Chord Electronics Hugo2 Review (Part 2)

4.2
Chord Electronics Hugo2 Review (Part 2)

A Desktop DAC Mini Marvel

SETUP

A high-end DAC deserves a place of its own on the top shelf of an audio rack but given the H2’s diminutive size it looked lonely by itself so it shared space with an objet d’art.

Chord Electronics Hugo2 Review (Part 2)

Hugo2 and Friend

I was not enamored with the H2’s disco lights display but once you get used to the color scheme it’s a distinctive part of the product experience …and it produced quite nice ambient lighting. I faced the row of H2’s lights toward my seating position and controlled volume and filter settings from the remote.

Getting things running properly was not a problem. Drivers loaded on my Windows10 laptop, the DAC was detected and my smoke-test of a low-volume playback all worked fine. I am pretty determined to ensure noise-free/bit-perfect USB transport of music to my DACs and although I understand why people buy dedicated streamers and fuss with digital cables I’ve had great success producing phenomenal sound with ordinary windows running optimized Process Lasso and JRiver. I know that my USB cleanup (MP-U1 + Intona) isolates and removes most any vestige of source analog noise – and this was used throughout the test.

Chord Electronics Hugo2 Review (Part 2)

USB to MP-U1 to Intona to Hugo2

My H2 was directly hooked up to my ZOTL40 MkII amp and to my Voxativ AF-2.6 DIY, Finale Audio Vivace Mini or Coherent GR12 speakers. I used single driver speakers in this test to improve imaging and reduce (or eliminate) any cross-over artifacts. My JRiver playback volume was set to ‘disabled’ and I let everything up to PCM 768khz sampling and DSD512 pass directly. The H2’s chassis RCA openings were too small to allow me to secure the connector locks on my Analysis-Plus interconnects – so I undid them. I did not use a subwoofer but if you wanted to its easy to connect the parallel 3.5mm jack to an RCA splitter cable.

Chord Electronics Hugo2 Review (Part 2)

RCA openings still not large enough for my interconnects

I prepared my curated playlist of excellent audiophile tracks obtained from both legitimate and dubious sources. I used about 25 tracks for this review – a good mix of Redbook, Hi-res and DSD, including a handful of DSD256 and several tracks in various lossless and lossy formats. When I am critically evaluating for sound quality, I look for specific points in a track that highlight the differences I hear and A/B those – over and over. I also prefer live in-studio or in-venue or in-concert performances over electronic or over-produced content. A partial list of my tracks is provided at the end of this review.

Chord Electronics Hugo2 Review (Part 2)

Finale Vivace Mini, Coherent GR-12 and Voxativ DIY

Next: Improving Sound Quality