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DAC blind ABX test results: Hegel h390 internal DAC vs Chord Hugo TT2

tallbeardedone

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Hey guys I was lucky enough to be leant a Chord Hugo TT2 to blind test in my system. I still have it in my room so the testing is ongoing as I get more people around who want to listen.

SET-UP: I have the Chord on a side table to the left of my Hegel h390 and beneath my Auralic Aries G1 streamer which sits on a seperate book shelf. I cover everything with a piece of black fabric during the testing.
Screen Shot 2022-10-02 at 9.33.20 AM.png

Connection from streamer to DAC was carried out via an AQ Carbon USB cable. Connection between Chord and Hegel was via BJC xlr cables.

SETTINGS: the settings I used in the Hugo are as follows:

Low Gain (note the gain is still quite high so BE CAREFUL WITH VOLUME when switching)
Filter 1 - (sharp roll-off after 20khz, same as Filter 3, as opposed to the slow roll-off starting at 5khz with the other two filters. No idea why people would want to take anything OUT of the signal).
DAC mode
USB output
DIM 2 - lowest dimming setting. I really wish there was a lights off setting as it would make covering up the damn thing a whole lot less hassle.
XFD 0 - crossfeed off as I'm not using headphones.


SWITCHING TIME: ~1 min to turn off amp and streamer, switch USB cable from Hegel to TT2, turn everything back on, switch inputs on the amp, and level match the volume.

LEVEL MATCHING: Even in Low Gain mode the Chord has a very high output voltage. Using my SPL meter and a 200hz test tone I level-matched the volume at my listening position and recorded the following results. (+/-1.5dB)

70dB: Hegel DAC volume 70, Chord TT2 volume 57
75dB: Hegel DAC volume 80, Chord TT2 volume 67
80dB: Hegel DAC volume 90, Chord TT2 volume 77

NOTE: I still believe most of what people hear when they plug in a new DAC and go WHOA is simply more sound pressure (and therefore more detail, etc) at the same number on the dial on their amp.

ROOM AND SPEAKER PLACEMENT:
Screen Shot 2022-09-30 at 7.00.33 PM.jpg

My room has excellent acoustics due to the diffusion and absorption of the bookshelves, carpet, soft furnishing, and furs/blankets over the fireplace and bay window. My speakers have been exactingly placed using Master Set and WASP positioning techniques, using email correspondence with Bob Robbins of myspeakersetup.com, measuring tapes, laser measure, laser level, furniture sliders, and my ears. My listening position is at the exact tip of the equilateral triangle formed by the tweeters and my head.

TESTING TRACKS:
Bass output, linearity, & depth: "Royals" by Lorde
Detail, tonal balance, & ambience: "Gentle Rain" by Houston Person & Ron Carter
Center imaging: "Little Room" by Norah Jones
Separation: "Doin' Time" by Lana Del Rey
Soundstage Width and Depth: "Pink Panther Theme" by Christopher Beck, "Leaving the Table" by Leonard Cohen, "Jack Sparrow" by Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

SIGHTED TEST SUBJECTS:
There have been only four test subjects thus far for the sighted tests: me, my girlfriend, my buddy, and my local hi-fi dealer (who, yes, is trying to sell me the Chord TT2 and M-Scaler (which I may test next)).

SIGHTED RESULTS:
I first listened each of the above tracks on my reference system, then switched to the Chord and listened to the same four tracks in the same order. I repeated this process 4 times. I was listening carefully for extraction of more detail, and especially any EXPANSION of SOUNDSTAGE WIDTH or DEPTH, along with instrument separation, as well as noting the emotional "pull" of the music. Even sighted, when listening closely, I personally could tell no (or very, very, very little) difference.
My hi-fi dealer then came round and listened. During a sighted test he believed he could hear greater separation between instruments and more fine detail on one track ("Doin' Time" by Lana Del Rey) through the Chord, but when we went straight back to the Hegel he noted that the difference, if any, had disappeared. We then went back and forth with the first 30s of that track 5 more times. If there was a difference it was so extremely small as to be inaudible.

BLIND TEST SUBJECTS:
Me, my girlfriend, and my buddy. (My hi-fi dealer didn't feel like blind testing yesterday, but I'm hoping to rope him in soon).

BLIND ABX RESULTS:
Five ABX tests were carried out per person. The results speak for themselves:

ME: 2/5 correct (thought maaaybe I could discern a difference in separation)
BUDDY: 2/5 correct ("reasonably certain" he got it right each time)
GF: 3/5 correct (picked using the "emotion" the music elicited in her)

TOTAL: 7/15 (basically a coin flip)

As stated above, it appears that much/all of the differences to be heard between well-implemented modern DACs is due to failure in level-matching. Once level-matched all differences between these two DACs could not be reliably discerned in a blind abx test.

If there WAS a difference, it was extremely small and, to me, in no way worth the $9,000 NZD price tag.

If you're in the area and want to try the test, definitely come round! All welcomed.

TLDR; NO DIFFERENCE could be reliably discerned via blind abx testing between the Hegel h390 internal DAC and the Chord Hugo TT2 under close listening in my listening room.
 
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tallbeardedone

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Really interesting, but not unexpected.
Thanks for sharing.
Thanks I thought so as well. I swear most people never critical listen to equipment in their room before buying. After spending that kind of cash I'm sure I'd have heard a difference too. Consumer bias.
 

ahofer

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Great effort. I will put it in the Catalogue.
 

TjindarSingh

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Thanks I thought so as well. I swear most people never critical listen to equipment in their room before buying. After spending that kind of cash I'm sure I'd have heard a difference too. Consumer bias.
You're absolutely right, done it myself.
 

TjindarSingh

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Thanks I thought so as well. I swear most people never critical listen to equipment in their room before buying. After spending that kind of cash I'm sure I'd have heard a difference too. Consumer bias.
How do you like the amp ?
 

Vhond

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For my understanding: you carried out a test between the internal DAC from the Hegel H390 and the Chord Hugo TT2, but what role did the Auralic Aries G1 play?
 
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tallbeardedone

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For my understanding: you carried out a test between the internal DAC from the Hegel H390 and the Chord Hugo TT2, but what role did the Auralic Aries G1 play?
Digital source. Streamer sends digital signal out via usb with asynchronous clock communicating with Hegel h390’s clock. Hegel DAC does D/A conversion. Aries has no DAC it’s a streamer/digital transport only.
 
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tallbeardedone

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How do you like the amp ?
Love it. 490W / channel into 4ohms. Incredible amount of headroom. Sounds great at any volume. DAC is very well implemented. Feels like limitless clean power to my 86dB sensitive speakers.
 

roog

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Good to see members carrying out their own tests, if there is one thing I hate doing its visiting my local HiFi shop to try out 'that next piece of gear'. I am subject to bias just like anyone could be, but increasingly I sit there and listen and struggle to hear a meaningful difference. The shop assistant will enter the room, ask me what I think, 'I try to think of something that makes sense and won't offend', then they change over to the alternative 'box' and repeat.

Its all rather futile if you ask me. :0)
 

Vhond

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Digital source. Streamer sends digital signal out via usb with asynchronous clock communicating with Hegel h390’s clock. Hegel DAC does D/A conversion. Aries has no DAC it’s a streamer/digital transport only.
I know the G1 is streamer only, but what difference did it make compared to the internal streamer of the H390?
What I wanted to say: you made 2 changes: another DAC AND another streamer.
 
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tallbeardedone

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I know the G1 is streamer only, but what difference did it make compared to the internal streamer of the H390?
What I wanted to say: you made 2 changes: another DAC AND another streamer.
Oh sorry. I got the AURALiC because it is designed to stream via Wi-Fi. I didn’t have the physical ability to plug in my Hegel via Ethernet. That, and I got a good deal on it because it was a store model.
 
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Cornel

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Seems to be an older post.
Anyway I had the oportunity to test Chord Hugo tt2 , which I have owned for 1.5 years, vs Hegel H390, without the mscaler.
But in my case I recognized so much faster the differences between the dac's .
The difference is not so large, anyone can survive with Hegel's dac, but if you want better sound and you get used to it it will be harder to give up to it.
In my case the sceene was larger, beter , proper width and depth, the details were a litle better, but I recognized a smother sound in Chord case vs Hegel.
Somehow I felt the sound decay in hegel's case was shorter. Piano/chord note has some resistance in time, don't know how to explain it better and for hegel this notes were like shorter , chord longer . This somehow contributed to musicality. Chord could be more in the musicality direction and more capable in getting some emotion out of the music. Hegel is more analitical oriented . All there but not so much warmenes .
This differences I perceived were not very evident , and I believe not all can identify as it is biased by sound preferences at that point in time. In my mind the result was Hegel has a very good dac, but Chord is a litle better. Anyone can suvive with Hegel'dac and the difference is not for everyone to invest large amounts in the other dac, but if you are in the audiofilia area , that small difference will nag you till you do the upgrade .
As an concequence now I have a Dave :))) .
So yes both dac's are good , but not identical, and if you want better sound just try of your own.
Q: For the Chord, was it a new unit? Or you had some time to run it, as the sound improves in time . This is valid for the hegel too.
 

HarmonicTHD

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Seems to be an older post.
Anyway I had the oportunity to test Chord Hugo tt2 , which I have owned for 1.5 years, vs Hegel H390, without the mscaler.
But in my case I recognized so much faster the differences between the dac's .
The difference is not so large, anyone can survive with Hegel's dac, but if you want better sound and you get used to it it will be harder to give up to it.
In my case the sceene was larger, beter , proper width and depth, the details were a litle better, but I recognized a smother sound in Chord case vs Hegel.
Somehow I felt the sound decay in hegel's case was shorter. Piano/chord note has some resistance in time, don't know how to explain it better and for hegel this notes were like shorter , chord longer . This somehow contributed to musicality. Chord could be more in the musicality direction and more capable in getting some emotion out of the music. Hegel is more analitical oriented . All there but not so much warmenes .
This differences I perceived were not very evident , and I believe not all can identify as it is biased by sound preferences at that point in time. In my mind the result was Hegel has a very good dac, but Chord is a litle better. Anyone can suvive with Hegel'dac and the difference is not for everyone to invest large amounts in the other dac, but if you are in the audiofilia area , that small difference will nag you till you do the upgrade .
As an concequence now I have a Dave :))) .
So yes both dac's are good , but not identical, and if you want better sound just try of your own.
Q: For the Chord, was it a new unit? Or you had some time to run it, as the sound improves in time . This is valid for the hegel too.
So opposed to the OP you didn’t level match nor test blind which renders your test useless. Sorry.
 

Talisman

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Seems to be an older post.
Anyway I had the oportunity to test Chord Hugo tt2 , which I have owned for 1.5 years, vs Hegel H390, without the mscaler.
But in my case I recognized so much faster the differences between the dac's .
The difference is not so large, anyone can survive with Hegel's dac, but if you want better sound and you get used to it it will be harder to give up to it.
In my case the sceene was larger, beter , proper width and depth, the details were a litle better, but I recognized a smother sound in Chord case vs Hegel.
Somehow I felt the sound decay in hegel's case was shorter. Piano/chord note has some resistance in time, don't know how to explain it better and for hegel this notes were like shorter , chord longer . This somehow contributed to musicality. Chord could be more in the musicality direction and more capable in getting some emotion out of the music. Hegel is more analitical oriented . All there but not so much warmenes .
This differences I perceived were not very evident , and I believe not all can identify as it is biased by sound preferences at that point in time. In my mind the result was Hegel has a very good dac, but Chord is a litle better. Anyone can suvive with Hegel'dac and the difference is not for everyone to invest large amounts in the other dac, but if you are in the audiofilia area , that small difference will nag you till you do the upgrade .
As an concequence now I have a Dave :))) .
So yes both dac's are good , but not identical, and if you want better sound just try of your own.
Q: For the Chord, was it a new unit? Or you had some time to run it, as the sound improves in time . This is valid for the hegel too.
Bold by me.
The set of things you've written are just the kind of heard over and over again that so many on this site seek refuge from.
Take a blind test yourself with matched levels and tell us how many times you correctly recognized this feature. Otherwise it's just a story.
 

ahofer

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Why not throw in burn-in with the other claims?

Canned response for new member @Cornel :

Welcome to ASR! You've made an unsupported assertion or a scientifically implausible claim that will cause most people in this science-oriented forum to react with skepticism (or scepticism if they are in the U.K.). Please don't take the reactions as overtly hostile - most of us are just frustrated with the many newcomers who have clearly come here just to "troll". Please do engage with the membership to find an objective, controlled method to support or discard your hypothesis. Our membership includes recovering subjectivists, many engineers/scientists, and several famous figures in the world of audio engineering research. Generally, they can cite scientific, controlled research to support their views. Most believe in the fallibility of human sighted judgement, and think blind testing and measurements are critical ingredients for assessing equipment contributions to sound quality. We'd love to have you, but if all you want is a) to fight or b) to have others cheerlead for your subjective views or anecdotal evidence, I'd suggest you will be happier elsewhere.
 
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roog

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Bold by me.
The set of things you've written are just the kind of heard over and over again that so many on this site seek refuge from.
Take a blind test yourself with matched levels and tell us how many times you correctly recognized this feature. Otherwise it's just a story.

@Talisman “seek refuge from” three words that ring so true for me, so many of the forum sites I was initially drawn to make uncomfortable reading for me, to some extent they always did but I clung on to some vestigial hope that there might be some truth in what members of those groups were saying.

I think the issue for many looking in on ASR is that by giving people ‘the answer’ directly and avoiding all the aimless trial and error, it takes ‘all the fun‘ (AKA cost and misery ) out of their hobby And worse still that ASR is challenging their ‘knowledge‘ that knowledge that they have fought and paid for, which in turn reinforces a perverse belief system which forms their firmly held version of the truth.

The more that ASR members gently educate and bring others like me who were are ‘on the fringe‘ around, the better it will be in the long term for the industry. ASR can be a bit brutal. Once you know that you don’t have to accept mediocrity or that it doesn’t mean you have to sell your car or remortgage your house to get HiFidelity you will start to see through the nonsense that so much of the industry preach.
 
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