The Chord Electronics HUGO is portable headphone amplifier with a built in DAC that offers an extremely high sound quality, "next level", headphone listening experience.
This reference level product probably plays high resolution format music files better than anything else on the market and is the first product of its kind.
Chords proprietory FPGA based DAC technology is evolved even further - the DAC uses a FIR filter with no less than 26,000 taps.
There are five digital inputs;
- Legacy USB (24/48) driver-less for iPad/iPhone
- Advanced USB (32/384) for high definition PCM and DSD128(DXD) - proprietory drivers provided
- Coax (32/384)
- Optical (24/192)
- Bluetooth (A2DP AptX)
The audio output is of a quality you expect from Chord Electronics as is the stunning all aluminum case design.
Chord has launched a larger non-portable version of the HUGO called theHUGO TT at CES 2015.
Chord's proprietory QBD76 DAC technology, developed in collaboration with leading industry expert Robert Watts, is deployed in field programmable gate array configurable chip architecture which gives the flexibility for system on chip (SOC) solutions and the ability to design subsystems (DAC, FIR filter, noise shapping etc) without the constraints of off-the-shelf chip application.
With this freedom, massive parallel and low latency front to back digital to analog conversion is possible.
Technology giants that design and fabricate off-the-shelf DAC chips sell these to many industries across a broad range of application and design requirements and also fabricate and design hundreds of other chips.
Such chips also require additional external companion electronics in specific architectures.
A key component in Chord's complex DAC chips is the phase linear WTA 'FIR' filter.
With most DACs the designer has to trade off transient response (timing) for ripple and pre/post processing artifacts (harmonic fidelity)
as most analog or digital filters are not linear phase because they introduce a different amount of delay for different frequency components of a signal.
Volume control and Amplifier
The HUGO also benefits from bespoke circuits for a very high quality volume control that does not loose digital information like most other digital volume controls, and the output stages
are of the quality to fully reveal the resolution of the source material. In addition to the 3 headphone sockets there are RCA outputs.
All the resolution of high end digital formats - including DSD128 - is now conveyed from the palm of your hand to the headphones/earphones you are wearing.
As you would expect from quality electronics, the HUGO presents musical information accurately with neither embelishment nor restraint.
QBD76 technology gives excellent bass definition particularly with plucked double bass where some DACs can sound a bit soft and loose.
Cymbals shimmer with radiance without harshness and the midrange is clean with a transparent directness.
All spatial information and a full width deep layered sound stage is apparent with all the recorded ambiance be it natural or studio engineered.
Also thrown in for fun is Chord's "all-digital psycho-acoustic delay and cross-feed DSP cored codec" that for "out of head" immersion headphone experience.
The Chord Electronics HUGO has brought to market the right kind of luxury product needed in the ever growing wearable device electronics segment.
But the added bonus is that the HUGO can also be used - via its RCA outputs - so you can enjoy high definition music through a regular HiFi system when not on the go.
It provides an excellent introduction to Chord Electronics that most people can now afford. Time to upgrade your old device.
U.S Retail Price: $2,495 - call for competitive pricing