This isn’t anywhere near the first review of the Chord Electronics’ Hugo. I’m very happy that I’m finally getting to hear it, though, because from what I’ve read I feel as if I’ve been missing out on not only a very unique component, but an excellent one. Since it is a portable DAC/headphone amplifier the guys and gals at Chord Electronics named this rather small palm-sized player Hugo — because you can take Hugo wherever “you-go”. Get it? To make it go wherever you go, it includes an internal battery-charging circuit that enables one to play music for up to 10 hours without re-charging. Once you arrive at a wall outlet it takes it about five hours to reached a full charge, but can be used again long before it reaches that full charge. My guess is you will be listening to it while it’s charging.
The Hugo’s DAC is based on the ofttimes used Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) DAC technology that Chord has used in past digital products. Field programmable indicates that it can be configured by the user, in this case Chord Electronics. It is able to handle much larger and more complex digital processing instructions, and is also very fast. The converted music signal is the beneficiary, and as a consequence, the listener. Another advantage of using FPGA technology is that the engineers at Chord were able to customize it to alter its slew rate and drive strength on each output pin, which decreases the amount of ring that might occur — and there are other improvements that affect the resulting signal that is delivered through its analog outputs that are discussed in prodigious detail on the Chord Electronics website. The Hugo is also a very flexible device, not only because it has so many digital inputs, but because of the processing power of these inputs. Its internal DAC can decode digital signals up to 384k with a word length up to 32 bits, and is also future proof in that it can decode DSD 128 data. It comes not only with the now standard RCA coax and optical inputs, but two types of USB, one for the ubiquitous flash-drive and other portable data carriers, and the other for what is now standard in most modern listening rooms, USB 2.0. The Hugo is also A2DP Bluetooth capable, and uses a custom-made module with the aptX codec to feed its digital signal directly to the DAC. I will freely admit that I’m not very familiar with or use Bluetooth very often, but my teenage daughter certainly does, so I have no doubt that she not only appreciates this wireless function, but expects it when listening to music coming from her iPhone. In regards to more technical information regarding the Hugo, again, there is an abundant amount of information on Chord’s website. It’s obvious that quite a bit of research and development went into not only designing the Hugo, but implementing its technology into a very user-friendly device.