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Chord Hugo USB DAC headphone amp


Chord Electronics

Moon Audio

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The Chord Hugo is a reference-level portable headphone amp/dac for PCD and DSD audio. HUGO has truly raised the bar when it comes to portable high end audio.

Hugo Main Features:

  • Playback up to DSD 128 and 384kHz PCM

  • Includes Chord's award-winning FPGA DAC

  • Drives the most demanding high-end headphones

  • Excellent for home and mobile use with 12 hour battery life

  • 5 digital inputs including Apt-X Bluetooth

Regular Price: $2,195.00

Now only: $1,995.00

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Top 4 reasons we added the Chord Hugo to Moon Audio’s lineup of portable headphone amps:

1. The Dac in the HUGO is not a standard off the shelf wolfson or Burr Brown chip that everyone else uses so the decoding is just spectacular.

2. The Hugo can be used as a desktop or portable headphone amp/dac and it converts usb, pcm, dsd, and tons of other formats.

3. We love the sound, it’s just jaw dropping and it can drive just about any headphone on the planet, even hard to drive ones like the Sennheiser HD800.

4. It has an AMAZING 12-14 hour battery life. WOW, need I say anything else?

More Details of the Hugo

Hugo is the world’s most advanced headphone amp/DAC, offering five digital inputs including A2DP aptX Bluetooth, plus advanced 384kHz PCM and DSD 128 playback for today’s high-resolution DXD (Digital eXtreme Definition) music files. Based on the same FPGA DAC technology that has helped establish Chord Electronics as an authority in digital audio. Named Hugo (because you can take Hugo wherever ‘you-go’), and it offers studio-master-tape sound quality, advanced connectivity and uncompromising file playback capability, all from a palm-sized player.

Use as both a portable headphone amp/DAC as well as a reference-level source component in a static system, it brings the renowned digital audio expertise of Rob Watts and Chord to serious headphone listening, enabling consumers to experience a world of super-high-resolution music via their headphones. Hugo offers unsurpassed performance and technology and is unrivaled in the marketplace, thanks to its bespoke technology, FPGA circuitry and advanced file-playback capability.

The Chord Hugo DAC plus headphone amp is ready to take advantage of today’s advanced studio-master-quality (DXD) music files. Hugo by Chord can decode sample rates ranging from 44.1kHz to 384kHz (PCM), allowing audiophiles to experience music in true high definition, along with the best possible reproduction of CD-quality music. The Chord Hugo also benefits from two advanced USB inputs: one driverless input for legacy USB devices and one asynchronous high- definition USB port for operation up to 384kHz. Thanks to two additional digital inputs, coaxial and optical, any connected component with a digital output will also benefit from Hugo’s advanced technology.

Building on the strengths on the (two-years’-running) What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision ‘Best DAC’ QuteHD, the Chord Hugo dac also has A2DP Bluetooth capability and uses a custom-made module with the aptX codec to feed a digital signal directly into the DAC circuitry, so even without cables, high-quality music can still be enjoyed.

In addition to 384kHz PCM files, the Hugo by Chord can also process DSD 128 data using the latest DSD-over-PCM standard (DoP). Whether using Mac OS or Windows OS, Chord Electronics’, the manufacturer of the Hugo, own proprietary driver software is provided, removing the restrictions of current operating system audio playback.

Chord's Hugo even has a built-in battery-charging circuit, with a full charge reached in approximately two hours. Hugo takes no power over its USB input (as this is severely limited with many partnering products) and only takes signal data, therefore, Chord's hugo is fully compatible with all iPhone, iPad and Android devices. Further features include an advanced reference-grade digital volume control that does not lose bits.

Like all Chord Electronics products, Hugo is built to last. The casework is precision- machined from aircraft-grade aluminium, with a bright silver hard-anodised finish. Complementing the design is a top-mounted ‘porthole’ that gives users an intriguing insight into the internal circuitry, which changes colour with differing incoming sample rates. 


Important Notice: The available digital audio stream depends on your device and operating system. For a list of compatible devices please visit Extreme DSD.  *Note that some devices need 3rd party software to function. 

Hugo Manual

Chord Hugo Color Charts

CNET Hugo Review by Steve Guttenberg

Audio Stream Hugo Review 

HiFi+ Hugo DAC Review

Sound News Hugo Review


Questions & Answers
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Which portable audio player can provide native DSD output to be used with Chord Hugo ?
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Additional Info

Main Features:

  1. Playback up to DSD 128 and 384kHz PCM
  2. Includes Chord's latest award-winning FPGA DAC
  3. Reference-class amplifier drives the most demanding high-end headphones
  4. Home and mobile use with 12 hour battery life
  5. five digital inputs including Apt-X Bluetooth


Turn on the power switch. Hugo will cycle through the sequence of colors and then be ready for operation. Select the input you wish to use and plug in the input cables and headphones as appropriate. Adjust the volume to a comfortable listening level.

Driver Installation

If you are using the high definition (HD) USB input with a Microsoft Windows™ Vista, 7 or 8 PC then you will need to install the driver software on the supplied CD or via the chord electronics website. ASIO drivers are also included. Apple™ or Android™ platforms are driverless and do not require any driver to operate.

Bluetooth Input

Hugo can play music via a Bluetooth enabled device. Hugo supports standard A2DP Bluetooth audio or the higher quality APTX Bluetooth audio codec. Select the Bluetooth input indicated by a blue source light and then follow the instructions on your device to pair with Hugo. The pairing code is 0000 if required.

Coax Input

Connect a coax digital signal to the yellow phono socket. Select the coax input indicated by the red source light.

Optical Input

Connect an optical digital signal to the TOSLink socket. Select the optical input indicated by the green source light.

SD USB Input

The standard definition (SD) USB input allows for music playback up to 16bit 48Khz. This input does not require any drivers and will be compatible with nearly all mobile phones / tablets and other source components with USB connection. (USB drivers and USB memory sticks / cards are not supported).

Using an OTG (on the go) USB cable or the Apple™ Camera Connection Kit Hugo can be connected directly to a phone or tablet.

Select the SD USB input indicated by the yellow source light.

HD USB Input

The high definition (HD) USB input is the highest quality method of digital playback. This input is asynchronous and uses Hugo’s own highly accurate clock circuit. This input will support 384KHz PCM/DXD and also DSD64 and DSD128 in DoP format. No drivers are required for Apple™ and Android™ devices but for Microsoft Windows™ you must firstly load the drivers on the supplied CD or download them from our website.

Using an OTG (on the go) USB cable or the Apple™ Camera Connection Kit Hugo can be connected directly to a phone or tablet.

Select the HD USB input indicated by the white source light.


Up to 3 sets pf headphones can be connected at the same time to share the listening experience. There is one larger 6.35mm jack socket and two smaller 3.5mm sockets. The high current output stage will work with headphone impedances as low as 4 ohms or up to several hundred ohms so there are no restriction on headphone type or choice.


Plug in the supplied wall adapter to charge Hugo. The bright white charge light will illuminate through the lens. When fully charged (approx. 5 hours) the charge light will switch off. It is safe to leave the power adapter connected continuously to charge and power Hugo. The charge status is indicated by a color changing light under the lens. Blue is fully charged and this will change through green to red as the batteries discharge. When there is no power left the light will flash red and the output will mute.

Sample Frequency Lights

Each digital sample frequency received will cause Hugo to illuminate different colors to indicate correct operation. The sequence is as follows:

Red – 44Khz, Orange – 48Khz, Yellow – 88Khz, Green – 96Khz, Light Blue – 176Khz, Dark Blue – 192Khz, Light Purple – 352Khz (DXD), Purple – 384Khz (DXD).

White indicates DSD operation at either DSD64 or DSD128.


There are 3 crossfeed modes that enhance the listening experience to give a more spatial ‘out of the head’ stereo sound field. Using advanced filtering and delay the normal headphone stereo image is converted to give the effect of a much bigger sound stage as though you are listening to large loudspeakers or live music. The modes are indicated by the crossfeed light under the lens as follows:

No light – normal mode with no crossfeed, Red light – minimum crossfeed (9dB 700Hz), Green light – medium crossfeed (6dB 700 Hz), Blue light – maximum crossfeed (4.5dB 700 Hz).

Volume Bypass

Press and hold the Crossfeed switch while turning on to activate volume bypass mode. The volume control will illuminate light blue to indicate line level output. Using bypass mode Hugo can be used as a standalone DAC into a preamplifier with volume control. Volume bypass mode will set the volume on all outputs including the headphone outputs to full level. Do not plug in or use headphones when activating bypass mode.



• Optical TOSLink 24-bit/192kHz-capable
• RCA coaxial input 24-bit/384kHz-capable
• Driverless USB input 16-bit/48kHz-capable (designed for tablets/phones)
• HD USB input 32-bit/384KHz and DSD128-capable (for computer/laptop playback; requires driver installation on Windows, others TBC)


• 2x3.5mm headphone jacks
• 1x6.35mm (1/4 inch) headphone jack
• 1x (pair) stereo RCA phono output

Technical specs

• Advanced digital volume control
• Crossfeed filter network
• Battery powered for approximately 14 hours operation
• Input, sample rate and volume level indication by colour-change LEDs
• 26K tap-length filter (more than double when compared to the QuteHD DAC)
• THD: 140dB
• Headphone output: 110dB SPL into a 300ohm headphone load


• 3 years


>(Posted on 12/11/2014)
Truly OutstandingReview by The Old Mad Dog
As with Daniel. I won't mimic all of the Hugo reviews. At my ripe age of 64 (that's a little more than 9 dog years), I have tried virtually everything and I'll leave it as this...

With the Fostex TH900 / Silver Dragon V3, this is as good as it gets. The only system I've owned that was better was a Goldmund Turntable with Straight Line Tracking, Mark Levinson Class A Amps and Preamp and the infamous Levinson modified Quad Speaker system. But that's comparing a system which cost well over 40 times as much as the Hugo and that was 30 years ago!

I'm sold and a believer in a solid product which matches the reviews and doesn't need the hype.

(Posted on 11/25/2014)
Unmatched portable USB DAC headphone ampReview by Daniel
There are myriad glowing reviews of the Hugo, so there is no need to mimic them (mine is used with an Audeze LCD-XC - suffice to say that it will make your higher range cans sing. For my primary environment, I must stick with closed cans).

I prefer the Hugo to the iFi micro iDSD for the former's stunning performance across all parameters (oops, did I just dip into a "review?") - and I don't mind the iFi sound. However, sometimes I miss an analog input available in the latter, but oh well. (Posted on 11/25/2014)

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