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Winner and Still Champion: Chord Hugo 2
Chord’s Hugo 2 sports an impressive winning streak and continues to rack up Best DAC awards for its design, aesthetics, and sound – even when matched against much more expensive units. It’s not especially difficult to understand why. It remains one of the best value upgrades you can add to your system for its price range. Like all things Chord, Hugo 2’s technical advances and innovation never lose sight of the ultimate goal – superior sonic performance. Let’s take a look!
Aesthetics and Design
From its robust aluminum enclosure to its lovely polychromatic spherical controls, every element of Hugo 2 / 2go exhibits exceptional design thinking. These products deliver the features and functionality that music lovers demand, and they do it creatively and engagingly.
Yes, some critics still grumble about Chord’s fondness for color-coded controls. For my tastes, they’re a brilliant, intuitive means for conveying a wealth of information without using an LED screen. Using the crib sheet in the manual, you’ll be up to speed with color translation in no time. We put the cheat sheet back in its box much quicker than expected.
Grippy rubber feet keep Hugo 2 and 2go safely in place when used as a desktop headphone DAC/amp or streamer/server combo. The handy full-function remote eliminates having to leave your favorite listening spot to make adjustments when using Hugo 2 as an integrated component. Its feature set makes it ideal for that role. We realize design perfection means different things to different people. But we couldn’t find any noteworthy shortcomings in either of these devices that warranted further discussion.
Hugo 2 and 2go, poised to satisfy every audio need
The Chord 2go is a high-performance streamer/server that adds Bluetooth, wi-fi, and wired network connectivity for Hugo 2. Together, they’re a solution for an impressive range of use scenarios. Here are just a few we were able to tackle with ease:
- An unmatched Roon ARC mobile headphone rig
- A feature-rich Roon Ready sonic advancement for any legacy Hi-Fi setup
- A high-quality desktop and handheld head-fi audio solution
- A veritable digital audio player (DAP) slayer! 2go’s dual microSD card slots provide 4 TB of onboard high-res audio storage,
- A highly portable around-the-house RAAT streaming endpoint
- Hugo 2 has all the device connection inputs and outputs you’ll likely need, making it a powerful contender for myriad applications beyond those we mention.
Use flexibility is a significant factor when I purchase gear. Hugo 2 excels in this capacity. Its small footprint, the size of a petite paperback, further accentuates its versatility.
Not surprisingly, the Hugo2/2go produce awe-inspiring sound that reflects their award-winning pedigree. Every genre we fed through the duo assumed a new level of spaciousness, dynamics, and fidelity. The highest praise anyone can give a piece of gear is to say it motivates its owner to find extra time for music listening. These devices do that effortlessly!
Chord products achieve their unique sound signature with bespoke conversion, filtering, and processing chipsets designed by Rob Watts. 4 filter settings provide users with options for crisp, transparent presentation or a warmer, rounded analog vibe reminiscent of vintage gear. To clarify, Chord states that the filters’ purpose is to reduce high-frequency noise generated by the selected input. They aren’t designed or intended to act as DSP or EQ enhancements. To my ear, they do add understated coloration. It’s very slight, but it’s there. My favorite filter settings were Incisive Neutral, or Warm, depending on the music I was playing.
I’m even more surprised to discover that I’m a big fan of Hugo 2’s crossfeed filters. Crossfeed gives headphone listening a more speaker-like soundstage by subtly blending left and right headphone channels, giving you a bit of both in each driver rather than distinct separation. I don’t typically use crossfeed features because they rarely produce the desired results for my tastes. Hugo 2’s crossfeed feature outshines all others I’ve tried. As a result, I used the Medium crossfeed setting for most of my casual listening – turning it off only for the close listening session below.
For detailed listening, I drove Hugo 2/2go with tracks sourced from Qobuz and TIDAL. All were rendered at their native sample rates, indicated below. Hugo 2’s EQ, crossfeed, and noise processing settings were toggled off for reference listening.
Gordon Lightfoot – Sundown from Sundown (24-bit/192 kHz PCM)
This one gave me chills when I played it from Hugo 2 through the Meze 109 PRO. The combination instantly transported me to the early 70s when this song dominated AM radio.
The layered acoustic guitars shimmered as if they were in the room. The soundstage was enormous and airy with excellent depth, adding considerably to the perfect vibe achieved in this performance. Textural separation was also very impressive. Each instrument had plenty of room to be enjoyed distinctly in the mix. The bass and drums lock in wonderfully, exhibiting heaps of instrumental detail. Lightfoot’s voice was as warm and comforting as fine winter cognac – the plate reverb on the double-tracked vocal chorus becomes a star contributor in its own right. The Meze 109 PRO’s detail retrieval dovetailed divinely with the Hugo 2. If you’re a detail junkie, this combo deserves consideration.
Tom Waits – Alice from Alice (24-bit/96 kHz PCM)
Tom Waits is a musical enigma who shape-shifts between a skid-row carnival barker, a whiskey-soaked crooner, and a tin-pan alley apparition.
On this track, he leans heavily into a sweet tube mic and lays down a spoken jazz vocal that the Hugo 2 delivered absolutely brilliantly. He’s accompanied by a Paul Desmondish sax line, stand-up bass, vibes, piano, snare brushes, and other assorted magic. In my Massdrop Sennheiser 6XX cans, this song transmuted into a moody film noir with undercurrents of loss and unrequited love.
Orchestra Baobab – Mouhamadou Bamba from Bamba: (16-bit/44.1 kHz PCM)
Orchestra Baobab comes across as a powerhouse Afro-Carribean ensemble rather than a Senegalese music institution. Bamba compiles several of their early 80s sessions.
Mouhamadou Bamba opens with ethereal guitar and an ocean of plate reverb on the Sengalese vocals before being joined by Afro-Caribbean percussion and a pulsating reggae bass motif. A stinging tremolo-drenched overdriven guitar solo lights up the bridge with a bit of Afro Rock flavor. It’s an intoxicating blend! With the Hugo 2/2go powering the Meze 99 Classics, I noticed a touch of tape hiss sizzle in the track as I was carried blissfully away to West Africa. Meze audio cans pair exceptionally well with the Hugo 2.
John Coltrane – Afro-Blue from Live at Birdland (24-bit/192 kHz PCM)
This track is a favorite for spotlighting the John Coltrane Quartet’s emotional and visceral power in live performance. The group drives headlong into a passionate reading of Mongo Santamaria’s classic.
Coltrane’s soprano sax soars above and inside McCoy Tyner’s fluid runs and block chords. Elvin Jones’ electrifying percussion propels the ensemble ahead while Jimmy Garrison’s double bass holds the foundation and answers Elvin’s cymbal attack. It’s genuinely mind-blowing to imagine experiencing a performance of this caliber and intensity in that tiny intimate space.
My crossfeed curiosity got the better of me when listening to this track. Using maximum crossfeed to mix channels through the warm voice of the Meze 99 Classics, I felt as if I was there when listening with my eyes closed. I’ve heard this track innumerable times and was amazed at the detail I experienced using this combination. I’ve had the opportunity to listen to some of the most esteemed headphones in existence over the last several months. The Meze Classic 99 always satisfies, even when following on the heels of Audeze’s flagship models.
The Chord Hugo 2 / 2go delivers brilliantly refined detail and warm, lush sound via its expertly designed sonics, filters, and soundstage. If you’re looking for a superior DAC/amp for headphones that also shines as an integrated component, you can’t do much better than Chord’s Hugo 2 at this price. Add Chord’s 2go, and you can easily take those sonic qualities anywhere.
- Hugo 2 enters RMS line level mode by simultaneously holding down the power button and X-PHD buttons during power up. Though not easy to accomplish, I accidentally activated this mode while sitting down for some relaxed headphones listening. It was painfully memorable. Please use caution to avoid having a similar experience.
- The Hugo 2’s dual headphone outputs lack individual volume controls. Volume changes affect both outputs.
- Hugo 2’s clean design leaves no room for either an I2S or HDMI output. If either is needed, a low-cost coaxial to I2S or HDMI adapter will do the trick.
- Hugo 2/ 2go is a tad chunky for in-pocket on-the-go use. Mojo/Mojo2/Poly is a better match if frequent mobile use is a critical requirement.
- Some coaxial cables may require an adapter for optimal coupling with Hugo 2’s connection points.
- Chord products don’t offer MQA support; fans of the format will need to consider other options.
Chord Hugo 2 and 2go FAQs
Are the Chord Hugo 2 and 2go Roon Ready?
- Yes, the Hugo 2 and 2go are Roon Ready! The Hugo 2, when used alone, requires a USB connection. Adding the 2go provides wireless Roon Ready streaming over your home network.
What file formats and resolutions do the Chord Hugo 2 / 2go support?
- Hugo 2 offers future-proof format support up to 32bit/768kHz PCM, Native DSD512, and Encapsulated DSD256.
- 2go supports gapless PCM to 32-bit/768kHz, DSD via DoP to DSD256, and SD card DSD playback as well as FLAC, WAV, ACC, AIFF, OGG VORBIS, ALAC, WMA, and MP3 file formats. Tidal, Qobuz, Internet radio, and more with the GoFigure app.
What type of input and output connections does Hugo 2 / 2go have?
- Hugo 2 offers four digital inputs: optical, dual configuration coaxial, Mini-USB, Roon RAAT, DNLA, AirPlay, and Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity.
- Hugo 2 analog outputs include two headphone outs: one ¼” (6.35mm) and one ⅛” (3.5mm), plus Stereo RCA out. The RCA outs remain active when using headphones.
- 2go inputs include long-range 2.4GHz WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 A2Dp, Hotspot mode, and a Gigabit (GbE) ethernet port.
- 2go features dual MicroSD card slots capable of 4 TB of music storage.
How much play time do I get from a fully charged Hugo 2 / 2go?
- Hugo 2 and 2go are each equipped with Mini-USB battery charging ports.
- Hugo 2 provides 7-8 hours of music with a full charge.
- 2go provides about 10 hours of use with a full charge.
- Hugo 2 / 2go allows around 7 to 8 hours of playback time when paired.
- Intelligent desktop mode protects the Hugo 2 and 2go internal batteries from overcharging damage.
- Hugo 2 will automatically power off when dormant for 15 minutes. This feature is deactivated when charging in desktop mode.
- Hugo 2 and 2go allow tandem charging during use. A 2A (amps) or more charger is required.
- Hugo 2 has two charging modes: fast charge in 4 hours with a 2A charger and 8 hours with a charger rated under 2A.
Chord Hugo 2
- Chipset: Chord Electronics custom-coded Xilinx Artix 7 (XC7A15T) FPGA
- Tap-length: 49,152
- Pulse array: 10-element pulse array design
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz +/- 0.2dB
- Output stage: Class A
- Output impedance: 0.025Ω
- THD: <0.0001% 1kHz 3v RMS 300Ω
- THD and noise at 3v RMS: 120dB at 1kHz 300ohms ‘A’ weighted (reference 5.3v)
- Noise 2.6 uV ‘A’ weighted: No measurable noise floor modulation
- Signal-to-noise ratio: 126dB ‘A’ Weighted
- Channel separation: 135dB at 1kHz 300Ω
- Power output @ 1kHz 1% THD: 94mW 300Ω, 740mW 32Ω,
- 1050mW 8Ω
- Dimensions: 5.11″ (W) x 3.97″ (H) x 0.82″ (D)
- Weight: 12.5 ounces
- Compatibility: For 2go to perform as a fully functional streamer, a connection with Hugo 2 (DAC/Preamp/Headphone amp) or 2yu is required.
- Power supply: Internal battery with up to 10 hrs (approx) playback. Desktop mode activated upon insertion of Micro USB charging cable).
- Wireless connectivity: Long-range 2.4GHz WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, A2Dp
- WiFi modes: Connect to (allows 2go to connect to an existing 2.4GHz WiFi network) or Hotspot mode (activated within the Gofigure app, which enables 2go to broadcast its own WiFi network with SSID and password in the eventuality that the device cannot connect to a static network).
- Wired connectivity: Gigabit (GbE) ethernet
- PCM and DSD Support: up to 32-bit/768kHZ PCM, DSD256
- File format support: ACC, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, OGG VORBIS, ALAC, WMA, MP3, and more…
- Initial setup, configuration, and updates: Via the free Gofigure app for iOS and Android
- Music storage: 2x Onboard Micro SD card slots (up to 4TB of total storage)
- Playback: Roon Ready, DLNA (server and render), AirPlay, Bluetooth audio (A2DP), Tidal, Qobuz, Internet radio, and more coming…
- Gapless playback: Supported
- Dimensions: 1.96″ (W) x 3.97″ (H) x 0.82″ (D)
- Weight: 5.6 ounces
What comes in the box?
Chord Hugo 2
- User Manual
- Safety instructions
- Drawstring bag
- 5V 2A Switching Micro USB power supply
- IR remote control
- Micro USB to Type-A USB cable
- Micro to Micro USB OTG cable
- Optical cable
- Optical to 3.5mm optical cable
- 2x AAA batteries
- Get started with the 2go guide
- Safety instructions
- Drawstring bag
- Micro USB to Type-A USB cable
- Ethernet cable
- 2x locating screws
- Allen key