Chord Electronics Hugo to preview at CES 2014

One headphone amp to rule them all?

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Chord Electronics Hugo
Chord Electronics Hugo to preview at CES 2014

From the Chord Electronics press release:

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Chord Electronics’ ground-breaking and game-changing DAC 64, the world- leading Kent-based audio expert will be launching something very special at CES 2014. Based on the same FPGA DAC technology that has helped establish Chord Electronics as an authority in digital audio, the company will be introducing a reference-level portable – a world first in audio history.

Called Hugo (because you can take Hugo wherever ‘you-go’), the new device offers studio-master-tape sound quality, advanced connectivity and uncompromising file playback capability, all from a palm-sized player. Hugo is the world’s most advanced headphone amp/DAC, offering five digital inputs including A2DP aptX Bluetooth, plus advanced 384kHz PCM and DSD 128 playback for today’s high-resolution DXD (Digital eXtreme Definition) music files.

The new Hugo, which can be used as both a portable headphone amp/DAC as well as a reference-level source component in a static system, brings the renowned digital audio expertise of Rob Watts and Chord Electronics to serious headphone listening, enabling users to experience a world of super-high-resolution music via their headphones.  It offers unsurpassed performance and technology and is unrivalled in the marketplace, thanks to its bespoke technology, FPGA circuitry and advanced file-playback capability.

Hugo is ready to take advantage of today’s advanced studio-master-quality (DXD) music files. It can decode sample rates ranging from 44.1kHz to 384kHz (PCM), allowing audiophiles to experience music in true high definition, along with the best possible reproduction of CD-quality music. Hugo also benefits from two advanced USB inputs: one driverless input for legacy USB devices and one asynchronous high- definition USB port for operation up to 384kHz. Thanks to two additional digital inputs, coaxial and optical, any connected component with a digital output will also benefit from Hugo’s advanced technology. 

Thoroughbred

Building on the strengths on the (two-years’-running) What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision ‘Best DAC’ QuteHD, the new Hugo also has A2DP Bluetooth capability and uses a custom-made module with the aptX codec to feed a digital signal directly into the DAC circuitry, so even without cables, high-quality music can still be enjoyed.

In addition to 384kHz PCM files, the Hugo can also process DSD 128 data using the latest DSD-over-PCM standard (DoP). Whether using Mac OS or Windows OS, Chord Electronics’ own proprietary driver software is provided, removing the restrictions of current operating system audio playback.

Hugo has a built-in battery-charging circuit, with a full charge reached in approximately two hours. Hugo takes no power over its USB input (as this is severely limited with many partnering products) and only takes signal data, therefore, it is fully compatible with all iPhone, iPad and Android devices. Further features include an advanced reference-grade digital volume control that does not lose bits.

Like all Chord Electronics products, Hugo is built to last. The casework is precision- machined from aircraft-grade aluminium, with a bright silver hard-anodised finish (note: spotlight image shows titanium-finish prototype). Complementing the design is a top-mounted ‘porthole’ that gives users an intriguing insight into the internal circuitry, which changes colour with differing incoming sample rates.

Hugo is based upon Rob Watts’ and Chord Electronics’ famous bespoke DAC technologies and is the latest edition to Chord Electronics’ beautiful high-performance product range.

Specifications

Inputs

  • Optical TOSLink 24-bit/192kHz-capable
  • RCA coaxial input 24-bit/384kHz-capable
  • Driverless USB input 16-bit/48kHz-capable (designed for tablets/phones)
  • HD USB input 32-bit/384KHz and DSD128-capable (for computer/laptop playback; requires driver installation on Windows, others TBC)

Outputs

  • 2x3.5mm headphone jacks
  • 1x6.35mm (1/4 inch) headphone jack
  • 1x (pair) stereo RCA phono output

Technical specs

  • Advanced digital volume control
  • Crossfeed filter network
  • Battery powered for approximately 14 hours operation. The batteries are small and less than 20Ah so this means no shipping restrictions which can be found with other less efficient designs using larger batteries.
  • Input, sample rate and volume level indication by colour-change LEDs
  • 26K tap-length filter (more than double when compared to the QuteHD DAC)
  • THD: 140dB
  • Headphone output: 110dB SPL into a 300ohm headphone load

Price: £1,200

http://www.chordelectronics.co.uk/

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