Chord Electronics Hugo2 Review (Part 5)
A Desktop DAC Mini Marvel
I don’t think audiophiles realize how amazing an achievement the Hugo2 is. It’s a marvel of digital audio engineering in miniature. A transportable cousin to the fantastic DAVE that delivers industry leading sound quality and reveals so much promise for the future of affordable high-end audio. As a desktop DAC replacement, Hugo2 presents a quandary for the interested buyer. Its not a traditional full-size ‘hand-built’ DAC with oversize capacitors and a toroid power supply. It’s a hyper-oversampling DAC in a world where purist NOS seems to be gaining favor. The Hugo2 is impossibly small and its simple glowing balls user interface an affront to the norm. Yet it’s a gloriously good sounding desktop DAC that squashes all and that should alarm the competition – who perhaps will never be able to attain the same levels of performance.
The Hugo2 is not without faults. Even after two weeks of use I feel it’s still a touch bright and on my high efficiency resolving speakers the Hugo2 needed EQ and filter help to sound best. I know the DAVE has wonderfully natural highs and so did my previous 2Qute. And the Hugo2 can sound much less bright when its fed up-sampled content so I think there is a compromise in the design – perhaps to accommodate headphone characteristics. Also, the filter settings really don’t sound different enough – although, yes, the Red was somewhat less bright than the White. Perhaps this is another situation where a headphone electro-acoustical environment reveals more differences.
I like listening to music through headphones but I love the ‘in-room’ loudspeaker experience. Its always seemed that the gulf between the two was characterized by huge differences in space requirements, costs and complications burdening the guy like me. My experiment with software up-sampling an Hugo2 driving loudspeakers directly to sonic nirvana gives me high hopes that my personal system can be simple and sound as good as the very best for a small fraction of the cost. The future of music is streaming and with a product like Hugo2 plus the imminent companion streamer then we’ve nearly reached a point of end game – for the industry and consumer.
-- Daniel Mance
Albums used in this review