Top 5 Desktop DACs of 2023 | Moon Audio
Top 5 Desktop DACs of 2023 | Moon Audio
Introducing the next step in Chord Electronics' Hugo digital to analog converter (DAC) and portable headphone amplifier with the Hugo 2. The Hugo 2 brings tremendous advancements from the original in every way possible, making it the perfect device for high-resolution on-the-go music listening. Small enough to take with you but powerful enough to integrate into a desktop system, the Hugo 2 represents the best portable sound Chord has to offer. With a rechargeable battery, the Chord Hugo 2 is both a portable DAC and capable of being a desktop DAC too, perfect for headphone listening everywhere.
Hearing is believing. Even after 5 years on the market the Hugo 2 still manages to impress audiophiles. It's a substantial upgrade from the original Hugo in both sound and internal components. The Hugo 2 DAC/Amp doesn't depart much from the Chord Electronic's house sound, being analytical and detailed, and it has some of the best dynamic range we've heard in a small package. Don't let the size fool you either, the Hugo 2 can pull its weight even in larger desktop setups too, offering a great selection of inputs and outputs to fit in almost any audio system (headphones, IEMs, and desktop setups). You don't always get what you pay for, but in this case, you get much, much more. Check out our Chord Hugo 2 Review for more information.
Dragon Cable Recommendation: The Silver Dragon USB Cable is our best-selling cable at Moon Audio and the perfect companion for the Hugo 2 DAC Amp. The Silver Dragon USB transfers digital audio from a computer or portable device such as a Phone, Tablet, or DAP (digital audio Player) to a USB-capable DAC. The Silver Dragon Interconnect is another great option depending on your existing setup. Also consider the Black Dragon Mini Coax Digital Cable for Chord.
With the Chord 2Go you can turn your Chord Hugo 2 into a high-performance, high-end streamer and server via a wi-fi or ethernet-enabled device. The 2GO is very similar to what the Chord Poly is for the Chord Mojo, but the Hugo 2 and 2GO is next level when it comes to sound and performance.
In addition to its wireless music streaming abilities, the 2GO offers wi-fi and Bluetooth WLAN as well as wired LAN for a much more stable connection. Let's face it, no wireless connection is flawless and can have blips and drop outs. We always recommend a wired connection if at all possible.
The Chord 2GO also expands the ability to add micro SD cards, with 2 slots for expandable storage, for a total of up to 4TB of external storage (x2 2TB micro SD cards). This makes the 2GO and Chord Hugo 2 pairing function as a high-capacity digital music server using MPD. When powered from its battery alone, the Hugo 2 and 2GO deliver the ultimate performance and pure sound quality in a portable format.
The 2GO is controlled by the same Go Figure App used to control the Poly. 2GO contains highly advanced, miniaturized electronic engineering and is the most technically and sonically advanced compact music streamer available today. The 2Go combines wireless convenience (2.4GHz Wi-Fi and A2DP Bluetooth) and plug-and-play operation with the stability and performance of wired (Gigabit) Ethernet connectivity.
The 2GO also benefits from comprehensive audio interfacing and offers Tidal, Qobuz, and internet radio playback with Spotify and other services. Earmarked for the future, the 2GO is also Roon Ready, offers gapless audio and DoP/Bit Perfect support, as well as being fully DLNA-compliant (server/renderer) and AirPlay-ready.
The Chord 2YU is a digital interface that connects to the Chord 2GO, effectively turning the 2GO/2YU into a fully-functional, standalone music streamer and server. It is only a direct interface for the 2GO, however, the digital outputs can be used to provide a WLAN or LAN connection when combined with other DACs form Chord Electronics or other manufacturers. Note that the 2YU does not connect directly to the Hugo 2, but rather the 2GO, giving the 2GO an effective interface with digital outputs.
The Chord 2YU offers four digital outputs so it can be connected to Chord's own Hugo M Scaler or Hugo TT2 to create a state-of-the-art streaming system. We would recommend the Black Dragon 75ohm Mini Coax Cable to connect the 2GO-2YU together with the Hugo 2 as it enables you to connect the 2GO-2YU to multiple DACs in a 2 channel setup. For example, you can use the Hugo 2 as your primary headphone amplifier and send another digital output to your 2 channel or Home Theater system.
Chord’s Hugo 2 digital to analog converter (DAC) and headphone amplifier continues to inspire a revolutionary high fidelity in portable music listening from the innovative makers at Chord Electronics in Kent England. There are tons of performance improvements with headphones such as timing accuracy, noise reduction, and dynamic range. Stereo and speaker listeners will feel just as much as they hear with the Chord Hugo 2 DAC and amplifier.
The Chord Hugo 2 features the most advanced field-programmable gate array (FPGA) and highly advanced watts transient aligned (WTA) filters which brings vast improvements to the Hugo 2's sound with headphones, IEMs, or speakers.
The Chord Hugo 2 has four digital inputs: optical, coaxial, HD USB, and extended-range Bluetooth with file playback up to 768kHz and DSD512 (Octa DSD) via HD USB input. High-resolution audio coming into the Hugo 2 means great sound going out. Two RCA (L and R), 3.5mm and 6.35mm single-ended headphone analog outputs make the Hugo 2 compatible with just about every headphone, IEM, or preamp out there (minus balanced connectors).
The Chord Hugo 2 brings the ability to tailor your sound to the way you like it, whether it be a warm and precise presentation or precise and dynamic, the Hugo 2 provides a four-function filter to change the sound according to how you want to listen to your music. Simply push a button to switch the filter. The Hugo 2 creates listening power and flexibility for the user - allowing you to make your music sound the best to your ears, and giving you all the control to do so.
The Hugo 2 retains the original Hugo's popular digital crossfeed function with three variations for settings. The Hugo 2 crossfeeds a 400-millisecond delay in shaping music from both the left and right outputs to the different channels based on advanced binaural audio research to emulate the effect of listening to music in a room with a stereo and speakers. Crossfeed is one of the shining features of the Hugo lineup, and if you prefer the presentation of a speaker setup, then the Hugo 2 can do it for you.
The Chord Hugo 2 features a new precision-machined aircraft-inspired aluminum case. A sharper lower profile with four now larger but still round control buttons makes the Hugo 2 a more portable DAC and headphones amp than its predecessor. Clearly, the new Hugo 2 design speaks to the portable DAC success achieved by the Chord Mojo DAC. The company anticipates greater “indoor” usage too by including a full-featured remote control. The Hugo 2 has the power and connectivity to be easily integrated into your home hi-fi desktop system, but with the internal battery, you are also free to take it on the go. It's this versatility that makes the Hugo 2 one of the best portable DAC headphone amps on the market.
Battery life makes a significant contribution to any portable DAC or headphone amplifier. Chord Hugo 2 battery life is around seven hours with two “automatic charging” modes via a dedicated Micro USB charging port: fast or 1.8 amperes and slow coming in at less than one ampere. The Hugo 2 includes a battery charge indicator and status gauge.
"It's very impressive how Moore's Law is giving Chord more powerful, less power-hungry FPGAs year by year and they are taking great advantage of it. The technology in the regular DAC chips, such as ESS, isn't progressing at such a rapid rate. I listened to the audio recording that Chris put up of John Franks and Rob Watts talking about the new kit. It was incredible to hear that Rob Watts dreamed of a million tap filter in the early 80s and never believed it would be possible, and now 35 years later he's able to announce a product with such a thing in it."Richard Dale on Head-fi.org
Now that the Chord Mojo isn’t the only portable high fidelity digital to analog converter (DAC) and headphones amplifier buyers and listeners will be glad to know the Chord Hugo 2 adds new depth, soundstage, and intimacy to music via iPhones, iPads, or Android smartphones and tablets. Apple iPhones and iPads will need a camera adapter (CCK) via USB since Chord Electronics continues to balk at paying Apple licensing fees.
We recommend our Apple CCK + Silver Dragon USB for customers who love precision and detail when listening to their music and Apple CCK + Black Dragon for music lovers look for more warmth and better lower and mid-tones in their portable DAC listening experience.
Android phones and pads can connect directly to the new Chord Hugo 2. We recommend Silver Dragon USB for Android smartphone listeners who look for precision and detail and Black Dragon USB for those seeking warmth and robust low to mid-tones.
To upgrade your Chord Qutest to the next level, we recommend adding the Chord Hugo M Scaler. Using technology first seen in the flagship BLU MKII digital/CD transport, the Hugo M Scaler is a standalone upscaling device containing the world’s most advanced digital filter. When used with a dual-BNC-input Chord Electronics DAC, it is capable of redefining digital audio sound quality.
The Hugo M Scaler is a highly advanced standalone upscaler capable of redefining sound quality from digital audio. It uses Rob Watts’ unique filter technology, the most advanced in the world, to upscale standard 44.1kHz digital audio up to 705.6kHz (16x CD’s 44.1kHz native resolution), ready to be passed to a suitable DAC; Hugo M Scaler extends its upscaling performance to 768kHz (from 96kHz input data) for Chord's dual-BNC-input DACs: DAVE, Qutest and the Hugo TT 2. The Hugo M Scaler brings the unrivaled advantages of our ground-breaking FPGA-based WTA (Watts Transient Alignment) filtering technology to digitally connected audio devices, dramatically improving sound quality. Although optimized for use with selected Chord Electronics DACs (for the maximum 768kHz upscaling/decoding benefit), the Hugo M Scaler can be used with other DACs with suitable inputs, subject to their decoding capability.
The Hugo M Scaler’s compact form factor aligns with the TT (Table Top) series and has been designed to be stackable with other units in the range, including the TToby stereo power amp and the Hugo TT 2, to form a highly advanced yet space-saving system. In line with other models in the Hugo and Hugo TT series, the device features a number of illuminable fascia-mounted spherical controls, governing input selection, output sample rate, and video mode for lower latency. The control spheres display data visually including the input source and the incoming sample rate, using a polychromatic scale. When partnered with either of Chord Electronics’ 768kHz-capable dual-BNC-input DACs, the Hugo M Scaler sets an astonishing technical benchmark for digital audio performance at its price point, redefining sound quality from digital audio.
In most cases, no. The Hugo 2 is still fairly sizable as a portable so you will need some kind of external carrying case of cargo pants with large pockets to walk around with the Hugo2 while in use.
The Hugo 2 is the bigger brother to the Mojo Series. More power outputs, headphone jacks, filter controls, taps, etc. It's a very significant upgrade for when you want one of the best portables on the market.
Like many other DAC/Amps you can use USB connections from your phone/tablet to the USB input on the Hugo 2.
Yes, the Hugo 2 has a desktop mode that will kick in after 2 hours of being powered on.
The Hugo 2 does not natively support Bluetooth or wireless connections, but with the addition of the 2Go (purchased separately) you can use Bluetooth, DLNA wireless, Airplay 2, and it is Roon to control your unit as well.
"There isn't another DAC around at anywhere near this sort of price able to communicate so torrentially, so unambiguously, or so effortlessly. It's expensive, but the boost in performance is worth every penny."What HiFi?, Best DAC £1000+
"The finest DAC I've ever seen/heard/used."John Darko, Knock Out Award
"If I sound deeply impressed by the Chord Hugo2, that’s because I am. At this moment in time I really can’t think of any other transportable headphone amp/DAC that can directly compete with Hugo2, or that even comes close."Chris Martens, HIFI+
Hugo 2 includes the latest FPGAs and WTA (Watts Transient Aligned) filters with new features: