Hugo 2 + HD800S - Will a desktop amp do better

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by dufourism, Jun 3, 2019.

  1. dufourism

    dufourism Rando

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    Hi guys,

    After doing a ton of research on the net, I had purchased a HD800S and paired it with a Chord Hugo 2. I have a few questions:

    1. Is the Hugo 2 in-built amp capable enough to drive the HD800S? Do I need an additional amp to bring out the best in HD800S?

    2. Although I'm quite happy with the Hugo 2, am I missing a lot by not going for a full-on desktop setup (e.g. Yggdrasil + Raggy/Mjolnir 2) ?

    My current setup is Laptop --> USB --> Hugo 2 --> HD800S.

    Thanks!
     
  2. sheldaze

    sheldaze Friend

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    A few things,

    First, you should not have started a new thread. A thread already exists for Hugo 2:

    https://superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/chord-hugo-2.3667/

    Second, what you're asking is really just opinion. If you're happy, be happy.

    Third, I too was happy with your suggested setup. I was on tour for the Hugo2, and used it directly to my HD800S. It was a good setup (in my, very personal, opinion). However, my assessment was also Hugo2 was NOT as good as any dedicated setup, which I used at the time. From my notes, the price of my test setups ranged from $1200 to $4600. At the $1200 end, the Hugo2 was not a good value. In other words, I could find comparable sound at less cost than the Hugo2 simply by using a separate amplifier and DAC. I do not recall what I used to compare (Sept 2017). Instead I recommend you read reviews of HD800, HD800S, and HD800SDR in threads that already exist.
     
  3. dufourism

    dufourism Rando

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    Apologies for starting a new thread.. Mods, please help to merge this thread to the Hugo 2 thread if it's inappropriate..

    Thanks for the replies!
     
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    It's fine for a new thread. I changed the thread topic slightly. The question of whether the HD800/HD800S will benefit more from a dedicated desktop amp coming from an all-in-one (e.g. Hugo, iNano DSD, Fulla 2, etc) is a good one. Many people are wondering the same.

    In my opinion, the answer is yes in the case of the HD800.

    With some super efficient headphones such as Grado or Denon ATH-D2000, the answer might be no because an amp would be just another component in the chain so this results in less transparency, yet these headphones benefit little from amplification because they need so little. I've often preferred this kind of headphones straight from a good quality portable.

    However, in cases where the AIO (DAC/amp combination) have a different path for DAC out and amp out, it is likely that a better amp will do. The reason is that AIOs, because of their do-it-all (vs. specialized) function, are usually compromised in one way or the other. The HD800 aren't inefficient, but they do need power to sound alive and not soft or sleepy.

    For Hugo, I felt the combination with HD800 worked decently and actually offered some synergies. However, the amplifier section of the Hugo was a huge disappointment, having a flat and boring sound. Now using the Hugo with better amplification such as DNA Stratus - this was a huge improvement. BTW, the Fulla 2's headphone output is slightly improved over the Hugo, but not significant enough.

    Another reason to get a desktop amp for the HD800 is so that one can move up to better quality DACs, e.g. DAVE, Yggdrasil, Pavane, X-Sabre Pro, etc.

    Finally, there is the question of what amp.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
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  5. EagleWings

    EagleWings Friend

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    I wrote a piece addressing this very question and it applies the most for High Impedance Dynamic Cans like the HD800/HD800S: https://twister6.com/2019/05/13/adding-an-amp-to-chord-hugo2-good-or-bad/

    Hugo 2 doesn't have an internal amp. It's a simple analog stage. The gain is handled in the Digital stage. Adding even the $500 Schiit Lyr 3 to the chain brought forth so many improvements to the table. The only thing you might miss is the super black background. But it is honestly over-rated. There is so much more to the music than a super-black background. But you need to experience it to know it.

    Bottom Line: Definitely add a GOOD dedicated amp.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
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  6. dufourism

    dufourism Rando

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    Thanks @purr1n and @EagleWings ! As to which desktop amp, I currently have a few options:

    1. Schiit Mjolnir 2
    2. Woo Audio WA22
    3. Eddie Current Black Widow
    4. E.A.R HP4

    Was wondering which one pairs best with the HD800S (without losing transparency)?
     
  7. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    Schiit Mjolnir 2 - a decent amp overall but pairing with HD800 might be too aggressive sounding
    Woo Audio WA22 - warmbutt amp that will make the HD800 lose transparency, you should stay away from it unless you enjoy buttery rolled-off treble
    Eddie Current Black Widow (OOP) - one of the best SS amps for HD800, but good luck finding one for sale
    E.A.R HP4 - haven't heard it

    Here are a few other options you may want to consider:

    Cavalli Liquid Glass (OOP)
    ecp DSHA-3
    ecp L-2 (OOP)
    ecp T4
    Eddie Current Zana Deux Super (OOP)
    Massdrop x Eddie Current ZDT Jr.
    Woo WA6SE
     
  8. JustAnotherRando

    JustAnotherRando My other bike is a Ferrari

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    There is an extremely comprehensive thread covering this here: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...s-for-the-sennheiser-hd800-2017-edition.3408/

    I have a Black Widow, which is mentioned positively in that thread. But as songmic states, they are very rarely available. I much prefer it over my Massdrop MCTH with the 800S. I find the 800S to have slightly gratingly emphasised treble at the best of times (the BW seems to mitigate this slightly versus the MCTH).
     
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  9. Collusion

    Collusion Almost "Made"

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  10. Bloom

    Bloom MOT: Bloom Audio

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    Wouldn't adding a Lyr simply be "coloring" the signal path (even if pleasingly)? If the Hugo 2 provides plenty of needed power to the 800S, I would think that adding an amp is more or less a decision around how you'd like to alter the sound signature, not "improve" the chain.
     
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  11. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    Nah, none of the Chord 'aio' 'amps' have the power to drive anything but the most sensitive cans (or IEMs) properly, and they're really not very good.

    Even on the dave I thought a Jot was a marked improvement. On a product that has an msrp higher than some new cars, last I checked.

    They are very clean, with an inky black background, but that's like saying the yugo was a great car because it was small.
     
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  12. EagleWings

    EagleWings Friend

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    @songmic 's post matches my experience about Mj2 and BW. I haven't heard the WA22 and HP4. I'd highly recommend the BW if you can find one.

    Considering that sound reproduction is composed of tonal aspects and non-tonal aspects (dynamics, stage, depth, layering etc), the improvements I mention are, improvements in non-tonal aspects, especially for high-Z dynamic cans like HD800. Also, there are many amps out there that don't "color" the signal, while providing non-tonal improvements.
     
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  13. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    EAR HP4 is very colored, warm, borderline warmpoo, but just pulls back before the poo. This is true even on the low Z output jack. At that price, better off with a DNA Stratus or EC Studio Jr with no feedback, which have better resolution. It's sound is unique, that is the EAR sound, like their amps, although taken to another 150%.

    Lyr 3 would be a good choice. Good synergy, laid back amp in the spot where the HD800 has that glare and hardness.

    SPL Phonitor is a better choice for people who live in Europe or Germans who want to buy German.

    There are a lot of great top notch used amps around for HD800: ZDS, BHA-1, Stratus, BW, DSHA3, etc. Just need to be patient. All will be a marked improvement over just the headphone outs on any portable AIO.
     
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  14. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    First of all I recommend @dufourism to hear more and more configurations to get some idea about whether or not chord is really needed.

    I always feel all current chords (from hugo 2 to dave; qutest is a bit better than hugo 2 and dave is the most decent to my ears) had inherent problems in spatial cues and transients, even excluding their suboptimal headphone outs. But also know others who really liked how chord sounds (relative to other decent dacs). Preference and taste matter a lot.

    If your taste is not bound to chord, Cranesong Solaris is a huge improvement over hugo 2 or even better than dave. Funny thing is that solaris is very similarly priced with hugo 2. haha. I always recommend this AIO to those who want to keep everything simple and concise. Overall performance from its headphone out is at the same ballpark with well-received combinations of (dedicated) dac and amp. It's imho really a worthy consideration. When I had it in the house, I also enjoyed the combination with hd800 (non-s) much.

    But again, everything comes down to preference at the end of the day. If you really like chord dac sounding, then I recommend to change your dac to qutest (used one sold at 1.2k-1.3k-ish) and add an amp of your taste to the rig. Also keep the first sentence in your mind!

    PS. Qutest - Lyr 3 - HD800 was very enjoyable combination when previous-gen Gungnir Multibit and rme adi-2 dac were my audio experience upper bound. Now I hear things differently from then though.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2019
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  15. ToonMechaMan

    ToonMechaMan Rando

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    Currently have the Hugo 2 and Phonitor X and if you enjoy the sound of the hugo 2 then the phonitor X is the best option if you don't want any coloration or loss of transparency. It's like an extension of the hugo 2 with an amp that doesn't suck though I'd go with a tube amp like the ZDS to curb the highs a bit. The phonitor X will carry over the hugo 2's typical delta sigma glare over to the HD800S.
     
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  16. iDesign

    iDesign Almost "Made"

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    I never found the HD 800 S to pair well with any Chord products and that has more to do with my preferences and the technical misgivings of the HD 8X0 series of headphones. Having owned the HD 800 and HD 800 S, I preferred them most with my HDV 820 and to some degree my Eddie Current Black Widow 2+Schiit Yggdrasil A2 (I have since sold all of those amplifiers and DACs). You should listen to any equipment you're considering before making a purchase because no one can predict how you will perceive sound or fully understand your preferences--this bit of advice will save you thousands of dollars.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2019
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