It's not often that we get so excited about such a little thing, but the Hugo from Chord Electronics is a spectacular little beastie. All shiny and glowing, it doesn't look much, but the window into its electronic heart shows a purpose in design which isn't all show. The Hugo talks the talk, but it also walks the walk.
I'll be honest, the price is a little bit more on the exclusive side at $2499, but it's small potatoes for a normal Chord customer. As a company, they try to make sure each product is a statement, as unique and obsessively well constructed as possible, and that doesn't come cheap. They design their own DACs from the ground up, rather than just shopping for something from Texas Instruments, Wolfson, Sabre, etc. and repurposing it for their own needs in a shiny box. The Hugo is 100% Chord and that makes it something worth obsessing over.
The ins are both what you'd expect for a compact DAC and a couple of things you wouldn't - Optical in (24/192), Coax in (24/384) and also a universal, driver-less USB input (16/48) and HD driver-based USB input (32/384 and DSD128!) - which cover the demands of the here and now, but also the growing quantity of dedicated HD digital music.
Output is where the amazing DAC side gives way to the sublime analogue side - a pair of line level RCAs, twin 3.5mm outputs and a big, tasty 6.3mm for the kind of headphones which turn their noses up at the smaller stereo connector. The best thing? Because the Hugo operates on an immense (but feather-light) battery, you can operate even the most demanding headphones, at volume, for hours. Want to wear your Sennheiser HD800s or AKG K812s to the park while you get some sun? Now you can!
The audio quality is, simply put, second to none. We've tried myriad DACs in this store, both full-chassis components and portable USB critters, and nothing comes close to the Hugo... nothing.
When Omer's in the shop, he's usually got it with him, so call ahead if you'd like the guarantee a chance at a demo and we'll see you then.