The amplifier section of Hugo TT 2 is very powerful, delivering up to 7.3 W @ 8 Ohms in single-ended mode or a stonking 18 W @ 8 Ohms in balanced mode. For this reason, and with headphone/hearing protection in mind, Chord Electronics advises owners to start out with extremely low volume level settings and to proceed with appropriate caution. The DAC section of Hugo TT 2 is as flexible as the amplifier section is powerful, offering support for PCM digital audio files ranging from 44.1kHz on up to 768kHz sampling rates and with DSD support via DoP (DSD over PCM) for DSD 64 through DSD512 digital music files. As mentioned above, Hugo TT 2 uses a 10-element digital filter that provides 98,304 taps and that runs a 16FS WTA 1 filter algorithm. Moreover, the DAC section provides four user selectable sub-filter settings: Filter 1 ‘Incisive Neutral’ (the recommended reference setting), Filter 2 “Incisive Neutral with HF roll-off”, Filter 3 “Warm”, and Filter 4 “Warm with HF roll-off’. An IR remote control is included.
Now we come the Hugo M Scaler, which in many ways is a ground-breaking product. Basically, the M Scaler is a very powerful digital upscaling device—claimed by Chord Electronics to be “the most advanced in the world”. The M Scaler can accept virtually any digital audio file input regardless of resolution or sampling rate and will upscale the input data to either 705.6kHz or 768kHz levels (depending on whether the data was based on a multiple of 44.1kHz or 48kHz). But upscaling, per se, is only part of the story; the other part is an FPGA-based digital filter that offers a staggering 1,015,808 taps and that runs under a specialised version of the WTA algorithm—one adapted to take advantage of the enormous processing power on tap. In the end, the M Scaler can send upscaled and pre-filtered audio data to any of the Chord Electronics DACs that support 705.6kHz and 768kHz inputs, including the Qutest, Hugo TT 2, and DAVE.
Much of the technology of the M Scaler is drawn from Chord Electronics’ previously released Blu II upscaling CD transport, with the primary difference that the M Scaler features digital inputs only (no CD transport) and is sized and styled to conform to the Hugo TT family design idiom. From a sonic perspective, though, the real significance of the M Scaler is that it can take garden variety CD-quality material and upscale it to the highest practical sampling rates possible, while applying a digital filter so powerful that, says Watts, the result is sound quality equal to or better than that of ultra high resolution digital files. But here’s another point to ponder; the M Scaler lets its owners access the most sophisticated digital filter Chord Electronics presently knows how to make—a filter better than the ones used either in the Hugo TT 2 or in the DAVE.
The M Scaler provides 2 × BNC digital inputs, 2 × optical digital inputs, and one galvanically isolated USB Type-B input. Digital outputs include 1 × optical output, 1 × coaxial S/PDIF output via a single BNC connector, and one dual BNC output, which is the output of choice for best performance. While the Hugo M Scaler can conceivably be used with any DAC, the manufacturer makes it clear it is really optimised for use with Chord Electronics DACs that provide high-bandwidth dual BNC inputs able to take full advantages of the Scaler’s full capabilities. Once I heard the M Scaler in action I thought that its sonic benefits were both transformative and profound.