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Behringer UMC-204HD Dac and Headphone Amplifier Review

amirm

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#1
Previously I had reviewed and measured the Behringer UMC-204HD which retails for a paltry $79 with excellent results. See: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ds/budget-dac-review-behringer-umc204hd.1658/

Question was asked about its headphone performance. So I setup a quick test, driving both my Audio Precision analyzer with 300 ohms (not ideal but good enough) and a pair of Sony MDRV6 headphones for subjective testing. As a comparison, I also put next to it the Exasound E32 which retails for $3,500.

Subjective results/listening test
I played one of my audiophile tracks and listened using my Z-series HP laptop in-built headphone out. Sound was good although at max volume, not deafening. I then switched to the Behringer. I had to turn up the volume on it to mid-position to get it to be louder than my laptop output. There, it provided a slight improvement in fidelity.

I then turned up the volume further and the fidelity went to hell. As you go past 12:00 o'clock mid-level setting, distortion starts to set in and pretty quickly. I say my ears complained about it being too loud around the same place. At max volume, it was totally unlistenable. The output was very distorted.

I powered on the Exasound E32 DAC and listened using its headphone output. Boy, was this clean and it could go to ear bleeding leven with no hint of distortion. Comfortable level was at -15 db. It simply was no contest. Compared to the Exasound, the Behringer was like a clock radio.

I then listened at lower levels. There, the Exasound had cleaner highs and more delineation in notes. It had that "high-end" delicate sound which the Behringer lacks. Of course switching over took many seconds so this subjective assessment may not be reliable But there is. :)

Objective Measurements
I knew what to expect here but it is good to put numbers to fidelity. First I tested the Behringer at its mid-level volume setting which was louder than my laptop but not yet distorted. And compared that to Exasound at full volume:

Headphone with mid-volume.png


We see that the noise floor is very low and comparable to Exasound. However, the peak level is much lower than Exasound so overall fidelity is much lower.

Numerically the differential between peak signal and highest distortion which was third harmonic was 89 db for Behringer. The Exsound produced 96 db differential so about 7 dB better.

Turning up the volume to max on Behringer produced these results:

Headphone with max-volume.png


Now you see both problems I mentioned. The noise floor of the Behringer has shot up tens of db. Yet is output is still lower than the Exasound.

Differentially the behringer signal to third harmonic is just 12 db!!! The Exasound as before maintains its 96 db differential.

Summary
Despite its excellent line output performance, the Behringer has a very mediocre headphone output. It gets distorted quick, does not have lots of power, and has raised noise floor at higher volumes. So if headphone usage is your main application, you should look elsewhere.

I plan to do more headphone measurements in the future with a better setup.
 
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#5
Thank you, Amir, for this review. It's very helpful.

Do you know of any inexpensive headphone amps that put out decent sound to pair with the Behringer's line-level output? Alternately, do you have a recommendation for a budget headphone DAC/amp combo device? I've read a lot of reviews and recommendations on other sites, but very few go into the depth of testing that you do.
 

amirm

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#6
My pleasure. I don't yet have a recommendation until I do more testing. I have been very happy with my laptop output with IEMs that I have not felt the need to investigate in the past. Give me a day or two to test the rest of the DACs I have.

On headphone amps, I don't have any dedicated ones. If there are cheap ones people know about and like to see them tested, I can buy them and do that.
 
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#8
I broke down and bought an FiiO E10K. I went back and forth between that and the AudioQuest Dragonfly Black. From the reviews I read, it sounds like the Dragonfly may produce slightly better sound. The extra outputs and being able to adjust the volume directly on the unit made me chose the E10K though.

Any members here have an opinion on the FiiO E10K?
 
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#9
On headphone amps, I don't have any dedicated ones. If there are cheap ones people know about and like to see them tested, I can buy them and do that.
Is there a reason to use a headphone amp if the DAC output is loud enough and I can control the volume in software?
 
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#10
Is there a reason to use a headphone amp if the DAC output is loud enough and I can control the volume in software?
My understanding is that if the sound through headphones is loud enough then the DAC unit also has an integrated amp. Line-level (unamplified) output to headphones would be too quiet. In the case of the Behringer, Amir found that the DAC output is excellent, but the integrated headphone amp is noisy.
 
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#11
My understanding is that if the sound through headphones is loud enough then the DAC unit also has an integrated amp. Line-level (unamplified) output to headphones would be too quiet. In the case of the Behringer, Amir found that the DAC output is excellent, but the integrated headphone amp is noisy.
I suspect that my DAC(s) are loud enough at line level because I'm using their balanced outputs with HD650's. Headphone amps I've tried made a difference, but usually for the worse.
 

sejarzo

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#17
can you connect a headphone amp to behringer’s headphone out without any problems?
Why would you do that rather than to the line output or playback jacks? Insufficient gain in your headamp to overcome the low output level of those back panel outputs?
 
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#18
Why would you do that rather than to the line output or playback jacks? Insufficient gain in your headamp to overcome the low output level of those back panel outputs?
because almost all cheap interfaces have only one line out. and that will go to my active speakers. so the question was more of a general one. for the behringer, i would plug the headphone amp to one of it’s 2 line-outs. and I assume it will work fine
 
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