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Chord Hugo 2 Review (Portable DAC & HP Amp)

Rate this DAC & HP Amp

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 75 26.6%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 109 38.7%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther

    Votes: 82 29.1%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 16 5.7%

  • Total voters
    282

Ken Tajalli

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I understand now what is being said.
The graphs showing top to bottom and comparing channels is what was throwing me off.
I thought one was from another forum entirely.
However mentioning that the performance was better in the other review while using the audio quest cable does indeed raise a question. Maybe a re-review or correction is in order.
However maybe there were other changes.
It is the very same device, same test rig, same Amir. Amir hadn't sent the unit back yet.
And if you are thinking it had anything to do with the Audioquest cable, think again!
And keep it to yourself, or you will get chewed at on ASR, deservedly :).
 

Thomas_A

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Looks like the USB 1000 Hz pollution. Ground loop?
 

Atanasi

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Before I go any further, I accept that Hugo2 is sensitive to ground loop noise. It does not have isolation on USB, and as a portable device the ground loop issue is a non-issue.
Hugo2 can also act as desktop DAC.
But it seems somehow, from somewhere, during this test and measurement, a fair bit of noise got into the system, specially the right channel, and the unit was reviewed and measured under these conditions.
The ground noise issue with Hugo 2 seems similar to the review of E1DA 9038D.
IVX recommended to always use the balanced input of AP, which provides better ground isolation and can accept unbalanced signals.
Ok, guys it seems I've found the reason for always worse Amir's tests for unbalanced DACs and better for balanced. The problem is Amir uses unbalanced APx555 inputs for unbalanced DACs. Only balanced inputs of APx555 have good enough CMRR to measure DACs or amps whatever, and actually, no reason at all to use unbalanced inputs ever(just forget about them) - only balanced XLRs.
Dear amirm, Unbalanced BNC inputs tied to the APx555 chassis and could not be used for non-isolated sources like AC-line powered PC, if you like to use that BNCs for any unknown reason(because any even 30 years old AP has excellent balanced XLRs), please use it with battery-powered sources. Balanced XLRs inputs are referenced to each other but not to the chassis intentionally to let you measure precisely sources with strong common-mode noise(XLR+/XLR-/GND-chassis-AP to GND of your PC, for instance, to USB-C shield). I can't and I don't push you to remeasure my DAC but for the future of the audioSCIENCEreview.com better if you'll correct your setup.
 

Ken Tajalli

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The ground noise issue with Hugo 2 seems similar to the review of E1DA 9038D.
IVX recommended to always use the balanced input of AP, which provides better ground isolation and can accept unbalanced signals.
The ground noise issue, is not generated at DAC level.
This issue can happen when two or more devices in the chain are grounded.
If the grounding is perfect, lower frequency noise gets reduced, but nothing can help higher frequency RF noise pollution. Of course, this pollution does not harm the digital section, but if the DAC is single ended (as in all portable Chord DACs), the ground plane is shared with the digital section, then the noise can affect the analogue section.
There is a cure though! Isolation!
If you think it is a USB problem, it is not, it is a grounding problem. If you use a single ended DAC, with optical input powered by a grounded powersupply (if one decides linear PSU is good for it) and connected to a poweramp or a grounded analyser, the noise can still show its nasty head.
One could use galvanic isolation on USB (such as the effective and cheap match-box sized Topping HS-01), and SMPS powersupplies and the issue is resolved.
Once again, to my knowledge (hardly vast) there are no portable DACs equipped with galvanic isolation. True galvanic isolation has active circuitry that requires power, so portable ones don't install them (costs too much battery juice).
The ones that have balanced output, the balanced topology takes care of the noise, but NOT with single ended.
Portable DAC/amps in reality do not suffer from this issue, since ground loop noise can not occur, using headphones with battery operation.
It has to be an unfortunate set of situations, all hand in hand to create the problem.
- A noisy DAP, grounded
- and/or high impedance USB cable
- DAC being use as desktop, connected to a grounded output device (an analyser or a poweramp)
It seems, thise conditions were present, when Hugo2 was measured with USB connection, but for some reason they were absent when the same Higo2 was used in the Audioquest cable measurements.

I suggest it would be a good idea, that in future, a seperate measurement be added to to DACs reviews, with a deliberate ground loop noise being present with and without isolation.
Also, when testing cables or accessories with claims of lowering the noise by manufacturers, to have a noisy situation, and compare it with generic cables vs the cable being tested.
testing the cable in a system with virtually no noise with a generic cable, obviously will not yield any useful results.
If there is no noise issue to begin with, how can the cable do anything about it?
Its like not having a headache, and then claiming Ibuprofen is snake-oil because it didn't make any difference after taking the tablet.
 
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Atanasi

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Portable DAC/amps in reality do not suffer from this issue, since ground loop noise can not occur, using headphones with battery operation.
AP's unbalanced inputs are specified to have 500 Ω impedance to ground, where the balanced inputs are isolated from ground.
The choice of inputs determines whether the test setup prevents ground loop between the DAC and the analyzer or not. The balanced input is better for measuring performance when driving an isolated load like headphones or a headphone amplifier that is itself isolated from ground.
 

Ken Tajalli

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AP's unbalanced inputs are specified to have 500 Ω impedance to ground, where the balanced inputs are isolated from ground.
The choice of inputs determines whether the test setup prevents ground loop between the DAC and the analyzer or not. The balanced input is better for measuring performance when driving an isolated load like headphones or a headphone amplifier that is itself isolated from ground.
It may well be, But I wouldn't know.
What is fact, and has been shown as such, is that, Hugo2 has no USB noise issue, Since Amir has shown us on Audioquest cable review. That it can behave as good as optical, if ground loop noise issue is addressed properly.
Anyone who wants a top performing Hifi device of any kind, should not just willy-nilly shove it into a system, a little care and consideration goes a long way.
Use the cheap (£50) Topping HS-01 if you must, when using it in a noisy environment as a desktop DAC.
As a portable, don't worry, just enjoy it! You won't find better.
 

Ken Tajalli

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For $2k + more than you need to spend.
It depends on who "You" is.
I am poor, I got one in used market for less than £900. I consider that a bargain.
I can always re-sell it (possibly make a profit), my use is portable only,
I can not get a better device for similar money if I was to buy one today, and I have tried!
 

majingotan

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It depends on who "You" is.
I am poor, I got one in used market for less than £900. I consider that a bargain.
I can always re-sell it (possibly make a profit), my use is portable only,
I can not get better for similar money if I was to buy one today, and I have tried!

Topping E30 and L30 II would outperform your Hugo 2 many times and costs many times less to boot!
 

Jimbob54

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It depends on who "You" is.
I am poor, I got one in used market for less than £900. I consider that a bargain.
I can always re-sell it (possibly make a profit), my use is portable only,
I can not get a better device for similar money if I was to buy one today, and I have tried!
Just run me through why this at 900 is better than the mojo 2 at whatever that is in same territory
 

Ken Tajalli

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Just run me through why this at 900 is better than the mojo 2 at whatever that is in same territory
I had both for few weeks, as good as Mojo2 was, the final sound through my headphones (my only use for Hugo2) was not as good subjectively.
The DSP functions of Mojo2, as well as its high/low gain, crossfeed were lost on me, I don't use them.
If I ever use the Hugo2 as a desktop, which is once in a blue moon, it has remote control, and I use optical.
Hugo2 also has a BT, which again I hardly ever use, unless it is Youtube or something low res. sound.
 

Jimster480

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I had both for few weeks, as good as Mojo2 was, the final sound through my headphones (my only use for Hugo2) was not as good subjectively.
The DSP functions of Mojo2, as well as its high/low gain, crossfeed were lost on me, I don't use them.
If I ever use the Hugo2 as a desktop, which is once in a blue moon, it has remote control, and I use optical.
Hugo2 also has a BT, which again I hardly ever use, unless it is Youtube or something low res. sound.
There is actually a portable creative labs device which has the same level of measurement like the Hugo 2.
I am not entirely sure however how readily available it is these days.
 

majingotan

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I had both for few weeks, as good as Mojo2 was, the final sound through my headphones (my only use for Hugo2) was not as good subjectively.
The DSP functions of Mojo2, as well as its high/low gain, crossfeed were lost on me, I don't use them.
If I ever use the Hugo2 as a desktop, which is once in a blue moon, it has remote control, and I use optical.
Hugo2 also has a BT, which again I hardly ever use, unless it is Youtube or something low res. sound.

One thing I find that's really bad with Hugo 2 is the internal BT which is worse than any source I've ever heard. If you add the 2go module, BT is significantly better and is very, very close to the wired digital inputs
 

Ken Tajalli

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One thing I find that's really bad with Hugo 2 is the internal BT which is worse than any source I've ever heard. If you add the 2go module, BT is significantly better and is very, very close to the wired digital inputs
Sounds like you got one too.
I agree, onboard BT is not that good.
 

majingotan

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Sounds like you got one too.
I agree, onboard BT is not that good.

I don’t have the Hugo 2, but I’ve heard the Hugo 2 many times before with and without the 2go :). The only thing I never tried with the 2go was Roon and Airplay (the demo store was using BubbleUPNP)

I have the Mojo 1 fed by a portable BT to toslink receiver (far better than the Hugo 2’s internal BT but very slightly worse than Poly on a direct sighted level matched A/B) which is my portable car audio and go to DAC for demoing headphone amps and IEMs at local audio shops
 

Ken Tajalli

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I don’t have the Hugo 2, but I’ve heard the Hugo 2 many times before with and without the 2go :). The only thing I never tried with the 2go was Roon and Airplay (the demo store was using BubbleUPNP)

I have the Mojo 1 fed by a portable BT to toslink receiver (far better than the Hugo 2’s internal BT but very slightly worse than Poly on a direct sighted level matched A/B) which is my portable car audio and go to DAC for demoing headphone amps and IEMs at local audio shops
Funny that.
In Nov. 2020

Just scroll down till you get to this:
IMG_20201103_125201.jpg IMG_20201103_120211.jpg IMG_20201103_120242.jpg
 
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