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Darko Chord Hugo 2 review


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John Darko has posted his review of the Chord Hugo 2. He claims that as a stand alone DAC, it is in the premier league, along with the best DACs he has tested, and at a fraction of the price.

 

Has anybody heard, or own the Chord Hugo 2, and come to similar conclusions? Personally, I don't understand why Chord did not put a regular USB input on the Hugo 2. Why go with a mini USB input? 

 

http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/2017/09/top-of-the-pops-chord-electronics-outstanding-hugo-2/

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Just wait for the desktop model that incorporates the Hugo 2 DAC internals, 3Qute?, if a normal USB input is desired. 

Chord Hugo 2 is built for mobility, thus the micro usb input.

(JRiver) Jetway barebones NUC (mod 3 sCLK-EX, Cybershaft OP 14)  (PH SR7) => mini pcie adapter to PCIe 1X => tXUSBexp PCIe card (mod sCLK-EX) (PH SR7) => (USPCB) Chord DAVE => Omega Super 8XRS/REL t5i  (All powered thru Topaz Isolation Transformer)

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7 minutes ago, ElviaCaprice said:

Just wait for the desktop model that incorporates the Hugo 2 DAC internals, 3Qute?, if a normal USB input is desired. 

Chord Hugo 2 is built for mobility, thus the micro usb input.

 

Sounds good! The 3Qute will also be less expensive, since it has no headphone amp.

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Thanks for the link.

 

Hugo2 is still on my shortlist as next DAC, I'm hoping for close to DAVE performance from  a fraction of the £.  

 

However, I don't read this as necessarily  a rave review, for me this extract is significant:

 

"The Brit’s detail retrieval smarts are also on par with the Coloradoan. Where it falls short is on acoustic mass and slam".  

 

For me, using in a main system, a top DAC has to have both exemplarary detail retrieval and acoustic mass and slam, both are needed for realism.  It's why I rate DAVE so highly, but it sounds like H2 may have inherited some of it's predecessor's limitations when used in a main system, maybe an inevitable consequence of the battery power supply?

   

 

 

 

 

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5 hours ago, ElviaCaprice said:

Just wait for the desktop model that incorporates the Hugo 2 DAC internals, 3Qute?, if a normal USB input is desired. 

Chord Hugo 2 is built for mobility, thus the micro usb input.

 

Doesn't that exist already? I thought the Hugo TT (Table Top) was the 'desktop' version of their DAC?

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4 minutes ago, George Hincapie said:

 

Doesn't that exist already? I thought the Hugo TT (Table Top) was the 'desktop' version of their DAC?

That was with the original Hugo DAC, as was the 2Qute.  Not the Hugo 2. 

(JRiver) Jetway barebones NUC (mod 3 sCLK-EX, Cybershaft OP 14)  (PH SR7) => mini pcie adapter to PCIe 1X => tXUSBexp PCIe card (mod sCLK-EX) (PH SR7) => (USPCB) Chord DAVE => Omega Super 8XRS/REL t5i  (All powered thru Topaz Isolation Transformer)

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5 hours ago, Norton said:

Thanks for the link.

 

Hugo2 is still on my shortlist as next DAC, I'm hoping for close to DAVE performance from  a fraction of the £.  

 

However, I don't read this as necessarily  a rave review, for me this extract is significant:

 

"The Brit’s detail retrieval smarts are also on par with the Coloradoan. Where it falls short is on acoustic mass and slam".  

 

For me, using in a main system, a top DAC has to have both exemplarary detail retrieval and acoustic mass and slam, both are needed for realism.  It's why I rate DAVE so highly, but it sounds like H2 may have inherited some of it's predecessor's limitations when used in a main system, maybe an inevitable consequence of the battery power supply?

   

 

 

 

 

 

I always get the sense with Chord that there is a considerable gap between the DAVE and whatever else they then release. Perhaps consider other options? The Schiit Yggdrasil would be worth a trial. Metrum Acoustics are releasing two new DACs next week, the Onyx and the Jade. The Onyx replaces the Menuet and the Jade is a miniature version of the Adagio. Both in the £2000-£3000 range.

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21 hours ago, Norton said:

Thanks for the link.

 

Hugo2 is still on my shortlist as next DAC, I'm hoping for close to DAVE performance from  a fraction of the £.  

 

However, I don't read this as necessarily  a rave review, for me this extract is significant:

 

"The Brit’s detail retrieval smarts are also on par with the Coloradoan. Where it falls short is on acoustic mass and slam".  

 

For me, using in a main system, a top DAC has to have both exemplarary detail retrieval and acoustic mass and slam, both are needed for realism.  It's why I rate DAVE so highly, but it sounds like H2 may have inherited some of it's predecessor's limitations when used in a main system, maybe an inevitable consequence of the battery power supply?

   

 

 

 

 

Yeah, probably.  It could also be related to output stage design.  My experience with various portables is that they fall down when put in room/speaker system, without enough body, weight, and dynamics for really great playback.  Small DACs generally have small power supplies, and there is no substitute for a nice, beefy power supply with multiple, separate rails for right and left channels.  Does Hugo2 have balanced outputs?  This can make a big difference as well if one's amplifier is balanced.  Of course DAVE is balanced.  Is a 3Qute announced, or how about a Hugo TT2?  I would like to see a TT2 with balanced outputs, full galvanic isolated USB input, volume control and a real AC based power supply.  Close to DAVE performance for a speaker system around $5-$6 K would be a nice price point for Chord to hit.

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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45 minutes ago, roberto2 said:

Darko is not the Bible...

 

When you look at his list there is no AudioGD dacs after the Reference 7 that is an old model. Nothing about Master 7 or flagship Audio GD HE7 for exemple. 

 

And nothing about many others dacs.

 

 No need to take his referrals or exclusions too seriously.  There are many wonderful digital audio products apparently not on his radar.  He tries to provide an honest service and actually is brave enough to rank devices according to his own personal experience.  He writes entertainingly and I like that appreciates Bowie.  Otherwise...as with all journalists....pinch of salt.

Tidal / Qobuz--> Roon--> Fios Gigabit--> Netgear Prosafe GS105 --> Supra 8-->EtherRegen --> Fiber--> opticalRendu / CI Audio LPS --> Curious Evolved Link --> Chord Qutest--> AQ Water --> Belles Aria Integrated--> AQ Robin Hood--> Kudos Super 20's

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1 hour ago, OldBigEars said:

 

 No need to take his referrals or exclusions too seriously.  There are many wonderful digital audio products apparently not on his radar.  He tries to provide an honest service and actually is brave enough to rank devices according to his own personal experience.  He writes entertainingly and I like that appreciates Bowie.  Otherwise...as with all journalists....pinch of salt.

Well said! No individual can test every single DAC. Of course he can only rank the ones he has tested. I don't think he presents his hierarchy as an absolute, but as a guide on what he has tested. 

 

Different people like different things. As always, the best thing is to hear a component for yourself. I know people, actually salesmen at a dealer, who were loaned the Chord line of DACs by the distributor. The distributor would have liked for the store to carry the brand. The salesmen at the store did not like the Chords at all. I won't repeat their negative comments, but they refused to carry the products in store. This goes against the almost universal praise Chord DACs get.

 

Different people, different tastes. 

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2 hours ago, barrows said:

Yeah, probably.  It could also be related to output stage design.  My experience with various portables is that they fall down when put in room/speaker system, without enough body, weight, and dynamics for really great playback.  Small DACs generally have small power supplies, and there is no substitute for a nice, beefy power supply with multiple, separate rails for right and left channels.  Does Hugo2 have balanced outputs?  This can make a big difference as well if one's amplifier is balanced.  Of course DAVE is balanced.  Is a 3Qute announced, or how about a Hugo TT2?  I would like to see a TT2 with balanced outputs, full galvanic isolated USB input, volume control and a real AC based power supply.  Close to DAVE performance for a speaker system around $5-$6 K would be a nice price point for Chord to hit.

Battery power is extremely quiet. That is the main advantage. But, as you say, it cannot drive a component like a good quality linear power supply. Drive and slam are usually attributes of a beefy power supply. 

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3 minutes ago, Indydan said:

Battery power is extremely quiet. That is the main advantage.

I find this to be somewhat of a myth.  I have experimented with LiFePO4 batteries (the best ones) and found that a really well engineered AC based supply can be made just as quiet, and often with lower output impedance.  There is a reason almost all really high end products do not use battery based supplies.

Batteries work by internal chemical reactions and indeed do have noise caused these reactions, they also only perform at top levels in terms of output impedance when run above 50% charge rates.

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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3 minutes ago, barrows said:

I find this to be somewhat of a myth.  I have experimented with LiFePO4 batteries (the best ones) and found that a really well engineered AC based supply can be made just as quiet, and often with lower output impedance.  There is a reason almost all really high end products do not use battery based supplies.

Batteries work by internal chemical reactions and indeed do have noise caused these reactions, they also only perform at top levels in terms of output impedance when run above 50% charge rates.

I won't argue with you. A good linear power supply can be just as quiet. It will take up more room and make heat, but it will have other advantages as well. 

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  I went through a period where I built equipment with battery supplies. Used 2.7 ah, 12 volt SLA. Worked great for single rail or bipolar supplies. Series two for a +/- 12 volt supply. 

  I do not think batteries lack current delivery. These batteries had a pigtail and needed retermination to allow plugging in to gear. 

  One day I accidently touched one lead while cutting insulation on the other. There was a loud crack. Puff of smoke, then I looked for damages. 

  There was a semicircle of stainless steel knife blade gone. Maybe 1/8 inch. Vaporized. 

  Current delivery like that will provide for more slam than a switching or linear supply of reasonable size. 

  But batteries were too much hassle. Recharging, some acted up and would not stay charged. 

  Sure is easy to build a supply and just turn it on.

 

2012 Mac Mini, i5 - 2.5 GHz, 16 GB RAM. SSD,  PM/PV software, Focusrite Clarett 4Pre 4 channel interface. Daysequerra M4.0X Broadcast monitor., My_Ref Evolution rev a , Klipsch La Scala II, Blue Sky Sub 12

Clarett used as ADC for vinyl rips.

Corning Optical Thunderbolt cable used to connect computer to 4Pre. Dac fed by iFi iPower and Noise Trapper isolation transformer. 

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On 9/18/2017 at 8:53 AM, roberto2 said:

Darko is not the Bible...

 

When you look at his list there is no AudioGD dacs after the Reference 7 that is an old model. Nothing about Master 7 or flagship Audio GD HE7 for exemple. 

 

And nothing about many others dacs.

Nor does he claim to be. He’s pretty clear that he can’t review everything. 

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4 hours ago, DarwinOSX said:

Nor does he claim to be. He’s pretty clear that he can’t review everything. 

Darko says he doesn't want to review anything he can't afford and knows he wouldn't buy.  I appreciate that point of view. 

 

He makes no claim to having an exhaustive DAC index. 

 

I find his reviews useful and he tries to compare products so you get an idea of how one sounds relative to another and the value of each one relative to price. I like that, as I think it gives a better picture of each products strengths and weaknesses, and gives the reader a better idea of which products might be more to his/her liking. 

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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3 hours ago, firedog said:

Darko says he doesn't want to review anything he can't afford and knows he wouldn't buy.  I appreciate that point of view. 

 

He makes no claim to having an exhaustive DAC index. 

 

 

No problem and I like Darko's reviews...

 

But a La Scala MK2 Optologic cost 6590€ in France and an AudioGD HE-7 only 3500€.

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On 9/17/2017 at 12:32 PM, Indydan said:

John Darko has posted his review of the Chord Hugo 2. He claims that as a stand alone DAC, it is in the premier league, along with the best DACs he has tested, and at a fraction of the price.

 

Has anybody heard, or own the Chord Hugo 2, and come to similar conclusions? Personally, I don't understand why Chord did not put a regular USB input on the Hugo 2. Why go with a mini USB input? 

 

http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/2017/09/top-of-the-pops-chord-electronics-outstanding-hugo-2/

 

I have heard it a few times.  Initially, at CES in January when it was first announced and most recently at THE Show in Munich in May.  Upon first listen, I was shocked because I thought I was listening to my DAVE.  It was only when I directly A/B'd it against the DAVE in the Chord suite at CES did it become apparent that DAVE is still better but the gap is not as large as the price disparity between the two would suggest.

 

I agree with John Darko's assessment, the dynamic slam is not as good as some DACs and Barrows is correct, this is due to the analog output stage that was intentionally compromised to make it portable.  Having discussed the Hugo2's tech with Rob Watts while at CES, it incorporates his latest filters that are better than DAVE's.  In my view, this DAC will be very hard to beat at its price point and even 2-3X beyond its price point.  I believe it can compete against anything, regardless of price, and not get embarrassed.  My Hugo2 should arrive next week and I can comment further.

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"DAVE is still better but the gap is not as large as the price disparity between the two would suggest."

 

Music to my ears (pun intended).  I hope to borrow Hugo2 over the coming weekend, although I imagine a "2Qute2" would be the real value proposition for those of us not using HPs, but not sure if that's even on the cards let alone when.

 

It will be interesting to hear first user reports on Poly ( esp SD card replay) too, I understand it can be used with other DACS, just neatest with Mojo.

 

 

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9 hours ago, romaz said:

 

I have heard it a few times.  Initially, at CES in January when it was first announced and most recently at THE Show in Munich in May.  Upon first listen, I was shocked because I thought I was listening to my DAVE.  It was only when I directly A/B'd it against the DAVE in the Chord suite at CES did it become apparent that DAVE is still better but the gap is not as large as the price disparity between the two would suggest.

 

I agree with John Darko's assessment, the dynamic slam is not as good as some DACs and Barrows is correct, this is due to the analog output stage that was intentionally compromised to make it portable.  Having discussed the Hugo2's tech with Rob Watts while at CES, it incorporates his latest filters that are better than DAVE's.  In my view, this DAC will be very hard to beat at its price point and even 2-3X beyond its price point.  I believe it can compete against anything, regardless of price, and not get embarrassed.  My Hugo2 should arrive next week and I can comment further.

 

Rob is currently working on TT2.  I can't discuss specifics but it will do things no other DAC in the world presently does.  In some ways, it will be better than DAVE.

So can we anticipate a Blu2Hugo2 impressions post from you at some point in the future? Also, are Rob's latest filters inherently specific to Hugo2 or do they meet his admittedly high threshold for considering offering a firmware upgrade for Dave?

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2 hours ago, esimms86 said:

So can we anticipate a Blu2Hugo2 impressions post from you at some point in the future? Also, are Rob's latest filters inherently specific to Hugo2 or do they meet his admittedly high threshold for considering offering a firmware upgrade for Dave?

 

Yes, I'll post those findings, probably on the Blu2 thread.  I will need to get the necessary adapter, however.

 

Blu2 has Rob's improved filters.  As you own Blu2, you're already good to go.

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I've had a few hours listening to Hugo2 in my system.

 

I'm a big fan of Chord DACs, I owned  a DAC64 for 11 years and latterly Hugo1 and was hugely impressed recently with a borrowed DAVE.

 

However, my initial impression when used as a desktop machine is that Hugo2 is certainly a competent <£2k DAC but no giant-killer.  Purely in comparison with the Mirus also currently in my system, H2 sounds rather bright and lightweight  with less well-defined bass and lacking texture to lower registers.  To my ears, the Mirus just sounds more like live music and by some margin.

 

Of course this is an unfair comparison, as you could buy 3.3 H2s for the cost of the Mirus, and H2 is not primarily intended as a desktop machine. I should also add that while everything else was the same, I had to use H2 via the supplied USB cable, while the Mirus was connected via a Supra item. 

 

But to my ears at least, anyone ( like me) thinking about buying the H2 on the hope  that it is a cut-price DAVE and up there with the very best of the desktop competition regardless of price, will be disappointed.

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