Hugo M Scaler announced

Tapping up

by hodg100 Jul 22, 2018 at 10:33 AM


  • Chord Electronics has unveiled the Hugo M Scaler, a standalone upscaler capable of scaling 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 Chord Electronics DACs: DAVE, Qutest and the new Hugo TT 2.
    The Hugo M Scaler features Rob Watts’ (Chord Electronics’ Digital Design Consultant) FPGA-based WTA (Watts Transient Alignment) filtering technology to digitally connected audio devices. Benefitting equipment includes: streamers; smartphones and smart devices; laptops and computers; CD/DVD players/transports and much more.

    Although optimised for use with selected Chord Electronics DACs (for the maximum 768kHz upscaling/decoding benefit), the new Hugo M Scaler can be used with other DACs with suitable inputs, subject to their decoding capability. Hugo M Scaler upscaling technology can improve the sound quality of all (digital-source) set-ups, whether headphone or desktop-based or within conventional hi-fi systems, says Chord.

    Hugo M Scaler features five digital inputs (2x BNC, 2x optical, plus a galvanically isolated USB Type-B; the USB-B input is compatible with DSD and PCM data (up to DSD 256), with DSD upsampled to PCM using proprietary filtering, which, they clsim, much better attenuation of DSD noise and distortion.

    Hugo M Scaler’s outputs include optical, S/PDIF and galvanically isolated dual BNC, the latter of which enable upscaling to the maximum resolution (768kHz from 96kHz data) for direct connection to the 768kHz-capable dual BNC digital inputs featured on the DAVE DAC/pre/headphone amp, the recently announced (High End 2018, Munich) Hugo TT 2 DAC/pre/head amp and the new Qutest standalone DAC.

    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 aforementioned Hugo TT 2 for an advanced 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. As with previous Chord Electronics digital devices, the control spheres display data visually including input source and the incoming sample rate, using a polychromatic scale. The Hugo M Scaler also features front-panel ‘DX’ controls which have been included for use with future products.

    The upscaler benefits from an adjustable sample rate output (with pass-thru mode) enabling user-defined control, subject to the technical limitations of the output type: 192kHz optical; 384kHz BNC and 768kHz dual BNC), plus a video mode for lower latency, bringing useful flexibility with a wide range of partnering components.

    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). Rob Watts has eclipsed a 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 ground-breaking 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 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 sound quality. This 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, according to Chord:

    Like all Chord Electronics’ products, the Hugo M Scaler is designed, engineered and entirely made in the UK. It features a precision-milled chassis, crafted from aircraft-grade aluminium and comes with a three-year warranty. The Hugo M Scaler will be available in the autumn, priced at £3,495

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