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CHORD HUGO M SCALER Review

Updated: Dec 24, 2023

Unleashing the True Potential of Your Audio System with CHORD HUGO M SCALER

Disclaimer: "STEREOSCOPE" Distributor graciously provided the CHORD HUGO M SCALER for this review.

The world of high-end audio has seen its fair share of innovations over the years, but the concept of upsampling digital audio data isn't new.


The Hugo M Scaler is a Highly Advanced Standalone Upscaler capable of redefining sound quality from digital audio.

It uses Rob Watts’ (our Digital Design Consultant’s) unique filter technology, the most advanced in the world, to upscale standard 44.1kHz digital audio up to 705.6kHz (16x CD’s 44.1kHz native resolution), ready to be passed to a suitable DAC.

Hugo M Scaler extends its upscaling performance to 768kHz (from 96kHz input data) for dual-BNC-input DACs like Chord Qutest, Chord Hugo 2, Chord Hugo TT 2, and Chord DAVE.





The Hugo M Scaler brings the unrivaled advantages of the ground-breaking FPGA-based WTA (Watts Transient Alignment) filtering technology to digitally connected audio devices, dramatically improving sound quality.

Although optimized for use with selected Chord Electronics DACs (for the maximum 768kHz upscaling/decoding benefit), the Hugo M Scaler can be used with other DACs with suitable inputs, subject to their decoding capability!


The Hugo M Scaler’s compact form factor aligns with the TT (Table Top) series and has been designed to be stackable with other units in the range, including the BerTTi power amp and the Hugo TT 2, to form a highly advanced yet space-saving system.


In line with other models in the Hugo and Hugo TT series, the device features several illuminable fascia-mounted spherical controls, governing input selection, output sample rate, and video mode for lower latency.


The control spheres display data visually including the input source and the incoming sample rate, using a polychromatic scale.


CHORD HUGO M SCALER Review

CHORD HUGO M SCALER Review

When partnered with either of Chord Electronics’ 768kHz-capable dual-BNC-input DACs, the Hugo M Scaler sets an astonishing technical benchmark for digital audio performance at its price point, redefining sound quality from digital audio.




Design and Connectivity:

The Hugo M Scaler is a compact, square component powered by a supplied 15V wall adapter. It can be controlled via a small remote or the front panel buttons.

The device boasts five digital inputs: a galvanically isolated Type-B USB, two coaxial S/PDIF on BNC, and two TosLink optical inputs.

DSD data is converted to PCM with a 6dB level reduction. While the M Scaler doesn't have analog outputs, it offers three digital outputs: one coaxial BNC S/PDIF, one optical, and a pair of galvanically isolated BNC jacks.

These outputs can provide upsampling to 705.6kHz or 768kHz, but only when used with compatible Chord Electronics DACs, such as QTEST, HUGO TT2, and DAVE.

If paired with other DACs, the M Scaler will work up to the maximum frequency that the DAC can accept.


CHORD HUGO M SCALER Front Panel

CHORD HUGO M SCALER Rear Panel

The front panel features six illuminated glass-sphere buttons, with four of them currently functional. These buttons indicate whether video mode or automatic input detection is selected, which input is in use, the output sample rate, and the input sample rate. The M Scaler offers a video mode to reduce latency for audio-video synchronization, and a pass-through option for direct comparisons to upsampled output. However, both the pass-through and upsampled signals are reduced in gain by approximately 2.8dB to account for potential digital "overs."


CHORD HUGO M SCALER Sample Rate


Impressive Hardware:

The heart of the M Scaler is a Xilinx XC7A200T FPGA (field-programmable gate array) that runs the code for the Watts Transient Alignment reconstruction filter, designed by Rob Watts. This filter, first seen in Chord's Blu Mk.II upscaling CD transport, utilizes 740 DSP cores, with 528 of them running in parallel at 16Fs and a bit depth of 56, resulting in a staggering filter length of 1,015,808 taps.


According to Rob Watts, longer filters yield significant improvements in pitch perception, timbre accuracy, instrument tonality, and sound localization. In essence, they reduce listening fatigue by presenting information in a more comprehensible manner to the brain.


Digital Filters and Upsampling:

Chord Electronics promotes the Hugo M Scaler as a device that repairs and restores lost information in digital files, enhancing the audio signal significantly. The M Scaler operates at a high sample rate of 705,600 samples per second, claiming to recover vital information lost in lower-resolution files and improve the recreation of the original music signal.

By employing an extremely long impulse response filter, the M Scaler facilitates the DAC's ability to reconstruct the analog signal more accurately. In effect, it replaces the DAC's digital filter, now operating at a higher sample rate, resulting in improved performance.


Listening Experience:

During my evaluation of the Hugo M Scaler, I primarily paired it with Chord's TT2, connecting via USB and utilizing a dual-BNC connection for upsampled data transfer.



In conclusion, the Chord Electronics Hugo M Scaler impressively enhances audio quality through its innovative upsampling and digital filtering technology.

While it may not be compatible with all DACs, it delivers a tangible improvement in audio fidelity scaler.


Features:

Tap-length filter: 1,015,808 (16FS filter) Connectivity (input): 1x Galvanically isolated Type-B USB, 2x Coax BNC and 2x Optical Connectivity (output): 1x Galvanically isolated dual BNC (enables upscaling to the maximum 768kHz), 1x BNC S/PDIF and 1x Optical PCM support: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz, 352.8kHz, 384kHz, 717.6kHz, and 768kHz. 16 – 32bit Driver support: Driverless with Mac OS X and Linux, driver required for Windows OS Additional features:

The most advanced digital filter in the world Adjustable sample rate output (with pass-thru mode) Video mode (for lower latency) Auto video and source selection ‘DX’ controls for a future product design

Technical Spec:

FPGA: Xilinx XC7A200T

Filter tap length: 1,015,808 WTA taps

Power consumption:

Full power – 30 W

Standby – 10 W

Dimensions:

4cm (H) 23.5cm (W) 23.8cm (D)

Weight:

2.55kg




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