Can I get that 2 go? High-end portable audio that transcends Bluetooth headphones often comes undone when we look at what portable DAC/amplifier manufacturers ask us to put in our pockets. Chord Electronic’s first-generation Hugo – a battery-powered DAC the size of an iPhone 6S Plus – invited smartphone pairing via USB and dongle but glossed over its size and screen-obscuring rubber straps. Had it not been for sound quality that pushed much of the sub-US$3K DAC competition into Chord’s wing mirror, the Hugo might have plodded along as just another DAC.
The British hi-fi company’s ace card was one Rob Watts. His WTA digital filter, programmed directly onto an FPGA, pointed to a D/A converting future that didn’t rely on third-party DAC chips. Watts’ work on the Hugo – and Hugo 2 (€2290) – saw it take up residence in many a hi-fi enthusiast’s rack to front not headphones but loudspeaker listening. The only decision left to make was: which network streamer? Any PC or Mac would get us up and running but not all digital audio feeds sound alike. ALLO DigiOne’s coaxial output sounds smoother and more resolving than the Bluesound Node 2i’s, which in turn bests the USB output of an Intel NUC.
Taking us slightly further than the ALLO is Chord’s 2go (€1199). It is to the Hugo 2 what Poly is to the Mojo: a bespoke fit, battery-powered network streamer that slides directly onto the DAC’s USB inputs. The 2go’s twin male micro-USB prongs hand power and data off to the Hugo 2’s corresponding micro-USB sockets. Look Ma, no cables! Two screws lock the two-fer together. Digital audio arrives at the 2go via wifi or Gigabit Ethernet, files served via a UPnP server, a Roon server or Apple AirPlay. Want to run this pairing as a DAP? Go right ahead. A pair of 4TB microSD card slots cut into its longest side will see the 2go serve UPnP content to itself.
2go network configuration comes by way of Chord’s in-house developed smartphone app: GoFigure, which has seen considerably refinement since its Poly-driven debut. Where GoFigure previously only connected to the Chord double-pack via Bluetooth, it now offers a wifi option (once 2go is hooked into a LAN). Streaming inputs – Roon and UPnP – now auto-switch. There’s good news for cloud streamers too: once log-in details have been entered into GoFigure, UPnP apps can instruct Qobuz or Tidal to send streams directly to 2go.
My own line of UPnP enquiry was more fundamental: could the 2go handle gapless playback of files hosted on a microSD card and inserted into its side? Glider (iOS) and mConnect (iOS/Android) answered in the affirmative.
With setup done, music library navigation and playback control are handled by Roon and/or mConnect/Glider or similar. Now let me take you on a trip:
Further information: Chord Electronics
More thoughts on the 2go/Hugo2 pairing to follow.