Chord Electronics Hugo review
Introducing the unassuming Hugo from Chord Electronics; the company which is now causing ripples in the portable audio world with this fantastic device.
Time and again we hear that headphones can mean a huge leap in sound quality; but equal to that is the process by which a particular signal reaches the headphones. Get both right and the effect is no less than sublime.
The Hugo is both a DAC and an amp, with a battery which can last a good while between charges, considering the processes it has to power. There are numerous options when it comes to connectivity, even a bluetooth input is available among the more traditional ins and outs.
The Hugo is built from aircraft-grade aluminium and it almost feels as if it designed for military purposes. Also the input controls are in keeping with this theme; they are obviously built to last also, particularly the large recessed volume control which is hard to knock or move accidentally.
The sound of the Hugo is probably better than a lot of people can imagine; the level of detail and sense of space one can glean from a given recording is out of this world. This is due to the DAC in the Hugo being designed for the Hugo; other designs take pre-existing DAC chips and implement them the best they can.
It consists of a field-programmable gate array, which is configured from the ground up by Chord. Basically it is a custom-made computer which specialises in the highest quality signal conversion.
Inputs include Optical/Toslink, Coaxial, bluetooth, and USB; with an extra HD USB input for operation to 384kHz in PCM format. Outputs feature 2 x 3.5mm sockets (these are slightly recessed and may give trouble, for instance with Earsonics in-ears), one 6.35mm socket and stereo RCA outs. Chord is aware that the Hugo is likely to be used as a DAC for full-size systems and accordingly it is possible to set the output volume to line-level for this purpose.
The effect of all this extra detail (even with 44.1kHz/16-bit recordings) is to vastly increase the sense of space and movement within the performace or recording, making it so much more realistic and captivating. Frequency response is virtually unchanged, so your favourite headphones should not take any rapid departures from their usual sound if used with the Hugo.
It is difficult to get across how much better music sounds with the Hugo, while nobody is a stranger to the potential benefit of the money this item costs! Therefore we welcome enquiries about our listening room; we are confident that the sound of the Hugo will alter your perceptions..!