Chord Hugo vs Hugo 2 Review

Hugo vs Hugo 2 – Sound Comparison




So far we’ve established The Hugo 2 as the more advanced product with better usability. But how do they sound and how do they fare against each other? Let’s find out.

Hugo Sound

When I first listened to the Hugo back in 2015, I was blown away by its sound quality. Up to that point I had already experienced a lot of DAPs and DAC/Amps, including the flagship players like RWAK240 and AK380, but the Hugo simply won my heart with its analog-like, organic sound.

My first experience with the Hugo was so good that I had spent like an hour with it. The most time I spared for a single gear in that audio shop was half an hour at most (Audeze LCD-X, one of my all time favorites), but like I said, Hugo is different. Why? Because it was all about good music with tremendous resolution and transparency. The left/right balance, the speed, the details and the separation were all exceptionally good. The only device I thought that was close to the Hugo was the Aurender Flowand even that couldn’t replace the organic sound of the Hugo.

I think Hugo is still a relevant device today. If you read my articles here, you should know that I prefer to have a warm sound signature. But not every equipment can give that to you in a technical fashion. You can have the warm sound, but you might not have the technicalities.

Hugo vs Hugo 2

That’s where the Hugo fills the space. It has high a level of resolution and transparency, but it’s still organic and warm. It has a rich mid range, generous treble, good stage depth and great separation. The Hugo also has great intimacy, if that’s what you like. The sound is so ear-pleasing, smooth and full bodied.

Hugo 2 Sound

As the original Hugo has been one of my favorites in terms of portable audio, I was quite curious about the Hugo 2. It took quite a long time before I’ve ever listened to it, when everyone else already knew everything about it. But I didn’t care, I was just happy to try out the Hugo 2 and that was in 2018. Though I didn’t quite have the amount of time I needed to fully evaluate its sound.

But at last year’s Canjam, I had more time at Chord’s booth. I was rubbing my hands together and I opened up my case and wore my P-EAR-S SH3. In the end, it’s the CIEM that I trust with its reference tuning. I didn’t try it with full size headphones since there was much noise around, so I thought it would be better to use my CIEMs to have the best evaluation possible.

Boom! The first thing strikes me right away is the transparency level. It is something else. I knew it was going to be like this, but it is better than I expected. There’s more space, more room, a more 3-dimensional staging performance. It just sounds more relaxed, a bit distant and flat when compared to the Hugo, in a good way.

Hugo vs Hugo 2

Yes, the Hugo 2 presents an analytical sound especially against its predecessor. But I don’t find it too analytical, at least not that much like the people say. To me it has great dynamism, very sharp separation and sublime transparency. But there’s a sense of musicality in it, and if you pair it with a warmer headphone/IEM, it is simply wonderful to listen to.

Overall, the Hugo 2 makes you think about the “taps” that Rob talks about. The more taps you have, the better sound you will hear. It has better bass decay, a blacker background, better imaging and better micro detail reproduction. The timbre is more realistic as well, which I put a lot of emphasis on because it’s one of the most important aspects.

But among all of those improvements, the most striking difference when I switch to Hugo 2 is the air. The original can’t give you that, as it’s made of romanticism and intimacy. It has that organic gene, which you can’t change or alter in any way. And that’s totally fine. You win some you lose some, it’s normal.

Continue to more sound impressions and conclusion on Page Three.

3.9/5 - (38 votes)

A keen audiophile and hobby photographer, Berkhan is after absolute perfection. Whether it is a full-frame camera or a custom in-ear, his standpoint persists. He tries to keep his photography enthusiasm at the same level as audio. Sometimes photography wins, sometimes his love for music takes over and he puts that camera aside. Simplistic expressions of sound in his reviews are the way to go for him. He enjoys a fine single malt along with his favourite Jazz recordings.


  • Reply January 31, 2020


    Nice summation of the differences. I really like pieces like this – please keep the coming!

    Something that sounded great a few years ago probably still does now – our hearing hasn’t evolved in that time after all, just maybe our expectations 🙂 I think it’s good to continue appreciating good gear and remind people enjoying audio and music isn’t all about having the latest and greatest.

    Also I think one of the bonuses of an article like this is it’s good to take stock some time after a product has been out, after any initial hype or excitement has died down and you can just look with a more even approach where neither is particularly new, just appreciating each for what sound it can offer you.

    • Reply January 31, 2020


      That’s very nice of you. Thank you very much. I love paying tributes to great gear but unfortunately we’re usually very packed up with the new stuff that we need to post.

      I liked the point you brought up, the hype. When the hype is clear, you can then look at things from an objective standpoint and see the true value of the product. And I clearly appreciate what Chord has done over the past few years.

  • Reply January 31, 2020


    I own the HUGO and the HUGO 2 and I’m happy to ear that we have same feelings. When I bought the 2 I thought I would resell the HUGO, but finally I did not. There’s something in the sound of the original one I can’t find in the HUGO 2.

    • Reply January 31, 2020


      Thank you. Nice to hear identical opinions

  • Reply February 21, 2020


    Can you specify the brand and model of speakers, that you use with Hugo ? Personally, I don’t find the Hugo 2 analytical at all. What I feel is, if you feed it non-bit perfect music (OR) if you connect it to a noisy USB source, then yes, it will sound harsh. My preference is Optical.

    • Reply February 24, 2020


      It’s analytical when compared with the original Hugo. That’s what I meant.

      I use JBL LSR308s.

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