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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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Thanks for all your hard work.  You must have suffered terribly through this ordeal.

If you were forced to limit yourself to the original aim of finding a new DAC in the $5K range and had to choose one of the DACs you reviewed for a speaker based system, which one (or two) might you rank highest?

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On 2/22/2019 at 2:53 PM, mozes said:

 

P.S. I use the TT2 to directly drive my Omega speakers.

 

Pity you didn't have on hand sufficiently efficiently speakers (and cable adapters) to drive directly from the M Scaler and TT2 combo. 

 

Fantastic review.   Keep them coming 🙂


NUC 7i3 (ROCK) > Ghent Audio Lan cable > SOtM sMS-200 (+Uptone LPS-1) >  0.2m Curious USB cable > Singxer F1 (usb to spdif) > 0.5m XLO digital cable > Audiolab 8000 Dac (25 years old) > Trends Audio 10.1 Integrated Amp > Kef 103/4 speakers

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8 hours ago, ajay556 said:

I would recommend to compare the new Hegel mohican CD player $5k.. Add a $1200 power cord and $500 isolation feet. Burn all discs on ultra disc gold CDs and watch the music unwind like a sweet vinyl sound with great dynamics. I am reveling a secret sauce here...

 

First, I love it when secret sauce is revealed, especially since "everything counts in large amounts" (especially you know, your bank accounts).

 

But seriously, it's too bad some of these lesser known DACs are not so easily comparable. I wish a few others were covered and perhaps someone else will take up the baton! In the meantime, back to my three versions of Aja...which sound ever so slightly (and emotionally) more dynamic out of my CD player as transport into my DAC than my network signal. That's my not-so-secret sauce.


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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I would encourage those who get or who audition a TT 2 to also experiment with the Lo- and Hi-Gain settings using their preferred headphones.  

 

With my analytical and highly revealing Focal Utopia/Prion4 combo I can clearly hear a difference between Lo- and Hi-gain, with both Amp and DAC setting.  For me, Lo-Gain is a little lighter, more open and transparent, while Hi-Gain delivers a slightly darker, fuller and more solid sound.  These differences are less clear on my warmer HE1000v2/Lazuli Reference combo.


Zenith SE > USPCB (5v off) > tX-USBultra 9V (SR4) > Sablon Reserva Elite USB > M Scaler > WAVE Stream bnc > DAVE > Prion4/Lazuli Reference > Utopia/LCD-4/HE1000se

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austinpop -

 

By chance did you use the M Scaler with another DAC that does not support the Dual BNC configuration for the much higher sample rates and taps. I have a Mac D1100 and love it. Mostly use the proprietary DIN cable for CDs and SACDs. However, the potential to upscale to 384 could be something that might be worth a try.  This would mean my SACDs would still use the DIN, but the PCM would use SPDIF/BNC. 

 

Thoughts or suggestions? BTW, very nice review. Thanks for your efforts.


My System: McIntosh C47, McIntosh MC152, McIntosh MCT450, Prima Luna Dialogue Premium Tube Integrated, Dynaudio Special 25's, Transparent Super Interconnects and Speaker Cables

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17 hours ago, med_designer said:

austinpop -

 

By chance did you use the M Scaler with another DAC that does not support the Dual BNC configuration for the much higher sample rates and taps. I have a Mac D1100 and love it. Mostly use the proprietary DIN cable for CDs and SACDs. However, the potential to upscale to 384 could be something that might be worth a try.  This would mean my SACDs would still use the DIN, but the PCM would use SPDIF/BNC. 

 

Thoughts or suggestions? BTW, very nice review. Thanks for your efforts.

 

Hi,

 

If you look back at my review, I did in fact try connecting the M-Scaler with a single BNC cable to the QX-5 Twenty. But the QX-5, and most DACs I'm familiar with will only accept a max of 192 kHz on the S/PDIF BNC input, not 384 kHz. So you only get the benefit of 1/4 million taps.

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10 hours ago, austinpop said:

 

Hi,

 

If you look back at my review, I did in fact try connecting the M-Scaler with a single BNC cable to the QX-5 Twenty. But the QX-5, and most DACs I'm familiar with will only accept a max of 192 kHz on the S/PDIF BNC input, not 384 kHz. So you only get the benefit of 1/8 million taps.

I actually wondered the same thing as @med_designer .  In your review you mentioned that the QX-5 "sounded wonderful" with the HMS, but then said the improvement did not justify the price.  OK, I get the point that you are only getting 1/8th of the one million taps, so the value for money aspect is clearly diminished, but would I be correct in concluding that the improvement with the HMS was marginal at best?  Or to put it another way, if you loved your current 24/192 capable DAC but as ever would like to squeeze out that extra bit of performance, might the HMS be worth a try?  Or is this a case of it better to save the cash or spend it elsewhere?  I know it is impossible to say for sure without trying with a specific DAC / system, I was just wondering what your thoughts might be regarding this?

 

Great review, by the way.🙂


Windows 10 PC, Roon, HQPlayer, SOtM sMS-200Ultra, tX-USBultra, Paul Hynes SR4 (x2), Mutec REF10, Mutec MC3+USB, Devialet 1000Pro, KEF Blade.  Plus Pro-Ject Signature 12 TT for playing my 'legacy' vinyl collection.

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Yes - similar followup question to @Confused - My D1100 would support up to 384kHz single BNC so I would think there would be some improvements but clearly not those found using it as a. "system", which for me is an entire McIntosh stack. In this case, the analog side of things plays a major role in the over sound just as we see in @austinpop review of the Chord units working together.

 

Would be nice to try with a loaner if possible. However, if you know your system needs attention in other areas, that might be the better buy. I think I am just about done and thinking of a new Audi A7  - but that is another forum. 😀


My System: McIntosh C47, McIntosh MC152, McIntosh MCT450, Prima Luna Dialogue Premium Tube Integrated, Dynaudio Special 25's, Transparent Super Interconnects and Speaker Cables

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I read page 26 and found this

 

https://www.mcintoshlabs.com/-/media/Files/mcintoshlabs/DocumentMaster/us/d1100om01.ashx

Quote

Coaxial, Optical and AES/EBU: 44.1kHz to 192kHz, 24-Bit

 

768kHz = 1.0 million taps

384kHz = 1/2 million taps

192kHz = 1/4 million taps

 

There's a dedicated single S/PDIF output for non-Chord DACs so that even 250,000 taps would be quite a bit more when compared to those 164,000 taps from DAVE. However, the isolation on DAVE's SPDIF inputs might seem to suck pretty bad and that's why even Toslink with 0 scaling could actually beat single BNC with 1/2 million taps

 

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/chord-electronics-dave.766517/page-735#post-14204373

Quote

The Toslink cable supplied with the Dave goes from the convertor to the Dave. All upsampling is turned off, so it’s just plain vanilla Red Book into the Dave. It sounds glorious and much better than BNC Blu 2 to Dave.

 

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/chord-electronics-dave.766517/page-735#post-14204513

Quote

Let me clarify: it sounds better than the single BNC output from Blu 2 into Dave. As regards the dual BNC output into Dave, that gives greater detail, depth and soundstage. Unfortunately, it also adds a metallic sheen, like a false additive, which I find unacceptable.

 

While DX amps should be at least years away, it might still make sense to get HMS for now and see what's next

 

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/chord-electronics-qutest-dac-official-thread.869417/page-9#post-13968886

Quote

So the DX amps are just DAC's, exactly the same as existing pulse array DAC's - but with very high power OP stages, and a very clever power supply arrangement (don't ask!).

 

Let's say HMS itself could be connected to DX amps directly while we do need something that's even more powerful than the single-ended outputs (i.e. more transparent / less powerful than balanced ones) of TT 2, then it might be a good idea to live with "only" 1/4 million taps for those of us who own non-Chord DACs.

 

(OTOH, volume control could be a concern if DX amps weren't providing any of that.)

 

Of course we still couldn't tell how much DX amps would cost in the future, though that might be (much?) cheaper when compared to some monsters like $18K Mass Kobo 406 or $15K Headtrip Reference

 

https://audiobacon.net/2018/02/15/wells-audio-headtrip-reference-headphone-amplifier-15000-musical-indulgence/

Quote

Basically, better in every way. I even feel that it sounds more transparent (gasp).

 

Finally there's also DAVINA down the road with USB output, that's why I'm not spending anything on Chord products in the (near) future.

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6 hours ago, Confused said:

I actually wondered the same thing as @med_designer .  In your review you mentioned that the QX-5 "sounded wonderful" with the HMS, but then said the improvement did not justify the price.  OK, I get the point that you are only getting 1/8th of the one million taps, so the value for money aspect is clearly diminished, but would I be correct in concluding that the improvement with the HMS was marginal at best?  Or to put it another way, if you loved your current 24/192 capable DAC but as ever would like to squeeze out that extra bit of performance, might the HMS be worth a try?  Or is this a case of it better to save the cash or spend it elsewhere?  I know it is impossible to say for sure without trying with a specific DAC / system, I was just wondering what your thoughts might be regarding this?

 

Great review, by the way.🙂

 

3 hours ago, med_designer said:

Yes - similar followup question to @Confused - My D1100 would support up to 384kHz single BNC so I would think there would be some improvements but clearly not those found using it as a. "system", which for me is an entire McIntosh stack. In this case, the analog side of things plays a major role in the over sound just as we see in @austinpop review of the Chord units working together.

 

Would be nice to try with a loaner if possible. However, if you know your system needs attention in other areas, that might be the better buy. I think I am just about done and thinking of a new Audi A7  - but that is another forum. 😀

 

Those are tough questions, and impossible to answer. The only way to really tell is to audition it in your system. Remember - I only had these units in hand for a few weeks. Despite the number of experiments I DID do, there were many others I couldn't find time to do. For example, could I get a bigger uplift in SQ with the M Scaler in a lower priced DAC, since the QX-5 is a really high-end DAC, so improving upon it is more difficult? Maybe. 

 

Also, I misspoke. At 24/192 you're getting 1/4 million taps, not 1/8 million. I'll correct the review and my posts.

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4 hours ago, ray-dude said:

With Omega Super Alnico Monitors, we thought the TT2 was clearly a step up from DAVE (driven direct).  They became more of a full range speaker and really benefited from the extra power.  Any loss in transparency and spatial detail with the TT2 (vs DAVE) was more than made up for with better dynamics and presence.  

...

In near field it is no contest: go with the Omegas.  The Voxativs are like sitting in front of a intense laser beam, whereas the Omegas are softer and more generous.  In near field, the Omegas really achieve transcendent imaging (esp. depth and height), but the Voxativs are just too intense (for me).  For more normal listening positions, Voxativs are clearly the cat's meow.

4

 

Awesome setup Ray! Really great info about TT2 with Omegas vs DAVE. In nearfield (4' to 5'), do you still think the TT2 does a better job than the DAVE with the Omegas?

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Thankfully, that setup is only temporary for audio nights (the civilians in the house are a patient lot, but not that patient ;)

 

We did not listen to the Omega/TT2 combo in near field so I can't answer directly (it's my buddy's TT2, alas, so I can't check right now).  However, the effect of the TT2 on the Omegas is very different than the effect of the DAVE over the TT2 though.  

 

The TT2 really extends the tonal range of the Omegas, and brings much more presence and relaxed sound.  It feels like a different speaker with the additional authority behind it.   We also have within our group First Watt F1J and F2J amps, and they both had a similar transformational impact on the Omega (hard to believe they are the same speaker as what we hear direct from Hugo2 and DAVE).  Unfortunately, even with the First Watt amps, you give up so much that incredible transparency that you get direct.  With TT2, you have an approximation of that "full'ish" range speaker effect with the Omegas, but retain all that amazing transparency and detail.  HMS obviously takes it to the next level, and the Voxativ Z bass driver makes it a no compromise full range speaker system that (for me) blows most conventional high end speaker rigs away (my previous speakers before going with direct driven speakers from Chord DACs were B&W 802d3's)

 

Interestingly, Voxativ drivers don't get that extra extension from either the First Watt amps or the TT2.  For them, the extra transparency and spatial detail (esp. depth and height dimensions) from the DAVE dominate the A/B comparisons.  Those differences are also there with the Omegas, but the lift from the TT2 is so profound, that that is a VERY easy tradeoff for me to make.  

 

Once you've had a DAVE for extended amount of time, you really notice when that amazing depth and height detail goes away.  For me, DAVE is still king (Rajiv's wallet was wise not to demo it ;), but the extra power and upgrade speed of the TT2 really brings something extra to the table for speakers like the Omegas.

 

 

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Thanks @ray-dude , valuable insight. Based upon your observations, I doubt I will go forward with my planned Omega purchase because I do not want to add an amp to DAVE. I guess I will just stick with my Abyss headphones, maybe upgrade to new TC version. 

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4 minutes ago, spotforscott said:

Thanks @ray-dude , valuable insight. Based upon your observations, I doubt I will go forward with my planned Omega purchase because I do not want to add an amp to DAVE. I guess I will just stick with my Abyss headphones, maybe upgrade to new TC version. 

 

I would definitely recommend the Voxativ's then!  The Omegas ($2k) are amongst the best bargains in Audiophilia (and amazing and well worth having for near field if you have a situation that allows it), but the entry level Voxativ Zeth's ($7k) are pretty amazing direct from DAVE.

 

In normal circumstances, I have the Vox 9.87's for 2 channel, the Vox Zeth's are my rear surrounds, and the Omegas are in storage waiting until I have an office at work again (in a cube right now) so I can set them up near field.

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23 minutes ago, ray-dude said:

 

I would definitely recommend the Voxativ's then!  

 

I would but with my situation, speakers will need to be nearfield (4' to 5' away from me). From your previous comment..."In near field it is no contest: go with the Omegas.  The Voxativs are like sitting in front of a intense laser beam, whereas the Omegas are softer and more generous I am not sure the Voxtiv's work well"... it sounds like the Voxativ's will not work with my setup 

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@austinpop very, very informative. Best (worked out) review I've read on this site for a long time! I am little biased because I am a happy DAVE owner for quite some time and considering adding M-scaler technology in the near future. Question: did you try optical out from your MacBook Pro > optical in HMS? I think I've read somewhere that this is Rob Watt's preferred connection.


Roon server (Mac Mini/i7/SSD/16GB/Uptone DC mod/external SDD via firewire/Uptone Audio JS-2 LPS) Streamer dCS Network Bridge DAC Chord DAVE Amplifier / DRC Lyngdorf TDAI-3400 Speakers Lindemann BL-10 | JL audio E-sub e110 Cables CAT6 UTP ethernet, Transparent premium AES/EBU, Nordost Leif Red Dawn analog RCA, Kimber 8TC speaker cables, custom power cables Head-fi and reference Bakoon HPA-21 | Audeze LCD-3 (f) | Audio-technica ATH-M50 Software High Sierra | Roon 1.6 | Tidal hifi Power and isolation Dedicated power line | Xentek extreme isolation transformer (1KVA, 0.0001pf, balanced) | Vibex one 6R power distributor | Uptone EtherREGEN | Emo Systems EN-70HD network isolator | Jensen CI-1RR isolator

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6 hours ago, skatbelt said:

@austinpop very, very informative. Best (worked out) review I've read on this site for a long time! I am little biased because I am a happy DAVE owner for quite some time and considering adding M-scaler technology in the near future. Question: did you try optical out from your MacBook Pro > optical in HMS? I think I've read somewhere that this is Rob Watt's preferred connection.

 

To paraphrase the Eagles: "we haven't had that spirit Toslink here since 1969 1999!" :) 

 

More seriously, no I didn't try that, as I really don't use Toslink in my audio system, and I only had this combo in hand for a preciously short time. 

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10 hours ago, Rexp said:

Super review @austinpopIf one was to invest 10K in a digital front end, would it be best to put 5K into the source and 5K into DAC or has the HMS changed priorities for you? 

 

No, even with the HMS, the upstream transport chain is still vitally important.

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9 minutes ago, austinpop said:

 

To paraphrase the Eagles: "we haven't had that spirit Toslink here since 1969 1999!" :) 

 

More seriously, no I didn't try that, as I really don't use Toslink in my audio system, and I only had this combo in hand for a preciously short time. 

 

I understand. Optical/Toslink has its limitation in bandwidth but since HMS is doing all the heavy lifting it kind of makes sense because by doing this you'll seriously eliminate all possible electronical noise upstream.

 

I found Rob's quote: 

Quote

It’s complicated and depends upon a number of factors - principally the amount of RF noise injected and the amount of correlated noise that gets in. It will depend upon the source device as to which sounds best. My preference is optical, as this has the smoothest sound quality and best depth, as it does not suffer from both of the aforementioned problems. Chord DAC's employ a DPLL digital phase lock loop. This means optical in is clocked by the internal FPGA and jitter is totally eliminated.

 


Roon server (Mac Mini/i7/SSD/16GB/Uptone DC mod/external SDD via firewire/Uptone Audio JS-2 LPS) Streamer dCS Network Bridge DAC Chord DAVE Amplifier / DRC Lyngdorf TDAI-3400 Speakers Lindemann BL-10 | JL audio E-sub e110 Cables CAT6 UTP ethernet, Transparent premium AES/EBU, Nordost Leif Red Dawn analog RCA, Kimber 8TC speaker cables, custom power cables Head-fi and reference Bakoon HPA-21 | Audeze LCD-3 (f) | Audio-technica ATH-M50 Software High Sierra | Roon 1.6 | Tidal hifi Power and isolation Dedicated power line | Xentek extreme isolation transformer (1KVA, 0.0001pf, balanced) | Vibex one 6R power distributor | Uptone EtherREGEN | Emo Systems EN-70HD network isolator | Jensen CI-1RR isolator

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My only surprise is the Hugo being able to deliver as well as the Cavalli Liquid Gold (I had one home for a few weeks before it was released and it was spectacular) especially being in such a small box to house all that. Just look at the size and stats on the latest Luxman p-750u headphone amp (Audiophiliac just reviewed it).

Side-step: I'm using my Cavalli Liquid Fire amp and now have a Wyred4Sound DAC 2v2se with superb results.


Furutech GTX-D>J River 23>Cardas Clear USB>Wyred4Sound DAC2v2 SE>Moon Audio Blue Dragon IC>Cavalli Liquid Fire>Q French Silk Headphone cable>Audeze LCD2rev2>my ears>audiophile brain

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On 2/21/2019 at 1:18 PM, The Computer Audiophile said:

Great review and finale to the series @austinpop!

 

This makes me want to get the Chord combo in my system.

Me twos!!

AustinPOP, - thank you so much for your great review!

 

 

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