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Article: My Quest for a New DAC, Part 5: Chord Electronics Hugo M Scaler & Hugo TT 2

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Rajiv; thank you for the hard work you put into this.

 

This has been like a broadcast TV series.  We had to wait till after Christmas for the finale!  Thanks again for the reporting.  We have so much going on right now that I can hardly keep up.  

 

Bob

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This was a great review.

Having had great experiences with Chord DAC's before, this makes me wanna spend money, so I must admit I have to calm down now!

 

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We have a winner!  Thanks for the efforts and write ups.  It sounds like it was an enjoyable exercise at the least.


Digital chain: Synology DS1815+ -> Linear Solution OCXO switch-> Custom 2016 Server (sCLK-EX modified motherboard, Mutec REF 10)-> AL NUC NA->  Holo Spring L3 -> Audio Research LS28-> Benchmark AHB2 -> Paradigm Persona 9H, JL Fathom sub

Power: Paul Hynes SR7, Uptone LPS-1.2, sPS-500, Topaz 91001-31 Isolation Transformer

Analog chain: VPI Prime with Ortofon Quintet Black cart -> Simaudio Neo 310LP-> Audio Research LS28-> Benchmark AHB2 -> Paradigm Persona 9H

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Thanks for all of your efforts in this series. I have really enjoyed it. As I will be replacing my 14 year old ML 390s this series will be my guide post.

 

Great job and I look forward to your future reviews.

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The sound quality really seems exciting.  It still looks like a $10K Fisher-Price toy.


Innuos Zenith SE --> Berkeley Alpha USB --> Jeff Rowland Aeris --> Jeff Rowland 625 S2 --> Focal Utopia 3 Diablos with 2 x Focal Electra SW 1000 BE subs

 

i7-6700K/Windows 10/HDPLEX 200W/HDPLEX 400W DC-ATX --> ISO REGEN/LPS-1.2 --> iFi iDSD Micro --> Focal CMS50's 

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Cool to see this review and the conclusion reached  I should be receiving my HMS next week and my TT2 next month.  😊

 

Really excellent job @austinpop!!


Digital:  Innuos Zenith Std Mk2 > Shunyata Alpha USB > Chord Hugo M-Scaler > Chord Hugo TT 

Amp & Speakers:  Spectral DMA-150mk2 > Aerial 10T

Foundation: Stillpoints Ultra, Shunyata Denali power conditioner, Shunyata Alpha power cords, Shunyata Anaconda interconnects, MIT Oracle speaker cables, GIK bass traps

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Congrats on wrapping up your first set of featured articles. Technically I saw this as a success. You set a $5K budget for a DAC and you stuck to it. Then you gave your readers an unexpected wildcard bonus $5K. A perfect 10 that will go to at least 11!

 

I know before asking this is an unfair question. Of the headphones that were assembled was there any "gosh, if I could" or did your ears stay true to the nodded HD800?  :x

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Thank you, @austinpop for your efforts above and beyond! Would that you'd continue, but closure is good too: To be satisfied and even inspired by your choices, and to rediscover the music.

 

Cheers!

 


Fav Gear Schiit Yggdrasil A2 + SR UEF Black power cable, W4S Remedy/Uptone LPS-1, Linn LP12/Hercules II/Ittok/Denon DL-103R, Naim, PSB, Elac, Uptone Audio USB, Phasure Lush/ZenWave/Transparent Audio cables 

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@austinpop Wow, that must have taken some huge effort to do all the comparing and then to compile it into a well thought through and coherent write up. Especially as you included so many side issues and factors in your review. Well done!

 

The TT2 and MScaler combination is indeed stunning but the Dave combined with the MScaler takes the Mscaler to a completely different level of transparency and accuracy. But for anyone interested, do not try the Dave if you have no intention of buying it because once you have eaten the fruit it is difficult to go back to anything else.

 

Thanks for your comments about the WAVE Storm Reference cables which I make. You and others might like to know that the family has expanded to the STREAM and STONE ranges which are considerably more affordable but still exhibit the same RF noise filtering characteristics of the Storm cables.

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9 hours ago, austinpop said:

 

I'm afraid I can't do (afford) that DAVE...

Great review!!

 

A model of its kind!

Looking forward to your  upcoming take on  some of these upmarket headphones

 

Since almost 4 months now, I am using my M Scaler with a Qutest ,not TT2. Via my old battered but still  very good HD800  and a  battery powered headphone amp I found the Qutest /M Scaler better than TT2 on its own with similar, actually  only acoustic/classical 90 % hi res material  like you used in your excellent review.

No pop  on my playlists really ,Austin

TT2 / M Scaler even better than my choice.

But I also know that DAVE/M Scaler beats even TT2/M Scaler so I am waitning for the next upgrade from Dave or a  VERY heavily discounted DAVE before upgrading any  further.

 

Interesting also  to read about your take on power supplies and BNC cabling.

I have taken one such step with my Qutest driving it on a battery powered LPS instead of the supplied one And yes it is  definitely better than  the supplied one

.

Having read your take on these things, I am now quite keen to try something similar with M Scaler which is the only link in my chain connected to the grid while travelling.

MBP on batttery via usb to Qutest on battery and battery powered headphone amp is the best travelling kit I have had so far.

Bulky yes with the big heavy  M Scaler. On the other hand I don't carrry it around other than on flights. But  I get very good sound quality with well recorded material.

 PS How does Vänskä's 24/96  Mahler 2 compare to Fischer's on Channel or MTT's on SFS, musically and SQ wise in your opinion?

With BIS's Sibelius series  from the same venue/orchestra  M Scaler makes a BIG difference,basically  turning them from already very good to basically SOTA 24/96 PCM imho.

Cheers Chrille

 

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Thank you for a great piece  Rajiv.  I’ve read few (any?) other reviews that give such a comprehensible impression as to what something sounds like.  I was struck by your comments about being able to maintain focus,  if you so chose,  on a particular instrument throughout a large-scale piece.  This is something I’ve also noticed, but via a very different approach to digital audio, with the inexpensive EC designs transport and DAC I’ve been using in the last month. I have a suspicion the ECD UPL might be a great optical  source for Chord  DACs or the HMS.

 

Going  shopping for a DAC and  ending up with a DAC, HP amp and something else unplanned is par for the course in this hobby.  Looking for a phono stage or simply getting my power amp serviced proved particularly  expensive in “knock  on” purchases in my case.

 

A DAC 64 and then ( 10 years later) Hugo were my first  “serious” DACs and Chord don’t seem to have put a foot wrong in recent years.  I’m intrigued by the M Scaler though and what it is doing that can’t be replicated by a pc running HQP etc, although my own experience with HQP has been a little underwhelming compared to what others report.  Maybe the HMS dual wire spdif output  has something to do with it?  On the one hand a cynic might say this is to lock the user into the Chord ecosystem, on the other hand it limits in turn  the likely use of (and sales) of the HMS outside of (some) Chord DACs. Why no USB output for example?

 

Enjoy your new purchases.  Looking forward to your big HP review.

 

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4 minutes ago, Norton said:

’m intrigued by the M Scaler though and what it is doing that can’t be replicated by a pc running HQP etc, although my own experience with HQP has been a little underwhelming compared to what others report.  Maybe the HMS dual wire interface has something to do with it?  On the one hand a cynic might say this is to lock the user into the Chord ecosystem, on the other hand it limits in turn  the likely use of (and sales) of the HMS outside of (some) Chord DACs. Why no USB output for example?

 

The difference with the MScaler compared to pc software solutions is the Rob Watts algorithm which is able to 'look into the future' by delaying the whole musical stream and so can decide what Mscaling is required before any particular point in time in the music. This is with the ultimate aim of reconstructing the original analogue signal as accurately as possible rather than just dealing with a simplistic upscaling or conversion of the digital signal. This requires a huge amount of real time processing. Also, the Rob Watts designed Chord DACs linked to the MScaler are an integral part of the reconstruction of the music so merely feeding an Mscaler output into a different DAC would not achieve the same result, even if the connections were compatible.

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6 hours ago, austinpop said:

 

I would say Vänskä is #3 in my list of Mahler 2nd, both in terms of performance and SQ. #1 is the Kaplan/Vienna Phil on DG (DSD), #2 is SFS/MTT, also on DSD.

 

For those scratching their heads, DG == Deutsche Gramaphon, SFS == San Francisco Symphony, MTT == Michael Tilson-Thomas. :) 

 

 

The Vänskä Sibelius cycle on BIS is head and shoulders the best SIbelius cycle I've heard.

Hello austinpop, 

and thanks for your rapid response.

I think I 'll stick with the ones I have .

Vänskä's Mahler recordings  from Minnesota have received   quite mixed responses from some reviewers and I am not really in desperate need of another M2.

 

From a performance perspective I prefer Fischer's  M2 from Budapest on Channel Classics and it is also  a  good native  DSD 64 recording.  Jared Sacks balances very naturally and realistically compared to DGG's normal  style of a bit  too much of  multimiking. Kaplan's  VPO M2 though available as SACD in DSD is actually a native  24/96 PCM recording. Quite good by DGG standards ,but at least via my SACD players not as good as Channel Classics M2 on SACD. Or for that matter  when played as DSD 64 download via Q/HMS.

Via my home system I can play the channel M2 louder without congestion than the DGG/ Kaplan which has a tendency to congest and harden a bit  at climaxes  via my electrostatic speakers.

But the Channel Classics M2  sounds really impressive at  very loud levels too.

But I may change my mind on the Kaplan one  if I get to hear it in its native 24/96 version via M Scaler.

I'll start by playing the rbcd layer of my SACD via M Scaler  when I get home again to hear how that fares. And if it sounds good enough I may go for the 24/96 download.

Good as 16/44.1 can sound via M Scaler it is still not hi res imho.

M Scaler has changed my opinion of the SQ levels  on quite a few recordings. Mainly for the better. But not always. Revealing as it is,it can also make  the bad aspects of a recording  more noticable. 

 

PS a bit OT maybe but how did you like the Maggie 3.7s?

 

IMHO Maggies can sometimes  be a very  good alternative to large electrostatics for large scale symphonic music.

Enjoy your TT2 /M Scaler Cheers Chrille

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Excellent review, Rajiv.

 

As an owner of both M Scaler and TT2 I was particularly interested in your comments on use of the SR7.  I was not surprised by your findings with the TT2 given the role of the super-capacitors but was interested to learn how important running the SR7 at 15V was to getting a significant bump in performance with the M Scaler.  You didn't mention so I guess you did not try the SR4 used elsewhere in your chain, but from your experience would you hazard a guess that it (the 5V-12V version) probably wouldn't deliver a significant improvement over the supplied smps?  I wonder if the 9V-19V version might be a better bet, but probably too soon for anyone to be able to try that.

 

Also, I take from your equipment list that you used the Cardas Clear with the M Scaler's smps.  If that was the case, did you notice an appreciable difference compared to the supplied power cable?  I'm wondering if this would be a better and cheaper way for many to further raise the M Scaler's performance.


Innuos Zenith SE > USPCB (5v off) > tX-USBultra 9V (SR4 - silver cable) > Sablon Panatela Reserva Elite USB > Chord M Scaler > CA silver-line Optimus Reference 75 bnc > Chord DAVE > DHC Prion4  > Focal Utopia/LCD-4/HIFIMAN HE1000v2

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Hey Rajiv,

 

Thanks for the very informative and in depth review.  I have not heard the TT2 myself, so my main reference for Chord DACs is DAVE, which (like most) I like very, very much.  It is good to know that the TT2 gets close to that level of performance, and also to know how good it is at driving (even demanding) headphones directly.  I am not surprised that you found some improvement with a good linear power supply, I designed a linear supply for my Brother's Qutest, and he notes increased smoothness and better dynamic shadings with it versus the OE switcher.

Also, thanks for reminding me about the Gorecki #3, I had forgotten about this wonderful piece of music and ordered up a DSD (SACD) version last night.

 

Best,

 

Barrows


ROON: DSD 256-Signature Rendu optical--Buffalo PRO (ESS 9038) or DSC-2--Ncore 400 Stereo-Focus Audio FS888-JL E-112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, Nordost Frey XLR & speaker, DIY AC cables-Synergistic Blue & Hi Fi Tuning Supreme Cu Fuses, Dark Matter system clarifiers.    Design/Build Consultant with Sonore

 

                                                                                                  SONORE computer audio

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