Chord Hugo 2 £1799

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Awards 2018 -

The Hugo 2 may have had to re­lin­quish its Prod­uct of the Year sta­tus, but it’s only fallen so far. Con­tin­u­ing its line’s re­mark­able suc­cess, it serves both as an improve­ment over the Mojo and as a more por­ta­ble ver­sion of the Qutest.

Sure, it is por­ta­ble in that it has a bat­tery (pro­vid­ing around seven hours from a sin­gle charge) and you can pick it up (it’s only 450g), but it won’t sit com­fort­ably in a pocket for on-the-go use like its Mojo si­b­ling. Chord ac­knowl­edges its desk­top like­li­hood by the in­clu­sion of a re­mote, know­ing the Hugo 2 is as likely to end up as a Dac/pre-amp in a static sys­tem as it is to get out and about.

The Hugo 2 fea­tures all the in­puts and out­puts you could re­al­is­ti­cally re­quire for ei­ther oc­ca­sion. Its dig­i­tal op­ti­cal in­put (full-size TOSLINK) is good for dig­i­tal au­dio up to 24-bit/192khz, while the dig­i­tal coax­ial (a 3.5mm socket) func­tions up to 24-bit/384khz.

The fi­nal phys­i­cal in­put is a mini-usb able to deal with in­for­ma­tion up to 32-bit/768khz and DSD512. Mu­sic can also be fed to Hugo 2 via aptx Blue­tooth. There are 3.5mm and 6.3mm head­phone socket out­puts, and a pair of stereo RCAS for con­nec­tion to an amp.

As well as in­put se­lec­tion and vol­ume, the Hugo 2 fea­tures in­scrutable colour-de­pen­dent con­trols for cross-feed and fil­ter­ing. Chord’s great dif­fer­en­tia­tor, its be­spoke, highly de­vel­oped Field Pro­gram­mable Gate Ar­ray, is back in su­per­charged form.

Where sound is con­cerned, it is dif­fi­cult to find mean­ing­ful fault with the way the Hugo 2 con­verts and de­liv­ers your dig­i­tal au­dio files. The big­ger the file and the more in­for­ma­tion it has to play with, the greater the de­tail and fidelity of its per­for­mance. But in all cir­cum­stances it serves up a de­tailed, dy­namic and punchy per­for­mance.

A pow­er­ful show of unity

Tim­ing is per­haps the Hugo 2’s strong­est suit of all – it brings ab­so­lutely be­liev­able unity to en­sem­ble mu­sic. There’s crisp­ness and clar­ity to its sound, ad­mirable man­age­ment of tem­pos and an un­equiv­o­cal lay­out of the sound­stage.

From one ex­treme of the fre­quency range to the other, the Chord is a smoothly neu­tral lis­ten – it doesn’t over­state or un­der­play – it sim­ply ar­ranges the pieces into a con­vinc­ing whole where bass is bal­anced against tre­ble in the most un­forced man­ner.

There isn’t an­other DAC around at any­where near this price able to com­mu­ni­cate so tor­ren­tially, so un­am­bigu­ously or so ef­fort­lessly. Our af­fec­tion for it in the past 12 months hasn’t wa­vered one bit.

There re­ally isn’t an­other DAC any­where near this price that can do the job as well

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