Chord Electronics Hugo TT2 & Hugo M Scaler Review

The Chord Electronics company based in the UK continue to astound with their ever growing library of fantastic designs and having owned and listened to many of their products over the years they never fail to impress me with their quality and attention to detail which are second to none. They are also never one to sit idle as they seem to be continuously working on updating and bringing out new and improved versions of what has made them such a success. In these strange times it’s always nice to see a company from the UK do so well and always strive to be the best in what they do and create.

I reviewed the original Hugo TT back in 2016 IIRC and it was a stunning performer back then but this new version has had some major overhauls with every component upgraded, power supplies bolstered and uprated to much higher levels than previously seen and this is where it also improves on its smaller brother the Hugo2 giving more power to the power hungry circuitry and an almost limitless supply to whatever headphones should you desire.

So the Hugo TT2 is only half of the picture in this review as I also have waiting in the wings the new Chord Electronics Hugo M Scaler which is a weapons grade scaler capable of boosting the power and number crunching DAC to obscene levels of performance but to get me started I am listening to the Hugo TT2 on its own and introduce it at a later stage once I am fully familiar with its sonics traits.

Build quality and features

The build quality on both units is simply faultless and just oozes quality, their weight is pretty hefty especially as they are crafted out of solid aluminium billets and you just know you have real quality at your fingertips, the design is unique to Chord Electronics and distinguishes them from the rest as some of the most beautifully created and crafted products. To look through the window on the TT2 is a delight as you see all the components lit up by the light which tells you the sample rate is just one of the many wonders at viewing them up and running.

The Hugo TT2 has a long list of features which makes it so versatile when it comes to using in different configurations, it can be used as a table top stand alone DAC and Headphone amplifier or take full advantage of its balanced/RCA outputs as a stand-alone DAC feeding you main HiFi rig to a preamplifier. For me I will just be using it as a Head-Fi rig and listening to its incredible sounds via headphones (Beyerdynamic T1 headphones 2nd gen) but the potential is there and in some ways I wish I had my full HiFi system back up and running but one step at a time. It has a plethora of inputs from USB to BNC, Optical and Coaxial and it has 3 headphone jacks at the front of the unit. Menu buttons and also a digital display to show sample rates and menu configurations. It has the same X feed features which are on the Hugo TT before and filters which work surprisingly well when used with headphones, this is something you must try to see if you like or as they say use to your own personal taste. Chord provide a remote for both units so you can just sit back and relax from you armchair controlling nearly all its benefits. The M Scaler is just beautiful to look at with all its lights and beautiful design and again loaded with inputs. Both products are supplied with all the cables you need to get them up and running but for this review Chord Company cables have supplied me with a bag of goodies, I just love their cables and have used nearly all of their ranges over the years in most of my systems and they are some of the best cable designers on the planet making your systems sing to their full ability.

It just so happens that while writing this review I managed to get a good enough HiFi system back up and running for my main system and it consists of ProAc D2R speakers with REL T5i subwoofer, Cyrus Audio components for amplifier and CD playback, I will use the Chord Hugo TT2 and Hugo M Scaler in parallel with this system to evaluate the Chord Electronics sound quality all connected with Chord Company cables using Rumour X Speaker cable and Epic RCA Interconnects and also Chord power cables.

Connecting up the Chord Hugo TT2 and Hugo M Scaler is quite a simple task and selecting the different functions is also fuss free with the press of the menu button you can select the output that you desire and in the case of my system the Hugo TT2 automatically senses the headphones when plugged in and then once unplugged you select the DAC option to use the combo to output through either XLR or the RCA outputs on the back of the Hugo TT2. Should you require instructions on how to connect your own equipment Chord offers a very detailed user guide on line which you can always refer to.

Sound quality and performance 

I have read detailed reviews of the Hugo M Scaler which are also very in depth, which if I'm honest most of it goes straight over my head with the technical side of the electronics as their is no doubting the abilities on paper which are staggering number crunching figures but to me the most important part is how good do they actually sound in real world listening and in my system?

For me starting off with the Hugo TT2 on its own its quite clear from the off that this is one serious DAC and headphone amplifier as the sounds that I'm hearing are some of the best I have heard and I have listened to many over the years, my current setup which has been a Chord Hugo2 DAC/headphone amplifier plus an iFi Audio Micro DSD Black Label DAC and Schiit Audio Valhalla 2 tube headphone amplifier which I thought sounded very good, and they do but moving to the Hugo TT2 its clear from the detail, resolution and bass that in fact everything went up quite a few notches to so much more of an enjoyable listen and gets you immersed into some serious listening sessions. I was listening to Amber Rubarth's album Sessions from the 17th Ward and the imaging shocked me as I thought someone had walked into the room behind me as the detail and bass impact was so real. I'm a bit of an Electronic and Ambient music fan and listen to many different albums from the genre and BIOnight is a great listen and Daybreak is one that I have listened to a lot and the bass and detail in the music is again taken to another level to what I have been used to. This type of synthesiser music is mixed so well and a joy to hear when the quality gets to this level, that is why I love the group Yello as they have been mastering this for so long and there latest album Point sounds exceptionally good through the Chord with so much more detail and energy, its like my music listening has been sent into overdrive. I didn't think headphone listening could get to this level, its like hearing the music all around you with imaging and space between the instruments with every note and detail picked up and placed before you in a larger stereo image, for me its like watching a TV in black and white and suddenly when you see it in colour you realise what you have been missing. This was only the start and I had not even connected the Hugo M Scaler up yet so how could it get any better?

Using the Chord Company Clearway BNC cables I connected both up and changed the configurations on the Hugo TT2 to accept Dual BNC which allows for the up-sampling to be taken up to 768kHz, and swapping the USB input to go through the M Scaler rather than directly into the Hugo TT2.

Once all powered up and connected I start off listening to the same music I was playing with just the Hugo TT2 connected, with up sampling to either 705.6kHz or 768kHz depending on what resolution your music is physical or stored at either 44.1kHz or 48kHz respectively gives you your oversampling frequencies output through the HugoTT2 this is provided you have dual BNC’s connected.

Amber Rubarth’s brilliant album sounds more immediate with the transients of the percussion instruments starting and stopping beautifully and it paints an even bigger more colourful picture of the music with each instrument having greater space in the sonic picture, it’s uncanny how natural it sounds the Hugo TT2 is very very good on its own but with the Hugo M Scaler everything about the music comes to light and seems even cleaner and clearer than before and this is only through headphones, the Beyerdynamic T1’s which are a great pair of headphones and with the Chord duo connected to them they absolutely sing, just like the black and white TV analogy this is like going from HD to 4K definition for your ears, with the rhythm and timing spot on with clear benefits from this oversampling to your music.

One of my favourite albums of recent years has been Daft Punks Random Access Memories and what with the sad news that they will not be producing music as a duo it seems fitting that I have a good listen to it through the Chord combo. Sampled at 16bit 44.1kHz resolution it then gets up sampled to 705kHz and through my Beyerdynamic T1's it sounds sublime with such great resolve on Give Life Back to Music track, bass is even tighter and harder hitting than I can remember, its like the music is more dialled in than before and focused with the timing spot on. Giorgio by Moroder is such a wonderful track and the synthesizer mix is one of the best with a great drum beat and retro vibe to the music but done in Daft Punks unique style and mix with the added genius of Giorgio Moroder. At the end of the track on lesser DAC's it can sound muddled but not at all with the Chord Hugo TT2 and Hugo M Scaler just great rhythm and music and you soon forget about listening and just enjoy the music. “Within” is a beautifully put together track and the piano start is so melodic in how its presented and each strike of the keyboard is so real as natural in its sound and gentle on the ears through the Chord's DAC, soothing is what comes to mind when listening and it gives me goose bumps with how good it sounds. when I revert back to just the Hugo TT2 on its own it loses some of its drive and rhythm and seems to lose focus of the music, the Hugo TT2 is good but with the M Scaler added in it just sounds so much better and the TT2 is one of the finest Headphone DAC's and Amplifier I have heard. The more I listen the more I am enjoying this pairing the track Beyond is simply faultless in its reproduction and that goes for Motherboard with so much more finer detail and music coming through than I have heard before on these tracks its like hearing these properly for the first time and I know this album and tracks well. Bass certainly hits the lower registers and you have to think this is only with headphones as it seems to be more extended and deeper in reproduction.

Time to add the Hugo TT2 & M Scaler to my main system and see what it can do with my new ProAc D2R speakers and Cyrus Audio components, two more great British HiFi brands.

I start off with a CD that I am very familiar with on the many systems that I have owned over the years, Grace Jones Nightclubbing 1981 is a favourite of mine and reminds me of my teenage years and I really loved her music back in the day and still do now. Track 6 - I've seen that face before (Libertango) makes me reminisce of times gone by and what a great sound this track has through the Chord Hugo TT2 and M Scaler with a Parisian sound and feel to the music, I have heard this track on systems costing multiples of what I have now and the resolution and resolve that this DAC combination retrieves from the music is staggering as the noise floor is non existent instead a totally inky black sound stage with placement of instruments and vocals emerging from the stage in front, closing your eyes and the imaging is some of the best I have heard with a wrap a round blanket of sweet music. The track Nightclubbing has a hard hitting drum beat and great guitar and piano mix which sounds more lively than straight off the disc is this because I am getting the oversampled treatment of the Chord combo, it has to be as the standard CD does not have the same impact through my system, Grace Jones voice is up front and personal taking centre stage and with sounds every where such a great album and even more enjoyable thanks to the Hugo TT2 and M Scaler. 

Santana Abraxas is an album I have on CD and on Vinyl and one of my many favourites. Having heard this so many times with the great Vinyl pressing and also the CD version both are very enjoyable and I played this off the Tech DAS Air Force III that I reviewed some years ago now and so much preferred the Vinyl version as it had so much more of everything and you felt the music rather than just listened to it. Singing Winds, Crying Beasts start is the most satisfying listen as the sounds that Santana play are just incredible with the huge band that he has always put together and the brilliant percussion, listening to this through the Chord duo it’s the closest I have heard this track to the Vinyl version such is the emotion and feeling that comes through what I’m hearing, this is even more so with the next track Black Magic Woman an iconic piece of music which is portrayed beautifully through the ProAc’s again the resolving power is just fantastic and this is the closest I have heard this CD sound to the analogue version on any of my systems. The more I listen the more I enjoy what I’m hearing and again it’s the emotion and feeling that you are getting which is such a personal thing when listening to music and this system is delivering in spades, Oye Como Va is another track which pulls you in and having heard the band many times live on stage one that starts to get the whole audience up and dancing and singing to the music I am very nearly doing that now in my living room. Hope your Feeling Better track has finally turned my living room into a concert with the incredible guitar rifts and drums intro played extremely loud yet its almost becoming hypnotic such is the music that I’m hearing. The guys at Chord have certainly conjured up some black magic with this Hugo M Scaler and DAC combination I’m totally smitten by what they have achieved.

Conclusions and final thoughts

As you can tell I really love the Chord Electronics Hugo TT2 and Hugo M Scaler combination and it is so good that I really am going to miss what this duo has done to my music collection. This is my first review in a few years and Chord Electronics has most certainly reignited my passion for HiFi which faded for a little while but is back with vengeance. The Hugo TT2 on its own is a stunning performer but with the M Scaler connected its turned a good DAC into a weapons grade one capable of mass destruction of your musical senses. I was going to award this duo with a Reference award as I have owned many reference systems and this is certainly that but because I would love to have these installed in my own system I have to award them with the Editors Choice award because they are that good together. Period.

Price at time of review HugoTT2 £3,995 & Hugo M Scaler £3,495


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