Chord Electronics 2go + 2yu

Hardware Review

Chord Electronics 2go + 2yu
Thursday, November 25, 2021
streamer server network bridge
Richard Barclay

Chord Electronics’ much anticipated 2yu network bridge started shipping proper this summer, more than a year after its big reveal in early 2020 just before Covid put a rather big dampener on things. 2yu is built specifically to partner 2go and allows the bolt-on streamer/server originally designed for Chord’s award-winning Hugo2 portable DAC/headphone amp to be used with Chord’s desktop DACs and indeed any DAC that has a USB, optical, SPDIF or BNC coax input. It is also fully compatible with M Scaler, great news for owners of Chord’s fabulous million tap upsampler that takes digital replay to the emotional heights of analogue. 

As I explained in my review last autumn, 2go is more than a basic DNLA-compliant music streamer. Equipped with an ethernet port, 2.4GHz WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1 A2DP, not only does it stream music from commercial services including Tidal and Qobuz and from local NAS using MPD, Roon or Airplay, it also has two built-in microSD slots that allow up to 4TB of stored music to be streamed and/or served to other devices on the same network. The pocket-size device can even create its own WiFi hotspot, allowing it to function as a server in the absence of an existing network. A wide range of file formats are supported with maximum sampling rates of 768kHz PCM and DSD256, and everything is controlled via smartphone. Initial setup is done via Chord’s improved but still somewhat clunky GoFigure app that’s available on both Android and iOS, audio playback is then handled by a suitable third-party app such as Roon, Glider, mConnect, Bubble, or via Airplay.

2G0_2YU_ANGLE.jpg

Mirroring 2go’s form factor, 2yu’s twin micro-USB inputs for data and power are reserved for 2go’s captive outputs and couple the two aircraft-grade aluminium components to form a streamlined slab measuring 11.5cm long and weighing just 360g (4.5 inches, 12.7 oz). Readers should note 2yu isn’t equipped with its own battery and won’t function unless powered by 2go. While the latter does have a battery that lasts up to 12 hours when the streamer/server is bolted to Hugo2, it only powers itself. When 2yu is connected, 2go must be powered from the mains via the supplied 5V 2A micro-USB power adapter.

As a bridge 2yu provides a total of four digital outputs – USB-A, Toslink, SPDIF coax and BNC coax – and its functions are controlled by four of Chord’s distinctive, coloured and backlit buttons that indicate and control power, output selection, muting (available on Toslink/SPDIF/BNC only) and backlight dimming. All four outputs can be connected to devices simultaneously but only one of two output groups can be active at any one time, you can choose either USB or Toslink/SPDIF/BNC. USB handles up to 768kHz PCM / DSD256, coax 384kHz PCM / DSD64, and optical 192kHz PCM / DSD64.

2yu-Black-004.jpg

2yu’s internal circuitry can apparently process 2,000 million instructions per second and includes a low-jitter audio phase lock loop and sample rate converter, this automatically downsamples the incoming audio stream when required to ensure compatibility with the selected output. If 2yu receives a 352.8kHz stream from 2go, for example, it is output at 352.8kHz over USB and coax but downsampled to 176.4kHz for optical. According to the user manual, the highest 705.6kHz and 768kHz rates cannot be downsampled, in these instances the coax and optical outputs are muted. 

Sound quality
2go was hardwired to my LAN by ethernet providing access to Tidal, though as a creature of habit I mostly found myself enjoying content from a 400GB (ExFAT-formatted) microSD card and the occasional spontaneous Airplay from a visiting iPhone or iPad. The latter was much preferred to Bluetooth which, being only AD2P, is too lossy to do justice to the equipment under review. I was also glad to be reacquainted with the internet radio on Chord’s GoFigure app, having been impressed by the quality of the higher bitrate streams when I reviewed 2go last year.

2yu-Black-002.jpg

The Chords were used mostly in my main system with a Schiit Audio Yggdrasil DAC that outputs to a Yamaha A-S3000 integrated amp driving Celestion Ditton 66 loudspeakers. The multibit Schiit doesn't accept more than 192kHz PCM and was designed by an obstinate stalwart who takes pride in being DSD non-compliant. 2go and 2yu were therefore also plumbed into an Audio-Technica AT-HA5050H headphone DAC/amp to confirm that DSD and higher PCM sample rates stream without hiccup. Headphones included, amongst others, the forensically-detailed Audio-Technica ATH-ADX5000 and smooth-as-butter Sennheiser HD650. 

In both systems, 2go and 2yu presented my music with more buoyancy than I’m used to but in a tactful manner that did not erode the identities of my ancillaries. Revisiting Richard Page’s life-affirming solo album Shelter Me in 16-bit / 44.1kHz format, there is a stronger emphasis on timing and instrument separation when the Chords are installed. The snap of the percussion in the title track is a little crisper, the bass riffs are a touch nimbler, and the placement of the electric guitars, hammond organ and harmonica is a shade more precise. Page’s intimate vocal style however – particularly in the heartfelt ‘Even The Pain’ – is still delivered with sufficient warmth and emotion. 

2G0_2YU_FRONT.jpg

Switching things up with the DSD64 version of Hiromi’s stunning debut, Another Mind, which introduced the Japanese virtuoso pianist to a global audience, the Chord streamer/bridge combo encourages an even deeper appreciation of her other-worldly dexterity. The frenetic tempo of Dancando No Paraiso paints a dense and volatile soundscape that calls for a system capable of tracing its breakneck twists and turns. 2go and 2yu’s precise transient response ensures the piano, bass and drums all remain smear-free even in the busiest and most intricate segments. The title track slows proceedings to a calmer cadence, here the Chord duo does an excellent job floating the haunting choir of overtones from Hiromi’s sustain pedal and airy reverb tails from Dave DiCenso’s deft cymbal work to envelop you in the performance space. 

2go and 2yu are of course tuned with Chord’s own products in mind, it’s natural that their sonic sensibilities will be steered somewhat when partnered with gear that diverges from the British manufacturer’s quintessentially delicate, detailed and impeccably-timed presentation. Listeners who prefer an earthier and more robust tone can match 2yu, as I did, to whichever DAC and amplifier produces the desired balance, safe in the knowledge that they have a highly transparent front-end delivering a clean input signal. There was admittedly a part of me that wished I had a DAVE and M Scaler to hand, if only so I could fully explore the boundaries of 2go and 2yu’s speed and resolve.

2yu-Black-007.jpg

Verdict
The 2go streamer/server and 2yu bridge are the logical choices for those who want to add streaming capability to a Chord desktop system, not least because they allow Chord’s exceptionally transparent signal path to be preserved all the way from input to output. It’s a ‘no brainer’ for those who also already own a Hugo2 and 2go, 2yu adds desktop functionality for very little additional outlay. The decision becomes less clear for those outside the Chord ecosystem. Quality streamers exist at the combined price point of 2go and 2yu, some of which are simpler to operate but don’t provide as much flexibility. User interface and features aside, I’d be surprised if many deliver music with the pace and precision of the Chord pairing.

Specifications: 

2yu 
Type: network bridge and digital processor
Compatibility: Chord 2go required for streaming, transport & audio interface
Inputs: 2x MicroUSB data & power (for use with 2go only)
Input power: MicroUSB 5V 2A (required via 2go)
Digital outputs: USB Type-A (44.1kHz-768kHz / DSD256), BNC coax (44.1kHz-384kHz / DSD64), RCA coax (44.1kHz-384kHz / DSD64), Optical (44.1kHz-192kHz / DSD64) 
Sample rate converter: Integrated, automatic downsampling is provided if a higher sample rate is being played than the output can support.
Processing power: 2000MIPS
Weight: 2yu 206g (2yu with 2go 362g)
Dimensions 2yu + 2go HxWxD: 22 x115 x 100mm
Warranty: 3 years

 

Price: 
2yu £450
2go £995
Manufacturer Details: 

Chord Electronics
T 01622 721444
www.chordelectronics.co.uk