Chord Electronics 2go

Hardware Review

Chord Electronics 2go
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Portable streamer & server
Richard Barclay

The Chord 2go is quite literally a bolt-on box that transforms the company’s Hugo 2 DAC/headphone amp into an app-controlled, portable WiFi- and ethernet-enabled streamer/server. Its two captive micro-USB plugs seat into Hugo’s corresponding sockets for data and power, while two locating screws lock the two devices together. Available in silver or black, weighing 160g and measuring just 23mm thick, its casework precisely mirrors Hugo’s attractive aesthetics. When joined together the two CNC’d aluminium bricks merge into one larger slab weighing 530g and measuring 181mm long, increasing Hugo 2’s footprint by 40%. Although 2go has been designed for Hugo 2, by adding 2yu, a matching £450 bolt-on digital interface from Chord that provides four digital outputs (USB, optical (toslink), coax and BNC), 2go is a standalone solution that can be used with any compatible DAC, including other Chord units such as the Hugo M upscaler.

An ethernet port, WiFi (2.4GHz) and Bluetooth 4.1 A2DP receivers allow the 2go to stream audio via DLNA either as a server or from your own library, Tidal, Qobuz or internet radio using Chord’s Android and iOS ‘GoFigure’ app, from MPD, Bluetooth, Roon or Airplay. Two built-in micro SD slots allow playback of up to 4TB (2x 2TB cards worth) of stored audio via DLNA, UPnP or MPD and, when connected to your existing network, 2go can also serve these files to other devices on the same network. Music can be 'drag & dropped' onto the SD card from your computer's library (as long as the card is formatted as ExFAT), but in order to be able to browse and create playlists once the card has been inserted into the 2go you need to install an app on your smartphone that can create MPD playlists. Chord has a video that explains this process further.

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Maximum sampling rates of 32-bit/768kHz PCM and DSD256 and a plethora of file formats are supported. 2go’s Bluetooth facility is not aptX ready but as Hugo 2 has this facility I’d recommend sticking with the latter when high quality Bluetooth audio streaming is required from aptX-capable sources (I suspect 2go’s Bluetooth is primarily intended for configuring the unit via the GoFigure smartphone app).

2go’s sole micro-USB input is reserved for charging. According to Chord, charging the device on its own takes around 5 hours while charging 2go together with Hugo 2 takes up to 8 hours. 2go’s battery lasts for up to 12 hours but the 2go/Hugo 2 pairing can be powered from the mains without depleting either device’s battery. 2go’s lack of USB data input will likely be an inconvenience for listeners who intend to move the pairing between different systems on a regular basis, since it requires unbolting and separating the two units whenever you want to connect Hugo 2 to another USB source. This admittedly takes only takes a few seconds to do but a simple USB data passthrough facility would have allowed the devices to remain physically coupled. 

As 2go relies on a smartphone for control, there are no controls or display on the unit itself apart from a tiny multifunctional ‘Config’ button and three LEDs that emit various colours to communicate 2go’s input, network and charge status. As well as powering the device on/off and resetting it, the Config button can be used for manual setup if this is not possible via the GoFigure app. I did initially have some issues setting the unit up using the app (the Bluetooth connection to my iPhone wouldn’t hold long enough to complete setup), performing a hard reset did however resolve the issue. 

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It’s fair to say GoFigure isn’t the slickest of apps, but once you get accustomed it’s pretty straightforward to navigate. For most listeners audio playback will be handled by a third-party app such as Roon, Glider, mConnect, Bubble UPnP, or via Airplay from Apple devices, so after initial setup the GoFigure app will be accessed mainly to adjust network settings. I did however make good use of the app’s internet radio facility. GoFigure is populated with around 20 stations, including nine from the BBC, and 2go/Hugo 2 has no difficulty revealing the differences in quality between the streams. With broadcasts that are subject to the lowest amounts of dynamic compression, such as BBC Radio 3 and 4, the pairing presents a surprisingly spacious and layered image that belies its lossy origin. Additional streams can be added manually by locating and inputting the relevant URLs, a slightly tedious process that takes a bit of time to master, but once it’s done you’re good to go (no pun intended).

Sound quality
I employed the 2go/Hugo 2 pairing in and around the house with a selection of headphones including Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 and ATH-ADX5000, Focal Utopia, Sennheiser HD600, HD650 and HD800S, and also plugged into my main stereo system that comprises a Yamaha A-S3000 amplifier and Celestion Ditton 66 loudspeakers. In these environments I didn’t even notice 2go’s additional footprint; it does require a little more ‘bag room’ when transporting from A-to-B, but the liberation from no longer needing Hugo 2 to be tethered by USB cable to your laptop or smartphone more than compensates for this.

I found streaming lossless 16-bit/44.1kHz audio from a MacBook and iPhone to 2go via Airplay almost sonically indistinguishable from piping the same content directly into Hugo 2 by USB. Airplay of course has a 16-bit/44.1kHz ceiling so expect the margin to widen when streaming high-res audio. The latter sounds noticeably better when streamed to 2go using a network protocol – whether that be from a commercial music streaming service like Tidal or Qobuz, local NAS or from microSD storage – and unlocks Hugo 2’s full sonic potential. 

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I’ve still to reveal the ace that 2go holds up its sleeve: the ability to create its own WiFi Hotspot that allows audio to be streamed in the absence of an existing WiFi network. This key feature lets you access your locally-stored music no matter where you are and without compromising on quality, as long as you have a smartphone to control playback. 2go’s capacity for up to 4TB microSD storage should comfortably see even the most fervent listeners through months of living ‘offline’ if need be, and makes the 2go/Hugo 2 pairing a credible alternative for those shopping for a high-end DAP. 

Verdict
Some are hailing 2go/Hugo 2 as a high-end DAP-killer, which is perhaps not surprising having already witnessed Chord’s more affordable Poly/Mojo pairing taking its own pound of flesh from the portable digital audio player market. A combined price just shy of £2,800 would make 2go/Hugo 2 one of the most – if not the most – expensive DAPs on the market. It is also substantially larger than your typical portable player and relies on a smartphone to control playback. These are, however, perhaps the compromises that must be made for a product that is vastly more versatile and almost certainly in a sonic class of its own.

Specifications: 

Type: portable wireless/wired streamer and server with Wi-Fi hotspot
Compatibility: requires Hugo 2 (DAC/headphone amp) or 2yu digital adapter
Power supply: internal battery with up-to 8hr playback or mains power via micro USB 
Wireless connectivity: Long-range 2.4GHz WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 A2Dp
WiFi modes: Connect to (local network) or Hotspot mode
Wired connectivity: Gigabit (GbE) ethernet
PCM and DSD Support: 44.1kHz – 768kHZ (16bit – 32bit) | DSD 64 to DSD 256 (via DoP)
File format support: ACC, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, OGG VORBIS, ALAC, WMA, MP3 and more…
Initial setup, configuration, and updates: Gofigure app iOS/Android
Music storage: 2x micro SD card slots (up-to 4TB)
Playback: Roon (endpoint), DLNA (server and renderer), AirPlay, Bluetooth (A2DP), Tidal, Qobuz, Internet radio and more coming…
Gapless playback: Supported
Size HxWxD: 21x100 x 50mm
Weight: 155g
Warranty: 3 years

Price: 
£995
Manufacturer Details: 

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

Comments

Would be useful to understand how the device actually sounds.

By Deckard

A combined review of 2go and Hugo 2 will follow later this week.