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Chord Hugo 2 Review (Portable DAC & HP Amp)

Rate this DAC & HP Amp

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 75 26.7%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 109 38.8%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther

    Votes: 81 28.8%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 16 5.7%

  • Total voters
    281

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the CHORD HUGO 2 portable (battery operated) DAC and headphone amplifier. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $2,950.
Chord Hugo 2 Toslink Review Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier.jpg

As expected, Chord carries its "design language" into this product which in my opinion, puts looks ahead of usability. If you use it a lot, you may get used to to the meaning of the lights but as a reviewer, it is a pain. The right globe is a rotary encoder for the volume. Meaning of the rest is such:
Chord Hugo 2 Toslink Review USB Connection Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier.jpg


I am not a fan of two separate USB inputs one for data and the other for charging. Why not charge using the data connection? I also found the sockets finnicky. Two of my USB cables were too lose in there to make stable connection. A third fit nice. A migration to USB-C is badly needed.

Connectivity is excellent for a portable product:
Chord Hugo 2 Review RCA Out Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier.jpg


You have RCA analog out, coax (through odd 3.5mm socket) and Toslink. Headphone out is provided through two connections to fit the flavor of your unbalanced headphone.

Chord Hugo 2 DAC Measurements
I adjusted the volume to 2 volts out while connecting the unit over USB:
Chord Hugo 2 USB Measurements Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier.png

I could see from the dancing and varying spikes in the FFT that it was picking up noise over that link. Any attempt at grounding the unit would make the situation far worse.

Edit: I tested the Hugo 2 at a later time and the USB noise did not manifest itself:

index.php


Rest of the tests use Toslink so not impacted by the USB noise issue above.

I disconnected USB and used isolated Toslink input which remedied that:
Chord Hugo 2 Toslink Measurements Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier.png

Much cleaner. Ranking as a result land in two tiers:

Best Portable DAC review.png


For a portable device, these are excellent rankings. To give the benefit of doubt, from here on the test is using Toslink unless otherwise stated.

Output can go above 6 volts but it clips badly half way there:
Chord Hugo 2 Toslink Measurements THD vs Level Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier.png


Dynamic range is excellent if you let it to go max output:
Chord Hugo 2 Toslink DNR Measurements Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier.png


IMD distortion is also best at full output and competitive at nominal 2 volt:
Chord Hugo 2 Toslink Measurements IMD Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier.png


Linearity is a bit noisy and unstable:
Chord Hugo 2 Toslink Linearity Measurements Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier.png


Jitter is excellent over toslink and as expected, not so good with USB:
Chord Hugo 2 Toslink Measurements Jitter Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier.png


Fortunately even with USB jitter is inaudible at -120 dBSPL.

Filter response is super sharp as we expect from CHord designs:
Chord Hugo 2 Toslink Measurements Filter Response Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier.png


I can't figure out what the cryptic explanation means for each filter. They certainly not reflected in the measured performance.

Good attenuation results in excellent THD+N vs frequency (wideband):
Chord Hugo 2 Toslink Measurements THD vs frequency Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier.png


I had to run multitone over USB since Toslink won't go up to 192 kHz sampling:

Chord Hugo 2 Toslink Measurements Multitone Response Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier.png


Chord Hugo 2 Headphone Amplifier Measurement
Let's start with dynamic range 50 mv:
Chord Hugo 2 Toslink Measurements 50 mv Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier.png


So just about average performance:
most quiet headphone amplifier portable review.png


Careful with extra sensitive IEMs/headphones as you may experience hiss/noise.

Power is very respectable for a portable product (but no competition for desktop amps):
Chord Hugo 2 Toslink Measurements Power 300 Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier.png

Chord Hugo 2 Toslink Measurements Power 32 Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier.png


Output drive gracefully degrades:
Chord Hugo 2 Toslink Measurements Power vs impedance Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier.png


Sorry, have not had time to listen to the unit but I expect it to sound excellent.

Conclusions
As a portable DAC+headphone amplifier, the Hugo 2 has superb performance. As a Desktop product, its USB noise sensitivity is disappointing but otherwise performance is very good. Mind you, desktop products at far, far lower costs run circles around it. So if that is your application, I highly suggest you look elsewhere.

As a portable product, I can highly recommend the Chord Hugo 2. For desktop, it is a pass for me especially at the astronomically high retail cost.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
Last edited:

Cars-N-Cans

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The micro-USB is automatically enough to make me hate something, and gives pretty much any device a distinctly "cheap" feel to it now that USB-C has been around for a while. For the cost they should convert it over since its fairly minor changes to the tooling for the enclosure and the PCB. Its hard to find a reason not to given how loathsome those connectors are.
 

Fidji

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Maybe I am just too narrow-minded - but what would be the "portable DAC&Headphone Amp" intended use?
I associate "portable" with smth you either carry in your backpack, or are able to use in plane/train. So I assume you need some player/source on top of this thing so that you are able to enjoy your big planars travelling in TGV. And if we are talking train scenario - you would most probably use your laptop and USB out, and not Toslink, so poor USB performance is kind of weird. Hotel/Office - why not have smth proper with you?

Not a headphone specialist - while in the plane, I am happy to connect myself to Iphone/Ipad via dongle[Hifiman headphones].
 

Eddy

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Great review again. I appreciate these as really objective in the best sense of the word and you don't, for example, bash a manufacturer per se.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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Maybe I am just too narrow-minded - but what would be the "portable DAC&Headphone Amp" intended use?
I associate "portable" with smth you either carry in your backpack, or are able to use in plane/train. So I assume you need some player/source on top of this thing so that you are able to enjoy your big planars travelling in TGV. And if we are talking train scenario - you would most probably use your laptop and USB out, and not Toslink, so poor USB performance is kind of weird. Hotel/Office - why not have smth proper with you?
I am not the target customer but I imagine you hook it up to a phone or tablet and listen on said TVG. If I am in a hotel, laptop is it. There, the battery is providing more power than the USB input allows.
 

ZgSTar

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Thanks for reviewing the Hugo2 again with the new analyzer, was very curious to see how it measures considering that I have one.

Just thinking, will all the noise via USB would it be the right opportunity to test if JitterBug or similar device do make a difference in this case? I'd be very curious and it will help debunk even more such a myth.
 

DanielT

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Good job Amir! Fun with a good product with good results.:)

Chord Hugo 2, superb in itself but US $ 2,950. Do not know if we should open the HiFi Pandora box, but given the price and that similar HP amps that cost much less can perform, one should not expect even better results from the Chord Hugo 2? Note. I do not know, I'm just asking the question.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Just thinking, will all the noise via USB would it be the right opportunity to test if JitterBug or similar device do make a difference in this case? I'd be very curious and it will help debunk even more such a myth.
I have to send this back tomorrow unfortunately. I am confident though that gadgets like Jitterbug do nothing here. Noise is transmitted over USB ground which passes right through devices like that. You need a full USB isolator to eliminate this problem.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Chord Hugo 2, superb in itself but US $ 2,950. Do not know if we should open the HiFi Pandora box, but given the price and that similar HP amps that cost much less can perform, one should not expect even better results from the Chord Hugo 2? Note. I do not know, I'm just asking the question.
I think we should expect that they sell it for $600. :) Otherwise the only improvement I could see would be balanced HP output to drive more headphones to proper loudness.
 

thewas

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While measurements are good, I don't understand how a $3k product have such poor finish, not centered RCA plugs and the upper and lower casing parts are not perfectly aligned:

1658123555620.png
 
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amirm

amirm

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While measurements are good, I don't understand how a $3k product have such poor finish, not centered RCA plugs and the upper and lower casing parts are not perfectly aligned:
I don't know how the RCAs are mounted. They were kind of loose in there.
 

DanielT

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I think we should expect that they sell it for $600. :) Otherwise the only improvement I could see would be balanced HP output to drive more headphones to proper loudness.
While measurements are good, I don't understand how a $3k product have such poor finish, not centered RCA plugs and the upper and lower casing parts are not perfectly aligned:

View attachment 218929
Yup, there will probably be a discussion about this product in the thread. That is: What should you expect for a portable DAC & HP Amp that costs 3? Functionality, performance, design, build quality and so on.:)
 
Last edited:

oscar_dziki

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As a portable DAC+headphone amplifier, the Hugo 2 has superb performance. As a Desktop product, its USB noise sensitivity is disappointing but otherwise performance is very good. Mind you, desktop products at far, far lower costs run circles around it. So if that is your application, I highly suggest you look elsewhere.

As a portable product, I can highly recommend the Chord Hugo 2. For desktop, it is a pass for me especially at the astronomically high retail cost.
I need to disagree. This product costs 3000$ and offers marginally better performance than Topping NX4 for less than 200$ !! And it has 2 micro USB!! What year is it? For this kind of money I expect top desktop performance, or at least top desktop performance in the IEM department. I would love to see topping refreshing NX4, focusing on iems. Let's not kid ourselves, driving Ethers, or stealths on the go won't be a thing for years to come. I'm sure however that topping could make ultimate portable iem dac/amp with BT that would put to shame this thing. Also, who figured out, that this sharp aluminum object is something anyone would like to keep in their jeans pockets?
 

Kuppenbender

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Maybe I am just too narrow-minded - but what would be the "portable DAC&Headphone Amp" intended use?
I associate "portable" with smth you either carry in your backpack, or are able to use in plane/train. So I assume you need some player/source on top of this thing so that you are able to enjoy your big planars travelling in TGV. And if we are talking train scenario - you would most probably use your laptop and USB out, and not Toslink, so poor USB performance is kind of weird. Hotel/Office - why not have smth proper with you?

Not a headphone specialist - while in the plane, I am happy to connect myself to Iphone/Ipad via dongle[Hifiman headphones].
No need for a laptop. If you can afford £2k for a portable dac/amp, another £450 for an add on streamer/DAP without a screen should seem like a bargain!
Hugo 2go
9AA95CB2-FF2E-4D52-8377-02A3A940B443.jpeg
41F7B6DA-16D1-45B0-9B49-1B340580BAC3.jpeg
 
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