Chord Electronics Hugo TT 2
The hype is real. The Chord Electronics Hugo TT 2 is such an amazing piece of gear. I’ll save the details for my review in a few weeks. But this product might as well be the end-game for many. It sounds MUCH better than the Hugo 2 and Qutest.
First, even in the “pass-through mode” on the Hugo M Scaler – both of these DACs sound better. So even without upscaling, the Hugo M Scaler seems to isolate some of the noise.
The TT 2 sounds so damn musical – even without the Hugo M Scaler. I love its (warmer) tonality. The DAVE sounds a bit cooler in comparison. After months of listening exclusively to the TT 2, I did miss the more convincing nature of the DAVE. There were acoustics tidbits of familiar recordings I was expecting – but didn’t hear from the TT 2.
If you’re looking for a DAC that sounds “real” – the DAVE is the better DAC. But if you’re willing to sacrifice some depth and resolution for warmth – the TT 2 is killer.
Hugo TT 2 & Hugo M Scaler vs. DAVE
Throw a Hugo M Scaler onto the TT 2 – and the game changes. Many of what I mentioned during my initial impressions still stay true. I was listening to this combination for months without feeling the need to swap back to the DAVE. The goal is the enjoyment of music – and this combo did it for me. I feel its tonality is more natural and more aligned with my tastes in color.
Going back to the DAVE after such a long hiatus was a revelation. For one, I realized why the DAVE is Chord Electronics flagship. Secondly, why the TT 2 is such a formidable addition to their line of DACs.
When the Hugo TT 2 is paired with a Hugo M Scaler, it’s cleaner and quieter than a standalone DAVE. Imaging is tighter and delineation is much improved. The DAVE just can’t touch the TT 2 scaler combo in the same way as the Hugo 2 and Qutest. That is just the nature of the Hugo H Scaler. This is, however, where the differences end.
Overall, the Chord Electronics DAVE has:
- a fuller, more tangible presence (body and weight)
- better timbre
- a more lifelike resolution
- better articulation: smoother and more coherent. The TT 2 does sound a little rougher as far as grip.
- dimensional contouring
- more resolute in how the music is pieced together
Could this be due to the DAVE’s 20-element pulse array (vs. TT 2’s 10)?
Now, the Chord Electronics DAVE is sensitive to the power cord used. I’ve probably tried about 100 power cords on it. So, when using a stock power cord, the gap is much closer. In fact, I preferred the TT 2 and Hugo M Scaler combo in this configuration. It’s smoother and more naturalistic in tone. I suspect this could be partly due to the better output stage of the TT 2.
However, with a High Fidelity Cable CT-1 Ultimate, Furutech DPS-4, or Snake River Audio Signature Cottonmouth power cord – the DAVE still sounds more convincing. The TT 2 and M Scaler combo is still technically superior – but the DAVE is still more believable to my ears. There’s just a liquid quality to the DAVE.
Hugo TT 2 vs. DAVE (both with Hugo M Scaler)
So what is the performance gap when both DACs are using the Hugo M Scaler? Huge. The DAVE was already great. The Hugo M Scaler activates GOD mode.
First, the Hugo TT 2 seems to benefit more heavily from the Hugo M Scaler in DBNC mode. It gives it more air, resolution, and transparency. Things you wouldn’t be able to get with any cable or component tweaks. And this complements the richer and warmer tone of the TT 2 very well.
As a baseline, the DAVE is a much better DAC. It has better focus, clarity, and acoustic shaping. Depth and image separation are impeccable. There’s also more presence in the form of body and dynamics.
With the Hugo M Scaler, the DAVE is also smoother and more articulate. It’s tightly controlled when the music gets complex. Nuances are better resolved. It tops it off with an accurate timbre and healthy amount of tactility.
The TT 2 sounds a bit flat in comparison – even with the Hugo M Scaler. There’s also less air and layers between and around the performers. It doesn’t sing into the room nearly as freely, and effortlessly, as the DAVE combo. The one thing that I did like more with the TT 2 combo is the warmer tonality (Filter 4). To me, it sounds more realistic and naturally colored – and will win the hearts of many. It’s the one quality that sounds truer than the DAVE in DBNC mode. Which reminds me – I wish the DAVE had a “warmth” filter (DAVE 2 perhaps?).
At the end of the day, the DAVE combo just sounds more convincing.
Now I consider either DACs with the Hugo M Scaler as end-game setups. When you’re at a million taps – I don’t think there’s any more information that could be extracted from your sources. Both setups will net you world-class sound without being insanely expensive.