Chord Electronics Hugo

A new headphone amplifier for music geeks

Image: Hugh Threlfall

Should you spend money on listening to digital music at its highest quality, even if, frankly, you are hard-pushed to fully appreciate its excellence?

This new headphone amplifier, the Hugo, from Kent audio company Chord Electronics, has been proclaimed by the fussiest hifi critics as outstanding. I have been using the Hugo to listen to high-definition music, via fancy audio app Audirvana and through the Grado PS1000e headphones I reviewed in November, and the result was beyond glorious. It was alive, vibrant, textured and realistic – yet I don’t have the ears or the expertise to explain my appreciation further.

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This is pretty much how I feel when I drink very fine wine and eat three-Michelin-starred food, which I recognise and enjoy but don’t strictly understand as well as I’d like. But I’m not giving up on great wine because I can’t fully critique it. And so I believe it should be with sound. There is a good case for going the extra kilohertz to experience what experts beyond my pay grade promise is the real deal.

The Hugo is slightly artisanal-looking, as is the packaging and the Chord logo. And the volume control is a bit of a thing – a translucent wheel that changes colour from red to white, at which point it’s crazily loud. But this is a brilliant and almost completely bonkers gadget for the insatiable musical–excellence seeker.

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