According to Franks, this approach offers dramatic sonic benefits vis-à-vis even the finest standard-issue DAC chips on the market, not the least of which is that Chord’s gate array-based DAC allow much higher tap-length digital filters than standardized DAC chips do. For example, the Hugo’s gate array-based DAC allows 26,000 tap-length filters (the most sophisticated Chord has offered to date in any DAC product), as compared to roughly 150 tap-length filters for standardized DACs. Franks’ position, then, is that Chord’s gate array-based DACs have always sounded better than off-the-shelf DACs and that this is in part due to the fact that they support much more sophisticated digital filtering schemes than conventional DACs do.
But there is more to the Hugo’s big Xilinx-powered DAC than having zillions of programmable gates on tap, because the Xilinx device in question is a new-generation 0.7V device that consumes very little power. This very low power draw is, as much as anything, the breakthrough that has made the Hugo possible. As Franks put it, “If we had tried to build as powerful a DAC as the one in the Hugo only a few years back, it would have needed a power supply that weighed 150 lbs. or more, which of course would not be practical.” But what is more, the Xilinx device and associated analogue circuitry are very, very quiet, with a THD + Noise levels said to fall at around -140dB, which is very low indeed.