Chord Electronics has unveiled Hugo 2, a dramatically redesigned version of its legendary portable DAC, featuring all-new casework, flexible new features, plus next-generation technical and sonic performance (£1800). The new device has been comprehensively upgraded while ensuring continuity with the much-loved original. It introduces the latest proprietary Chord Electronics FPGA technology giving cutting-edge technical and sonic performance, plus exciting new features.
Featuring a newly designed precision-machined aircraft-grade aluminum case, Hugo 2 is distinct from its predecessor with its sharper, lower profile design and four spherical control buttons. The spheres, which are top-mounted to allow for possible future expansion side-modules, illuminate with color-coding information and control power, input, filtering and crossfeed functions. The top-mounted volume-control sphere has been retained and made larger for more intuitive operation.
The stylish new design and additional functionality has been introduced in anticipation of greater indoor use within both desktop and conventional home audio systems, despite Hugo 2's obvious portability. The inclusion of a full-function remote control adds further flexibility and the practical line-level output mode of the original has also been retained.
The latest FPGA and advanced WTA (Watts Transient Aligned) filters have been implemented in the Hugo 2, bringing a wide variety of performance improvements in a number of areas. Performance gains have been made in timing accuracy, noise reduction, headphone amp power and dynamic range.
Hugo 2's connections and switches now feature laser-ablated function-lettering for improved ease-of-use. The device offers four digital inputs (optical, coaxial and HD USB) plus extended-range Bluetooth, with high-resolution file playback up to 768kHz and up to DSD512 (Octa DSD), via its HD USB input. Analogue outputs include 2x RCA, plus 3.5mm and 6.35mm headphone outputs.
A four-function switch filter, operated by its own control sphere, offers a useful degree of user-selectable frequency-shaping, bringing warm and soft or transparent and incisive presentations, giving additional flexibility and user control.
For headphone-listening, Hugo 2 retains the popular digital crossfeed function of the original and offers three operation modes from its dedicated control sphere. The system cross-feeds a partial 400 millisecond-delayed and shaped signal from each left and right output to the opposite channel. The system duplicates the effect of listening to speakers and is based on advanced binaural audio research.
Chord Electronics Blu MkII
Chord Electronics' Digital Consultant, Rob Watts, has harnessed the power of the new Xilinx XC7A200T FPGA, which has a standout 740 DSP cores, to develop sophisticated WTA (Watts Transient Alignment) filtering and upscaling algorithms which can output digital data at 705.6kHz (16 x CD's 44.1kHz native resolution). When partnered with the critically acclaimed DAVE DAC/preamp, with its 705.6kHz-capable digital inputs, the Blu MkII sets a new technical benchmark for CD performance, while redefining sound quality from the medium.
At the heart of the Blu MkII, lies Rob Watts' new WTA M-Scaler technology, which incorporates the most advanced filter of its kind in the world. Rob Watts has developed completely new filter architecture for the Blu MkII, to ensure maximum memory efficiency and to allow the FPGA to run with sufficient speed.
The enormous processing power of the Xilinx XC7A200T FPGA has enabled a key breakthrough in tap-length (the technical indicator of how complex the interpolation filter is). To perfectly reconstruct an analogue signal, an infinite tap-length filter is required. The original Chord DAC 64 (1999) had 1,024 taps; Hugo (2013) 26,000 and DAVE (2015) 164,000. Each successive increase in tap-length, together with continuous improvements to the WTA algorithm, has given significantly better sound quality.
The new Blu MkII offers an incredible 1,015,808 taps! This remarkable capability takes transient accuracy to a completely unprecedented level: it becomes simpler to perceive the leading edge of transient notes, creating a life-like sound-field. Bass definition is massively improved, with greater ability to follow the tune. Sound-staging, instrument separation and focus are also noticeably better, along with vastly improved variation in instrument timbre.
The Xilinx XC7A200T consumes an enormous 10 amps of current, so it couldn't be implemented in DAVE as the sheer amount of current could upset DAVE's comprehensive signal-processing. The engineering solution was to isolate this new FPGA and employ an external scaler — Blu MkII has (RF-isolated) 705.6kHz outputs to feed DAVE directly. The combination has created the world's most advanced CD playback system.
A comprehensive suite of high-performance connectivity is offered, including (for the digital outputs): AES (to 176.4KHz); single optical, single S/PDIF and dual BNC S/PDIF; the dual BNC S/PDIF output transmits up to 768kHz into Chord's DAVE DAC/preamp using twin cables.
The Blu MkII also features a BNC S/PDIF digital input, meaning that it can also be used a standalone high-performance upsampler, for use with other digital sources, such as streamers, in addition to its primary function as a CD transport. This enables a digitally connected device to benefit from the Blu MkII's advanced FPGA technology and if deployed, DAVE's class-leading digital-to-analogue conversion.
Chord Electronics Poly
Poly is based on a condensed high-level PC, with data server, DLNA receiver, Wi-Fi hub, Bluetooth module and SD card (using MPD) functionality, and highly sophisticated software. Poly acts as a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth hub and can access music in a number of ways including streaming over Wi-Fi, network storage devices (NAS) and collections stored on SD cards using Mail Player Daemon. Bluetooth connectivity and AirPlay functionality provide real flexibility with smartphones and enable multiple Mojo/Poly combinations to be used throughout the home, providing a high-quality multi-room streaming playback solution.
Highly advanced yet miniaturized as a plug-in module for Mojo, Poly has been designed for full control using the best (and most familiar) user interface in the world — the smartphone. When connected to Mojo, Poly conveniently slips into pockets, bags and handbags — it doesn't need to be hand-carried or regularly checked like other players. Mojo was always a smartphone-enabling device and the same is true of Poly.
Poly is compatible with the latest high-resolution-audio file types and supports PCM files up to 768kHz resolution and DSD64 to DSD512 (Octa-DSD). Poly's high-quality SD card reader/player frees up smartphone memory and storage, so vast libraries no longer need be kept locally on phones.
Chord Electronics and its design partners have made Poly's high-speed technology fully mobile: Poly includes a rechargeable LiPo battery giving around nine hours playback from a sub-four-hour charge using the device's fast-charging circuit. Both Mojo and Poly can be simultaneously charged using Poly's Micro USB connector. Poly is precision-machined from aircraft-grade aluminium and hand assembled in the UK.
Poly can be controlled with a wide range of music playback apps for both Android and iOS devices, with AirPlay offering additional compatibility and intuitive operation with enabled devices. Poly also integrates with advanced music players such as Roon (excluding SD cards). Supported file types (to be confirmed) include: ACC, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, OGG VORBIS, ALAC, WMA and MP3.
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