I used both Hugo V1 and Mojo, we all know how successful Chord is on the market. When I first heard the Hugo V1, I rediscovered the meaning of imaging and layering. Hugo V1 was the best portable device I’ve ever listened to. Until now. Chord renewed and improved the legendary model and presented us the Hugo 2.
Before the review shenanigans, I would like to thank to Chord and Relic for the tour opportunity.
Specifications & Highlights
- Chord Electronics Custom Xilinx Artix 7 FPGA Chipset
- 10 Element Pulse Array Design (49,152 Tap Length)
- Class A
- Incredibly low output impedance (0.025Ω)
- Power output @ 1kHz 1% THD: 94mW – 300Ω | 740mW – 32Ω | 1050mW- 8Ω
- It can be considered light for a DAC/AMP! Only 450 grams.
- Earsonics S-EM9 with PW Single Core & Eros
- NocturnaL Atlantis
- Oriolus Forsteni with PW No.5
- AAW A3H Pro v2
Accessories | Box
Just like Hugo v1, v2 comes with a fairly durable, stylish cartoon box. Accessories are good. Here is the list of ‘em!
- Charger (Switchable Plugs)
- USB Cable
- Optical Cables
- Remote! (This one shocked me the most, it’s good touch, Chord!)
Design | Build
The design itself looks very good and build quality is top notch. Although I must say, I am not a huge fan of the ballsy design (pun intended).
One other thing is I really like the little window located in the middle of the device. It’s a great touch and it feels like it’s the engineer’s signature. Rigid contour overall makes it look fierce and wild!
The Hugo2 has this generally neutral sound with a touch of warmth. It’s a quite musical and high-resolution device.
Treble became my favorite section of the audio spectrum thanks to Hugo 2. Very natural, well-spaced and it’s not laid back. You can hear instruments reaching their brightest point on the spectrum and somehow Hugo keeps them out of the “hot” area so no piercing crispness. The treble is smooth. I auditioned AC-DC – T.N.T album with Hugo 2 and S-EM9. It was an incredible experience. It had an amazingly clear presentation and there were no congestions, even in the fastest passages. You can hear every single bit of detail and layer in the timbre. When I listen to music using Hugo V1 or V2, I tend to listen the parts that has the most intense upper frequencies. I found myself listening to Le Trio Joubran, Ibrahim Maalouf and similar artists. Treble is just delightful!
Mid frequencies are tad forward. The note thickness is balanced beautifully. It is neither thick nor thin. I believe this greatly contributes to naturality. Mids are relaxed and they feel realistic. Detail level is really high, it doesn’t skip any micro details. Both male and female vocals are articulate and fluid.. I believe I can listen to Norah Jones all day long… The overall presentation is smooth and effortless, I did not notice any harshness in the upper mid section. I listened to Ibrahim Maalouf – True Sorry (one of my favorite test tracks) with the Hugo2 and violin guitar tone accuracy took my breath away.. I enjoyed every second of it.
I don’t really have any complaints about of the midrange.
Lows are sufficiently prominent, natural, clear and detailed. Also, they are very controlled and tight. The lows are well defined and they are present enough but, honestly I would love to have a little more bass. Well, this is my personal preference of course. Bass quantity, in fact, very near to natural with a touch of warmth.
When you compare bass against the rest of the spectrum, they are not extremely dominant and they do not overwhelm the other frequencies. There is no overpowered boom-like basshead crazy bass. Sub-bass has an average impact field. It does not hit from a wide area and It only goes deep when the track calls for it.
Soundstage, Speed, Timing & Dynamics
Hugo2 has quite a wide soundstage. Compared to Hugo 1, the soundstage is a tad more spacious and wide. Although the margin is small. Soundstage depth is also quite satisfactory. Instruments are scattered widely across the stage and the space between them eliminates any congestion. This helps with the speed and PRAT. Let’s talk about dynamics. Well. I’ve not heard anything quite like this. Maybe LPG. This department of Hugo 2 can be labelled as unrivaled.
vs. Chord Hugo 1
Both devices are musical and technically very capable. Hugo2 is generally better than V1 in almost everything. Better transparency, wider soundstage and resolution… Power delivery is similar. With the S-EM9, I was listening at the “green” level with the Hugo v1. It did not change with Hugo 2. Micro detail revealment is better with Hugo 2, treble and mid section has increased articulacy. Margins are not huge though.
vs. iDSD Black Label
Black Label is a terrific DAC/AMP. Just like Hugo 2. I see them in different fields but I’ll say couple of things anyway. Both of the devices have relaxed, effortless sound with a dark background. iFi’s XBASS is magical. BL bass has the upper hand, it is more impactful and deep. Soundstage-wise Hugo 2 is more layered, more spacious and airy. I think they’re the top contenders of both price ranges. 500$ and 2000$. Both of em’, great buys!
vs. LPG Diana Edition
Dynamism and resolution. Both devices are absolutely great at this. Hugo 2 is tad more detailed and tad faster. LPG is a worthy rival but it falls short in mid section. Hugo 2 sounds very effortless and relaxed whereas the mid section of LPG feels stressed and aggressive. Also there is a huge soundstage difference. Hugo 2 has this wide headroom and airiness. LPG does not have this, at all. Depth-wise they’re on par.
I listened to Ibrahim Maalouf – True Sorry with Hugo 2 and immediately I started to play with AK120.(I really love the AK120 and I won’t sell it) but sound was horrible when I listened. Muddy, treble was like a rolled-off, veiled. Of course, I am not comparing with AK120. I just want to know how good Hugo2 sounds when I listened head-to-head. The Hugo2 has a seriously amazing top end when it comes to the high frequencies and I’m afraid that there is no another device that can stand in front of the Hugo2 in portable devices territory.
Hugo 2. Did I like it? Definitely, yes. It is very desirable. Built like a tank, top tier sound quality, and you can use it as DAC on almost all devices.
Still, I have several complaints about the device;
First one is about the filters. Hugo2 comes with 4 different sound filters.
- 1th- Dave/Reference filter (White),
- 2nd – HF roll off (Green),
- 3th – Mojo filter (Orange),
- 4th – Mojo HF + (High Frequency roll off) (Red)
When I tried to change these filters while playing music, I could hardly feel the sound differences between them. The change of sound was very subtle. I auditioned those filters with all the IEMs I have but the result was almost the same. Filters just had subtle differences and unfortunately, I did not find them very functional.
My second complaint is about the battery life. The battery life is about one hour less than the Hugo 1. I think, maybe the new “light-balls” are shortening the battery life. They’re so lit that you can even use the device as a nightlight beside your bed. (or signal the batman, dunno)
Apart from those, there is nothing I’d count as a weakness. I cannot easily say “Throw your V1 into the garbage, get a V2!” Hugo V1 is already a very good device and it can be found at fairly affordable prices.
To finalize, I can say that Hugo2 is a great little product from Chord and it’s definitely a good buy!