Chord Hugo £1400

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Dacs -

It might be idio­syn­cratic in de­sign and use, but the Hugo still bosses other DACS at this price

If you’re go­ing to be spend­ing this level of money on a head­phone amp for your desk­top set-up, you’re se­ri­ous about mu­sic qual­ity. Luck­ily, all three of th­ese DACS are too. Si­mau­dio’s Moon Neo 230HAD is the most af­ford­able op­tion of the three but has plenty to of­fer, with a bold, open sound and en­thu­si­as­tic, fluid midrange.

It’s an en­joy­able, easy­go­ing lis­ten, but trips up with less-than per­fect or­gan­i­sa­tion when rhythms get busy, and has a slightly soft char­ac­ter. Th­ese down­falls, de­spite its more af­ford­able price tag, are enough to deduct a star against its com­pe­ti­tion, though it re­mains a good op­tion to au­di­tion.

More com­plete than ever

The re­cently up­dated Naim DAC V1 showed it­self to be just as good as when we heard it a cou­ple of years ago, and now with its added DSD ca­pa­bil­i­ties it’s a more com­plete propo­si­tion than ever.

Its build and ease of use are se­cond to none, and its con­nec­tiv­ity is ex­ten­sive enough not to leave any sys­tem want­ing.

Per­for­mance is equally im­pres­sive, with a very pre­cise, au­thor­i­ta­tive sound that’s full-bod­ied and weighty, not to men­tion filled with de­tail. Its di­rect char­ac­ter means it’s not the most re­lax­ing lis­ten though, and it can be a lit­tle un­re­lent­ing if matched with equally as­sertive speak­ers, but it’s still five stars for this ex­pres­sive, dy­namic DAC.

Fi­nally, our Award-win­ning DAC at this price, the Chord Hugo, proves once again why we chose it. Its pre­sen­ta­tion might not have the sonic body of the Naim or the Moon, nor does it have the most straight­for­ward con­trol sys­tem, but it makes up for that in ev­ery other way.

Sub­tle, dy­namic and su­perbly timed, it brings the best out of your mu­sic, plus its Blue­tooth stream­ing and porta­bil­ity (thanks to its recharge­able bat­tery) only make it more of a con­vinc­ing buy.

As such keeps its five stars, not to men­tion its place at the top of the pile of DACS at this price. Can the multi-tal­ented Hugo ever be topped at this price? Right now, that job’s look­ing very tricky in­deed.

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