Chord Electronics Hugo 2 and 2go Review-Bloom Audio

Award Winning Oldie but Goodie | Chord Electronics Hugo 2 and 2go Review

While the The Hugo 2 is starting to show its age a bit (debut of 2017), it's still relevant and a powerful transportable DAC/amp from Chord Electronics. It’s a big upgrade over the original Hugo with better materials, more connection options, and more filter taps. The 2go is an accessory for the Hugo 2 which turns it into a fully-featured wireless streamer you can use with your phone, laptop, or other multimedia devices like a Roon system. Combined, they are an audio powerhouse offering phenomenal sound quality with a wide variety of network audio capabilities.

Build and Design

Chord Electronics has a consistent minimalist feel for all of their products which consists of aircraft grade aluminum – in either a black or silver finish – with “jelly bean” buttons that glow to indicate the current status. Streaming at 44.1kHz bitrate? You get a red glow. Streaming at 768kHz? Now it's a purple glow. It’s a unique aesthetic, and while some people would rather have more traditionally informative displays, it adds a bit of personality to the design. In addition, for features like the filter selection, it encourages the listeners to pick a filter with their ears, rather than saying something like, “Obviously I want fast roll-off! Who would want their roll-off to be slow?”

Chord Hugo 2 and Chord 2go in packaging with accessories

The Hugo 2 comes with the kitchen sink in terms of cables and connectors to get it working with any number of personal and home audio setups, while the 2go just comes with a charge cable and a kit to connect it to a Hugo 2.

Having previously used the Chord Mojo and Poly combo, I was a little bit concerned with how well the larger Hugo 2 and 2go would stay together. Just using the USB connection to hold the Hugo and 2go together works reasonably well on a desktop, but you’ll probably find it to be a bit unstable if you put it in a bag or try to move it while it’s in use. Thankfully, Chord has provided a system to semi-permanently attach the two together. With about 2 minutes, a screwdriver and an Allen wrench, you can secure the two together so that they are functionally one piece. 

Interface and Setup

The one time you might be cursing Chord’s minimalist design patterns is during the initial setup of the Hugo 2 and 2go. Generally speaking, Hugo 2 itself has a quick and easy setup: connect the Hugo 2 to a device outputting a digital signal, press the input button until you have the correct channel, and you’re all set. With the 2go, you’ll be using the Hugo 2 in USB mode, but you need to connect another device to the 2go via, Bluetooth, WiFi, or wired ethernet.

Chord Hugo 2 with connected 2go streamer with Macbook

The first thing you’ll need to do is download Chord’s GoFigure app onto your phone. Once you’ve used that to configure the 2go, you can connect to it with any number of devices. Then you can playback music via your phone or laptop, and also from a microSD card plugged into the 2go. The Chord’s GoFigure app is simple enough, and the instructions for setting everything up are generally straightforward, but you’ll probably hit a bump or two in the road trying to get everything connected. Once I got it working though, it was seamless and I didn’t have any major issues disconnecting and reconnecting devices.

The Sound

The Hugo 2 is a superb DAC which provides a detailed and transparent output to over-ear headphones and IEMs alike. The Hugo 2 feels like it refines the soundstage and clarity of whatever you plug into it. The core of how the Hugo 2 accomplishes this is a ridiculous number of “filter taps.” Basically, when it receives a digital audio signal, the Hugo 2 processes it more than 49,000 times to reconstruct the exact curve of the original analog signal before outputting the signal to the amp. You can use it as a DAC/amp combo with headphones, or run it in DAC only mode to either output to a different headphone amp or for a loudspeaker system.

Listening to a variety of headphones and IEMs, each felt subtly improved in their pairing with the Hugo 2. My humble Meze 99 Classics are a great example of the capabilities of the Hugo 2. Generally the biggest issue I have with the 99 Classics is that the bass gets a little muddy and congested, and that they lack the detail and clarity of most higher end headphones. With the Hugo 2, I never felt like any bass was lost, but they sounded surprisingly coherent in the low end, and there was more detail in the highs than I had ever heard before. Switching to the 64 Audio U12t, I found that the Hugo 2 helped provide plenty of punch in the low end, and supported the already detailed nature of the U12t without becoming harsh or sharp. Whatever I threw at it, the Hugo 2 delivered a balanced, detailed output, and excelled with any type of headphone across any genre.

Chord Hugo 2 with detached 2go

Maybe you were thinking, “how can I get this great Hugo 2 sound without being tied directly to a source with all kinds of wires and stuff?” That’s where the 2go comes in. The 2go doesn’t really have a sound of its own, but exists as a bridge to provide better access to the Hugo 2 sound from a larger number of devices and in a larger number of circumstances. The best scenarios for setup and the sound quality are going to be using direct wireless connection, playing off a microSD card plugged into the 2go (it has 2 microSD slots and can have up to 4TB of storage), or through Roon.

For a direct wireless connection, you can configure your 2go as it’s own wireless hotspot to connect your player to directly, which enables you to use wireless network audio even on the go. Roon provides lossless wireless streaming in your home, and setting up your 2go as a Roon endpoint is probably the fastest and easiest way to get the 2go setup for high quality audio. To play music off a microSD card, you need to load up music in support formats (the 2go supports a lot of formats) and use your phone as a remote to control playback.

You can also connect to the 2go as a Bluetooth device, but there would be a noticeable loss in audio quality. I found that, unlike other options which provided playback every bit as good as a USB connection, there was a significant loss in quality streaming from an iOS device over Bluetooth.

The Bottom Line

While I was initially a bit skeptical of the usefulness of the 2go, after spending some time with it, I can totally understand the appeal. Without the 2go, it’s virtually impossible to use the Hugo 2 outside of a (semi-mobile) desktop situation, but by removing the wired connection between a source and the Hugo 2, you open up a lot of possibilities. It might be as simple as just taking the Hugo 2 out on the deck after dinner to listen to music, or maybe you want to stash the Hugo 2 in your laptop bag while you listen to music on your commute. The ability to play music off microSD cards also potentially turns it into a DAP with 4TB that you can control with your phone, and while it might be the biggest portable DAP you’ve ever seen, it’s also the best sounding portable DAP you’ve ever heard.

Altogether, the Hugo 2 is an incredible DAC/amp combo which provides a beautiful, clear, musical output and subtly enhances the soundstage of whatever you plug into it. It absolutely has our highest recommendation. If you want to expand your listening capabilities, the 2go can do that for you. While there may be some bumps along the way as you try to get this all set up, the 2go enables you to take the Hugo 2 sound… “to go.” Put them together and you have an incredibly versatile and powerful way to deliver music wherever you want it.