DAC Reviews

Chord Electronics Hugo TT2 Review

Chord Electronics Hugo TT2 Review

Prime Faucet DAC

Chord Electronics Hugo TT2 DAC now comes with an astonishing 98,304 faucets. Noel Keywood listens in – then provides the brand new M Scaler for a couple of faucets extra.

Merchandise from Chord Electronics are all the time fascinating – even thrilling, typically complicated. And that’s simply what I discovered when reviewing Hugo TT2 with M Scaler. Notes within the handbook allude to the ‘energy’ of Hugo  TT2’s audio outputs. Chord Electronics clarify there are discrete energy amplifiers in Hugo TT2 that may drive loudspeakers direct, particularly sensi­tive horn loudspeakers. We drove a pair of Tannoy Westminsters – giant horns – from a transportable Mojo in our January 2016 problem. Might Hugo TT2 drive loudspeakers, slashing system value? Extra later!

Let’s take a look at value. Hugo TT2 – a considerable sum. The TT means it’s a table-top model of Hugo, costlier and with out batteries. It has a partnering 100 Watt energy amplifier that you simply’ll see in lots of web site photographs, TTOBY. Nevertheless, it can drive any energy amplifier. M Scaler and I speak about this individually on following pages only for readability.

It’s as an excellent high-technology DAC that Hugo TT2 is introduced – and often talked out – utilizing Chord Electronics personal and distinctive digital-to- analogue convertor (DAC) designed by Rob Watts. Producers usually purchase in DAC chips from outdoors suppliers. What you get here’s a highly-specialised and regularly advancing design from Mr Watts that our measurements present, out-runs all

else besides ESS (though AKM get shut). Nevertheless. Rob Watts states that the place different designs have digital filters with a whole lot of faucets and make compromises consequently Hugo TT2 now has 98.304 faucets in its filter, fed by a xl6 oversampled sign. M Scaler ups this to an enormous I million faucets, once more fed by a xl6 oversampled sign.

Chord Electronics despatched us M Scaler with Hugo TT2 so we might hear the distinction, a activity made simpler by our Martin Logan electro­static loudspeakers. And our potential to measure the factor: there are solely two analysers on the earth in a position to do that – they’ve one. we have now the opposite. Apparently they quote a class-leading 127dB dynamic vary and we measure 128dB from amplifier output, or 124dB from DAC output – each excellent values.

Along with being a singular DAC, HugoTT2 can also be a pre-amplifier and headphone amplifier they are saying. Hmmm…Sure. it’s. however it doesn’t have analogue inputs, so can’t settle for exterior analogue sources.

The ‘pre-amplifier’ bit pertains to the truth that very excessive achieve is accessible, sufficient to drive an influence amplifier direct or act as an influence amplifier in its personal proper. Two achieve settings (Hello and Lo). an enormous illuminated spherical quantity management (centre) and each phono-socket (unbalanced) and XLR- socket (balanced) analogue outputs being fitted to make all of it occur.

Lately headphones rule and Hugo TT2 is designed to manage, with a minimum of two full measurement I Min (6.35mm) jacks, plus a three.5mm mini jack, so no adaptors are wanted. These on-board energy amps let Hugo TT2 drive headphones right down to 16 Ohms or decrease, with large voltage swing so even probably the most troublesome of headphones supply no problem. An uncommon addition is three selectable ranges of Crossfeed between channels to offer a extra loudspeaker-like presentation.

The one omission is the shortage of a balanced output. Plugging headphones in disables amplifier mode (i.e. the analogue outputs).

There are arrays of digital inputs. A totally remoted USB enter permits Hugo TT2 for use as a pc’s headphone DAC or to ship audio from the pc to the hi-fi. The TT2 accepts native DSD (PC solely) as much as x8 (DSD 512). At current double-rate x2 DSD (DSD 128) is concerning the restrict for music information, due to their measurement. Should you run a PC a DSD driver have to be downloaded from Chord Electronics to run native or DoP; in case you run a Mac the paid-for Audirvana Plus app. sends by way of DoP that works to DSD 128 solely in Hugo TT2.

Along with the USB enter there are two electrical S/PDIF digital inputs by way of BNC sockets, not the standard phono sockets.

They can be utilized indepen­dently. as typical, to simply accept a digital stream from outdoors sources, or collectively as a particular DBNC (Twin BNC) enter to simply accept the DBNC output of M Scaler. There are two optical inputs for which Chord Electronics now provide matching cables to make sure they attain 192kHz pattern price.

There are not any AES/EBU balanced digital inputs.

And there are two digital outputs for future use with Chord Electronics merchandise.

One other enter is Bluetooth with aptX compression, for streaming from cell phones or some other system resembling iPads and moveable gamers that now principally include Bluetooth. A small, mild (plastic) and easy distant management unit is supplied with all features, together with quantity management, enter choice and filter choice.

There are 4 filters, an incisive impartial filter (Filter I) that gives ‘absolute reference’ they are saying. and the identical with excessive frequency roll-off (Filter 2) to ‘take away noise’ from hi-res information of 88.1 kHz pattern fee or greater.

Then there’s a filter with ‘hotter tone’ (Filter three) and once more the identical with excessive frequency roll-off (Filter four). Variations between these filters weren’t nice and sonic variations small. They work with DSD additionally to scale back excessive frequency noise (2 and four). an issue inherent to DSD.

A small and light remote with volume, filters and inputs.A small and light remote with volume, filters and inputs.

A small and lightweight distant with quantity, filters and inputs.

The illuminated volume ball on a shaft at front, con­nected to green potentiometer behind. Six green super-capacitors (left) bolster the power supply. At right is the Bluetooth radio module. At centre the square black FPGA chip that holds the WTA filter and DAC.The illuminated volume ball on a shaft at front, con­nected to green potentiometer behind. Six green super-capacitors (left) bolster the power supply. At right is the Bluetooth radio module. At centre the square black FPGA chip that holds the WTA filter and DAC.

The illuminated quantity ball on a shaft at entrance, con­nected to inexperienced potentiometer behind. Six inexperienced super-capacitors (left) bolster the facility provide. At proper is the Bluetooth radio module. At centre the sq. black FPGA chip that holds the WTA filter and DAC.

Like all Chord Electronics merchandise Hugo TT2 is of outstanding construct and end. The case is machined from strong alloy, making it splendidly robust and with excellent contours and detailing. The corporate mild up the entire system of their regular fashion: the spherical quantity management at centre modifications color to point out achieve, the color palette shifting from purple (low) as much as inexperienced (smart) after which into blues to purples and ultimately white (max). Internally, the LEDs change color on the circuit board to point pattern price (or DSD) and that is seen by means of the highest window. Case dimensions are 235mm extensive. 223mm deep and 46mm excessive, with a weight of two.53kgs.

Energy is provided by a Chinese language exterior switch-mode energy provide block that delivers 15V at a excessive 4A by means of a cable 2340cm (11 ft) lengthy in complete. Chord Electronics solely use switch-mode provides and are proud of them, regardless that they’re shunned by many others.

To compensate for any attainable limitations in provide transient behaviour ‘tremendous capacitors’ are fitted to retailer cost inside the unit.

And eventually to the facility amplifier potential of Hugo TT2. Hugo TT2 produces 20 Watts from its XLR outputs. Nevertheless, it doesn’t have the warmth sinking or units to

At left, twin BNC output sockets (for future products). Next along, two large XLR socket outputs flanked by phono-socket outputs. Then come twin BNC digital inputs that together form a DBNC input. At right are TOSLINK optical inputs and a USB B computer connection.At left, twin BNC output sockets (for future products). Next along, two large XLR socket outputs flanked by phono-socket outputs. Then come twin BNC digital inputs that together form a DBNC input. At right are TOSLINK optical inputs and a USB B computer connection.

At left, twin BNC output sockets (for future merchandise). Subsequent alongside, two giant XLR socket outputs flanked by phono-socket outputs. Then come twin BNC digital inputs that collectively type a DBNC enter. At proper are TOSLINK optical inputs and a USB B pc connection.

produce such energy on a steady foundation. It really works advantageous and goes loud, however very loud will overheat (there are safety circuits). Small loudspeakers are insensitive so anticipate decrease quantity – however they may work nicely sufficient on a desk the place audio system are near your ears.


I used Martin Logan ESL-X hybrid electrostatic loudspeakers pushed by a Creek Evolution 100A amplifier by way of its direct XLR inputs (no quantity management) by way of Chord Firm Epic XLR cables. Loudspeaker cables have been Chord Firm (not Chord Electronics; they’re totally different and unrelated corporations) Signature UL cables. The unit was run in Amp mode, principally Filter I and with quantity set at mild blue the place full dynamic vary is on the market.

Digital was delivered from an Oppo BDP-20SD Common participant appearing as a CD transport, coupled optically to the Hugo with the cable provided that was a tighter match into the TOSLINK socket than our cables. A MacBook Professional operating Audirvana Plus offered hi-res and DSD replay, once more related by the provided USB cable.

I began off with excessive dynamic vary (uncompressed) rock from CD and with Nils Lofgren singing ‘Keith Don’t Go’ acquired fairly a shock. It was apparent right away that this DAC has the corporate’s trademark sound – however supercharged. In primary character assume crystal clear and vividly insightful, with no trace of heat. There was an ethereal spaciousness to the sound, made extra obvious by a really broad soundstage the place the viewers yelped and shouted from exhausting left to arduous proper in energetic trend, but they have been away from the vocals with well-identified distance. This sense of dimensional decision with arduous pictures on a large but agency canvas remained all through my listening. Lofgren’s speedy finger-picking was tremendous clear, with higher timing between effective particulars from the strings than I’ve ever heard, giving a way of intense perception. It was breath-taking – and never simply due to the qualities talked about however due to a way of nice dynamic distinction too. An astonishing degree of revelation was apparent from this monitor alone, in addition to potential to put out the acoustic being picked up by Lofgren’s mic.

One other almost-peculiar property made itself very clear with

“breathtaking readability, giving a starkly clear and concise sound unmatched elsewhere.

Safri Duo’s ‘Samb Allegro’ – tremen­dously quick however punchy bass. It appeared completely timed and I heard texture the place I had not earlier than, right here within the synth kick-drum beat that underpins the monitor so dramatically.

Trendy hi-res recordings reminiscent of Marta Gomez singing ‘Maria’ (24/96) bettered CD in apparent style by fleshing out a efficiency with extra intense inside element – making CD sound a tad barren by means of distinction. With this excellent recording, photographs have been right here from stone with clear area between them – and a vivid dynamic all however defining what high-fidelity have to be.

Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Goals’ (24/96) – a hi-res transcription from an previous analogue grasp tape (1977) – hit me with a dramatic begin from Mick Fleetwood’s drum package that had surgical punch – however a number of the cymbal crashes have been too nicely revealed. I do know the highest finish of this monitor is a bit raspy and right here Hugo TT2 made the very fact apparent. In impact it revealed limitations within the transcription or unique recording.

Comparisons obtained fascinating with Diana Krall singing ‘Slender Daylight’ on hi-res PCM (24/96) and DSD64. To my shock there was not a lot distinction. Each have been relentlessly sharp in timing, clear and clear. DSD with out the romance I affiliate with it.

With classical DSD tracks like Dejan Lazic enjoying Brahms’ ‘Piano Concerto No3’ though there was fabulous perception – the just about relentless readability of this DAC made for a scarcity of natural heat that was not what I anticipate from DSD. Once more although, the super sense of timing and broad sound stage gave Hugo TT2 a way of inflexible composure no different DAC can match, strings coming by way of with assured presence.

After writing the above I used to be advised Hugo TT2 converts DSD to PCM. presumably as a result of the customized FPGA chip lacks a DSD course of route with low cross filter. This explains what I heard although.

With hi-res classical such because the Minnesota Orchestra enjoying Korsakov’s ‘Dance of the Tumblers’ from The Snow Maiden’ (24/96), TT2’s giant canvas made the orchestra sound each huge and dynamically partaking, kettle drums having sudden and strong energy when struck, the devices all seemingly nicely separated with clear air between them. Once more, it was time to run up the quantity!

This was one thing I stored doing and abruptly the penny dropped. Utilizing Amp mode at excessive achieve – mild blue and above on the quantity sphere – maximises dynamic vary. And I used to be operating at mild blue and above, successfully attaining a dynamic vary of 130dB or extra. That’s approach above the 120dB of prime class rivals.

A problem Hugo TT2 raised was that of ‘perception’. It seems to have perception into digital, because it have been. Transcriptions of previous analogue perfor­mances had their faults revealed and didn’t sound wholly higher. Trendy hi-res recordings pretty assaulted me with the whole lot from element to dynamics, sounding virtually too good to be true. Good CD was wonderful however previous CD was revealed as. properly – previous CD and never so good.

Bluetooth labored properly as soon as I had entered the PIN quantity demanded, which the handbook fails to say: it’s 0000. Fascinating that the restrictions of aptX compression turned fairly apparent in distinction to all else.

And eventually Hugo TT2 did certainly drive our Martin Logan ESL-X loudspeakers fairly loud (Hello achieve) by way of the XLR output sockets, utilizing a pair of adaptor leads I soldered up (XLR to 4mm line socket). At occasions I fancied there was a tad extra element however then there was much less low-end drive.

David Bowie’s ‘Suffragette Metropolis’ lacking a little bit of propulsive energy. So a little bit of a compromise right here however do-able all the identical.

Headphones are greatest used at Lo achieve that limits output to 3V – greater than sufficient. Sound high quality confirmed all of the traits I heard with loudspeakers, cross-feed (XFeed) making the expertise much less in-head.


Hugo TT2 resolves each CD and hello­res digital with breathtaking readability, giving a starkly pricey and concise sound unmatched elsewhere. It additionally has unbelievable timing and virtually

Our DIY loudspeaker adaptor leads, XLR to 4mm line socket (not available commercially; go to RS Components).Our DIY loudspeaker adaptor leads, XLR to 4mm line socket (not available commercially; go to RS Components).

Our DIY loudspeaker adaptor leads, XLR to 4mm line socket (not out there commercially; go to RS Elements).

peculiarly tight but punchy bass. It’s a little brief on heat, particularly with DSD. majoring on deep evaluation as an alternative – undoubtedly its forte.

To listen to CD and hi-res such as you’ve by no means heard it earlier than, and as you’ll not hear it anyplace else, that is the DAC to audition.


The essential EIAJ Dynamic Vary worth of Hugo TT2 was 124dB in DAC mode and 128dB in Amplifier mode, set to Hello achieve and with quantity superior to keep away from output clipping (mild blue on the quantity management). Each are exceptionally excessive values not bettered elsewhere, though ESS DACs match the determine.

DesignerRob Watts insists distortion is extra necessary than dynamic vary and right here the Hugo TT2 produced a document low worth of zero.008% at -60dB with 24bit – see our evaluation. At greatest rivals handle zero.02% so Hugo TT2 has half their distation. Word that Chad Electronics solely quote distation at full scale <0dB FS) to match different producers. Our -60dB check is extra significant and now extensively used. S/PDIF and USB gave equivalent figures.

Distortion with CD (16bit) measured zero.19% at -60dB. not quite a bit totally different to normal as a consequence of quantisation noise inherent in 16biL Dynamic vary was 101dB.

The S/PDIF electrical (BNC socket) and optical digital inputs (with provided optical cable) each accepted 192kHz pattern price PCM, frequency response measuring flat to 55kHz (-1dB) with Filter 1 and three earlier than sluggish roll off to the 96kHz higher theoretical restrict, our evaluation displaying Filter 1. Filters 2 and four had a 21kHz (-1dB) higher restrict – low. They’re fairly robust filters..

At Lo achieve the headphone outputs delivered 3V max. at Hello achieve 8V max, – greater than sufficient for all headphones. Distortion an dynamic vary values have been similar to Line out at Hello achieve, simply tad decrease at Lo achieve.

Outcomes with M Scaler have been similar though dynamic vary did attain 129dB.

Hugo TT2 delivers class main measured efficiency in all areas. It has large dynamic vary and unusually low distortion.


OUTSTANDING – amongst the most effective.


10 Complete Rating

Fabulous DAC with analytical and exact sound. Unimpressive with DSD.


  • nice sound from CD
  • styling and construct high quality
  • small measurement
  • wide selection of inputs
Consumer Score: Be the primary one!

The place to purchase?

Chad Electronics + 44 (zero)1622 721444 www.chordelectronics.com

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