How Does It Sound? – Chord Electronics Hugo TT 2 and Hugo M Scaler

Update 6/6/2019: The Chord Electronics Hugo M Scaler Review is up!

Ken Davis from Brooks Berdan invited me over for a quick discussion on Chord Electronics’ new products. I had such a wonderful time. Not too bad for 3 hours of sleep!

This was the same room the world’s first Chord Electronics Blu Mk.2 review was written and it’s great to be back. I’ve written some tidbits on the Hugo M Scaler little while back. The Hugo TT 2 is certainly going to be a cornerstone for both headphone and 2-channel enthusiasts. You might be able to save space and sell off your speaker cables and amplifiers when it arrives. 😉 I’m also really excited to hear what it could do for my Abyss Phi headphones.

Since these products are officially announced, here are a few more slivers of insight:

  • Rob Watts wanted to test every permutation of the setup. He had a structured checklist he wanted to cover and we left no stone unturned. We tried blind tests with USB cables, optical cables, BNC cables (ferrites or not), laptops with/without batteries, etc. We even tested power cords, conditioners, and how everything sounded on dedicate and non-dedicated circuits. We literally stayed indoors for 10+ hours a day…listening. Rob’s work ethic is second to none – and he doesn’t care much for sleep.
  • We were able to drive a pair of Martin Logans Renaissance ESL 15As (with subs) with the prototype Hugo TT 2. Drove them impressively well. Bass, in particular, was taut and weighty.
  • We watched a Casino Royale Blu-ray from Rob’s MSI gaming laptop with the Hugo M Scaler. It was insane.
  • The prototype Hugo M Scaler sounded very, very good…
  • A lot of time was spent with depth analysis. This is Rob’s main test track for depth (Pictures at an Exhibition (arr. J.V.A. Guillou): I. Gnomus:

Mark my words…these products are going to be game changers and will heavily disrupt this space.

Make sure to subscribe to Brooks Berdan’s Youtube channel! They have some amazing videos lined up for you.

Jay Luong

Mr. Audio Bacon himself. An open-minded electrical engineer and software developer by trade. I have an obsession with the enjoyment of all things media - specifically in the realm of music and film. So much heart and soul (and money) go into the creation of this artistry. My aim is to find out which products get me closer to what the musicians and directors intended.

View Comments

  • Sounds great.

    You mentioned in your previous MScaler article that your favorite new feature for the MScaler is the ability to use an external PSU. With Rob Watts adamantly stating a LPS will in fact sound worse due to the lack of RF filtering, can you share what effect (if any) a PH SR7 or any other LPS had on both the Hugo TT 2 and Hugo MScaler during your tests?

    Also would be interested to hear your take on what a proper power conditioner did for the combo.

    • The prototype wasn't powered by a battery or LPS (for design/logistic reasons), so until the HMS or TT2 is out we won't know how it sounds with an LPS. I'll do testing with a battery pack vs SR7 vs stock. The other thing to consider is not having to need a second (expensive) power cord. That in itself pays for the SR.

      We tested a few power conditioners from Sound Applications. They made a fundamental difference (Rob was able to blind test them). More depth and resolution. But they're $20,000+. I believe there was one test where the TT2 sounded better straight from the wall. I don't recall exactly, so don't quote me but Rob has all the notes.

    • Seems to work here. Anyway here's the track: Pictures at an Exhibition (arr. J.V.A. Guillou) : I. Gnomus

  • Jay,

    I just saw the video ;-). Out of curiosity, I plugged my low level DAC to my monitors bypassing the amp and while the sound was no fantastic I was surprised the speakers were reproducing music. The main issue I found is a bit ridiculous, to connect in proper way the copper cables of the speakers to the RCA outputs of the DAC without scratching them. How do you connect the speakers to the Dave?. What cables are you using?.

    I'm seriously considering selling my amps, since I really need very few watts in my setup.

    • Have Dave from Zenwave make you an adapter. I just used an Audience Au24 SX RCA cable and his adapter.

  • Dear Sir,
    I really appreciate the hard work! And thank you for letting your passion to shine through in your pieces! It's a real pleasure to read your work, so thank you for sharing.

    I am a big fan of Chord digital and I am looking to build a digital rig around Chord Dave (and new Hugo in a second system) and have a few questions:
    - How big of a difference is there in using a single bnc vs. double bnc for reference chord products? trying to decide between hugo2 and new hugo TT
    - chord products don't have an ethernet plug on the back. what is the best way to connect a NAS that is connected to a network for best-possible, reference-level sound with chord? SOTM? Auralic? Innous? Aurender? Something else?
    - is it better to connect a nas to dave directly via usb or via ethernet?
    - what is the best way to get tidal to sound the best with chord digital?
    - does it make sense to get roon for a chord digital rig, or is there an alternate, better way to get the same functionality via another app?

    Thanks for clarifying!

  • Will you consider using the HQplayer's & it's highest quality poly-sinc filter as a comparison vs the M-Scaler?
    From my understanding, it does the same thing as the M-scaler, only it relies on a internal PC CPU to do the load instead of an external box like the M-Scaler.

    Apparently even the most expensive & powerful CPU's on the market can barely be able to run the filter. Which makes me think it is better than the M-Scaler, since CPU manufacturers don't overcharge like audiophile companies & the M-Scaler will not have better computing power than the absolute top of the line consumer CPU available today.

    • I'm always open to compare How much would a PC capable of running this filter cost? Seems like you're implying no matter how much is spent, I can't run the filter anyway? How will I do a comparison?

    • A year or two ago, I compared HQP's best poly-sinc filter + highest PCM sample rate versus all HQP's DSP switched off - both reading redbook files and outputting to DAVE DAC (164k taps). I preferred direct to DAVE, Which implies that DAVE's upsampling etc is doing it better. I would expect the M-scaler (1M taps) to simply increase that improvement.

      Even further back, I was impressed with HQP's upsampling to my iFi iDSD DAC, so it is beneficial with some DACs, but IMO doesn't compete with DAVE or the M-scaler.

      BTW, I found HQP's PCM upsampling to have minimal impact on CPU load; and the highest poly-sinc to have moderate impact, but still very uesable; but by far the biggest CPU impact was converting the PCM files to DSD - just about unusable on the highest DSD settings on my Windows i7 laptop.

  • Do you have any insight into how much better the Mscaler paired with the Dave would be compared to the Hugo 2 TT+Mscaler?

    It appears the retail price (At least here in Australia) for the Hugo TT2 and Mscaler is less than just the Dave by itself. I was wondering how much I will be "missing out on" If I choose to pair Mscaler with the Hugo 2 TT instead of stretching to the Mscaler+DAVE.

    Love this site by the way. I have improved my system so much by following some of your review notes :)

    • I don't think anyone will argue that the TT2 + M Scaler will sound better than DAVE on its own. As mentioned in the video, the M Scaler + DAVE combo has more dimension, detail, and depth. The M Scaler + TT2 combo will still sound very very musical (warmer, fuller) but sounds a little flat in comparison to having the DAVE. The 20-element pulse array of the DAVE plays a key part. That said, I really enjoyed the sound of the TT2 + HMS, especially for vocals. Some will be willing to trade resolution/depth for those deeper/fuller mids.

      Again, this was a prototype. Rob Watts has made plenty of changes since I last heard it so these impressions might be obsolete.

  • Hi Jay

    I acquired an MKT Blu II and though CD's sounded amazing, it was cumbersome to have to get up and drop another disc into the transport. Would a source streamed or NAS of its CD counterpart sound as good on the M-scaler as the Blu?


    • Hopefully, someone from the forums could shine some light on this but from my experience, unless you have a good BNC cable, the CD transport will always sound better (vs the same CD ripped into a NAS).

  • Hey, been watching the website for a while as it’s one of the best resources for info on cables and chord dacs. I wanted to ask if Robb found the EvaD results surprising (better sources and cables improving sound quality even with Hugo m scaler) because he mentioned on another forum that the Upscaler in conjunction with the Dave should be for the most part unaffected with the source and cables used.

    Also I am curious how you need to setup the Hugo m scaler with the laptop to play Blu-ray through it, can you please list an input / output chain example for this?

    Thanks for your reviews and I hope you can get some of the new Göbel cables for testing as well!

    • The EvaD project was done with the Blu MKIi , the Hugo M scaler brings extra features such as galvanically isolated USB and ferrites that should reduce the impact of the USB cable (in theory) but only Jay can tell us for sure haha

      Also interested about Goebel cables, seen people raving about them being better than the Nordost Odin (which is above Valhalla).

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