Chord Electronics has today unveiled the Hugo M Scaler.
Using technology first seen in the flagship BLU MKII digital/CD transport, the Hugo M Scaler is a standalone upscaling device containing the world’s most advanced digital filter and is said to be “capable of redefining sound quality from digital audio”.
The Hugo M Scaler brings the unrivalled advantages of Robert Watts‘ (Chord Electronics’ Digital Design Consultant) ground-breaking FPGA-based WTA (Watts Transient Alignment) filtering technology to digitally connected audio devices, dramatically improving sound quality. Possibly 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.
When partnered with either of Chord Electronics’ 768kHz-capable dual-BNC-input DACs, Hugo M Scaler extends its upscaling performance to 768kHz (from 96kHz input data) for the company’s dual-BNC-input DACs: DAVE, Qutest and the new Hugo TT 2, setting an astonishing technical benchmark for digital audio performance at its price point, redefining sound quality from digital audio. Although optimised 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 features inputs which include; 2x BNC, 2x optical and 1x galvanically isolated USB Type-B compatible with DSD and PCM data (up to DSD 256); with DSD upsampled to PCM as well as outputs which include; 1x optical, 1x S/PDIF and 1x galvanically isolated dual BNC (enables upscaling to the maximum resolution (768kHz from 96kHz data).
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 TToby stereo 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 a number of illuminable fascia-mounted spherical controls, governing input selection, output sample rate and video mode for lower latency. The control spheres display data visually including input source and the incoming sample rate, using a polychromatic scale.
The company further shared that the Hugo M Scaler is based around the new Xilinx XC7A200T FPGA, which benefits from 740 DSP cores. The processing power of the device has enabled a key breakthrough in tap-length (the technical indicator of how complex the interpolation filter is). Robert Watts has eclipsed his lifetime goal of >1M taps (Hugo M Scaler has 1,015,808 WTA taps or coefficients) in the latest version of the WTA (Watts Transient Alignment) filter. The figure of over 1M taps, first conceived by Watts back in 1981 to be, “essential for digital to sound good, as this allows 16-bit interpolation accuracy”, has enabled the development of sophisticated WTA filtering and upscaling algorithms allowing digital data to be output at up to 768kHz. To perfectly reconstruct an analogue signal, an infinite tap-length filter is required. The original Chord Electronics 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. This ground-breaking tap-length capability enables CD-quality audio to be reproduced where the interpolated output is guaranteed to be better than 16 bits; conventional filters are no better than 2- or 3-bit-accurate in recovering transient timing information. This technical milestone 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 Hugo M Scaler is designed, engineered and entirely made in the UK. It features a chassis crafted from aircraft-grade aluminium and will be available in the autumn, priced at £3,495 with a three-year warranty.