Chord Hugo2 – Portable DAC/Headphone Amplifier – Review

If you have read my reviews on Chord products, you already know that I was really impressed by their evolution and their performance. When Chord Hugo was released, I was impressed by the sound quality from that small unit.

Then, Chord decided to go even smaller with even newer technology with Chord Mojo. I couldn’t resist and I actually bought one for myself. What impressed me the most for Mojo was the natural tonality & transparency. It actually sounds great in my big speaker system as well. It’s no Analog Dac, but it’s really awesome for the size and money. I actually like the tonality and the sound of Mojo more than the Hugo 1, because it sounds more natural, clean and considerably less flat / bright. It can stand up to much more expensive full size dacs.

Hugo 2 was on my list to review for a long time now, so here we are.

Build Quality and Looks

From my perspective Hugo 2 shows a good evolution from Hugo 1 in terms of build quality and looks. The metal seems a little thicker if I remember correctly, more sturdy. The finishes are considerably better looking on Hugo 2. It also has 4 more buttons that makes it easier to use and configure. It now looks like a more mature product. The design and finishes are worthy of the price.

Technology and Specs

Description from Chord’s website:

In 2014, we introduced Hugo, a revolutionary portable DAC and headphone amp that became a landmark product in the audio landscape. Advances in digital technology, including the latest FPGAs and WTA (Watts Transient Aligned) filters, have enabled us to introduce a next-generation version, Hugo 2, featuring flexible new features, plus next-generation technical and sonic performance.

Hugo 2 can be used both at home and on-the-go, either with headphones or within a conventional audio system. Its line-level output and full-function remote control adds real flexibility in full-size and desktop systems.

The device offers four digital inputs (optical, coaxial and HD USB) plus extended-range Bluetooth, with high-resolution file playback up to 768kHz and up to DSD512 (Octa DSD), via its HD USB input. Analogue outputs include 2x RCA, plus 3.5mm and 6.35mm headphone outputs.

A four-function switch filter offers a useful degree of user-selectable frequency-shaping, bringing warm and soft or transparent and incisive presentations, giving additional flexibility and user control. For headphone-listening, Hugo 2 retains the popular digital crossfeed function of the original and offers three operation modes. The system duplicates the effect of listening to speakers and is based on advanced binaural audio research.

Hugo 2 features four spherical control buttons, which illuminate with color-coding information and control power, input, filtering, plus the unit’s crossfeed functions.

Battery playing time is around seven hours and two modes of automatic charging are included using the dedicated Micro USB charging port; an indicator shows charging and battery-charge status.


Materials: Clamshell precision machined aluminium casing with polycarbonate  buttons, acrylic signal window, and glass viewing portal. Available in a choice of two colours – natural silver, and satin black

Battery: 2x Rechargeable custom Enix Energies 3.7v 9.6Wh Li-ion (lithium-ion (2600mAh) batteries*

Tap length filter: 49,152 – 10 element Pulse Array design

Play time: In excess of seven (7) hours

Charging: Nominal four (4) hours via Micro USB at 1.8amps (fast charge) – Nominal eight (8) hours at 1amp (slow charge)

Connectivity (input): Micro USB (White): 44.1kHz – 768kHz – 16bit – 32bit

Coax via 3.5mm Jack (Red): 44.1kHz – 384kHz – 16bit – 32bit

Dual data mode input (using both BNC coax inputs together): 44.1kHz – 768kHz – 16bit – 32bit

Optical (Green): 44.1kHz – 192kHz – 16bit – 24bit

Connectivity (input wireless): Bluetooth (Apt X) (Blue): 44.1kHz – 48kHz – 16bit

Connectivity (output): 1x ¼” jack headphone output

1x 3.5mm jack headphone output

1x stereo (L & R) RCA output

PCM support: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz, 358.8kHz, 384kHz, 717.6kHz, and 768kHz.

DSD support: Native playback supported. DSD64 (Single) to DSD512 (Octa-DSD)

Volume control: Digital, activated in 1dB increments. Last known state saved upon shutdown, with exception of line-level mode

Line-level mode: Activated via dual press of middle ‘Source’ and ‘Crossfeed’ buttons. Line level = 3v via all outputs. Reset by power cycle

Power saving mode: Auto-shutdown after ten minutes of input inactivity

Driver support: Driverless with Mac OS X and Linux, driver required for Windows OS


Chipset: Chord Electronics custom coded Xilinx Artix 7 (XC7A15T) FPGA

Tap-length: 49,152

Pulse array: 10 element pulse array design

Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz +/- 0.2dB

Output stage: Class A

Output impedance: 0.025Ω

THD: <0.0001% 1kHz 3v RMS 300Ω

THD and noise at 3v RMS: 120dB at 1kHz 300ohms ‘A’ wighted (reference 5.3v)

Noise 2.6 uV ‘A’ weighted: No measurable noise floor modulation

Signal to noise ratio: 126dB ‘A’ Weighted

Channel separation: 135dB at 1kHz 300Ω

Power output @ 1kHz 1% THD: 94mW 300Ω

740mW 32Ω

1050mW 8Ω

Weight: 450g

Dimensions: 130mm (L) x 100mm (W) x 21mm (H)

Boxed Dimensions: 220mm (L) x 122mm (W) x 85mm (H)

Listening Impressions & Tests

I managed to test Hugo2 with a variety of headphones & components:

  • FiiO FH5 
  • E-MU Teak Closed Headphones
  • Sennheiser HD650 with Kiss Mod
  • In my Speaker System with Raimond Audio Power amp and Martin Logan ESL-11A
  • Sennheiser HD820
  • Audeze LCD-4Z ( not extensively, but enough to get a good idea)

With the previous Hugo, the main listening and tests were done with Decware Taboo MK3 tube amplifier. I didn’t manage to test Hugo in the speaker system and I didn’t notice that it might sound a little flat/bright.

This time I managed to test it in my speaker system. Unfortunately, the results were similar. It does sound a little more natural than hugo1 with better timing and details, but it still sounds a little flat/bright, even is less so than Hugo1. I thought that it might be the time to test it with the Burson Cable Pro to see if there are any possible impedance mismatches between Hugo2 and my power amp.

Well, the cable worked like a charm and brought Hugo2 to life in this combination. The sound opened up, the bass went lower with more control and detail, the voices were fuller, more natural and the sound was overall more energetic and vibrant.

The result was really awesome overall, but compared to MSB Analog Dac for example or even with Soekris 1544 it lost in terms of transparency and vocal purity. If I were to pick on something with Hugo 2 is that the voices do not always have the most pure/natural presentation. Sometimes they are a little cold/grainy/sharp.

I was really impressed to see that Hugo2 came with a remote. This was really awesome, because I could test it with a power amp. Without the remote, this would have been much harder. The unit is very versatile and can be used in a wide variety of combinations.

Hugo2 also has 4 filters to play with:

A four-function switch filter offers a useful degree of user-selectable frequency-shaping, bringing warm and soft or transparent and incisive presentations, giving additional flexibility and user control. For headphone-listening, Hugo 2 retains the popular digital crossfeed function of the original and offers three operation modes. The system duplicates the effect of listening to speakers and is based on advanced binaural audio research.

I actually played with the filters a little without paying too much attention to it. With some electronic/rock music I noticed that I instinctively changed to the red filter. I didn’t read anything about the filters before doing this. When doing some critical listening, I had difficulties to observe difference between the first ones, especially from white to green.

If you compare the white filter directly with the red filter, the difference is more obvious. With the white filter I got more air, better details and timing overall, while with red, less treble detail and more organic sound. This was really useful with some recordings.



The bass is clean, fast, very well controlled and detailed with all the associated gear.


The midrange is definitely more natural and present than with Hugo 1. It also presents very good texture and details. The vocals are good, but there were some combinations where they lacked a little body or sounded a little harsh.


The treble is well extended and detailed. The level of air and treble presence can be controlled with the filters and this is a nice feature to play with. If I compare Hugo2 to Analog DAC and Soekris 1541, the treble loses a bit in terms of naturality, as some instruments might sound less natural on Hugo2 than on Analog Dac or Soekris 1541.


This is a very strong point of Hugo2, as the sound is really clean and transparent. This little unit is a small window into your favorite songs.


It’s impressive how many details you get from this little device across the frequency range.


This is another area where Hugo 2 shines. The music is very engaging, showing both good micro/macro dynamics. It’s a like a Mojo on steroids.


The soundstage is a step up from Hugo1, showing better width, depth and holography. It’s not the most impressive feature of Hugo2, it doesn’t stand out in this department, but it’s quite nice overall.


The transients are fast and impactful. The attack is strong and the decay is a little more extended and natural when compared to Hugo1 where the decay was a little too fast.

Small Comparison to Hugo1

Hugo2 is a very good evolution from Hugo1. The bass is a little more present, showing better depth and detail. The tonality and sound overall is more natural and less flat. It also sounds more vibrant/energetic than Hugo1. The treble is also more natural than with Hugo1 and you also can play with the level of detail/presence through the filters.

Small Comparison to Mojo

This is where it gets interesting. Hugo 2 is a combination of Mojo on Steroids and Hugo1 on Steroids. It’s definitely more detailed, engaging and has better timing than Mojo. This is why Hugo 2 sounds overall more clear/clean than Mojo.

However in terms of background and sound purity overall, they seem to be very close from my perspective. I haven’t noticed a big difference in this department. Mojo also sounds darker and more mid centric. However, for some people, this might be a better thing. The voices sound fuller, more natural and have better purity with Mojo. I have chosen the word “purity” with attention, as Hugo2 gives more details to the voices, better textures, but sometimes this comes with a slight harshness (even slight grain) when compared to Mojo. So the voices have better purity and tonality with Mojo and are clearer/more detailed with Hugo2. Because of this, for example I prefer Mojo on my speaker system.

Is Hugo 2 better than Mojo? From a technical perspective Hugo2 is clearly better than Mojo. From a tonality / sound signature, it might very well be a matter of choice. The differences that favor Hugo2 become more obvious when you add a full size or power hungry headphone into the mix.


Hugo2 is a good evolution from its predecessor, and I can see improvements in every department, from build quality to design to sound quality. It is kind of pricey, but even as standalone DAC competes nicely will full size DACs in its price range and even above. It sounds great with very sensible iems, but also with full size power hungry headphones. If you get a good system match or use a cable like Burson Cable Pro, it sounds great as a standalone dac in a speaker system as well, otherwise it might sound flat and a little harsh.

Overall this is the best portable dac/amp for headphones that I know of.


  • Very good bass: clean, detailed, controlled and punchy
  • Well textured and detailed midrange
  • Well extended and detailed treble section
  • Overall natural tonality with a few exception for vocals and some parts of the treble
  • Very clean / transparent sound
  • Very good details
  • Excellent timing/dynamics/energy
  • Excellent transients
  • Good/decent soundstage
  • Excellent imaging & instrument separation
  • The filters are quite helpful to play with the tonality
  • Nice design and build quality


  • Vocals can be a little harsh/grainy in some situations
  • Without a good matching (in this case fixed with the Burson Cable Pro) Hugo2 can sound flat and harsh on a speaker system
  • Treble can be a little harsh sometimes but this can be solved with the filters, the midrange issue from above can’t