Review: Chord Electronics Hugo 2 – The New Master

Sound

 

The latest Hugo with the new Chord Electronics custom coded Xilinx Artix 7 (XC7A15T) FPGA, delivers a very detailed sound but it never becomes too analytical sounding in any way. As Linus phrased it beautifully, it makes you feel right in the middle of the show. Hugo’s 2 sound stage width and depth is good, and the Hugo has like the perfect separation and spaciousness.

Like the Mojo I do find the Hugo 2 to be more digital sounding but it at the same times sounds natural. Hugo 2 delivers a clean and very clear sound and has a great transparency. Hugo 2 will show you all the details that are in the recording and display it in a very dynamic and addictive way. I always love a neutral and very detailed sounding DAC and that’s exactly what the Hugo 2 is. I love using it as a DAC with my tube and solid state amplifiers at home but it also shines as a DAC/AMP combo unit with both IEMs as full sized headphones. I do have to say it isn’t perfectly silent with my most sensitive monitors but it’s at such a low level it almost is inaudible during playback.

The Chord Hugo 2 is a neutral, balanced and linear sounding unit, that doesn’t favor bass or treble. Hugo 2 presents good body from down low to up high and it has the most lovely timbre with good layering throughout. Sometimes when listening to the Utopia straight from the Hugo 2 I feel the layering could still be a little better but when I hook it up as a DAC to my Auris HA2-SE, layering couldn’t be any better.

Bass is tight and fast with good detail and it will be present when called upon. Hugo being linear and neutral, you won’t get big (exaggerated) bass. So if that’s what you’re looking for the Hugo 2 isn’t for you. Think top quality over quantity. The mids perfectly flow from the bass with the best timbre and dynamics possible. Treble is energetic, detail, lively and precise without ever sounding harsh over overly airy. Like Linus said, it’s very hard finding any flaws in the Hugo 2 and if you don’t like it, it’s probably because you prefer a different kind of sound. Looking purely at performance and technicalities, the Hugo 2 scores extremely high, even more so than the original but we’ll come back to that in a bit.

Filters & X-Feed

As a lot of people (me included) liked the cross-feed function of the original Hugo and so Chord of course brought back this option in the Hugo 2 for headphone listeneing. Depending on the headphone used and the type of music I’m listening to, I use all of the three settings but I mostly seem to go for the first. Compared to the ‘stock” sound I feel the 1st setting offers the nicest cross-feed “effect” and 3-dimensional presentation.

Chord Electronics has also implemented 4 different filters inside the Hugo 2, so you can set it to the one you like most with your headphone.

FILTER 01 (no color): 256fs = Incisive Neutral

FILTER 02 (green): 256fs + HF roll-off = Incisive Neutral with high-frequency roll-off

FILTER 03 (orange): 16fs = Warm

FILTER 04 (red) : 16fs+ HF roll-off = Warmer with high-frequency roll-off

I personally like the sound of the Hugo 2 most with the second/green filter applied. It will give you a neutral sound but treble will be a little more rolled-off compared to the normal presentation. With almost all head- and earphones I use, I keep going back to the filter with the high frequency roll off but it could of course be completely different with your taste. With my HD800’s I prefer the 4th filter.

It continues on Page Three of the review, after the click HERE

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

21 Comments

  • Reply August 17, 2017

    Marius

    Wonderful, thank you Lieven. It’s a very well crafted review and I’m always impressed how you skilfully translate your listening experiences to words.

    The fact that you dropped your HD800 for this new found love speaks for itself.

    I love, love my Hugo (1), but your raving review leaves me struggling, well, thanks for that! 😉

    Did have a chance to try your HD650 or LCD-XC on the HUGO 2?

  • Reply August 17, 2017

    Martin F

    I had the Hugo 2 for about 2 weeks and listened to it for about 2 hours each day and came to the conclusion that the upgrade from my Hugo 1 was not worth the extra money. While the Hugo 2 is a great DAC-Amp and works great with every source, i just don’t see why someone with a Hugo 1 would upgrade just based on the soundquality. I tested both the Hugo 1 and Hugo 2 as well as my DX90 (as DAC) and could not tell either of these 3 apart from eachother. The Volume was matched to +- 0,5dB and they were all connected to my ifi Pro-iCan. So i could easily switch between Inputs and there was basically no latency between switching the different sources. I also did some blindtesting between the DX90 (as a DAC) and the Hugo 2. Out of testing 20 times, i could tell the Hugo 2 apart on 6 tries. That is less then 50 % which is basically “guessing”. So i couldn’t tell them apart, which is why i returned the Hugo 2.

    • Reply November 8, 2017

      David lucena

      Very interesting!

    • Reply December 31, 2017

      mehrdad

      Hello, could you tell the sound differences between hugo2 and IFI-Audio Pro iCan? and
      In your opinion which one has better choice . thank you.

    • Reply January 27, 2018

      Muataz

      You have to listen to with out external amp, because the external amp will change the sound.
      I had the same issue with my Mojo & Black dragonfly and iFi iCan SE, with sound from iCan SE the difference between Mojo & dragonfly is small, but when compare them with out amp the difference is day & night.

      There is no amp in the world no matter what is the cost will beat chord the built it amp section in pure sound quality

  • Reply August 17, 2017

    Danni Veng

    Lieven, did you use the dt1990pro or the dt1770pro, as you described it as closed headphone which is the latter.

  • Reply August 18, 2017

    Diego

    Hello, could you tell the differences between hugo2 and V850?
    Thank you
    Best regards

  • Reply September 26, 2017

    Bart

    Hi Lieven, how does it compare to the Hugo TT with the Utopias?

    • Reply September 28, 2017

      Lieven

      I don’t have the TT, sorry

  • Reply November 8, 2017

    David lucena

    Greeting Lieven. Thank you for the great review. I was interested in your opinion between Sony nw-WM1Z vs hugo2.
    I know they serve different purposes, buy in the end of the day, the sound quality is the only thing that matters. I had a very short experience in both, and thought Sony had better dac, and hugo was close but chord better amplification was confounding my judgment.
    Hope to see your valuable opinion.

    • Reply November 9, 2017

      Lieven

      Hi David,

      I would say the opposite, the H2 has the best dac. The other advantage the H2 has is that it can power full sized headphones better than the 1Z can. With the 1Z the balanced output is the best, and with the Sony it’s the amp section that makes it special sound wise.
      I however for full sized headphones would always recommend the H2 unless they’re really easy to drive

  • Reply November 9, 2017

    David lucena

    THANks!

  • Reply December 15, 2017

    Tihon

    Greetings!

    Thank you for the review. Can you share any thoughts on Violectric V850 vs. Chord Hugo 2 comparison? I`m looking for a high level DAC for my Violectric V200 and Fostex TH-900. V850 should be the obvious choice, but Hugo 2 has it`s strong points like HF roll-off filters and crossfed. Unfortunately in my country there are no chances to listen to any of this DACs before ordering. I assume non of these two would be disappointing, but should have different approach to music. What do you think about their dynamics and treble softness?

    Thank you.
    Best regards!

    • Reply December 16, 2017

      Lieven

      The V850 has the softest treble. The Chord Dacs are very detailed and analytical, the V850 is softer. The Violectric DAC also doens’t do DSD and doesn’t have the options the Chord has. The V850 is my desktop DAC but I have to admit using the Hugo 2 more lately as Desktop DAC.

      • Reply December 17, 2017

        Tihon

        Oh, that was really nice to hear, thank you! I used to think Chord would have softer treble with all those filter options. Can you say if any of those would sound more “punchy”? I don`t know appropriate english word. I mean any difference in attack or speed (the very first loud moment of any sound) between two DACs. I think it`s more amplifier responsibility (how fast it could go from low to high level), but never had a chance to hear if a good DAC could make any difference in this.

  • Reply January 11, 2018

    Juan

    How does this pairs with the HD800S

    • Reply January 11, 2018

      Linus

      Hi Juan,
      Lieven doesn’t own the 800S, so I took the liberty to answer.

      In one word: Incredible 🙂

  • Reply March 10, 2018

    William

    Isn’t the headphone amplifier section underpowered and weak though? I guess I will need to try it at a headphone bar with different HP.

    • Reply March 12, 2018

      Lieven

      No I wouldn’t say it’s weak, but it of course isn’t a full desktop unit

  • Reply July 20, 2018

    NITISH

    Hi Lieven
    Awesome review!

    Can you share the impressions of the pairing between Hugo 2 & Violectric hpa v281 vs Hugo 2 alone ?

    Is there a issue of double amplification or degradation of SQ of Hugo 2 output when connected to an external headphone amp like the v281 ?

    Thanks

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