The Hugo 2 from Chord Electronics needs no introduction or another review. So briefly: it digs out detail with tonal density; it does separation, fluidity, dynamics, coherence. Greatness all around.
But it’s not just a DAC. It is also a serious headphone amplifier; it’s battery-powered, so it’s portable; and it’s also a digital preamp that comes with digital volume control and a remote. It drives most headphones with finesse and grip. – The HD6XX sound amazingly detailed and forceful and that relaxed Sennheiser-veil is vaporized; it is a tremendous DAC when inserted in a two-channel system; and it has always worked great straight out of a desktop PC or tablet/phone via USB and even better with a streamer doing the digital handoff.
Portability? Mais oui! battery-power lets us take the Hugo 2 with us. While compact, it’s too bulky to use on a leisurely walk. Sat at café, visiting friends and family or (long) commuting is where it’s portability becomes relevant.
For me, however, its portability has always been applied in my own home.
And doubly so with the new attachable streaming module, the Chord 2GO.
I use Roon to stream music around the house. As has been said ad nauseam Roon is the most fluid, aesthetically pleasing, and intuitive way of both managing your digital music library and streaming music to various Roon Ready devices.
The Hugo 2go is battery powered and within my Wi-Fi sphere where my Roon Core lives it functions as a very capable Roon Ready device: a DAC-streamer, a headphone amplifier, and a digital preamp – and I can stream music to it without any fuzz and with no wires!
It’s hard to overstate how liberating this combination of wireless streaming and battery-power is. While the Corona-shutdown was still in effect the flexibility of the Hugo 2go appeared as magical as the first time I used Sonos or listened to a Walkman on my way to school in the nineties
I would use the Hugo 2go with a pair of closed-back headphones when the kids were noisier than normal. I would sit in the kitchen listening, reading, drinking coffee; then, sauntering, move into the living room and my computer to (try) do some work. That simple relocation was ten times easier when the Hugo2 is not tethered to my phone or a power outlet. I despise cables but I was still surprised by how liberating it felt.
…And then the sky clears, and I go outside – now with the Hugo 2go powering my Audeze LCD-X – and sit with the sun in my face and look at the trees while Kasper Bjørke’s The Fifty Eleven Project plays on…
The Corona-shutdown forced me to rig up a separate listening room, so in effect I have two two-channel setups. The Hugo 2go allows me to use my best DAC and best streamer in both my systems completely easeful.
In a busy household with kids, parents, friends, cooking, working, the ease with which I can use the Hugo 2go around the house is almost revolutionary – because it is the perfect combination of convenience and sound quality. Who said that great sound must be difficult?
And it is such a capable preamplifier that sometimes I find myself going Hugo 2go direct into my Croft Series 7R power amp, the Schiit Vidar, or the affable Quad 405-2. What are the benefits of foregoing a separate preamp? Basically: decluttering and convenience: one box less gives a cleaner look to our rack. Even: with a nice power amplifier like or, indeed, a pair of active speakers, we don’t really need a rack. Just the Hugo 2go, a power amp, and speakers. Clean.
The Hugo 2go is so functionally versatile and so sonically satisfying that it more than justifies its price. But, decluttering aside, having the Croft 25R preamp in the chain does give music more depth, the soundstage is widened, and density and liquidity are heightened. That is also the case with the MOON 390 preamp extraordinaire. But the thing is, even without those preamps, music is presented with feeling and clarity. The Hugo 2go as a preamp is not clinical or parched; it is clean and with impressive separation and detail and enough weight to keep me satisfied.
The Hugo 2go allows us to get rid of a quite a few boxes in our system(s). Goodbye headphone amps, goodbye other DACs and streamers; farewell fancy USB cables or linear power this and that; and maybe even a fond farewell to separate preamps. The Hugo 2go is a minimalist’s dream. An aluminum box the size of a short novel that plays music effortlessly.
It is also the dream of any audiophile concerned about sustainability. Here we have a one-box solution that effectively dispenses with a handful of other boxes and cables and power supplies. It is built from a thick slab of aluminum by Chord Electronics in England.
I can’t think of a product with this level of performance, with this wide functionality that is driven by a battery. The battery makes it portable, yes, but it is the portability within our own homes that is the real revelation of the Hugo 2go.
The Hugo 2go is the best headphone amplifier I have. It is also the best DAC I have. And it is also the best streamer I have. It works very well as a preamp. And it is wireless and battery powered. Liberating autonomy. Revolutionary is not too big word, is it?