Chord Electronics HUGO 2 Portable DAC and Headphone Amplifier
Chord HUGO 2
Three years ago at CES 2014, Chord Electronics unveiled a revolutionary portable DAC and headphone amp that became a landmark product in the audio landscape. Recent advances in digital technology have enabled Chord to introduce the next-generation version: Chord Hugo 2.
The new device has been comprehensively upgraded while ensuring continuity with the much-loved original. It introduces the latest proprietary Chord Electronics FPGA technology giving cutting-edge technical and sonic performance, plus exciting new features.
Sleek new aircraft-grade aluminium casework
Featuring a newly designed precision-machined aircraft-grade aluminium case, Hugo 2 is distinct from its predecessor with its sharper, lower profile design and four spherical control buttons. The spheres, which are top-mounted to allow for possible future expansion side-modules, illuminate with colour-coding information and control power, input, filtering and crossfeed functions. The top-mounted volume-control sphere has been retained and made larger for more intuitive operation.
The stylish new design and additional functionality has been introduced in anticipation of greater indoor use within both desktop and conventional home audio systems, despite Hugo 2’s obvious portability. The inclusion of a full-function remote control adds further flexibility and the practical line-level output mode of the original has also been retained.
New levels of technical performance
The latest FPGA and advanced WTA (Watts Transient Aligned) filters have been implemented in the Hugo 2, bringing a wide variety of performance improvements in a number of areas. Performance gains have been made in timing accuracy, noise reduction, headphone amp power and dynamic range.
Four digital inputs
Hugo 2’s connections and switches now feature laser-ablated function-lettering for improved ease-of-use. The device offers four digital inputs (optical, coaxial and HD USB) plus extended-range Bluetooth, with high-resolution file playback up to 768kHz and up to DSD512 (Octa DSD), via its HD USB input. Analogue outputs include 2x RCA, plus 3.5mm and 6.35mm headphone outputs.
User-selectable filtering option
A four-function switch filter, operated by its own control sphere, offers a useful degree of user-selectable frequency-shaping, bringing warm and soft or transparent and incisive presentations, giving additional flexibility and user control.
For headphone-listening, Hugo 2 retains the popular digital crossfeed function of the original and offers three operation modes from its dedicated control sphere. The system cross-feeds a partial 400 millisecond-delayed and shaped signal from each left and right output to the opposite channel. The system duplicates the effect of listening to speakers and is based on advanced binaural audio research.
Battery life improved
Battery playing time is around seven hours and two modes of automatic charging are now included using the dedicated Micro USB charging port: fast (1.8 amperes) and slow (less than one ampere). An indicator shows charging and battery-charge status.
Lower distortion, better output stage
New digital DC servos have replaced the inline capacitors in the original output stages and reduce distortion further while improving the power-drive performance and capability of the output stage. An element of switch-on delay has resulted, but the performance benefits were felt to outweigh the disadvantage.
- 1x Optical TOSLink 24-bit/192kHz-capable
- 1x RCA coaxial input 24-bit/384kHz-capable
- 1x HD USB input 32-bit/768kHz and DSD512-capable
- 1x aptX Bluetooth (extended range)
- 1x 3.5mm headphone jack
- 1x 6.35mm (1/4 inch) headphone jack
- 1x (pair) stereo RCA phono output
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz +/- 0.2dB
- Total Harmonic Distortion: <0.0001% 1kHz 3V RMS 300 ohms
- THD and noise at 3V RMS Ref 5.3V: 120dB @ 1kHz 300 ohms A Wt
- Noise 2.6 uV A Wt: no measurable noise floor modulation
- Signal to noise ratio: 126dB A-weighted
- Channel separation: 135dB @ 1kHz 300 ohms
- Maximum output level (to clipping at 1% distortion): 94 mW 300 ohms; 740 mW 33 ohms; 1050 mW (8)
- Output impedance: 25 milliohms (0.025 ohms)
- Advanced digital volume control
- Crossfeed filter network
- Four-stage frequency-shaping filter
- Fast-charging batteries via Micro USB giving around 7 hours operation
- 49,195K tap-length filter (near double the original the Hugo)