An interview with Chord from December, 2015.
Hello my name is Andrew Jones and I have been to headphones/ personal audio for about 4 years now. I own all of my equipment and my reviews have not been paid for. I just like to spread my passion for personal audio by giving good, honest reviews.
Source : Apple iPad Pro > Tidal or Questyle QP1R >select titles Dac/Amp : Chord Hugo 2
-Amps used for review:
Cavalli Liquid Carbon
Schiit Audio Jotunheim
-Headphones and IEMs used
Audeze LCD i4 and iSine 20, Focal Utopia, HiFiman HE1000 MrSpeakers Alpha Prime, Ether, Ether C, and Aeon Flow Closed Meze 99 Classic, OPPO PM-3 and Beyerdynamic DT 880 600 OHM.
I have been been looking for a good sounding portable DAC / AMP, to compliment my iPad Pro work station. I have been reading about all sorts of products, and then out of the audiophile wilderness I started to hear fantastic stories about the Chord Hugo 2. And for the last 5 to 6 months I have read scores of impressions and reviews on the Chord Hugo 2.
And then I read a review by a trusted audiophile and friend, in which he said the Hugo 2 was as good if not better as the Schiit Audio Yggdrasil. The mere notion of having a Yggdrasil sitting in the palm of my hand driving my favorite cans as I walked about jamming out; drove me to order a beautiful Black Chord Hugo 2.
The Chord Hugo 2 showed up in a very sturdy box, that kept the H2 safe, during delivery.
Inside the box came the sexy black H2, with a nice assortment of cables and the remote control.
The remote is nice, sturdy, and small. It is ideal for playing with the sound, while on the move, just point at the H2 and do what ever tweak you wish.
Likewise the Hugo 2 is a finely crafted piece of audio equipment, that is definitely bit larger and beefier than my Questyle QP1R or cell phone. But none the less, the H2 and QP1R fit nicely into my leather audio bag.
The Chord Hugo 2 is designed quite well, on one side of the H2, one hooks the micro USB cables to a USB source and to a dedicated charging port.
On the other side of the Hugo 2 one can connect a CD player or DAP using a fiber optic connection. Also one can hook up a Desk Top AMP and just use to the DAC portion of the H2.
And finally one connects the headphones to the H2 using 1/4 or 1/8 jacks.
On the front/ top of the H2, there are 6 lights, that change color to indicate chosen functions. 4 smaller lights indicate Filter, Input, Crossfeed and Power. The larger light indicates Sample rate of the source and the other light indicates volume.
The remote control can be used to alter any function.
Once I had plugged my IPad Pro into the H2, I was just awe struck by the sound of the Hugo 2.
This plucky, little black box of a DAC / AMP sounds spectacular, so natural and so resolute, that I got goosebumps as I heard the sound. The only other DAC to give me goosebumps was the Yggdrasil.
My oh my the H2 definitely sounds as good as the, Yggdrasil, especially depending upon the source.
On one track of Frank Zappa’s I could hear the different level of applause, from faint to heavy. And in one of the Dave Brubeck tracks i can hear one of the drummers drop his sticks as Brubeck was on a tangent. Likewise female vocalist like Kate Bush, Grace Jones, and Rebeca Pigeon ( Spanish Harlem) sound breathtaking. Furthermore male vocalist sound so natural sounding. Nat King Cole, Johnny Cash, and Frank Zappa sound so real so life like. I dis enjoy Zappa sing/ play Uncle Remus, through the H2.
The treble seems spot on to my humble ears.. I dislike overly bright tracks like as I dislike the sound of finger nails scratching across the chalk board. I thought the treble was detailed and delivered just the right details for what ever the track called for.
And as amazing as the H2 sounds, one could tweak the filters and crossfeed, to alter the sound to meet ones tastes. I rarely tweaked with the filters but it is sweet knowing I could do so.
Moreover the natural, detailed sound leads to a outstanding, detailed, holographic soundstage.
My He1000 and Focal Utopia’s soundstage sound so three dimensional. one can place the instruments all around the listener. Classical music by Mozart, Beethoven or Wagner sounds spectacular, with such a detailed, holographic soundstage. It is very surreal to be able to listen to such great TOTL sound, while walking about town. The magic is matching the right track to the environment that I am strutting through.
What shocked me most about the Chord Hugo 2, was how powerful it’s AMP section was. I used the H2 to drive every one of my headphones and my cans just sounded great. The best synergy between the Hugo 2 and my many headphones was the Audeze LCD i4.
The bass and mids on the i4, through the H2 just blew me away. The bass was so deep yet controlled. The mids were musical yet ever so natural sounding. Frank Zappa’s Jazz From Hell, through the H2and i4 gave me goosebumps as I sipped a shot of espresso, at the local Brista shop.
Normally I needed to be tethered to a desktop rig to hear such beautifully detailed music, and yet to quote Zappa, I am “Free as the Wind” while using the Hugo 2.
The sunset never seemed so seemingly magical, as I kick back, under a shade tree.
The second best sounding headphone, driven by the H2, was my Focal Utopia. The bass and mids seem to come alive through the Hugo 2. With the Hugo 2, stashed in my leather audio bag, I felt decadent strutting down the sidewalk, with my Focal Utopia strapped to my head, jamming out to some Beethoven. Clock Work Orange kept popping up into my mind lol.
Finally the third best sounding can out of the amazing Hugo 2, was MrSpeakers Ether.
The soundstage, bass, and mids have this light magical quality. I can only imagine how the Ether Flow must sound out of the Hugo 2.
I was greatly surprised by how good the Beyerdynamic Dt 880 600 OHM sounded driven by the Hugo 2. To get the best out of the Dt 880, I had to have it hooked to my Liquid Gold and yet the H2 did a great job.
I hooked up the Hugo 2, too my amps and was convinced that he Hugo 2 could be used as a free standing DAC. I know I can pair either my Liquid Carbon or Jotunheim AMP to the Hugo 2 to have a versatile system, while out on vacation, or for what have you.
I think the Chord Hugo 2 is a greater sounding DAC/ AMP, although a bit pricey, but it does sound as good as the Schiit Audio Yggdrasil, especially when one factors in the fact it can drive so many cans so brilliantly, without the need for a stand alone amp. And I just love the Hugo 2 because I can enjoy such great music while on the go. But I also like using this about device as a desktop device as i type and use my IPad Pro.
The Chord Hugo 2 is a superb sounding TOTL Dac and amp. I have found myself immersed in the music when listening to my tracks, it is versatile and well built.
It is akin to a modern day harp as used by the audiophile muses of old to inspire and captivate the listener. The sound is so good, that moment of enjoyment seemingly lasts forever...
HUGO 2 – SPECIFICATIONS:
-Chipset: Chord Electronics custom coded Xilinx Artix 7 (XC7A15T) FPGA
-Pulse array: 10 element pulse array design
-Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz +/- 0.2dB
-Output stage: Class A
-Output impedance: 0.025Ω
-THD: <0.0001% 1kHz 3v RMS 300Ω
-THD and noise at 3v RMS: 120dB at 1kHz 300ohms ‘A’ wighted (reference 5.3v)
-Noise 2.6 uV ‘A’ weighted: No measurable noise floor modulation
-Signal to noise ratio: 126dB ‘A’ Weighted
-Channel separation: 135dB at 1kHz 300Ω
-Power output @ 1kHz 1% THD: 94mW 300Ω
-Dimensions: 130mm (L) x 100mm (W) x 21mm (H)
-Boxed Dimensions: 220mm (L) x 122mm (W) x 85mm (H)
-Materials: Clamshell precision machined aluminium casing with polycarbonate buttons, acrylic signal window, and glass viewing portal. Available in a choice of two colours – natural silver, and satin black
-Battery: 2x Rechargeable custom Enix Energies 3.7v 9.6Wh Li-ion (lithium-ion (2600mAh) batteries*
-Tap length filter: 49,152 – 10 element Pulse Array design
-Play time: In excess of seven (7) hours
-Charging: Nominal four (4) hours via Micro USB at 1.8amps (fast charge) – Nominal eight (8) hours at 1amp (slow charge)
-Connectivity (input): Micro USB (White): 44.1kHz – 768kHz – 16bit – 32bit
-Coax via 3.5mm Jack (Red): 44.1kHz – 768kHz – 16bit – 32bit
-Optical (Green): 44.1kHz – 192kHz – 16bit – 24bit
-Connectivity (input wireless): Bluetooth (Apt X) (Blue): 44.1kHz – 48kHz – 16bit
-Connectivity (output): 1x ¼” jack headphone output
-1x 3.5mm jack headphone output
-1x stereo (L & R) RCA output
-PCM support: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz, 358.8kHz, 384kHz, 717.6kHz, and 768kHz.
-DSD support: Native playback supported. DSD64 (Single) to DSD512 (Octa-DSD)
-Volume control: Digital, activated in 1dB increments. Last known state saved upon shutdown, with exception of line-level mode
-Line-level mode: Activated via dual press of middle ‘Source’ and ‘Crossfeed’ buttons. Line level = 3v via all outputs. Reset by power cycle
-Power saving mode: Auto-shutdown after ten minutes of input inactivity
-Driver support: Driverless with Mac OS X and Linux, driver required for Windows OS
* Non-user-serviceable batteries are covered by a limited 18-month warranty from initial date of purchase. For full terms and conditions please click here.
User Configurable Options:
Incisive neutral (Ultimate reference) (White)
Incisive neutral HF roll-off (High Frequency roll off) (Green)
Warm (‘Smooth’) (Orange)
Warmer HF roll-off (High Frequency roll off) (Red)
-Crossfeed (Digital IIR):
Off – No Crossfeed
Level 1 – Light
Level 2 – Medium
Level 3 – Heavy
Remote control (included).