Chord Electronics’ Hugo – A nifty portable DAC device with little CES coverage


When we think of a product named Hugo, the luxury German fashion brand Hugo Boss springs to mind. Chord Electronics, British manufacturers of high-performance hi-fi products, has introduced a new Hugo onto the consumer market. Playfully named because you can take it anywhere ‘you go’, the Hugo takes claim as being “the world’s most advanced and first truly reference-class portable DAC/headphone amp.”

We have to note that competing against the One Wheel – a cross between a skateboard and a unicycle – and the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro, a huge 12.2” tablet which is said to be Samsung’s answer to the Surface 2 and the iPad Air, Hugo has had relatively little exposure as the top techno innovations on display at this year’s CES. Its comparative inconspicuousness in the gadget-obsessed press doesn’t mean to say that Hugo hasn’t got  its own innovations and niche to step into.

Seasoned audiophiles will understand the importance of the digital to analogue converter (DAC), a device that translates digitally stored information from a mobile device into analogue signals, thus upping the volume and improving the quality of the sound.

So in the vast world of audio and the DAC market, what’s so special (if anything) about Hugo and how have its capabilities been initially assessed?

What’s good about Hugo is that it can be used as both a portable headphone DAC and as a reference-level source component in a static system. What’s more, Hugo offers five digital inputs, including A2DP aptX Bluetooth, as well as 384kHz PCM and DSD 128 playback for contemporary high-resolution Digital eXtreme Definition music files. In layman terms, Hugo will pump out meticulously clear tunes, no matter where you are.

Hugo by Chord
Hugo by Chord

As mentioned earlier, Hugo didn’t receive that much attention in the post-CES 2014 reports and consequently trying to locate feedback about Chord Electronics’ new venture proved a little difficult though by no means impossible. StuffTV, one of the lesser-known gadget and video review sites, was one source to catch on to the unique merits of Hugo.

With a boldly dramatic headline that Hugo, the world’s first portable hi-res audio DC, will “quadruple the prove of your phone’, StuffTV talks about how the device’s lightweight, compact and portable DAC contrasts to other DACs and headphone amps, which “tend to be a little on the bulky side.”

The audio tech review site What Hi Fi was also quick to review Hugo, reiterating Chord Electronics’ claims that Hugo offer “studio-master-tape sound quality, advanced connectivity and uncompromising file playback capability.”

If you are heavily into listening to crystal-clear tunes whilst on the go, Hugo certainly seems to tick all the right boxes. This nifty little device, which is encased in aircraft-grade aluminium, is not cheap though and will set you back £1,200.