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Hugo M Scaler by Chord Electronics - The Official Thread

Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by ChordElectronics, Jul 25, 2018.
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  1. thePhones
    Thank you so much for your suggestion, Qobuz sounds a lot better to my ears. I'm not quit sure if it has 100% the transparency of the original recording but it is at least much closer. I can see myself enjoying it for quit some time. Also I mostly listen to jazz and classical and Qobuz seems to be targetting those people. It has a lot of high res titles too.
  2. TheAttorney
    No, I've never tried "no HMS" vs "HMS passthrough". I was giving a practical example of what I meant by a "transformational change", in thas case informally comparing HMS+stock cable at 1M taps (white light) vs HMS+Blaxius in passthough (red), and finding them broadly comparible in musical enjoyment, on balance of their respective strengths and weaknesses.

    I was suggesting that there was nothing technically wrong with the stock cable - it was carefully chosen to correctly meet the 75 ohm BNC spec etc. I tried the upgrade to see if I could get an improvement in sound quality. This is no different to audiophiles tweaking any stock cable from any company, which is why many companies don't bother trying to find a better sounding stock cable - because audophiles are probably going to change it anyway. The other reason is that many companies don't believe there is a problem with cable SQ that needs to be fixed.

    This is always a risk :). However, I wouldn't have posted had I not been confident of what I had heard. As always, YMMV and readers will have to make up their own minds based on whether they agree with the claimant's past impressions.

    You still need to start with a fully functioning HMS before you can improve it :). The Blaxius may well have sounded pretty good even in passthrough, but it was way better at 1M taps!

    I don't really know what's inside a Blaxius^2D cable, but I don't think it contains any ferrites. What I do know is that it has 3 screens, two of which can be connected in any combination to each other and to the connector plug (apparently this gives around 25 electrically different screening combinations). Users of the earlier Lush^2 USB cable claimed significant SQ differences when changing such screening options. So it's a tweakers paradise, although I've not bothered changing the default settings, which incidently are different to the defaults used when the Blaxius first appeared in these pages last year.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2019
    Tao8 and ZappaMan like this.
  3. rjc1845
    I’m in the market for a Dave/Mscaler and have a question on cabling. What is considered the best input to use on the Mscaler?
  4. ZappaMan
    Usb and optical are considered equal, just one of those things, you may discern a slight difference possibly, but not one you can call ‘better’.
  5. musickid
    Pass thru hms is no hms!! or hms with 1 tap which contains volume level data i think. A cable that makes hms passthru sound as good as hms with stock cable at 1m taps is technically impossible. Some expensive cables have been described as adding false colouration which tricks the auditory senses into believing it is hearing something better.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2019
  6. musickid
    Phones out of interest are you using a dap as source?
  7. rjc1845
    Sorry, I should have elaborated further on intended use. I would use in a 2 channel audio system with Spectral electronics and Magico speakers. I was able to home demo the Dave/Mscaler with the following : Bluesound Node as streamer and 3 Nordost Silver Shadow digital cables (dual BNC Mscaler to Dave and single cable Node to Mscaler). The dealer provided all this gear.
    My guess is there’s room for further improvement with better streamer and cables. The Wave Storm appears popular for dual BNC from reading other posts. Are optical or USB that much better than BNC or AES into Mscaler?
  8. AndrewOld
    There are people on here who are claiming that a cable alone can make a bigger difference than the 1M taps in the M Scaler.

    Not everything your read on the internet is true.
    JohnM-73 and Jan Tage Holmber like this.
  9. Progisus
    Has anyone had the chance to compare Mscaler into Hugo2 to HQPlayer (your filter of choice) into Hugo2? I am using HQPlayer to my Hugo2 at present and like the improvement. I can’t audition Mscaler from my location but think it’s probably in my future.
  10. Amberlamps
    It’s just aswell it isnt, as I was going to buy sooper dooper Monster Cables.

    Not really;

    I’m having nothing to do with cable arguements, but how can a cable beat an mscaler ? The cable can help with rfi, or changing from a shoddy cable to a new one, but in a cable v mscaler contest, the mscaler would win all the time.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2019
  11. Tao8
    Everything is relative... just returned from a mate’s place who reterminated a pair of wireworld Platinum Starlight 1.5m digital cables for me with Furutech NCF bnc plugs and just put them on the m scaler to replace the stock cables... holy Frakn marymutherofgawd awesome. I can’t begin to describe how much better these cables are and how things have improved. Well yes I might just have to after my last paragraph.

    First up sound stage... I was just about to consider upgrading to a dave or TT2 to buy some more depth over my qutest. The window thru to the other side just fair opened up.
    I was wanting more viscerality... the images are like amazing solid fleshy walls.

    I was hoping for more bass and solidity. Fierce and deep the bass structure is... it underpins with just an absolute and complete fullness. This is not a small upgrade. I am floored with just how much better it is sounding now. The resolution was awesome, it is now beyond awesome and with a rock solid carved soundstage. The last bit of very slightest of grey (almost a hint) has gone to be replaced with this otherworldly calm around the images. I am in a state of disbelief. This is exceptional.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2019
    onsionsi, andrewd01 and ZappaMan like this.
  12. TheAttorney
    I've been expecting you Mr Bond..... said the attorney whilst stroking a fluffy white cat.....

    It would be nice if my posts could be quoted more accurately, but anyway, one of the reasons why the Blaxius impressed me so much was the further reduction in that splashy brightness that I previously mentioned. If anyone's start point doesn't have that kind of "digital glare", then the cable has less potential improvement to work on, so less opportunity to wow the listener.

    I've realised that I had introduced an unintentional variable into the equation. I originally had DAVE directly placed on top of HMS (not a good look, but convenient when short of space). The ultra stiff Blaxius cables forced me to move DAVE to a separate shelf. For those who believe in vibration effects on hifi components, then this could have skewed the end result to some extent.

    Moving on to HMS in general, one of its benfits is that it has elevated many of my "quite good" sounding albums to "audiophile" status, and many of my "barely listenable" albums to "still flawed but now rather enjoyable" status. But there are still some albums that are so poor that nothing seems to help them. These tend to fall very broadly into 2 camps:

    1. Big-name pop/rock bands from the 60s and 70s - some (not all) of these recordings are so flat, thin and lacking in depth information that nothing seems to save them.
    2. Current big name trendy pop stars (what I call X factor types), including much rap, whose vocals are given such a sharp "edge" that seems to defy the smoothest system. I assume the mastering has been hyped up to sound good to ibud users in an undeground train etc.

    Conversely, whilst I've been on my free trial of Qobuz (superb intergration with Roon), I've been pleasantly surprised by the SQ of many obscure artists that I've never heard of before.
    It's almost as if the recording engineers of big name artists feel compelled to muck around with all the studio gear in order to justify their existance. whereas the poorer artists just get on with simple recording techniques.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2019
    Christer likes this.
  13. shuttlepod
    I have now had the M-Scaler in my system for about ten days. Here are some observations.

    Overall Gestalt

    The single biggest takeaway for me is that music is more composed and calm. Music does not feel as hyped as before; there are not as many moments that show some hint of harshness; there are fewer sharp edges. In a word, music is more natural. Some would say this is a darker sound and I wouldn’t disagree. But it is not darker at the expense of detail or resolution. Frankly, this greater sense of composure ran counter to my expectations, which centered on things like clarity, detail, and soundstage. I didn't know quite what to make of the M-Scaler during my first hour or two of listening because in some ways it seemed like some drama was missing. The more I listened, the more I realized that I was more easily drawn into the music and a greater emotional connection was formed. There was a subjective sense that music had slowed down.

    This is pure speculation on my part, but my guess is that HMS is easing the difficulty my ear/brain may have processing music; listening is both more relaxing and more involving.

    It is important to put this in context: my current system (see below) is the least forgiving and most transparent that I have had over the years (though I have some friends with more resolving and less forgiving systems). The speakers are not laid back; rather, they are dynamic, nimble, and fully capable of revealing harshness, glare, and poor recording quality. So this newfound sense of composure and calm is particularly beneficial in the context of my system.

    Separation of Musical Lines

    This is probably the second biggest revelation for me: the ability of the M-Scaler to unravel dense musical passages and allow one to follow disparate musical lines. There is a very evenhanded treatment of different strands in the music that allows one to hear and focus on multiple strands of music simultaneously rather than forcing the focus on a particular instrument or voice. This enhanced ability to follow stacked elements of the music or criss-crossing musical lines is a chief virtue of the HMS.

    In his excellent review of the HMS on audiophilelifestyle.com, @austinpop captured this well when he said:

    "The best way I can describe it is temporal coherence. There is just something “right” about the sound in terms of its timing. Take dense orchestral music like the Mahler. Normally, with music like that when different instruments come to the foreground in terms of volume, one’s ear is drawn to them, and the others recede from attention. It’s akin to surfing - riding on the crest of each wave. Forgive the mangled metaphor - I don’t surf! What I found with the HMS is that as an instrument receded from its crest, it remained perfectly easy to follow. As a result, I found myself able to keep my attention on what instruments were doing off their peaks. On dense music, this is a revelation! It draws you so much deeper into the piece, both intellectually and emotionally."

    See https://audiophilestyle.com/ca/revi...ord-electronics-hugo-m-scaler-hugo-tt-2-r781/

    This ability to follow musical lines not only draws you into the music, it allows you to appreciate and understand how it is actually put together.

    High and Low Volumes

    On most tunes I am now able to turn up the volume by several decibels with no hint of strain, compression, or harshness. Conversely, the system sounds very good at low volumes, allowing one to hear a coherent whole without missing pieces. Since my listening room is our living room, this flexibility is important to me.

    Human Voice

    Wow. Very dimensional, very natural. Little inflections are heard and understood.


    The M-Scaler does not produce more (or less) bass than I was hearing before. Rather, it is cleaner, more intelligible, tuneful, and easy-to-follow bass. Bass also seems more locked in with the rest of the music. If bass is important to a given tune and recorded well, you are in for a treat.


    One of the major strengths of my current system is a large soundstage with excellent imaging. I wouldn't necessarily say that the HMS has produced a bigger soundstage. I do hear better layering front to back. I also "see" images that are more defined and that seem to have greater cushions of air around them, without fuzz on the edges. For example, on a recording of two pianos, it is easier to hear the two pianos as distinct instruments played by distinct musicians, each occupying their own space. On a musical level, this allows one to appreciate the interplay between the musicians and grasp more of their intent. Related to the issues of soundstage and depth, there is significantly greater recovery of ambience and air in recordings that have it.

    Impact on Redbook Files

    I've never been a big believer in the importance of format; it’s music first, then recording quality; with format last. I am now even less of an advocate for the importance of (or differences among) hi-rez formats. HMS tends to level the field, unlocking hidden beauty in your Redbook files. Really good recordings become stupendously good. As others have noted, however, it is not a miracle worker. The impact of HMS on Redbook varies widely depending on recording quality.

    Setup Issues

    Chord should really insert some additional pages in the HMS owner’s manual that spell out exactly how one should connect the M-Scaler to DAVE, Hugo2, and Qutest. Currently, the manual only deals with Hugo TT2. I was up and running quickly, thanks to some helpful comments by folks in this thread.

    An Observation Regarding Power and the HMS

    I am unlikely to try different power supplies on the HMS, as I have read enough comments, from enough experienced people, to conclude that it is difficult to better the supplied power supply without going to a great deal of expense. But I did try one little experiment.

    [Side note: I replaced the stock power cord that comes with the HMS with a Shunyata Venom power cord. Pretty cheap upgrade at $95. I have not compared the stock power cord with the Shunyata.]

    Initially, I plugged the Shunyata power cord into a fairly cheap Wireworld power strip. This is where I have plugged in my other non-analog power supplies that power various components in my digital chain (Uptone Audio LPS 1s). This power strip is plugged into a different circuit than my dedicated audio circuits. This practice follows the advice of Shunyata, which is to separate purely digital components (like the HMS) from anything that contains an analog circuit, both physically (to the extent possible) and in terms of power circuits.

    Sometimes the received wisdom needs to be tested, however, and so I plugged the Shunyata cord into an available outlet on my Audience aR6 TSSOX power conditioner. This particular outlet was designed for digital components (like a DAC), although I prefer to plug DAVE into one of the outlets normally reserved for amps (and I have my amp plugged into the wall).

    There was a clear and unambiguous change for the better using the power conditioner to get power to the HMS. What stood out was that bass was more intelligible and propulsive, and backgrounds seemed blacker. There was another step forward in reducing edginess and a step up in musical engagement. The Audience conditioner, combined with its expensive Audience power cord to the wall, and my dedicated 20 amp circuits using 10 gauge wire all combined to produce this result.

    BNC Cables

    Note that my experience so far has been with the stock cables. Eventually, I plan to audition two or three brands of BNC cables and see how much of a difference they make.

    Comparisons with Vinyl

    I have a good vinyl setup and it's been an interesting exercise to compare good vinyl records with the same tunes played through HMS. Not surprisingly, the results vary widely. For those who believe HMS has made vinyl obsolete, I'm sorry to report that is not the case. Vinyl is still king with select recordings. Example: any tune on Joni Mitchell's Blue album (the reissue on Rhino). This record has that "breath of life" that is immediately recognizable within 10 seconds. It's mostly about tone and texture. The dulcimer on "California" and "A Case of You" has much more texture and woody resonance than with any digital version (that includes a Tidal 24/192 MQA version (unfolded by Roon to 24/96); a Qobuz 24/96 version; and my own rip of a Redbook CD). By comparison, the dulcimer through my digital chain sounds a little plasticky, lifeless, and grey. Joni's voice is simply more human, more tangible, and more real on vinyl, and my analog system throws a considerably bigger image. The comparison is not close at all.

    On the other hand, yesterday a friend brought over Radiohead's "In Rainbows" album and the Reference Recordings album "Exotic Dances from the Opera." Neither vinyl album could hold a candle to digital playback of the same tunes through HMS.

    I will say that the variation in the quality of vinyl playback is much greater -- from really bad to really great -- than what I typically hear through digital with HMS, which tends to vary from OK to really great.

    My System

    To help put my observations in context, my system consists of:

    Devore Gibbon X loudspeakers
    HiFiMan HE1000 headphones

    Chord DAVE
    Chord Hugo M-Scaler
    Roon/Tidal/Qobuz running off SD card
    Mac Mini modified by Uptone Audio in bridged mode serving as Roon Core server, powered by Uptone Audio JS-2 power supply
    Paul Pang ethernet switch with TXCO clock powered by Jameco LPS
    SOtM dCBL-Cat7 Ethernet cables
    Blue Jeans Cable 6a ethernet
    SOtM sMS-200 Ultra powered by Uptone Audio LPS-1 power supply with custom Zenwave UPOCC copper cable
    Uptone Audio Iso Regen powered by Uptone Audio LPS-1 power supply and Ghent Audio cable
    SOtM txUSB Ultra powered by Uptone Audio LPS-1 power supply with custom Zenwave UPOCC copper cable

    TW Acustic Raven turntable and integral phono cable
    TW Acustic Raven 10.5 tonearm
    Miyajima Shilabe cart
    Zanden/TW Acustic record mat

    Crayon CFA 1.2 integrated amp with Synergistic Research Blue Fuses
    Crayon CPH-P phono stage with dedicated Paul Hynes SR5 DR48 power supply with Synergistic Research Blue Fuse

    Daedalus/WyWires speaker cable
    High Fidelity CT-1 Enhanced interconnect
    WyWires Gold interconnect
    Phasure Lush USB cable
    Phasure Lush^2 USB cable
    Audience AU24 SE USB cable

    Audience aR6 TSSOX power conditioner
    Shunyata Alpha HC power cord powering amplifier direct-to-wall
    Shunyata Alpha HC power cord powering Chord DAVE
    selection of Audience AU24 SE and Audience PowerChord power cords
    Two 20 amp dedicated circuits with 10-gauge wire and FIM 888 AC outlets

    Stillpoints Ultra SS and Ultra Mini under most components including speakers
    Finite Elemente rack with Cerabase footers
    Equipment Vibration Protectors from A/V Roomservice under other components
    Finite Elemente Ceraballs under other components
    Custom wall-mounted TT rack
    Acoustic Revive Schumann resonator powered by Jameco LPS
    Stillpoints Aperture acoustic room treatment (2)
    A/V Roomservice acoustic room treatment (4)
    Acustica Applicata Diffusion Absorption Audio Device
    DIY ultrasonic record cleaner/VPI 16.5 record cleaner

    High Fidelity Cables MC 0.5 Wave Guide
    High Fidelity Cables Magnetic Adapters
    Blitzula, Aslshark, JM1979 and 22 others like this.
  14. Tao8
    Thanks Shuttlepod,
    Some great observations... think you’ll find the m scaler will open up quite a bit more still... over the first couple of hundred hours there was considerable development particularly in terms of the sense of effortlessness and engagement in music making with this marvellous thing.

    Very much recommend exploring better digital cables, I’ve gone to town on this and regret taking a few months to get around to it. A super substantial improvement to be had here (particularly in tonal balance and even surprisingly in resolution) and especially if the rest of the power and cable pathway is already optimised.

    Great to see you also very much enjoying your ride, think it might even get more exhilarating.

    It’s been great to share with others and so many here are under way with the clear return to focus on the music that the m scaler can ultimately provide.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2019
    Aslshark, Christer and shuttlepod like this.
  15. CorvetteGarage
    Shuttlepod- you are the tweak master...
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