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The Challengers

  • Chord Hugo
  • Aurender Flow
  • Chord Mojo
  • LH Labs Geek Out V2
  • LH Labs Geek Out V1
  • Meridian Explorer2
  • DacMagic XS
  • Audioquest Dragonfly V1.2

Equipment used:

  • Audioquest Jitterbug
  • Lenovo T420
  • JH Audio Angie (CIEM)

Figuring out which portable DAC/amp you should get is a daunting and time-consuming task. Instead of going through the buying/selling cycle that a lot of audiophiles are well aware of, I decided to just buy all the ones I was interested in and just compare them for a few months. Hopefully this will provide useful to those who know what type of sound signature they prefer.

We listen to music while we run, work, and contemplate the meaning of life. My goal with this survey is to find the overarching characteristics that define the sonic signature of each of these portable DAC/Amps. Some shine for critical listening while others are just fun and have just enough Hi-Fi to keep you going. It’s also important to note the synergy between headphones and DAC/Amps. Some of these DAC/amps might not synergize well with my JH Audio Angies but I truly believe that the “personality” of the DAC does transfer over to headphones of (a known sound signature) in a predictable way. For example, the Final Audio Hope VI pairs so well with the Meridian Explorer2 (because it’s darker and has a somewhat subdued treble) but sound like utter crap with the Chord Hugo. That metallic tinge is nearly unbearable.

These weren’t all the songs used for this evaluation but only the ones I wrote notes on. The raw notes give you a “in the moment” evaluation of the DAC and may be confusing or abstract…but it’s as honest as I could convey my impressions at the time of listening. For me, that’s better than throwing up a bunch of superlatives and generalizations in hopes that the reader “gets it.” “GO” refers to the Geek Out V2. If you want to know the differences between V1 and V2 refer to the review here.

My Personal Rankings (From best to worst)

#1 – Chord Hugo ($2,499)

  • I’m aware there are a few who aren’t a fan of the tonality of this DAC. Some say it’s too clinical/analytical, lacks soul, etc.
  • Personally, I enjoy this DAC as a portable for its resolution and technical achievement. I think it presents the entire frequency range accurately and without compromise.
  • The adjustable bass on the Angie also allows me to get the right amount of low-end response I need. I just really, really enjoy this Hugo for my portable needs.
  • Effortless!
  • What’s better on the Hugo vs. Mojo?
    • Musicality
    • More natural vocals
    • More dynamic
    • Separation
    • Transparency
    • More detailed
    • Better layering
    • Realistic soundstage
    • Treble extension
    • More balanced tonality
    • Instruments sound more realistic to my ears
  • What’s better on the Mojo vs. Hugo?
    • It obliterates the Hugo on the low-end. No question.
    • There’s more body/texture, more meat to the bones.
    • Smoother and buttery vocals (at the expense of some micro-details)
    • Forward and sweeter mids. Lush and seductive.
    • Bass on the Mojo is more detailed and tighter. The Mojo is just warmer overall…bordering dark but not quite.
  • Mojo melts you, Hugo teleports you.
  • Mojo is like a chocolate sundae…Hugo is like low-fat yogurt.
  • Bottomline is, the Hugo is more of a reference DAC. It’s better for evaluating gear and hearing all the details. It is technically superior to the Mojo, no doubt in my mind. The Mojo on the other hand picks out all the best parts of a recording and presents it in an euphoric way.

#2 – Chord Mojo ($599)

  • To be completely honest, I think most would prefer the Mojo over the Hugo.
  • By far the best and juiciest bass/sub-bass of the bunch. Textured, detailed, accurate, tight, and plenty of heft. It is pretty damn awesome and addictive.
  • There’s so much hype for the Mojo…and for good reason. This ranking chart is a bit skewed as the Mojo, to my ears, is without a doubt, significantly better than the Geek Out V2 (which I love and still recommend to my friends). At $599 (double the price of the Geek Out V2) I think it offers more than double the performance.
  • Found it to be sibilant at times with a bit of harshness in the treble region. Could probably be corrected with a Moon USB cable.
  • It’s not only has this lushness that is incredibly fun to listen to, it has great layering, a lush midrange, and a realism most of the other DACs in this comparison don’t have.
  • Sometimes I even prefer it to my Chord Hugo, not just for bass heavy songs but due to the fact I don’t need an outlet to recharge it.
  • I’m not surprised some use this for the Mojo 2-channel setups. It really does sound that good.
  • If you find yourself tired of constantly looking for the next best portable DAC/amp, just get a Mojo and be done with it.

#3 – Aurender Flow ($1,295)

  • I purchased this after listening to it at CanJam SoCal 2015. It sounded close to the Hugo at the time but after months of listening I just think they’re different DACs.
  • I don’t think the Aurender is as resolving as the Hugo and comes off a bit softer.
  • Technically, it’s still better than the Mojo IMO (Review coming). It does sound more like a high-end DAC. It just wasn’t engaging enough for me.
  • IMO, those who value the technicals and a more accurate/true presentation would prefer the Flow over the Mojo. Personally, the Mojo just seduces me into submission.

#4 LH Labs Geek Out V2 ($299)

  • This is my go-to portable DAC as it doesn’t run on battery (like the Mojo/Hugo). Just plug it into my laptop and go.
  • I think this DAC is a great value and most would be happy with it.
  • The vocals aren’t as smooth and 3D as the top 3 DACs in this comparison but I think most will find it enjoyable nevertheless.
  • A bit more refined over the V1.

#5 LH Labs Geek Out 100 ($169)

  • This DAC is not just a great value as I would recommend it over the the last 3 DACs in the comparison at any price…by a large margin.
  • Great low-end impact (even compared to the V2) and just fun overall.
  • It might not as be as technically accurate, coherent, or resolving as the V2 but I could imagine some would prefer this even over the V2. It’s that good.

#6 Meridian Explorer2 ($289)

  • The Meridian was actually my first portable DAC. I enjoyed the more rounded, laid-back, and organic quality. Fantastic if you listen to vocals often.
  • Outside of the Mojo, it had the heaviest bass response. I enjoyed it initially but later found it to be too veiled/dark for my tastes.
  • Treble shine seems a bit subdued.
  • Just to be clear, the Merdian is at least twice as good as the DACMagic XS and Dragonfly to my ears.
  • It does have a “high-end DAC” sound but I felt it just smeared the micro-details and was missing too much up top.
  • Wasn’t engaging with live acoustic/strings. Lacks sparkle.
  • Delineation between the players is a bit smeared and the imaging isn’t as precise as the Geek Out or even the Dragonfly.
  • For hyper details and tighter bass and overall better PRaT…I wouldn’t recommend the Meridian.
  • It’s smooth and sweet but wasn’t engaging enough for my tastes. Gimme my sparkle! This does pair well with really bright headphones like the Final Audio Hope VI. It also supports MQA 🙂

#7 DACMagic XS ($169)

  • Great value product…if you’re not spending more than a few hundred dollars on your IEMs/headphones.
  • It’s a bit harsh at times but has a “fun” tonality and will be a great upgrade over your PC/Mac sound card. I just wish there were more dynamics and organics.
  • For the same price I would just get a GO V1 as it’s far superior sonically in every way.
  • Much more smoother and coherent than the Dragonfly

#8 Audioquest Dragonfly v1.2 ($148.65)

  • This much hyped portable DAC/amp doesn’t need an introduction. I’m going to go against the grain on this one. This was by far my least favorite from the bunch. It’s basically an X-ray into the music with extraordinary resolution and that’s pretty much it. It’s probably more detailed/transparent than anything else on this list but at a cost of pretty much everything else. Is that how music sounds in the real world? No.
  • Vocals are largely inaccurate (not even close), clinical midrange and lacks coherency.
  • It has an abysmal amount of bass and I feel like I’m taking a final exam listening to this thing. It may work better with warmer/darker headphones but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I guess at this price point, it’s fitting.
  • FWIW, there were many tracks where the Dragonfly sounded REALLY good.
  • One of the biggest flaws of the Dragonfly is the “breakage” it does to the music. You lose a realistic sense of atmosphere…it’s almost sounds like synthesized music on every track.
  • It’s hyper detailed but unnatural in its presentation.

Raw Notes

These are the raw notes. As always, please excuse any organizational, typos or grammatical errors as I’m just typing as I’m listening. These notes were taken under various conditions over a course of a couple of months and the majority of the tracks tested aren’t on this list.

Lorde – Royals

  • vs. Dragonfly
    • The vocals are more separated out but not as smooth as DM
    • More tight bass, but sub-bass lacking
    • Not as much bass slam
    • Midrange little more recessed
    • More spatial, wider
    • Brighter
    • Blacker background
    • More treble extension than GO V2
    • Most transparent out of the bunch
  • vs. Merdian Explorer2
    • Not as much slam on bass but more definition
    • Smoother more natural voice
    • In between Dragonfly and DM as far as warmest
    • Not as much air, not as spacious
    • More congested
    • Lots of sub-bass…more than DM, but not as much slam but more body
    • Most definition in the bass
    • Less depth
    • Darker
    • Treble is subdued
    • Upper treble is lacking
    • Not as engaging as the GO, a little lifeless
    • Midrange a bit fuzzy, lacks grip
  • vs. Geek Out V2
    • Most cohesive out of the bunch.
    • The DF is more transparent
    • The GO V2 is warmer than the DF but not as much as the ME2
    • Lots of detail in the bass
    • vocals are a lot more lush than the DF
    • Soundstage isn’t as wide as DF
    • Treble isn’t as shiny as DF
    • Not as detailed as DF?
    • Vocals aren’t as smooth as Meridian
    • The midrange of the DM is a bit cloudy in comparison
    • A lot more distinction with harmony with the GO
    • Wider soundstage, a lot more spacious
    • Treble is better on the GO for sure, inbetween ME2 and DF
    • Not as much bass slam as DM
    • Vocals are lot more realistic and organic
  • Vs DF
    • The vocals are a lot more natural and human like, blood running.
    • Midrange is better than DF
    • DF sounds really good though.
    • The GO is a lot more cohesive…natural persentation. DF sounds great with its individual parts, better treble and resolution in the treble, but sounds artificial overall.
    • Sounds like the DF is syntehsized music while the GO is live. Singers in the same room.
    • Both are good, difficult to pick. If you want more true-to-life presentation, GO V2, if you like more blacker background, brighter, lots of detail all around (while lacking coherence), DF.
      I think the DF is more fun to listen to but could fatigue over time.
  • vs. Chord Hugo
    • Sounds more like the GO and ME2 than the DF
    • Combines the great treble detail of the DF and smooth/orangic midrange of the GO V2
    • Compared to the DF, the DF is flat vocals
    • Definitely not as dynamic as the Hugo
    • Sound surprisingly close to the GO V2 but more dynamic and more resolving
    • Much more of an even low-end response compared to the GO V2

Adele – Hello

  • DF
    • Graininess in her voice annoys me, that’s not her voice.
    • More spacious and engaging than the DM but the DM has a much more natural timbre
    • DM is more veiled. DF very transparent.
  • DM
    • A bit warmer/darker than the DF, quite a bit. Darker than the merdian
  • ME
    • Stikes a good balance between the DF and DM…wish there were more sparkle.
  • GO
    • More cohesive and spacious than the rest…I think the best of the bunch.
  • Chord
    • Timbre is excellent. Couldn’t really find flaws.

Layla – Eric Clapton (Chronicles)

  • ME
    • Not as much sparkle as the CH or the GO
    • Not as much body either
    • Poor PRaT…audience interaction is bland, sounds flat
    • It’s smooth and accurate but way too soft. Really lacks a treble response for fun.
  • DF
    • Crispy
    • Very detailed
    • Emphasis on higher frequencies
    • Vocal are a bit recessed and vocals are not good.
    • Sounds the least like a live performance so far. Artificial really.
  • DM
    • The midrange isn’t as refined, a bit fuzzy around the corners, compared to the ME, CH, and GO
    • Overall timbre is great, good balance, good imaging. Resolution and transparent not as good as DF
    • Doesn’t have the nice shimmer the DF has on the guitars, etc. I much prefer the DM to the DF in regards to realism.
  • GO
    • Man…so cohesive. no fuzzy edges, realistic vocals, timbre on point, great imaging. don’t think it has as much bass power.
    • Closest to the CH in this comparison.
  • CH
    • Sounds holographic compared to the rest. The audience blends in perfect as supportive roles.

StooShe – Black Heart

  • Merdian
    • Sounds so veiled to me. Don’t like it.
    • She sounds muffled and suffocated
    • Sounds subdued all around
  • GO
    • Much more spacious and tighter bass than ME2
    • Much more musical than the Merdian
  • CH
    • Very powerful, vocals sound human compared to the GO
    • You get realism and timbre, atmosphere and cohesion.
    • Everything sounds like they’re working together, without any missing pieces.
  • DM
    • Bass doesn’t have as much authority as the GO/CH/Merdian
    • Vocal still fuzzy around the edges
    • Not as musical as the GO, but better than the Merdian
  • DF
    • DM has more bass, authority than DF
    • Vocals are so grainy, sounds stressed, don’t get this dac if you enjoy your vocals.
    • Treble energy can’t be beat
    • Very detailed and transparent
    • Sounds like a different recording on the other DACs. Not cohesive.
    • The DM is more fun for this track.
    • Still prefer the DF to the merdian
    • Harmony is better on the DM, DF sounds like difference pieces.

Chainsmokers – Roses

  • DM
    • good all rounder, good prat
    • better than DF and ME IMO
  • DF
    • The background vocals aren’t synergizing well with the rest.
    • Not as much bass impact or sub-bass as DM.
    • treble is nice, tickles you
    • individualizes all the elements well…if you like that.
  • ME
    • Great bass response compared to the DF and DM
    • Sounds flatter in general
    • Not as dynamic as the rest
    • Vocals are realistic aside from being a bit soft
    • The bass makes this more fun than the DF…but a bit veiled?
    • Treble rolled off?
    • Definitely darker than the DF
    • DF more dynamic
  • GO
    • Great bass response, dam good PRaT
    • Sounds more natural and timbre is great compared to the me/df/dm
    • Just sounds more “right”
    • Doesn’t really make you think of the pieces of the songs. It just sounds good.
  • CH
    • Just transforms the song into a live performance
    • You get an immediate since of human
    • The instruments sound live as opposed to syntehsized
    • Effortless
    • Great sub/mid bass
    • Much more resolving, extra details, transitions are fast, decays are natural

Alice in Chains (Unplugged) – Brother

  • CH
  • Merdian
    • Vocals are very natural
    • Missing all the treblme sparkle
    • Drums bleed a bit
    • A bit of smearing
    • Not as dynamics as the GO
  • GO
    • Not close the engagment chord hugo gives
    • Bass isn’t overpowering…but not as plentiful as the Merdian
    • The CH slams pretty hard compared to the GO
  • DM
    • Not as much separation between the actors compare to GO
    • The midrange sounds flat, lacks a bit of depth
    • Deson’t have as much bass impact as the ME/GO/CH/Merdian
    • lack a bit of the dynamics
    • The ME is more coherent and cohesive than the DM. More dynamic and more fun than the DM.
    • There’s more air around the vocals on the MD than the Merdian
    • I enjoyed the Merdian more than the DM for this track. Although dark, has more resolving ability.
    • Good all rounder, not perfect.
  • DF
    • Very thin in comparison to the rest. Lean.
    • Lack of bass weight
    • Sparkle is there! Surprise.
    • The missing slam doesn’t do it for me.
    • Prefer the DM over the DF for this.
    • The DM sounds closer to the higher-end DACs. The DF just sounds completely different.

Taylor Swifth – All Too Well

  • DM
    • Sounds flat compared to the Merdian, merdian more dynamic than DM
    • I think meridian just needed a volume boost
    • Vocals are more rounded and natural on the Merdian..for sure.
    • Vocals more recessed compared to the Merdian
    • Blacker background than the Merdian..but i think the meridan is just more forward (CH)
    • Bass much more powerful on the Merdian
    • I still think it’s darker more veiled presentation makes parts of the song lifeless.
    • Definitely has more air than the Merdian
  • CH
    • The Merdian sounds really dark in comparison to the hugo
    • meridan mids are more forward
  • Merdian
    • I still think most would prefer the DM but the Merdian does have more dynamics and more accurate vocals.
    • The bass really helps build atmosphere
    • Technically…it’s better than the DM
  • DF
    • Comes in crystal clear actually…but not natural but detailed…biggest complaint
    • A little sibilant
    • You could hear more detials in the voice.
    • Decent prat
    • bone to pick…doesn’t sound cohesive to me. Pieces sound unnaturally distant.
    • sub-bass is better on the DM
    • DM is more fun

Lindsey Stirling – Elements

  • DF
    • bloated bass, not as much authority.
    • You could hear her dance around and stroking the violin
    • This is where the DF shines!
    • Missing that bass impact
    • sounds beautiful…the violin is the star.
    • Best treble of the group, fast
    • Violin slightly unnatural but beautiful
    • The GO does have more “organics/dimension”…you could hear her shift her body.
    • Overall great for strings.
  • DM
    • You don’t really hear the strokes like you do with the DF
    • Doesn’t really have texture on the violin
    • Doesn’t have as much body as the merdian but slightly better treble?
    • The biggest difference i’m hearing so far is that the DM is more spacious than the Merdian
    • Also it sounds more fun over the course of the song while the merdian is more smooth and technically right.
    • Faster than the merdian
    • I think better tonally balanced than the Merdian
  • Merdian
    • More definitoin than the DM
    • More engaging than the DM
    • Doesn’t have the shine of the DF
    • Didn’t know there was so much bass…
    • Has more weight to the instruments than the DM
    • violin sound sweeter…and more realistic I would say than the DM, but not as textured.
    • Treble is a bit too soft for my tastes…but sweet.
    • More audiophile
    • The bass undertone is pretty heavy, clouds over the song.
    • Violins do sound more natural but texture seems to be lost.
    • Overall a more natural presentation compared to the DM, more coherent
    • Prefer it over the DM but wish it had more sparkle, treble texture
    • overly bassy
  • GO
    • The bass doesn’t overwhelm the song like the Merdian
    • Bass is defnitely heavier on the merdian
    • I think this has the right amount of texture, not artificial, not too sweet/soft.
    • Great detail retrevial
    • Better than the Merdian
  • CH
    • Just kills it. effortless
    • I think the GO came closest overall timbre
    • It has it all, bass, atmosphere, speed, etc.
    • Violin sounds so real…the rest don’t really compare.
    • Merdian sounds really dark in comparison.
    • The DF and meridians deviate from the CH the most IMO

Mindy Smith – What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

  • CH
  • Merdian
    • forward midrange
    • I have to say, the vocals are niiiice. Sweet, lush, lots of presence.
    • Sounds narrow compared to the CH
    • great for jazz
  • DF
    • Vocals are just not realistic, annoying and dealbreaker for me.
    • Strings are articulate.
    • No weight on the piano
    • Bass a bit boomy
    • Lacks a bit of body
  • GO
    • Voice not as sweet as Merdian
    • Sounds closest to the CH than the rest
    • good weight on piano, wide and accurate imaging
    • Sounds organic
  • DM
    • Vocals softer than GO…not bad at all!
    • Not as dynamic as the rest.
    • I prefer this over the DF for vocals
    • Good treble texture
    • Vocals are a bit flat
    • Good resolution on piano
    • Decent bass but more better
    • Overall good well-rounder.
    • Biggest con is the flatness in the midrange, the voices lack a bit of dimensions
    • Sounds great!
  • Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake – Holy Grail
    • DM
      • Vocals are good
      • Bass a bit bloated..but may be just more quantity compared to DF
    • DF
      • A lot of clarity in the voice…although once again…not natural
      • All the parts of the song don’t sound like they work together…the DM does a better job.
      • Sibilant
      • Bass actually sounds tighter than the DM
      • good sub-bass
      • tuning is interesting
    • GO
      • Sounds like Justin! Very organic
      • Actually getting a bit of sibliance
      • Dayam…separation is sooo much better than the DF/DM
    • Merdian
      • Super smooth vocals, no sibliance, a bit veiled…soft?
      • Lacks some of that air and spaciousness, dynamics, textured
      • congested?
      • This bass hits HARD!
      • Delination of vocals and beats is really good, slightly better than DM
      • Lacks shimmer
      • Vocals have more weight and dimension than the DM for sure
    • CH
      • Super clean vocals..
      • DF is the furthest from the sound of the CH

Epica – Pirates of the Caribbean (Live in Miskolc)

  • Merdian
    • More natural than the DM for sure
    • Bass is overpowering sometimes
    • Critically listening, true to source
    • has many of the smooth and accurate tonality of the CH
  • DM
    • You hear more of what’s going than on the merdian
    • Not as much bass at all
    • I found this more enjoyable, you hear the brass
    • Not as holographic and textured as the merdian…this is a common theme
    • Sounds a bit lean compared to the CH
  • DF
    • More transparent, dam…fun
    • Sounds really really good
    • Doesn’t sound like the CH but I found it enjoyable for this genre

Notorious BIG – Hypnotize

  • GO
  • DM
    • The only big complaint i have is the lack of depth and dimensoin the voice
    • More cohesive than the DF
    • Not as dynamic as I would like, still fun
    • second complain is the bass impact…wish it had more
    • overall i think it’s a great value, especially for the price
    • Better bass response than DF but a bit boomy…sitll appreciated for this type of music
  • DF
    • Has tighter bass than the DM
    • I could see why ppl would prefer this over the DM as there’s more body to the elements of the music
    • You also hear more details, it’s more transparent…but I don’t think it sounds as intended
    • Unrealistic as it is, just more air and dynamics
    • Better PRat than the DM IMO but not coherent, I would pick the DM over this for my tastes.
  • Merdian
    • I have to say, it sounds great with this DAC
    • I think because of the limited range in this song…it works
    • Bass hits hard
    • I think there’s still a lot of smearing betweent he midrange and bass
    • I appreciate the “space” given to the vocals with the DM, although not as natural. more distinction.
    • More cohesion than the DM

Beyonce – If I Were a Boy

  • Merdian
    • The vocals are a lot more forward which isn’t bad.
    • Smooth but i think the bass overpowers the song sometimes
    • Audiophile sound for sure
  • DF
    • Man this dac annoys me
    • Kinda thin for this song…strings are the only things that sound natural, albeit unnatural. horrible
    • to its credit, more spacious, more detailed, more transparent
  • DM
    • Much better bass than the DF
    • Much more natural voice
    • Voice flat compared to the Merdian but not as flat as the DF, lush compared to the DF
    • DF is flat as well but more detailed
    • I have to say the Meridian is more audiophilish…but GO wins in overall dynamics/balance
  • GO
    • Best balanced out there

Jimi Hendrix – Come on (Let the Good Times Roll)

  • DF
    • Sounds good
    • Guitar crunch isn’t as realistic
    • Cymbals a bit strident
    • The thing about the DF as ai realized is that the tradeoff of naturalness is resolution, you hear the textures
  • Merdian
    • Some might find the electric guitar more pleasing on the DF, that shimmer is good
  • DM
    • First thing you notice from the meridian is the blacker background but lack of bass
    • I think the guitar sounds the most natural out of the DF and Merdian
  • GO
    • Very detailed
    • The only thing the GO really misses out (compared to the CH) on a bit of refinement in the vocals
    • Coherence, CH is just better put together
    • To be honest they sound like different leagues
    • Everything is just more natural and realistic and engaging
    • The GO sounds a tad bit loose in comparison, lacks a bit of body and weight
    • A characteristic of most higher end DACs I’ve notice is the more holographic, textured image. Sounds lifelike.
    • More depth, wdith all around
    • More balanced engagement, esp on the lower-end

Over You (Demo) – Ingrid Michaelson

  • DF
    • At this point you know how it sounds like. Lean.
  • GO
    • A bit brigther so not as smooth and organic as the ME2 or CH but sounds good. unlike the DF which doesn’t sound like her voice.
    • More detailed and transparent than the ME2, tilted to the brighter instead of the darker side.
    • More euphonic than the ME2 due to the treble being much more present.
    • Makes you touch your heart.
    • I think the ME2 is more realistic as far as the midrange vocals.
    • Apply a bit of warmth, more coherent, and more detail and control, and that’s the CH. I think the ME2 is much softer/warmer/darker than bot the GO and CH.
  • CH
    • The CH has a more tamed but accurate treble than the GO
  • ME2
    • That missing extension on the upper-end kinda bothers me and takes some of the emotion out of the music. Reminds me of the HE-1000…just a little bit more please!
    • Super smooth and not as edgy as the GO…i think that’s the main thing it has going for it. Some  may prefer this over the GO for this reason alone.
    • In that sense, the ME2 sound more like a live performance, more human than the GO. The GO makes a good attempt on the brighter end.
    • To me, the treble makes the GO much more emotive and euphonic and I prefer it over the smooth, more natural vocals.
    • In isolation the vocals on the ME2 are 2nd to the Hugo
    • The ME2 is a bit more coherent than the GO V2.

Blue – Joni Mitchell

  • GO
    • Wows you with the treble, accurate instruments
    • Blacker background than ME2
    • The piano keys are perfect as far as weight
    • More dynamic than the ME
    • More musical than the GO
  • ME2
    • Warmer tilt
    • Treble extension definitely not as good as GO
    • Smoother sound…but the instruments bleed into the vocals
    • Definitely lusher voice, but lacks the excitement of the GO
    • Because of how the ME2 softens the midrange, you don’t get an accurate depiction of the vocals IMO
    • The dyanmic range of both the GO and CH are better
    • Sounds a bit veiled in coomparison to the the CH. Voices are smooth tho…too soft, can’t hear her dynamics. deal breaker?
  • CH
    • The CH is smoother and more controlled than the GO. The GO has a bit more of that sparkle in the voice going but the CH sounds well balanced and realistic.
    • So the CH sounds like the ME2 and the GOV2 made a lovechild. You take the warmth and smoothest of the ME2 and the brighter character of the GO, and you have a balanced presentation of both worlds.
    • ME – The vocals are a bit too soft and veiled compared to the CH, but has that smilar smoothness
    • GO – Much brighter and a bit less controlled than the CH but those with preference with a bit more shimmer on the upper-end…might actually prefer this over the CH. I thought the GO was more emotive for this song.
  • DF
    • Vocals more like the GO than the ME2 or CH
    • The lack of bass really takes away from the music IMO
    • Very transparent, hear her breahting out her words
    • missing that organic, depth, and life that the ME2, GO, and CH bring to the table

Marta Gomez – Cielito Lindo

  • GO
    • Vocals are more organic and hi-fi than the DM for sure
  • DM
    • Flat vocals, instruments not as organic

Lorde – Royals

  • GO
    • The GO surpasses by clarity and black background. Bass is super tight in comparison. better timing.
    • The geek out also surpasses in depth.
    • smoother and more dynamic, better bass impact and definition
  • DM
    • has more of a grainy overtone. the GO is much more textured and holographic

Jay-Z – Holy Grail

  • GO
    • so much more cohesive and easier to listen to. The bass is of much higher quality. The GO is significantly better than the DM, no question. I wouldn’t say it’s close.
      more dynamic
  • DM
    • A bit harsher…not quite brightness

Coldplay – Hymm For The Weekend

  • GO
    • Sounds almost completely different from the DM. More like a live performance. that’s the theme!
    • Much more accurate tonality, more balanced, more natural, so much better than the DM.
  • DM
    • Slightly more brighter presentation. A bit noisy and grainy sometimes compared to the GO
    • The overall soundstage is flatter, more 2D. The instruments and vocals and drums are all on the same depth.

Jack Johnson – Banana Pancakes

  • GO
    • Sounds superb, very lush and smooth as if you’re with him in the room.
  • DM
    • More edginess to the sound. The rain is more crispy. Actually doesn’t sound bad for this song. Vocals are still bad.
    • More in your face while the GO is more balanced, there’s actually a soundstage.
    • The DM is just too flat and unnatural in comparison.

Valentine – Kina Grannis

  • GO
    • Definitely warmer than the DM. More soothing. I htink it’s also more detailed.
  • DM
    • The overall signature is just brighter so tamborines and treble has more presence but it doesn’t sound as organic or chill.
    • A bit more strident over the GO…or in general. Kina is hurting my ears a bit tho.
  • Attaboy – Edgar Meyeyer
    • GO – more holographic, realistic, i don’t think they’re in the same class. the bass has a lot of weight, so much more depth.
    • DM – no warmth, no textures, just sounds like a bunch of ppl plucking and swinging at metal strings.

Lindsey Stirling – Elements (Orchestral)

  • GO
    • the atmosphere is conveyed well with the low-end as well as low end. Better extension.
  • DM
    • the violin strokes are sometimes a bit to strident. hard to listen to.

Chord Hugo vs. Chord Mojo

  • low end on mojo is frickin’ awesome, so weighty and detailed
  • Mojo does sound pretty dam good
  • Not as detailed as the hugo though
  • chord hugo is more musical
  • much more dynamic
  • vocals are more natural on the hugo
  • separation is fantastic on hugo
  • chord hugo is more transparent
  • mojo = juicy bass, forward mids, texture, details, warmer for sure
  • the bass is more detailed and tight on the mojo i think
  • mojo has a warmer overtone for sure
  • could be happy with either
  • the sub-mid bass is better on the mojo, more atmospheric, i love the slam
  • a little more sibliant mojo
  • mojo – a little treble harshness? ringing with “S”
  • mojo – more romantic sound
  • hugo doesn’t4 have as much resolution ithe low end
  • hugo is more balanced
  • more clean
  • definite more sibliance off the mojo but inherent in recording
  • wicked – space not as belieable on the mojo
  • mojo – lush midrange
  • mojor doesn’t have a relaistic soundstage
  • hugo much more detailed and naturla realistic, micro details resolve much better
  • hugo more delicate
  • hugo mor emagical i think
  • trumpetes sounds realistically above the stage
  • ice cube sounds more natural and present on the mojo, but more siblient, good for hip-hop, heft and weight on bass is fantastic
  • sub-bass better on chord hugo, thunder is much better detailed on the hugo
  • the hugo is much more detailed, more of an x-ray
  • hugo is just cleaner, better layering, but leaner for sure
  • mojo much warmer
  • for hiphop, mojo all the way, thunder doesn’t sound right, decay
  • mojo = chocolately smooth, vocals
  • hugo extremely detailed in the vocals, but not as silky, mojo lcd-3 ish
  • low end on mojo gives more buttery smooth warm atmospherics
  • i apprecaite the detail and granualrity of the vocals
  • to my ears they sound completely different
  • more emotion is heard through the hugo, but definitely leaner
  • mojo mids are more forward
  • low fat ice cream and mojo is a chocolate sundae
  • mojo has a more euphonic sound…musical and enjoyable
  • most ppl would be happy with mojo if you’re not a detail freak, colored in a great way
  • the hugo offers emotion in the vocals and presentation, better separation, mojo is smeared beautifully (red love both singers smear with m ojo but not with hugo)
  • mojo is great for just kicking back…but maybe not good for evaluating headphones for reference, but the low-end is absolutely delciious and kills the hugo
  • hugo sounds more like a high-end DAC
  • those were the day
  • guitar has more texture on the hugo for sure
  • HEK – i ahve to say the vocals are smooth and buterry at expense of some detail, more meat to the bones, still realistic…
  • mojo melts you, hugo teleports you
  • extension treble is better on hugo
  • extrension basss is better on mojo
  • hugo plucking of guitar a lot more realistic
  • much blacker background hugo, the mojo sounds a bit smeared in comparison
  • sound maker
  • hugo much much beter treble detail, esep on strings
  • mojo not as engaging
  • mojo doesn’t have that textural weight
  • hugo you could hear the actual strumming, the physical part.
  • the hugo much more tonally balanced…
  • hugo much better layering
  • you just hear more of the music and nuances with the hugo…tickles you…IMO, doesn’t compare

Raw Notes on Geek Out V2 vs Chord Hugo vs Aurender Flow

  • For – Rodrigo y Gabriela
    • hugo – more musical, more sparkle, more detail, strumming more organic, shaker
    • much smoother than go v2 – sounds more like a room, players are well defined, and overall balance is more controlled. better low-end rsponse.
      aurender – not as much impact, kinda veiled, no sparkle, not as fast as hugo, it’s a more warmer
    • not as fast as GO or V2, fast strums are more muddled. not as bright as the other two. more spacious and balanced than GO V2. Leading edges aren’t
    • prominent. tube sounding?
    • rolled off treble? more laid back compared to both
    • GO V2 – much more musical than aurender, not as organic as hugo, more forward, not as much depth, lacks a bit of realism but fun, prefer it over aurender
      • hit’s a sonic wall, can’t really hear the gradual plucks, not a lot of air, not as spacious, fuzzy edges. not as good on microdetails compared to the rest.
      • not as textured as hugo…but wouldn’t notice without a/b. not as cohesive as hugo, the players seem to be doing their own thing. doesn’t have that infinite air hugo has.
      • doesn’t retrieve some low-end detail the hugo does.
    • blue bayou
      • hugo – a lot more musical, better spearation, distinction than aurender
      • vocals are more isolated given it’s own space
      • more depth
      • more emotive for vocals
      • vocals sound a bit laid back compared to aurender
      • way better low-end response
      • sounds more like what the artist intended
    • aurender
      • a bit more like lcd-3, darker.
      • GO V2
      • Sounds a little strained at times.
      • vocals Sounds more like a radio performnance, not as much body as the other two
      • both hugo and aurender are more engaging and enveloping
      • not as emotive, brighter, just not as tonally balanced but still enjoyable
      • the aurender sounds really smooth in comparision…but might not be in a good way for some. I like a bit a that sparkle and impact.
    • Nas – Ether
      • GO – clarity much better on aurender. more agression on aurender. gun shots sound more organic lol.
    • Aurender
      • More vocal presence, more detail, more well-formed.
      • much better than the GO V2
    • Chord
      • more lifelike than the bost
      • NAS’s voice sound the most realitic…made the rest sound artificial. amazing.
      • Balanced, lots of punch, amazing resolution
  • Ingrid – Over you
    • Chord – sounds completely different as far as sound compared to GO V2. you could hear her lips, hear the air come out. doesn’t get strained.
    • Mind-blowing how good this sounds.
  • GO V2 – a bit more fuzzy, noisy, sounds more like radio? hits a sonic wall
    • vocals aren’t as realitic and piano isn’t as meaty. Not really balanced, might be a strident.
    • doesn’t sound realistic
  • Aurender
    • super smooth
    • warmer compared to hugo
    • hugo has a more realistic vocal presentation
    • great micro-dynamics, sounds great
    • GO V2 can’t compete
  • Beyonce – If I were a boy
    • Aurender
    • Hugo has a slightly more accurate vocal presentation
    • dynamics/extension aren’t as great compared to hugo
    • more laid back compared to hugo
    • not as involved compared to hugo, you could hear a lot more detail on the hugo
    • the echo on her voice is so much more organic and smooth on the hugo.
  • Geekout
    • Sounds like a lower resolution file, that’s how good the summit ones are.
    • vocals aren’t as realistic
  • Hugo
    • everything’s present and balanced, all details are presented on its own, doesn’t sacrifice anything
    • Sounds like aurender misses out on a few naunces in the instrumentals
    • You could hear the gradation in the voice
    • so much more precise than GO, sounds so much better it’s incredible. makes GO sound like a laptop $4 chip.
    • much better low-end response than both other DACs.
    • background singers seamless
  • Layla – chronicles
    • Aurender
      • doesn’t sound as realstic as hugo but sounds good.
      • not as meaty on the instruments
      • not as musical as hugo…almost across board
    • Geekout
      • sparkely…compared to aurender, cymbals are bright.
      • crowd easier to hear.
      • still sounds pretty good. may prefer it over the aurender
      • aurender a bit veiled with strings sometimes
      • eric doesn’t sound human…not like a live performance. gradation missing.
  • Hugo
    • perfect.
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