Hugo TT Desktop DAC & Headphone Amplifier – CES 2015

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Another one of those standout products from last year was the Hugo from UK-based Chord Electronics. Intended to be “mobile”, the desktop unit was chock full of inputs and outputs (including bluetooth) and was very well received by the head-fi crowd despite its high end-ish $2,500 price tag.

The new upgrade at CES sheds the “mobile” intent, but still could be carried about in a pinch. The TT (an acronym for table top) is quite a bit larger than the original Hugo and quite heavy for its size. Some of that is no doubt due to the double battery capacity and updated super capacitors. From the press release:

“Being a home-orientated device, the Hugo TT has been designed to run continuously from the supplied charger, however Chord’s engineers have also improved the battery and added Supercap energy storage, a technology seen in F1 where supercacitors back-up the car’s batteries by sharing the load and charge demands, thereby protecting them. They serve a similar purpose in the Hugo TT, extending the battery life as well as improving dynamics and demanding transients in recorded music.”

From Chord’s founder and owner John Franks:

“The idea for the Hugo TT came when we realised that Hugo’s performance was such that many customers were using the device as a reference desktop unit, when really it was primarily designed for mobile use. So, Hugo was not optimised for use in home systems: a minority of audiophile cables with the very largest RCA and USB terminations sometimes proved difficult to accommodate and the shorter range of the original mobile Hugo’s Bluetooth pairing distance could sometimes cause problems in larger homes.

We noted all the suggestions from desktop users and we definitely took notice when people indicated they loved the sound of Hugo and would buy one in an instant if it had additional XLR outputs, greater input visibility and a remote control! So, we set about making a people’s Hugo to address as many of these wishes as possible. We also doubled the battery storage and added 10,000,000 microfarads of supercapacitor back-up across the batteries. None of these features would have been possible within Hugo’s existing dimensions, but in the larger Hugo TT, they are all comfortably inside.”

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In person, the digital screen was a very nice touch as was the overall casework execution. No doubt full size XLRs and dual SE headphone outputs will satisfy many audiophiles checklists.
Chord_HugoTT Rear WHT
The DAC section of the TT remains the same unique Spartan 6 FPGA chipset as the original Hugo and includes not only native DSD playback but also the audiophile-aquatinted aptX protocol for bluetooth connections.  That is a lot of boxes and a lot of check marks. Unfortunately fulfilled wishlists don’t come cheap, the TT will retail for a true high end cost of $4,795 when it becomes available at the end of February.