Chord Electronics has just unveiled, at CanJam London 2018, the Hugo M Scaler, a standalone upscaler which Chord say is “capable of redefining sound quality from digital audio”. Hugo M Scaler uses advanced filter technology 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 Chord Electronics DACs: DAVE, Qutest and the new Hugo TT 2.

35 years in the making, the Hugo M Scaler brings the advantages of 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 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. 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, to form a 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. Further extending its functionality is auto video and source selection.

Featuring technology previously exclusive to the BLU MKII upscaling digital/CD transport (£7,995), the upscaling ability of the Hugo M Scaler brings the benefits of Rob Watts’ proprietary FPGA-based tech to a much wider audience, given its £3,495 price point.

Chord tell us more about their Hugo M Scaler technology: “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 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”.

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

More to come from Hifi Pig at CanJam soon! Keep an eye on our  Hifi Show section for coverage.

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