Chord Electronics Hugo2 Review (Part 1)

4.9
Chord Electronics Hugo2 Review (Part 1)

A Desktop DAC Mini Marvel

INTRODUCTION

Every marketing professional knows that the best way to influence a buying decision is through word of mouth – so Chord's use of ordinary owners to review a product is a stroke of genius. These reviews are grass-roots opinions from passionate owners who want to be honest, technically accurate and write an enjoyable read. And we’re doing so without monetary or in-kind compensation.

My review of Hugo2 is to focus on its use as a desktop DAC driving a loudspeaker system. I will not be commenting on headphones at all. Nor will I be discussing mobility or nice leather cases – nor emphasizing features. I will focus on sound quality in absolute terms – not coached by ‘value for money’ or ‘based on portability’. I want the best the H2 can deliver so I will be working to extract the best sound quality I can by reconfiguring and tweaking my system. And then I’ll do some comparisons against other desktop DACs.

Thanks to the many posts of Rob Watts on HeadFi and other forums, I have come to appreciate what ‘transparency’ can mean, what to listen for, what to avoid and to wean myself off false euphonics. Loudspeaker setups, generally speaking, are more complex than headphones, much more expensive and require more effort to better. At some level, you reach a plateau. Yes …some loudspeakers are more revealing in detail or tighter bass extension and some amplifiers can improve musicality or low end and, of course, cables and power matter. However, I hope I can say my review system was as resolving as I could get it within a reasonable budget – leaving an objective reference to report only on the impact of the H2 and comparison DACs.

These are the system components used:

DACs: Hugo2, DAVE (offsite), DirectStream Jr., Antelope Pure-2, Copeland 215, DragonFly RED

Source: Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro 1370, Windows10 (Creators Edition), Bitsum Process Lasso

Playback: JRiver Media Center 22, Google Play Music, Tidal HiFi/Masters

USB: Cables: Audio Sensibility Impact, Cleanup: Musical Paradise MP-U1 + Intona Industrial

Interconnects: Analysis Plus Silver Oval-2 (3ft)

Speaker Cable: Analysis Plus Silver Oval-2 (8ft)

Preamplifier: LTA MicroZOTL

Amplifier: LTA ZOTL40 MkII (w/custom Mundorf caps)

Loudspeakers:

DIY Voxativ AF-2.6 – Single full-range driver, no crossover (10ohm,99dB)

Finale Audio Vivace Mini – Single full-range driver, no crossover (16ohm,92dB)

Coherent GR12 – Co-axial driver, inductor + capacitor crossover, (8ohm,96dB)

Coherent GR12 – Co-axial driver, inductor + capacitor crossover, (8ohm,96dB)

Power: Nordost QB8 Powerbar, QV2, QK1, QKore1, Qkore3, Heimdall-2 Powercords

Room: 13’x22’. 9’ ceilings. Rug, Fabric furnishings. No sound treatment.

Placement: Speakers on the long wall. 9’ – 10’ spacing. Customary toe-in to seating position​

Part 2: Setup...