Chord Electronics Hugo 2
Yes, the best portable DAC is dual BNC capable. You could get one of these 3.5mm to RCA adapters along with some RCA to BNC adapters. I’ve found the performance to vary quite a bit depending on which adapters and cables are used. I ended up making my own ghetto adapter with 20AWG Neotech 7N copper and Furutech solder. It’s ugly AF – but sounds much better than the aforementioned adapters. Just requires some soldering. I’m a snob…sue me.
Hugo 2 + Hugo M Scaler
If your Hugo 2 is your daily driver – here’s my advice. Don’t listen to this combination if you’re not prepared to pull out your wallet. In fact, the only thing that seems to remain the same is the tone (cooler rather than warmer). Everything else is unrecognizable. The Hugo M Scaler transforms the sound from the Hugo 2 into a completely different beast.
Firstly, you’ll notice how much more depth and focus lays before you. Without the Hugo M Scaler, it sounds completely flat, a bit fuzzy, and lean. It doesn’t have the proper shine or clarity – and comes off a bit grainy and edgy. Moreover, string plucks also don’t have that palpable reverb. It’s a more confused and splashy sound.
Aside from an incredibly spacious sound – the Hugo M Scaler tacks on weight, dimensionality, and resolution to everything. For example, the overlay of mandolin and bass in Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer’s Tarnation are made much more apparent.
Secondly, it’s also much quieter – like the infinite contrast of OLED TVs. In short, music sounds more tangible. There’s more density, surface texture, bass definition, and delineation. Everything is tighter and better controlled. Simply put, the listening experience is far more engaging.
It’ll be tough (impossible) to go back to just the Hugo 2. Even in pass-through mode, the Hugo 2 sounds slightly denser, slightly deeper, and definitely smoother.
Hugo 2 & M Scaler vs. DAVE
It has been rumored that the combination of the Hugo 2 with the Hugo M Scaler beats out Chord Electronics’s flagship – the DAVE. That would surely be the best bang for the buck in the market – if it were true.
With the Hugo M Scaler, the Hugo 2 has more resolution, depth, and transient clarity. This is very apparent with live recordings with an audience. In addition, aural outlines and layers are more transparent to the listener.
Moreover, the gradations aren’t as clear on the DAVE. They sound more “grouped together.” In addition, the Hugo 2 combo sounds more laid back and dominates in the realm of spatial clarity.
DAVE – Still better?
The DAVE isn’t as crisp or clean – or quiet. However, I found the DAVE to be more musically engaging. It has a more dynamic and tangible sound. It’s fuller and has a more rhythmic drive. The Hugo 2 sounds a bit lighthearted in comparison. That is to say, the DAVE also feels more coherent and solid. It has more flow, grunt off organs, sub-bass presence, and a fuller midrange. To my ears, the DAVE also has a more natural sounding tone and timbre. Textures and weight are more believable – and provide more envelopment.
From a technical perspective, the Hugo 2 combo sounds better than DAVE. Especially in the resolution, delineation, and soundstage department. However, I feel the DAVE sounds more realistic in image size, elasticity, and dynamic extrusion. It just has a more lifelike form, a forwardness, and liquidity that I get more enjoyment from.