RMAF 2018: Chord Electronics

The Chord table at CANJAM inside the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest was filled with variations of their popular Hugo DAC/Amp.

I tried out the Hugo TT 2 and M Scaler combo with a Pair of Ether 2 headphones and this was easily another Best of Show sound for me, (You’ve probably figured out that I like the Ether 2 by now) although I could see some finding it a little on the dry side depending on your listening tastes.

I thought the staging on this combo was a little more spacious and had better depth than the Hugo 2 and Hugo TT which were not connected to M-Scalers when I was at the table. Overall though, the Hugo TT 2 and M-Scaler combo delivered loads of smooth, refined sound in a delightfully neutral manner, adapting to the wide variety of music I played during my time at the booth.

I played through some very good recordings such as Ambrose Akinmusire’s “The Beauty of Dissolving Portraits,” which you should check out if you like acoustic instrumentals, and the tonality and spatial presentation was simply sublime. This is perhaps my top recording for musical engagement, and the Chord setup knocked it out of the park. I also tried Prince’s new Piano & A Microphone 1983 album, which is about as rough and informal as albums can get. I was very pleasantly surprised to find the Chord setup played without being too harsh or overly analytical on this lower-quality recording. There were a few moments in the album where I would have been OK if the Chord DAC had lied to me just a little more about how much Prince was clipping the piano mics, but I listened to almost the entire album, so take that with a grain of salt.

Aside from their weird jelly-bean, scroll-ball thingies for operating Chord products, which are fascinating to stare at, one odd function on the Hugo TT 2 was that switching gain caused a nearly 30 second delay and I saw more than a few folks blast their ears by accident due to this. Word to the wise: Be patient when changing the gain on these things.

I also tried a Chord DAVE with a pair of Ether 2s and was somewhat disappointed. While the resolving power of the DAC seemed greater than the Hugo TT 2, the headphone output did not seem quite as powerful and I didn’t have the same sense of musical engagement with this setup. Looking at the specs, the DAVE has quite a bit less power than the Hugo series, and a Cavalli and DAVE setup at the Mr. Speakers table sounded superb, so I suspect the DAVE benefits more from outboard amplifiers than the Hugo TT 2. Overall the sound at the Chord table was a standout with one of the highest musical enjoyment factors I had at the show – many of the setups seemed to disappear rather than drawing attention to themselves.

  • Chord DAVE $13,000 USD, Optional Stand $2,500 USD
  • Hugo TT 2 $5,795 USD
  • M Scaler $4,995 USD
  • Hugo TT $4,795 USD
  • Chord Hugo 2 $2,695 USD

Chord Electronics Ltd.
The Pumphouse, Farleigh Ln, East Farleigh, Maidstone ME16 9NB, UK
+44 1622 721444

Simply Nobody's picture

Waiting for the review of Chord Hugo2 and Hugo TT2 :-) ..........

Simply Nobody's picture

Reading from the specs, Hugo TT2 can put out more power than Sony DMP Z-1 .............

Simply Nobody's picture

So, Hugo TT2 is capable of driving high impedance headphones as well ..........