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Review and Measurements of the Chord Hugo 1 DAC & HP Amp

amirm

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#1
I tested a Hugo 2 a while back but it was with my old analyzer. So a member kindly sent me an original Hugo DAC and headphone amplifier to remeasure. I wa shocked to find out that the Hugo cost US $2,500 when it came out!!! Man that is expensive for a portable DAC and Amp.

Here is a shot of it if you have not seen it:

Chord Hogo DAC and Headphone Amplifier Audio Review.jpg
I can't stand the lights you have to have a decoder ring to decipher. The tiny power slider. General lack of labeling, etc.

For this testing, I took advantage of putting the RCA out at fixed level so there is no complaints about using volume control. Speaking of volume control, the rotary plastic knob is super stiff to turn. Not sure if they degrade to this or came this way. Definitely does not feel good. But I guess if you put it in your pocket it won't change on its own easily.

Anyway, the purpose is the measurements so let's get into that.

DAC Audio Measurements
I tested the DAC portion by feeding the Hugo using USB and measuring what came out of the RCA jacks using fixed line out mode:

Chord Hogo DAC and Headphone Amplifier Audio Measurements.png


As you see, the Hugo outputs that oddball 3 volt. It is not a bad thing but is more than nominal 2 volt we expect. Performance may be better at 2 volt but as it is, the SINAD (signal over noise and distortion) is quite good for a portable product at 109 dB:

Audio DACs Tested.png


Jitter performance was likewise good other than a couple of inconsequential spikes:

Chord Hogo DAC and Headphone Amplifier Jitter Audio Measurements.png


Chord's claim to fame are very large tap filters. We can see their response by feeding the DAC white noise and see what comes out after fair bit of averaging:

Chord Hogo DAC and Headphone Amplifier Filter Audio Measurements.png


I like the super sharp cut off at required bandwidth (22.05 kHz). There is some relaxing after a while which should be fine. Certainly better than a lot of DACs which take their time to get to 24 kHz and beyond.

Linearity was perfect:
Chord Hogo DAC and Headphone Amplifier Linearity Audio Measurements.png


IMD results show a bit higher noise level than our reference but otherwise is good:

Chord Hogo DAC and Headphone Amplifier IMD Audio Measurements.png


Dynamic range is very good as well:
Chord Hogo DAC and Headphone Amplifier  Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png


Headphone Amplifier Audio Measurements
Let's start with signal to noise ratio at full output level (which clipped horribly) and just 50 millivolts:
Chord Hogo DAC and Headphone Amplifier Headphone SNR Audio Measurements.png


Full range is fine but 50 millivolt is not that great:
Best Headphone Amplifier for IEMs.png


There is likely some hiss with sensitive IEMs.

Most important here is THD+N versus power. Let's start with 300 ohm load:
Chord Hogo DAC and Headphone Amplifier Power into 300 ohm Audio Measurements.png


Was surprised that at the high gain of the amplifier causing the graph to start pretty late. My testing is at full volume though so in practice, you can reduce the level and be fine.

Power is good at 65 milliwatts. Certainly a lot better than a phone or dongle.

Switching to 33 ohm we get:
Chord Hogo DAC and Headphone Amplifier Power into 33 ohm Audio Measurements.png


Noise floor+distortion rise fair bit now. But we still have plenty of power for a portable product at nearly 0.4 watts.

Output impedance is quite low and hence good:
Headphone Amplifier Output Impedance.png


Conclusions
Typical of Chord products, even the version one of Hugo is competently designed, approaching performance of desktop DACs. As noted though, I can't stand their user interface, the looks, or the sky high price. So can't recommend it personally but you have the data to use as you see fit.

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

I have been doing so many reviews I am fresh out of lame jokes. So I make this simple: Please donate money using : https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/

Amir
 

amirm

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#3
Yeh, I need to review the ES100. For now, I have to finish the gear that is loaned to me. This one I think was sent back in May!
 

vkvedam

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#7
Thanks for the review @amirm, as expected
 

maxxevv

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#10
Considering that it is a few years long in the teeth, it was probably close to SOTA at its point of release.

But the pricing is the big bugbear indeed.
 

Rem

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#11
Damn that is really expensive for what it offers. I'm assuming the hugo 2 is somewhere near this too. I can't imagine buying a lot of $1k+ amps/dacs without seeing measurements first.

From what I heard ES100 is really weak like 4mw into 300ohms?
 

phoenixdogfan

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#12
Way too expensive. Might be a cool get if you can find one at a steep discount used. (Provided you like the look and don't mind the interface)
 
Joined
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#14
Considering that it is a few years long in the teeth, it was probably close to SOTA at its point of release.
But the pricing is the big bugbear indeed.
2014 feels like ages ago. But indeed at the time, for a portable device it has the performance and the power. It was supposed to drive the HD800 and other high impedance headphones easily. Five years later, we have more affordable and arguably better choices like the 9038S from E1DA for cheap change compared to what the original Hugo initially cost.
 

peng

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#15
I tested a Hugo 2 a while back but it was with my old analyzer. So a member kindly sent me an original Hugo DAC and headphone amplifier to remeasure. I wa shocked to find out that the Hugo cost US $2,500 when it came out!!! Man that is expensive for a portable DAC and Amp.

Here is a shot of it if you have not seen it:

I can't stand the lights you have to have a decoder ring to decipher. The tiny power slider. General lack of labeling, etc.

For this testing, I took advantage of putting the RCA out at fixed level so there is no complaints about using volume control. Speaking of volume control, the rotary plastic knob is super stiff to turn. Not sure if they degrade to this or came this way. Definitely does not feel good. But I guess if you put it in your pocket it won't change on its own easily.

Anyway, the purpose is the measurements so let's get into that.

DAC Audio Measurements
I tested the DAC portion by feeding the Hugo using USB and measuring what came out of the RCA jacks using fixed line out mode:

View attachment 35682

As you see, the Hugo outputs that oddball 3 volt. It is not a bad thing but is more than nominal 2 volt we expect. Performance may be better at 2 volt but as it is, the SINAD (signal over noise and distortion) is quite good for a portable product at 109 dB:

View attachment 35683

Jitter performance was likewise good other than a couple of inconsequential spikes:

View attachment 35684

Chord's claim to fame are very large tap filters. We can see their response by feeding the DAC white noise and see what comes out after fair bit of averaging:

View attachment 35685

I like the super sharp cut off at required bandwidth (22.05 kHz). There is some relaxing after a while which should be fine. Certainly better than a lot of DACs which take their time to get to 24 kHz and beyond.

Linearity was perfect:
View attachment 35686

IMD results show a bit higher noise level than our reference but otherwise is good:

View attachment 35687

Dynamic range is very good as well:
View attachment 35688

Headphone Amplifier Audio Measurements
Let's start with signal to noise ratio at full output level (which clipped horribly) and just 50 millivolts:
View attachment 35689

Full range is fine but 50 millivolt is not that great:
View attachment 35690

There is likely some hiss with sensitive IEMs.

Most important here is THD+N versus power. Let's start with 300 ohm load:
View attachment 35691

Was surprised that at the high gain of the amplifier causing the graph to start pretty late. My testing is at full volume though so in practice, you can reduce the level and be fine.

Power is good at 65 milliwatts. Certainly a lot better than a phone or dongle.

Switching to 33 ohm we get:
View attachment 35692

Noise floor+distortion rise fair bit now. But we still have plenty of power for a portable product at nearly 0.4 watts.

Output impedance is quite low and hence good:
View attachment 35693

Conclusions
Typical of Chord products, even the version one of Hugo is competently designed, approaching performance of desktop DACs. As noted though, I can't stand their user interface, the looks, or the sky high price. So can't recommend it personally but you have the data to use as you see fit.

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

I have been doing so many reviews I am fresh out of lame jokes. So I make this simple: Please donate money using : https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/

Amir
Good morning Amir, why is the Chord Mojo not included in the headphone amplifier 50 mV SNR chart, didn't you measure that one too?
 

maxxevv

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#16
2014 feels like ages ago. But indeed at the time, for a portable device it has the performance and the power. It was supposed to drive the HD800 and other high impedance headphones easily. Five years later, we have more affordable and arguably better choices like the 9038S from E1DA for cheap change compared to what the original Hugo initially cost.
Yup, there probably weren't many if any DAC's back then that measured "obviously"better. The only one that had some semblance of good measured performance on the DAC side seemed to have been the Anedio D2. And that was a US$1500 device too.

Good morning Amir, why is the Chord Mojo not included in the headphone amplifier 50 mV SNR chart, didn't you measure that one too?
That wasn't yet on the list markers measured at the time of testing.
 

tsanguine

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Mar 15, 2019
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Location
Salem Oregon
#17
Yeh, I need to review the ES100. For now, I have to finish the gear that is loaned to me. This one I think was sent back in May!
I assumed you had given up on the es100. I keep checking back daily to see. I thought I recalled you having issues with it and maybe it just wasn't cooperating. Mine can occasionally be finicky. You were saying how you had it and wanted to measure it in April when I sent in the Sony UDA-1.
 

JJB70

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#18
The difference between Chord and companies like PS and TotalDAC is that behind the asinine ramblings and snake oil feeding tendencies of Watts, Chord are actually technically very accomplished and know what they are doing. Crazily expensive IMO and not worth it but if you are going to dabble in expensive gear then at least Chord stuff tends to be well designed.
 
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