing optical in the past for exception of Sky & PS3 hook up’s and my Coax was the Chord Company Indigo Plus so this was not able to give a real level pegging comparison between Optical & Coax although from previous comparison experiences with similar rated cables I have personally lent towards coax cables to optical anyway. 
     
    Another feature I had to try was using my ZX1 via Bluetooth to the TT and was A; pleasantly surprised in the many hours I used it connected via Bluetooth it only cut out for one second and this was using it 17 feet away from my sofa to the Hugo TT so was 99% relative music free listening and B; the sound quality was another pleasant surprise as I was not keeping my expectations high in this department but it tends to make a good fist at been resolving and dynamic but at the end of the day it just lacks some control and definition as well as transparency and loses some detail becoming a bit fuzzy in the mid’s and looser in the bass tightness although can still go bottom end no problem (as I found out) compared to when it is connected via interconnects so is okay for casual listening in the background but would not quite class it good enough for those serious listening sessions when you want to soak up the best the Hugo-TT can dish up in the highest quality playback performance possible.  Still a good way to show off at house party’s getting everyone to hook up their phone or dap to play their songs without having to touch your beloved Hugo musical tool though!
     
     
     
     
     
    Grado GS1000e Open back headphones:
     
    Having already been able to listen to the original GS1000’s twice and the newer ‘e’ model once at different events so I already knew the potential these mahogany wooden cups could deliver but to hear it for three weeks in the nice quite environment of one’s own dwellings (well, for exception of the wife in one’s ear) with the Hugo TT was something I was looking forward to already having heard them on my portable Hugo previously.
     
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    The GS1000e looks like a refined and reserved retro pair of headphones that are fairly light and stable on the head with large foam cups that never sweat like other normal man made material pads can and the sound follows this path been a very open sounding highly detailed pair of open backs that like to always sound different in its timbres to each album that is thrown at it. 
     
    The Hugo TT lets the GS1000e breath and stretch it’s nice big wide… in fact combined with the TT I would say Huge soundstage and the mid’s which stay nice and focused with vocals in the centre stage of proceedings with a nice sense of rich, deep liquid yet natural overtones make these sound quite energetic yet very easy to listen to with highs that are very detailed and easy on the ears, never going to be piercing or harsh.
     
    At times with music that is more mellow it will feel like you are listening to this in a bigger space than you are due to the way these massive foam cups give plenty of room for the sound to circulate, only thing I noticed as comfortable as they are to wear was just getting them in the sweet spot with that extra room in the cups for your ears to sit but once you find it unless your one for air guitar around the room you should be okay. It can be frustrating getting them just in the right spot but maybe this is the trade of for the results you get back from this design with the nice big natural open sounding stage presence.
     
     The vocals on these are really stand out and faithfully replicate the tonal accuracy of vocals really gives me a rush with any vocals I hear but I have been known to be susceptible to the female gender especially with vocals like Sarah Mclachlan, Vera Lynn, Lana Del Ray, Stevie Nicks, Tori Amos & Birdy to name a few can make the hairs stand on your back with the GS1000’s.
     
    Listening to The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow album is an example of vocals making aural experience blow a gasket with both female & male vocals in harmony whilst the Acoustic guitar is so clear to hear and pick out where it is almost is if the GS1000e has placed the guitar in his hands it sounds that accurate in the soundstage to where the singer and instrument is.  
     
    I was surprised how good these can be with dance orientated music although it has good bass extension which hits the ground it is not seismic by any means, the GS1000e does not have the thump and bass slam as maybe other bass hungry headphones out there for those hard core dance fans but renders micro details so well you get a bass that gives you so much more information back in a more balanced manner that compliments the mid-range as it never over dominates them and the Grados have a good rhythmic timing combined with good dynamics with the nice smooth extended highs as well you get with the big soundstage quite deep as well as wide sound field and these are quite nimble in terms of speed on the bottom end all adds up to dance music like Rob D’s Furious Angels, Nero, Daft Punk, Chemical Bros or Will I Am have a snap to their pace with energy and clarity that is addictive to listen to as it is using the Grados for Rock, pop, blues, jazz & classical music and anything else in between.
     
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    I found the GS1000e to have an immersive evolving almost 3D sound that can tonally sound very different due to the recording so they do tend to evolve in their signature as they reflect how that recording does sound than just the same headphone house sound with every different song or genre you hear with the Grados which guess these might be down to the natural wood timbre effect of the cups doing their work here perhaps.
     
    Only down side I have noticed it is another one of these highly engineered products that if you feed it crap it will throw it right back at you and can sound brittle and not very forgiving with poor recordings but anything that is done fairly well to outstanding recordings like the Eric Clapton Slowhand & 461 Ocean Boulevard Gold discs from the original master recordings (thanks go out to Barolo for lending me these discs which opened my eyes up to Gold discs) which really do allow the Hugo TT to pull the best detail and let the GS1000e really play full tilt to their potential as more recordings should be done like this as it just has so much accuracy tonally yet dynamic and uncompressed and seems to be so much headroom with these recordings it is tempting to just turn that volume knob a little bit more!
     
    An album I have rediscovered which sound sublime trough the GS1000e was Ocean Colour Scene’s Mosely Shoales which was a perfect blend for the warm tones yet able to layer the music clearly with a nice rhythmic mellow warm, still lucid & clean mid bass to the kick drum extending those lows that the Grado reminds you it can go there if the recording has it in the tank yet does it in such a nice tight controlled manner with great timing and attack.
     
    The Grados are a tonally well balanced headphone with a touch of warmth that has that wide open soundstage with pin point accurate placement of instruments and insanely rich detailed mid’s with those second to none vocal reproductions and the able  transient tempo make these sound agile and fast with most genres especially stand out memory of listening to Michael Jackson Bad and Thriller remastered albums but it will excel into another dimension with anything that is jazz, blues, live music, acoustical, classical as I found with the Mahler Symphony No.5 in 24 bit 192khz has so much depth and space and imaging is amazing as it is so cohesive with the orchestra set out in front of you with sounds panning from side to side you can pick out where certain players are in your head as the GS1000e’s are so accurate and delicate in where it images sounds from and then the quite passages are painted on such a black background you experience that perception that you are In a big concert hall listening to this.
     
    With Joe Bonamassa playing his way through the GS1000’s is great to listen to as he uses so many different Guitars is a good test for them and you can feel the energy from his playing as the GS1000e’s wooden cups really get the timbre of the strings just right it makes for a good ride with his powerful slightly grainy vocals and the fast hitting mid bass and very fine harmonics the Grado’s have made time go fast going through his back catalogue. 
     
    Another blues experience to behold on the Grados was Sea Sick Steve, not all his songs are great to my ears but the ones he does when he is in up tempo form are golden and his style of being all over the place in a jamming style could really work some cans in terms of speed and decay but the Grado enjoys rendering the mad drumming by Dan Magnusson & the third addition of John Paul Jones with the bass guitar adding another dimension the Grados manage to separate all these so well it has a way of layering the music that you can still pick out the strings been played even with Magnussons drums going full tilt and hearing the vocals so clear at the front the GS1000e just sound easy to listen to even with all the detail it is capable of showing.
     
    The TT really does make these GS1000e’s sing to their full potential although one thing they probably do lack for some will be a seismic type of bottom end sub bass with any big impact but I think the wooden models characteristics have been designed for other genres like a suit-er would tailor a suit to fit then Grado made this wooden suit to fit blues, jazz, acoustic & vocals like no other headphone in Grado’s own special touch.
     
    …But anyone who is a die hard rock fan who primarily listens to that genre might want to audition the PS1000’s if you can stretch another £700 notes that is, not that the GS1000 is not able to handle rock, far from it but it is more laid back and articulate in the detail department with how the bass is presented as the PS1000 just have that little bit more attack and slam from my experience (I keep thinking grit also) as I think the metal chamber on the PS1000’s just add that yet if you want a can that excels with those above genres as mentioned and still capable with rock but not looking for earthquake level of bass then GS1000 will not disappoint as I found out with Muse Dead Inside 24 bit 96khz from their Drones album, the tempo and natural tones and striking nature of the drums and bass guitar with Matt Bellamy’s vocals coming through sound so life like feels he is signing right in front of you as there Is just this black background with no veil, that’s how forward these vocals can be, I wish vocals were like this on all headphones. 
     
    The Grados do things a lot differently to other headphones out there but yet they strike the chord (yes, pun intended) just right in so many places it becomes addictive to listen to these as they are so good with the accuracy, natural tonality with some richness and balance with this amount of detail added in makes these a very good pairing with the Hugo TT as it compliment the Grado’s providing the space and speed to synergize with ample power to drive these efficient headphones.
     
    The only downsides if any would be more ergonomically with the positioning of the cups just right for optimal sound firing in the right spot as the cup area is so big and I’m sure the cable as I have heard for a stock cable sounds fine but it does not match the quality of the rest of the headphone and then there will be many who would of just wanted that option of it been detachable, I’m sure Grado will say this is for optimum quality but at least give the listener/ consumer that choice to be able to swap out if they want. 
     
    It would be nice to have maybe packing to match the status of been second in line to its flagship brother as it is still in the traditional Pizza box but can understand this if it is due to most of cost going towards making them sound good as they do. Just would be nice if there was a premium packaged version even if it meant paying the extra, at least the choice is there as another headphone company has used this approach and I’ll be honest here I’m a sucker for that type of thing anyway so to Grado… I would love to see a GS1000 presented in a wooden matching mahogany  Grado box with nice plush velvet lining inside!  
     
    DSC02638.jpg
    The GS1000e comes with an extension cable and 3.5 jack adaptor.
     
    Apart from that trivial, maybe not for some on the ergonomics I cannot fault these headphones on the sound and comfort as I love the sound of these with anything I listen to these with and has totally blown away the old conjecture I kept hearing about Grado’s are good if you are after rock music as if it was pigeon holed to doing one thing well only but as I found out anything these sound with is very good. Rock & dance is very accomplished and enjoyable  on these and downright outstanding with anything else I have heard it with regardless of the genre playing.
     
    I am quite smitten after three weeks listening  to the GS1000e’s sound now with them been so resolving, dynamic and harmonically perfect with the magical way it layers the music with the huge sound-stage and pin point accuracy of sounds and it’s second to none vocal reproduction which is just uncanny is in a nutshell an absolute  joy and just want to listen to them all night going through my collection so endeavour to make these the flagship headphones I have been looking for to partner my Hugo sooner rather than later. 
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Beyer Dynamic T90 open back headphones:
     
     
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    Already a Beyer admirer from my days with the old DT770 Pro (600ohm) model I had only heard the T1’s and T5p’s briefly but could gauge that Beyer have stayed true to their house sound down the years and has always felt like a pair of Beyers do not pull any punches or try to be something else they are not and really focus on delivering a balanced clean cut sounding pair of headphones that are easy to listen to  as well as pay attention to making a comfortable pair of headphones to wear. The T90 comes in a nice leather looking type of zipper case with foam protection to store it but would not say this is exactly ideal to use as a transport case for them as it is a bit on the big side but nice to see on a pair of sub £400 cans anyway.  Also comes with a cable which is quite long and feeds to one channel only, again this is hard wired in a cannot be detached which is a shame and comes with a 3.5 jack fitted with a 1/4 jack adaptor which screws on to the 3.5 jack so keeps a low profile whilst attached.  The cable does tend to get tangled easily though I found which did become a bit frustrating at times when going to use each time for a session.  
     
    The T90 is no different here been quite able to deliver a clean transparent balanced sound which is tonally accurate with instruments yet can have a nice elegant sounding mid’s with a plucky textured mid bass and can extend effortlessly low and transition from mid to sub bass is rendered really well as the pace and timing of the DT90’s is nice and fast and does not struggle with busy or complex passages when there is a lot of different instruments fighting for space at the same time the Beyer’s take it in its stride and make it sound musical whilst still been able to give you a fair bit of detail like a studio monitor is capable of.
     
    Actually I think the T90 thrives on fast complex loud music as it feels effortless from note to note and this is made more enjoyable by the fact you forget you are wearing these as they are not overly heavy and combined with the comfortable velour pads and padded headband as well as not clamping the head to tight the physical aspect of these cans melt away in the background allowing me to concentrate on enjoying the T90’s to sing. The Beyer's strong point which the Hugo-TT is capable of getting the most out of is the wide soundstage and fast  stereo imaging excels here yet the mid’s feel present without been sucked out due to this, or are they ever to forward or intrusive at any time although I feel I would like my vocals a bit closer up front than they are personally the vocal tones are rendered well  and the way it blends with the rest of the mid-range is a without disappearing is done well by the Beyer’s here.
     
    The High’s on the T90’s are also interesting in that they are fairly forward and present all the time to the point they almost give the impression it is a bright headphone due to this but at the same time it is never harsh and the roll off on the treble seems to be just right and has a good sense of timing with the rest of the mix.
     
    The more I listen to these I forget they are in the sub £400 bracket and have heard some £1K open backs struggle to be as cohesive with synergy as a complete sound and deal with fast passages of music like the T90’s enjoy producing.  Listening to Gregory Porter’s Liquid spirit album with his low to high range and the spaciousness feeling between instruments you can clearly hear range of each note and the decay of the notes and sounds very dynamic been able to hear the bass notes of the bass been plucked to the piano been hammered to the high hats sizzling away his slightly gritty vocals are very easy on the ear and the Hugo-TT again complements another pair of headphones in the T90 in sharing a naturally tonal sound help the T90 give this balanced presentation. 
     
    Trombone Shorty is lively, dynamic and the saxophone is projected forward to the listener with energetic vibrancy and the percussion has a nice tempo with a punch to the mid bass which makes  this album like the T90 a lot as it brings everything to live is like having a New Orleans carnival going on in your head with the T90.
     
    Playing the T90’s from a wide eclectic range of music it seems anything I have played from Jaime-T to Rodrigo & Gabrielle to some classical with Dvorak in high res has been equally as scintillatingly good and really copes with any genre in an accomplished manner as it is quite hard to pick out its weak link with any type of music. 
     
    The T90 highs are crisp and the bass has a heavy weight feel behind it giving it a very present bass which with rock music can feel quite visceral when listening to the low end come in and the mid bass has a good attacking edge to it which makes it sound  forward in its presentation.  This makes it perfect for live music as well as it has that punch behind the T90’s delivery.  Not also are lead vocals sounding solid I found backing singers or harmony sections very infectious as it images them well in the stereo mix and adds great layering to a song been able to too hear the backing vocals as clear as the lead singer. 
     
    Listening to Jessie Wares Tough Love album as liquid smooth vocals with a nice dark earthy sub bass which is very atmospheric to listen to and the clear crystalline highs give contrast to her songs and Ryan Adams self-titled album has a grit in the midrange with been quite good separation In the hectic mid’s like on the opening track “Gimme Something Good”.
     
    With some jazz like the very well recorded Fourplay album 4 it has a good clean precise imaging with a nice amount of warmth in the midrange with the strings sounding life like and the piano having a natural timbre to its notes. Percussion is also very dynamic with nice feeling of space around every instrument been played.
    The T90’s can also show warmth as well like with the Fourplay album if the recording has it then the Beyer’s show they can have a more mellow side to them rather than direct hard hitting punchy not messing around type of presentation the T90’s like to thrive on. 
     
    The T90’s have definitely brought back what I loved about my old DT770’s back in the day as they are a no nonsense straight forward clean dynamic balanced pair of headphones that have got weight and punch with the bass into the proceedings and unlike my old DT770’s there is so much detail and expansiveness in the soundstage been open backs Beyer has won a place back in my heart and may very well look at these as a pair of cans to have regardless if I end up with a pair of TOTL headphones later on.
    For the money they really do perform with hardly any negatives to pick up on with the sound only other than some may still find it a tad bright if your that way inclined with sensitivity but I will be sad to let these tour set go as it was a surprise factor for sure experiencing the T90’s.
     
     I have to say with the GS1000e & Beyer T90 I both had with the TT for open back headphone listening was the surprise how enjoyable it was still to listen to the cheaper T90 after hearing the very capable detailed Grados which is in a class of its own there but the T90’s ability to draw me back again and again was due to the synergy it had with the Hugo-TT that has drawn every cylinder these headphones have to offer so is running like a thoroughbred TT T90 horse so all in all they are a very good exciting pairing for sure.  as it could just sound good with any type of genre which goes to show the Hugo-TT is not just for flagship headphones, it can be just as addictive with the T90’s which cost less than £400 notes. 
     
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    Other listening apparatus used:
     
    JH16pro CIEM
     
    & Sony MDR-7520 with Whiplash hybrid cable mod to both cups.
     
    The JH16’s which paired really well with the portable Hugo already and as usual scaled well with the TT and which benefitted from the more expansive soundstage to operate from and the JH16’s bass which has already tuned a few db above flat on the bass loves the extra depth and controlled focus the TT bass has to offer and the improvement in the highs is more present out there on its own thanks in part to the TT having that big black canvas to just sound as if it is in space almost yet the extra detail can be heard in the treble notes which make my 16’s highs sound more crisp but at the same time without sounding any brighter. The JH16’s were a treat on the original Hugo and this experience is just elevated using the TT and from my experience there was no hiss which just added to a pleasurable listen.
    Still loving my JH16’s four years on and the Hugo-TT just helps maintain this fix!
     
     
    With my Sony 7520’s which has modded Whiplash Audio Hybrid cable to both cups for better  balanced channels is helped again by the Hugo’s sense of space as my Sony’s are fairly narrow sounding on sound-stage despite the Whiplash cable helping immensely in this area to the stock cable but end of the day they are closed backs and this helped feel like they were let of a leash a little more and the upper mid’s were the clearest I’ve heard them sounding and the lower mid’s good full punch with impact  but not hard or harsh at the top end is again just a bit more crispness overall with high hats sounding nice and sharp and with the 7520’s been closed backs the Hugo’s extra bass presence can have a nice resonance and reverberation whilst still staying controlled and tight with bass heavy tracks as the Sony’s are quite an efficient headphone to drive the Hugo-TT controls it with authority in the lower and sub bass region adding some weight behind driving rock tracks.  Only down side was after hearing open backs like the Beyer Dynamic which is in the 7520’s price range despite the Hugo helping the soundstage on the Sony’s it became evident after hearing the Beyers how much the overall listening experience the sound can breath and have more natural openness & depth and wider field of sound.
     
     
    Summary
     
    It’s been a quick three weeks been able to use and appreciate this equipment and was coming into this with already admiring the Grado GS1000 & PS1000 models from previous listens at events but is nothing like been able to hear a pair of headphones in a quite environment over time and the GS1000e model was a joy to listen to with the Hugo-TT which matches the GS1000’s need to be feed detail in spades which the Hugo is primed to do with the Rob Watts 26K tap Pulse Array DAC chip and with the additional improvements with the amp section with the TT makes them such a good pairing.
    The only thing with the GS1000 model is for anyone wanting a heavy bass response headphone that will shake & rattle your head then this is the only area where it is not light on bass at all but just quite lean, tight & tidy with all the emphasis on providing a rich textured detailed presentation where you can hear the continuation of every note so you can very clearly hear the changes in frequency changes going from upper to lower mid to sub bass as they happen.
     
    The GS1000e are other than that masterful listen with warm and rich yet clean detailed – want to say analytical but these sound to musical at the same time for that. Prolonged listening to these and you melt into the details you have never heard before like the GS1000 present’s them thanks of course to the TT’s DAC helping with this. 
    The Beyer T90’s were a surprise as eyes were on the Grado’s for the above obvious stated reasons with them been a £1k reference can and all that, although I had a unfinished missed regrets in letting my old DT770’s go was still pleasantly surprised it still had that house sound after all these years that was familiar with yet this was a further detailed and better soundstage version of my old pair so was even bigger surprise was I got hooked to how they were able to handle any genre with ease and enjoyed spending as much time with these as any other headphone going.
     
    I was fortunate to hear both these headphones as well as my own iem’s/headphones to probably their full potential due to the Hugo-TT which going bigger with hardware upgrades in the amp section has made a difference which has just improved on a more expansive vast deep sounding soundstage with more control and extension in the low end with more resolution to the bass notes then the Highs have a certain amount of added clarity and detail with the mid-range notes in instruments sounding more coherently detailed due to more space for the music to breath and is more precise to pick out those instruments which was no more apparent than when I finally got to hear how a a Hugo DAC sounded like through my Speaker set up whilst been able to utilize the full potential of the Hugo-TT’s XLR balanced outputs to my XLR Tag amp’s which like the Headphones was the same improvements but just been able to feel the Hugo’s bass extension through a pair of floorstander speakers was jaw dropping yet retain so much control and resolution of the mid’s was breath taking and really did not want to unplug this from my system. 
     
    The Hugo if it was a V8 engine has essentially just had a V12 dropped into the Hugo-TT which has brought along more performance in its amp section to feed those hungrier ohm headphones and at same time has added sonically refinement to the sound quality but let’s not forget this is just not a Hugo designed for portability, this has been purposely designed to be implemented to be a pre-amp DAC into a Hi-Fi system with the addition of XLR balanced connections as well as just be a table top headphone amp/DAC which has to be taken into account where the extra greens go into laying out for a Hugo-TT not to mention the cost of three times the amount of aircraft aluminium needed to make the footprint for this, bigger battery, XLR balanced outputs, remote made of metal, the added amp upgrades with super capping and USB isolation as well as the small matter the sound quality is expanded on the original Hugo does justify where the extra costs come from although stil eye watering for my wallet at the moment unfortunately hence I now have a Hugo-TT box fund a home as a hint to the wife! 
     
    My only negative (or two) with the TT would really be the decision to have the Coax digital input as a BNC connection which was a strange call as most people will have phono RCA Coax plugs and do not really see the need for a BNC on the Hugo and the volume wheel on the TT just seemed to be a tad too easy to turn compared to my portable Hugo so ability to accidently make contact with it or turn up to fast if not taking care with sensitive cans or IEM’s is possible so always just need to approach with due diligence.
     
    But apart from that it is hard to fault this machine after using it for three weeks and thoroughly enjoying the sound improvements I heard with been able to run this with two open back cans one showing the TT can still sound good and enjoyable with mid-price tier cans in the Beyer’s as well as sound stunning with a pair of flagship Grado’s (I still class them as Flagship anyway at £1K) as well as been able to run this in my Speaker set up was a revelation and does look cool sitting in my rack with the rest of my separates so am obviously having withdrawal symptoms now, although my only caveat is here I am lucky to still have the portable Hugo which after a few hours of ear resetting find I am enjoying very much still in its own right so will thank my lucky stars I still have this capable machine to enjoy until  day arrives to acquire a TT one day.... Sweet Dreams are made of these…
     
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      OK-Guy and Light - Man like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. LAmitchell
      nice review Fortis!  I'm looking froward to getting a Hugo in a few years when they start showing up cheaper in the for-sale section :)   Until then, it's nice to read about that delicious sound!
      LAmitchell, Sep 24, 2015
    3. FortisFlyer75
      Thanks LAmitchell, If your talking about the original Hugo you can on a good day pick them up for £850-900 if your lucky on the second hand market but they are keeping their price quite well on the whole. 
       Might have to wait for the Hugo 2 one day (whenever that will be, don't hold your breath!) for the original Hugo's to flood the market and drive the price down ; ) 
       
      If your talking about the Hugo-TT then yes, it will be a very long wait for the day these loose a lot of weight in the second hand market.  Reminds me I must do my Lottery tickets...
      FortisFlyer75, Sep 24, 2015
    4. AndrewH13
      Great review, now I've completed my own, I've had a full read, only a peep before!
      AndrewH13, Oct 1, 2015
  6. LFC_SL
    The Chord Hugo TT: The Symphony Orchestra Edition
    Written by LFC_SL
    Published Aug 22, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Builds upon the same Hugo sound, now in a bigger and badder package
    Cons - Double the price of the original Hugo
    Thank you and acknowledgements

    Forum member OK-Guy for making this possible. All the people involved, who I hesitate to reveal their name as it is a public forum, but they know who they are, for placing their trust in me with all the loan equipment.

    UK review tour equipment

    Chord Hugo TT, Beyerdynamic T90, Grado GS1000e.

    All loan equipment has already been shipped out at the time this article is published, so answers to any questions will be from memory only.

    Personal equipment

    Apple iMac, Apple iPad mini Retina, Cypher Labs Clas -dB, Sony PS3 Slim, Samsung Note 4, Cypher Labs C6iem, Shure SE846, Sennheiser HD600, Fostex TH900, Sony MDR-1R Mk 2, B&W P7

    Music

    Adele - Live at the Royal Albert Hall, Alicia Keys - Songs In A Minor, Alicia Keys - The Diary of Alicia Keys, Alison Krauss + Union Station Live, Amy Winehouse - Back To Black, Clara C - The Art In My Heart, Daft Punk - Random Access Memories, Daft Punk - Tron Soundtrack, First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar, First Aid Kit - Stay Gold, FOE - Bad Dream Hotline, Hans Zimmer - Man of Steel Soundtrack, Hiromi - Alive (The Trio Project), Hiromi - Move (The Trio Project), Hiromi - Voice (The Trio Project), Iron Maiden - Rock in Rio, Jay-Z - The Black Album, Jimi Hendrix - Band of Gypsys, La Roux - La Roux, Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, Linkin Park - Meteora, Melody Gardot - My One And Only Thrill, Miles Davis - Bitches Brew Live, Nirvana - Nevermind, Prince - Around The World In A Day, Pvris - White Noise, Rachael Yamagata - Happenstance, Red Hot Chili Peppers - Live in Hyde Park, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour - Fruit

    Film

    The Dark Knight (opening chapter only)



    Testology

    The original Hugo and Hugo TT exclusively as headphone sources for 2.5 weeks. USB and optical output from iMac. CCK kit or Clas -dB coax with iPad. Optical output from PS3. Samsung Note 4 and iPad for bluetooth streaming.

    Design

    The TT shares the same design language as the original Hugo. The milled aluminium casing of the loan TT unit is finished in a rather attractive black. Silver colour is also available should you wish to match existing home furnishings. Chord made minor discreet alterations to the original Hugo casing during the first year of release in response to consumer feedback, mainly to firm up the port openings and accessibility here and there. The result is that the latest version original Hugo casing is tight. That is very much carried over for the TT, but perhaps in a psychological trick-of-the-mind due to the bigger size, the TT somehow imparts greater satisfaction and craftsmanship.

    The press photography, all boxes and angles, can be hard to judge. In person the TT is less "table-top" and more "coffee-table top". The footprint is smaller than the Sony PS3 Slim console. The TT would comfortably rest on one's forearm. It is easy then to find a space for the TT and particularly given the compact 'square' design. Combined DAC and headphone amplifier sources tend to be rectangular, in a nod to traditional HiFi design, or occasionally an awkward oblong design that is more deep than wide. The TT is manufacturer-approved to run constantly from AC wall power but the long battery life and physical dimensions greatly help should you wish to use the TT in another room, without having to be concerned with a wall power supply. This is especially convenient as Chord warn against using anything other than the supplied power adaptor, which does not appear to be readily available to purchase without contacting a Chord dealer or Chord directly.

    With the intended home setting there has been a logical rearrangement of inputs and outputs. Headphone jacks are located on the front panel and all other inputs and outputs are located on the rear panel. The headphone jack options are now reversed: original Hugo carries 2x 3.5mm and 1x 6.35mm jacks. Hugo TT carries 1x 3.5 mm and 2x 6.35mm jacks. In a basic move towards convenience a rudimentary alphanumeric display and a remote control has also been introduced.




    Heart

    It is on the inside where the marketing directs the attentions of the potential buyer. Firstly the TT continues to rock the same Xilinx Spartan-6 Field Programmable Gate Array with 26,000 taps found in the original Hugo released in 2014. For the next evolution to the FPGA then one has to look to the forthcoming Chord DAVE. If not increasing the tap length, it is elsewhere that Chord have iterated upon the original design. USB ports are upgraded to high-quality asynchronous USB B type. The HD USB output is galvanically isolated. The battery capacity has been doubled to deliver clean power for longer. Chord's engineers have added "Supercap energy storage" to improve battery life, as well as "improving dynamics and demanding transients in recorded music". The output has been boosted to deliver greater headphone drivability. This is evidenced visually as the Hugo and Hugo TT do not quite follow the same rainbow colour-coded volume transition.

    There are some small details not highlighted in the release notes, discovered through home testing, that I like sufficiently to write about. Due to a lack of spare programming space, on each startup the original Hugo defaults to USB input and the volume setting of the previous session. With the Hugo TT there are two-positive user experience improvements upon powering on: the TT will now default to a low volume every time and the TT will automatically detect the active input. This removes some of the mystery / frustration / fun in memorising the coloured-light user interface system.

    In day-to-day usage the Hugo TT power switch and volume dial running right-to-left directionality seemed counterintuitive but this was a relatively easy mental adjustment. The 3.5mm headphone jack is surrounded by a "keyhole" shaped casing window, in a clever nod to right-angle plugs. Being ultra finicky though, smaller right-angle plugs require pinching in order to remove. This does not apply to bigger right-angle plugs or straight-plugs.



    You must choose... but choose wisely

    With the original Hugo it was my experience that either coax or optical inputs delivered a very slightly superior sound than USB input. Slight but nevertheless detectable if you know what to listen for. Happily the TT equalises the inputs. Whilst it is possible another listener with golden ears would pick out the upgraded USB ports, despite my best efforts all of the Hugo TT inputs were indistinguishable and seemed to perform with equal merit.
    Bluetooth

    This exercise taught me that not all bluetooth is created the same. Locating the Hugo TT and establishing a connection was quick and simple. The differences were in Android and iOS. With the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 powered by Android Lollipop, the sound was always clean and free of grain. This was however at the expense of losing definition and dynamics compared to a wired connection. But at least the option is there should one wish to go wireless.

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    20150817_093619.jpg

    iOS in stark contrast introduced a defect that cannot be ignored. The iPad mini Retina with iOS7 exhibited a background grain and interference. The signal was not clear. Substituting in an iPad Air 2 with iOS8 was no better and the same problem remained present. It would be interesting to hear from other Apple iDevice owners and their findings. Based upon this limited testing it seems an Android device would fare better, as at least the signal is clean and clear, at the expense of lower sound fidelity than with a wired connection.

    Cold as ice

    Before leaving this section, I must further compliment Chord. The original Hugo casing will become slightly warm with prolonged use as one would reasonably expect. The TT casing in comparison never exhibited any heat during the entire period in my possession. That was despite continuous running on AC power, battery only and whilst charging. Indeed, but for the presence of lights, there are no apparent external signs of life. Quite incredible.

    Sound

    A space odyssey



    Most people pay attention to the low frequencies first but the most interesting improvement is to the soundstage and imaging capabilities as it cuts through every spectrum. Where the Hugo presents a boundary line that adheres to the human head, the TT pushes outward. Cupping your ears without touching your ears would perhaps be the best description. Greater width, depth and height. Notes and vocals now reach further away and do not hit an imaginary wall.

    The bigger canvas combines with superior imaging and separation to surpass the spatial abilities of the original Hugo. Take Nirvana, Polly. The introduction of the bass part-through the song is more easily distinguishable with the TT. With bass, midrange and treble all having added room to breathe on their own then, it is possible to admire more easily individual strands of songs, yet the TT cohesively combines all the different elements together into a resolving and engaging complete whole.

    All about that bass



    The original Hugo bass quality is excellent so the standard was set high. The Hugo TT bass is tighter and more impactful. The increase in slam is quite thrilling. Yet due to the brilliant imaging control it never spills over. In lesser equipment focus upon bass can smear details in the rest of the music. The sub-bass also extends further and is dark. The TT delivers all the necessary bass, but bigger and badder without losing definition. Reverting back to the Hugo does make the bass seem looser, but it is stressed this is a relative comparison.

    Midrange is simply gorgeous. Sweeter and clearer than the original Hugo. Switch in the TT and vocals seem to float above the music. Particularly with live performances it really draws you in and enhances the illusion of a large arena. After the TT you cannot un-hear that vocals hit a closer imaginary wall with the original Hugo. The TT midrange is a touch more airy. Female vocals are especially beautiful. From the rawness of Lauryn Hill to the softness of Alison Krauss, the TT has an unerring ability to render individual vocal qualities more convincingly than the original Hugo. Very good tone and realism.

    Treble, as with the original Hugo, is clear, smooth and extended, but the TT is more controlled and defined. If equipment matching counts for anything then there is no apparent glare and no brightness to be found with any of the headphones in this test. The treble is neither fatiguing or dull. You will hear every micro-vibration from instruments. There is just the right balance of "sparkle". Timbre on the original Hugo is excellent and the TT does not alter the formula. Instruments now though have a satisfying weight and authority that the original Hugo cannot quite replicate. Although subtle, it contributes to the overall presentation.

    Individual headphone notes

    Below are some non-exhaustive observations for each headphone. This section is simply to help illustrate further my findings of the transition from original Hugo to Hugo TT. If silent, the preceding section applies below. As this is not a headphone review, it is not a complete set of observations.

    In-ear monitors



    With very sensitive in-ear monitors, such as the Shure SE846, noise is detectable with the original Hugo when no music is playing or during quiet music passages. It is stressed this is only with the most sensitive in-ear monitors and many models will not reveal the original Hugo noise-floor. Amazingly then, despite being designed for home use, the TT with the Shure SE846 has a much reduced noise-floor. With no music playing noise is still faintly detectable but we are now referring to redundant levels. As a desktop device the TT is awarded a near perfect pass on this point.

    Shure SE846

    Owners of this monitor will be familiar with the amazingly detailed, textured and impactful sub-bass and bass. Plugged into the Hugo TT the SE846 bass hits harder, tighter, seems to move more "air" and even extends just a touch lower. Killing it. Absolutely killing it. The SE846 has an overall smooth signature. The TT is able to lift vocals and the treble for a more dynamic sound. Reverting back to the Hugo can seem a touch flat.

    Cypher Labs C6iem

    This earphone scales big time. Bassy but otherwise flat-sounding in the rest of the spectrum when connected to a lower end source. This is unfortunate given most owners are entitled to reasonably expect to pair their in-ear monitor with a smartphone or budget player. Introduce the Hugo and a veil is seemingly lifted. The midrange and treble come out of hiding. Dynamics come alive. Things continue to scale with the TT but we are perhaps encountering diminishing returns.

    Fostex TH900



    You can already guess the bass is enhanced to the next plane but I actually want to talk about the piano. Listening to the piano on the Hiromi Trio Project albums is really quite special. Original Hugo has a sharper attack. TT is more controlled and sweeter sounding. The midrange does not at all sound recessed on either Hugo, though TH900 midrange and vocals are more prominent on the TT. It is often alleged the TH900 has a "V-Shaped" signature, which remains somewhat accurate, though this is exaggerated by sub-standard sources. Not at all the case with either Hugo.

    Sony MDR-1R Mk2

    This could be too much of a good thing as the inherent traits of this headphone means that it does not sound full enough at this level. It is intended to be used with a budget device or smartphone and that is no bad thing in itself.

    B&W P7

    The scaling factor is greater than the MDR-1R Mk2 and the P7 copes better with the superior sources. The two Hugos do though tame some annoyances in the treble.

    Beyerdynamic T90

    The tuning of the punchy bass and treble lift makes for a lively sounding headphone. For example cymbals are noticeably present and splashy compared to the smoother Sennheiser HD600. This headphone does seem to benefit in stepping up to the Hugo TT as the signature "Beyerdynamic treble" becomes sweeter and more controlled. The TT is in charge. With the distractions - for my tastes - removed by the TT, you are able to melt into the headphone.

    Grado GS1000e

    Despite being an open headphone that is already spacious when paired with the Hugo, the TT kicks this up a notch. More space and air. Jimi Hendrix has that extra heft with the TT. The Hugo sounds excellent but the TT enhances guitar chords in a seductive manner. Clearer and just more tangible. The Grado is an excellent, excellent pairing with both Hugos and is the expected top tier match. As a big believer in system synergy, if you have found the Grado GS1000e to sound "bright" or having a "treble emphasis" then try the GS1000e with Hugo TT.

    Sennheiser HD600



    My set, born 2008. Natural and effortless. Whilst the TT does pull out extra in the bass and midrange, the HD600 truly sound excellent with the original Hugo. It is the TT's superior imaging capabilities that enhances the HD600. Through the original Hugo the vocalist is more central and closer to the listener. The TT opens up the stage. You are now a few rows further from the vocal and the overall soundstage boundary is less closed, less 'in your head'.

    Closing

    By design the headphone output of the original Hugo is the same signal as the line output. No artificial additives, substitutions or flavourings. Just a clean, dynamic and neutral sound. Some original Hugo owners have reported positive results when introducing an external headphone amplifier. Whilst strictly speaking this is introducing colouration, to push beyond set boundaries is an intrinsically human trait. The relevance? The sum of all the changes is that Chord has taken the original Hugo sound and refined it in every manner. Iterative rather than evolutionary, but a clear improvement nevertheless.

    Going from a stock baseline to the Hugo remains a bigger jump in quality than upgrading headphone source from the Hugo to the Hugo TT. The original Hugo therefore remains worthy of high praise . What the Chord Hugo TT achieves is an all-in-one desktop headphone source that is versatile enough to pair with any type of headphone, enhances the same Chord Hugo sound and removes any nagging desire to supplement with further equipment purchasing. And that is the final thought. It is all very well for a manufacturer to advertise a product represents the end game, in practice it is the user experience that has the final word. It is not that one may not encounter better sound out there, rather that listening to the Chord Hugo TT is such an enjoyable experience, there is no desire to seek out anything further.
      JaZZ, Shini44 and maxh22 like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. LFC_SL
      Part 2 due to word limit in comments system...
       
      Q. Does the TT's amp section do better than external amps that people are using with the hugo chord? Especially the bass impact, compared to the best portable amps?
       
      (This is a condensed version of a longer private message, edited for succinctness).
       
      A. I do own the Pico Power so can only comment on that. When using in-ear monitors, the Pico Power tightens the Hugo bass and seems to blacken the background, but I do not feel original Hugo bass quantity or impact in itself is increased per se. It is plausible these effects combine to create the perception of greater bass quantity and/or impact.
       
      As referenced in the article, please remember the Hugo and Hugo TT line-out and headphone amplifier section is the exact same signal. For technical accuracy then, when adding an external amplifier we are really referring to colouration, rather than an external amplifier increasing the quality of the signal. We are referring to a preference for colouration of, or deviation from, the neutral Hugo output.
       
      As the effect of the Pico to the Hugo is somewhat limited in my view, the Hugo TT as a headphone source then still exceeds the original Hugo, with or without the Pico Power.
       
      It is entirely possible that the owner of a portable or desktop headphone amplifier will enjoy what that will bring to the Hugo TT. I do not quite concur with those who think owners should only listen to the pure Hugo (TT) signal. Whilst in theory sharing the virtues of a dynamic neutral signal is a valid aim, in practice each listener will like what they like. Mind, if the colouration of an external amplifier is still unfulfilling then that is a sure sign to buy elsewhere and think carefully before perpetuating diminishing returns.
       
      For the well-heeled or patient consumer, please remember the Chord DAVE is due to be released in Autumn 2015. It is only with the DAVE that Chord and Rob Watts are upgrading the FPGA and programming. The much increased tap length presumably will - on paper - result in superior sound quality, through improved timing and rendering of transient responses.
      LFC_SL, Aug 23, 2015
    3. JaZZ
      Thank you, LFC_SL! Especially for commenting on the external amp topic, with which I share your view.
      JaZZ, Aug 23, 2015
    4. ByteSize
      Thanks man I love it
      ByteSize, Nov 9, 2015