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.
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 Flow, and 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.
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.
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.