Chord Hugo TT2 DAC, Preamplifier & Headphone Amplifier Review Roundup

Chord Hugo TT 2 DAC on top of Mcintosh

September 13, 2023

The Chord Hugo TT 2 DAC, designed by Chief Designer John Franks, is a testament to the pursuit and journey of high-end audio. It not only showcases exquisite craftsmanship but also boasts five times the processing power of its predecessor, the original Hugo TT, and double that of the multi-award-winning Hugo 2. The Hugo TT 2 is a culmination of over two decades of digital development by Rob Watts, incorporating the latest technology to deliver amazing audio performance.

Design, Construction, and Aesthetics

Chief Designer John Franks has given this device new casework that not only enhances its aesthetics but also contributes to its overall performance. 

Redesigned Casework with Enhanced Functionality: The Chord Hugo TT 2 DAC arrives in a sleek and captivating design (built entirely in the UK), available in either silver or black. Its contoured 9.25-inch square aluminum casework has undergone a meticulous redesign, not just for aesthetics but also to provide enhanced functionality.  The front panel of the Hugo TT 2 now features three intuitively placed buttons – ‘Menu,’ ‘Set,’ and ‘Power.’ These buttons serve the dual purpose of turning the unit on/off, cycling through inputs, and activating the filtering and crossfeed modes. This redesign aims to simplify the user experience and streamline control.

Chord Hugo TT 2 DAC front view

Elevated User Interface: One of the standout improvements from the original Hugo TT is the backlit, spherical volume roller. Not only has it grown in size for easier access and control, but it also offers a unique visual feedback feature. As you adjust the volume, the color of the roller ball gradually changes, providing an innovative and aesthetically pleasing representation of your volume levels.  Additionally, the viewing window into the internal circuits has been enlarged, offering a glimpse into the Hugo TT 2’s inner workings.

Enhanced Legibility: The dot-matrix display panel on the front panel has been refined for improved legibility. It provides crucial information about the input, sampling rate, and volume. However, to optimize audio performance, this display is designed to time out after ten seconds. To ensure you always have access to this essential information, volume and sampling rates are also represented using a polychromatic system. In this system, the color of the roller ball corresponds to the volume level, gradually shifting as you adjust it. Similarly, the LED-illuminated viewing window adopts one of eleven colors to indicate the sampling rate.

Chord DAC Sample Frequency color chart

While this might require some familiarity with the polychromatic scale, it offers an ingenious and effective means of providing instant visual feedback.

Streamlined Remote Control: The remote control for the Hugo TT 2 has undergone a streamlined and simplified redesign while retaining full control over the unit’s features. However, for adjustments in gain, users will need to utilize the push buttons conveniently located on the unit itself.

Main Features

DAC Playback: Chord Hugo TT 2 sets new standards in tabletop audio. With support for 768kHz PCM and DSD 512 playback, it offers radically improved technical specifications and measurements compared to its predecessors. 

FPGA DAC Chip: At the core of the Chord Hugo TT 2’s performance lies its FPGA (Field-Programmable Gate Array) DAC chip. Unlike traditional chip-based DACs, an FPGA is a programmable logic device that offers unparalleled flexibility and precision. In the case of the Hugo TT 2, the FPGA is custom-coded by Chord Electronics’ renowned engineer, Rob Watts.  The Hugo TT 2’s FPGA is a technological marvel, featuring an impressive 86x 208MHz cores running in parallel. This advanced FPGA design allows the Hugo TT 2 to create an intricate 16FS WTA 1 filter with a staggering 98,304 taps. To put this into perspective, traditional chip DACs typically use 256-tap filters. This substantial increase in taps results in a higher degree of accuracy when converting digital audio to analog, ensuring that every nuance of your music is faithfully reproduced.  The FPGA’s adaptability also enables Chord Electronics to continually refine and enhance the Hugo TT 2’s performance through software updates. This means that as technology advances and new algorithms are developed, your Hugo TT 2 can be upgraded to stay at the forefront of audio quality.

Chord Hugo TT 2 DAC Top View

Versatile Preamplifier and Headphone Amplifier: The Chord Hugo TT 2 DAC is more than just a digital-to-analog converter; it’s a versatile audio hub. It can be seamlessly integrated into your audio setup as a preamplifier, allowing you to control the volume and manage multiple sources with precision. This flexibility ensures that the Hugo TT 2 is not only the heart of your digital audio system but also the key to optimizing your analog sources.  But that’s not all; the Hugo TT 2 also shines as a headphone amplifier. Whether you’re a dedicated headphone enthusiast or just want to enjoy your music privately, the Hugo TT 2 delivers a powerful and transparent headphone amplification experience. It can drive a wide range of headphones, ensuring that you get the most out of your prized cans.

Enhanced Output Stage: The Hugo TT 2 boasts a high-power discreet output stage, significantly reducing distortion. It incorporates second-order noise-shaping integrated between the DAC output and filter, resulting in pristine audio quality. Notably, it has transitioned from a 4-element design to a 10-element design, working in harmony with the FPGA and code for enhanced audio clarity.

Chord TT 2 DAC Inside

Image Courtesy of Audiofonics.com

Power Delivery: In terms of power delivery, the Hugo TT 2 takes a leap forward by replacing the Li-Po battery power supply of the original with six super capacitors. These capacitors can deliver massive, linear dynamic currents when the music demands it, with a peak output of 5A and 9.3V RMS.

User-Selectable Features: The Hugo TT 2 offers a four-stage user-selectable filter control system.  Additionally, it retains the three-stage user-selectable digital crossfeed function for headphone users seeking an improved perception of depth, akin to listening to speakers.

Future-Proofing with M Scaler: The Hugo TT 2 is compatible both physically (size) and functionally with the Chord Hugo M Scaler, a 1M-tap digital upscaling device. This means you can further elevate your listening experience by adding the M Scaler at any time.  You’ll notice many of the reviews are performed with both in conjunction.

Chord Hugo TT 2 DAC Review Roundup

Below is the breakdown of reviews and official information about the Hugo TT 2.  Please note many of these reviews also include the sister power component mentioned above, Chord Hugo M Scaler.  While it’s not required to use the Hugo M Scaler with the Hugo TT 2, the reviewers certainly enjoyed the combination.

Independent Video Reviews

*This one is a comparison which is always nice

Dealer Video Reviews

Written Reviews

What HiFi? (2019)

  • “Chord’s seemly unstoppable digital bandwagon rolls on with yet another class leader. The Hugo TT2 may have slightly flawed ergonomics, but in every other respect it’s a stunner.”

The Absolute Sound – Chris Martens (2019)

  • “To state things simply, the Hugo TT 2 is different from and better than the original Hugo TT in every way. It is quieter, yields unmeasurable levels of noise, offers greater dynamic range, provides a different and better power supply, produces much more output power, and incorporates a markedly improved DAC section. In short, everything the Hugo TT could do, the Hugo TT 2 can do better.”

Headfonics – Marcus (2021)

  • The TT2 is an absolute monster of an integrated DAC and amplifier for dynamic range, resolution, and a strong perception of ‘speed’. The articulated manner of the TT2’s performance is such that even the most complex of musical passages are delivered with compelling accuracy.”

Moon Audio – Drew Baird (?)

  • “Chord is really ahead of the curve in terms of performance for dollars spent. You really have to pay a lot more money for competitive products from other manufacturers to compete with the digital designs of Rob Watts.”

Headfonia Reviews – Linus (2020)

  • The Hugo TT2 has given me a perspective on the speaker set-up that I didn’t think I could get in our small living-room in the apartment. Chord Electronics’ TT2 has transformed my listening experience at home drastically.”

13th Note HiFi ReviewsSimon Price (2019)

  • “This Chord is a very hard act to follow, and at the moment it has to be amongst one of the best digital converters at this price.”

Pursuit Perfect System – Terry Ellis (2020)

  • “I have had the luxury and privileged position of spending time with and reviewing all of Chord Electronics DAC products in the last few years and the Hugo TT 2 is without a doubt my favourite. It’s both fully featured and fully equipped to provide outstanding sound quality to a huge variety of audiophiles with different preferences of use.”

Chord Hugo TT 2 DAC Official Info

Pricing and How to Purchase

Note: Violet HiFi does receive a small commission for affiliate sales for the online links above.  We appreciate your support of the blog!

Is the Chord TT 2 Dac Your Next Upgrade?

The Chord Hugo TT 2 DAC is a fantastic audiophile, high-end device. However, like any audio component, it may not be the perfect fit for everyone. Here are some pros and cons to consider:

Pros

  • Exceptional Audio Quality: The Hugo TT 2’s FPGA DAC chip and advanced filtering deliver unparalleled audio quality, bringing out the nuances and details in your music like never before.
  • Versatility: It functions not only as a top-tier DAC but also as a preamplifier and headphone amplifier, making it a versatile addition to any audio setup.
  • Elegant Design: The meticulously designed casework, backlit volume roller, and viewing window contribute to its aesthetic appeal, making it a centerpiece in your audio system.
  • Upgradable: With compatibility for the Hugo M Scaler, you can future-proof your setup and continue to enhance your listening experience.

Cons

  • Price: The Hugo TT 2 is a high-end audio component, and its exceptional performance comes with a premium price tag. It may not be within the budget of all enthusiasts.
  • Complexity: While the Hugo TT 2 offers advanced features, its extensive capabilities may require some time to fully explore and understand.
  • Limited Gain Control: Adjusting gain requires using the push buttons on the unit itself, which may be less convenient compared to using the remote control.
  • Color Coding Learning Curve: While some may enjoy the color coding volume and frequency system, others prefer to see the specific frequency and bit rate displayed in writing.

In the end, the Chord Hugo TT 2 DAC is a top-tier audio device that offers remarkable performance and versatility.  Whether it’s the right investment for you depends on what you’ve tested in your system previously, your current DAC, and your disposable audio income.  Remember, only you can decide what sounds best for your listening–opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.

Full Specifications

Supported Formats: 768kHz PCM and DSD 512 playback

DAC: Custom-coded Xilinx Artix 7 FPGA with 98,304-tap filter

Output Stage: High-power discreet output stage with second-order noise-shaping

Power Delivery: Six super capacitors, peak output of 5A, 9.3V RMS

User-Selectable Features: Four-stage filter control, three-stage digital crossfeed function

Dynamic range: 127dB ‘A’ weighted

Noise: 4 uV ‘A’ weighted (high gain), 1.7 uV ‘A’ weighted (low gain) with no measurable noise floor modulation

Distortion: 0.00008% @ 2.5 V 300?; 0.00016% @ 6 W 8?

Output power (unbalanced): (@1% THD) 288 mW RMS 300?; 7.3 W RMS 8?

Output power (balanced): (@1% THD) 1.15 W RMS 300?; 18W RMS 8?

Power consumption: Full power – 30 W, Standby – 10 W

Output impedance: 0.042?

Stereo separation: 9 V RMS 300? -138dB

Dimensions: 5.2cm (H) 23.5cm (W) 23.8cm (D)

Price: $5295

Chord Hugo TT 2 DAC Right Front Corner View

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