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Behringer UMC204 HD Audio Interface Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Behringer UMC204HD Audio Interface (ADC/DAC/Mic Preamp). I reviewed it a long time ago. OK, it was just two years ago but in dog years, it is a long time. :) I had a different audio analyzer there which made it difficult to measure USB devices. And I only had an ifi DAC on hand and between the two, the UMC204HD did very well on distortion front. Since then I have had a lot of requests to measure its ADC input and refreshing of its DAC measurements using our much more extensive measurement set we use today. So here it is.

The UMC204HD costs just US $97 including free shipping on Amazon. That is quite a good price for something with so much functionality that looks half decent on your desk:

Behringer UMC204HD DAC Audio Review.jpg

The unit is strictly USB powered which is its main downfall as you will see in measurements. A juiced up version with external power would do better but I believe its appeal is partially the fact that it doesn't need external power.

Here is the rear and connectors within:

Behringer UMC204HD DAC and ADC Audio Interface Back Panel Connectors Audio Review.jpg


For testing, I measured the Main Out and two inputs in front.

DAC Audio Measurements
As usual, we start with our dashboard feeding a 1 kHz digital signal at full amplitude ("0 dBFS"):

Behringer UMC204HD DAC Audio Measurements.png


What? Was our beloved DAC so bad? Is it the case of childhood slide being so tall because we were so short then?

I seemed to recall the output voltage was lower when I first tested it. So I dialed down the input by 3 dB and performance hugely improved:
Behringer UMC204HD DAC -3 dBFS Audio Measurements.png


Distortion is way down, below -100 dB and noise floor has also subsided by whopping 35 dB! I don't think I have ever seen such a dramatic saturation at max output. Wasn't sure how to classify the 204HD performance now so put both in the DAC graph:
Best USB DACs Reviewed.png


Note that you can do the same via the front panel by turning the gain down.

We can see the distortion mechanism in play just as well in our intermodulation distortion versus level:
Behringer UMC204HD DAC IMD Audio Measurements.png


You can see the sudden peak on the right as we get past -3 dB.

Jitter performance is good:
Behringer UMC204HD DAC Jitter Audio Measurements.png


Linearity shows one channel to fall behind as we have seen in other measurements. Otherwise it would score better:

Behringer UMC204HD DAC Linearity Audio Measurements.png


Fortunately we are accurate with respect to 16 bit content (-96 dB).

ADC Audio Measurements
Our dashboard is the same here as the DAC with the roles reversed (analog in, digital out):

UMC204HD ADC Audio Measurements.png


This is with 0.54 volt input. Anything beyond that hammers the input stage causing distortion. Here is our ranking among other audio interfaces we have tested:

Best ADC Audio Interfaces Reviewed 2019.png


It is better than low-cost consumer products like SoundBlaster series but doesn't compete in the "Pro" class.

You can see the early saturation in our IMD versus level again:

UMC204HD ADC IMD Audio Measurements.png


Frequency response at 192 kHz shows some peaking above audio band:
UMC204HD ADC Frequency Response Audio Measurements.png


It is the opposite of what I like to see but easily corrected in your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation software). And it looks worse than it is by rising just 0.7 dB or so at 60 kHz.

Dynamic range is once again is just good enough for 16 bit content:

UMC204HD ADC Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png


Response to our 12 kHz signal is very clean, albeit with high noise floor:

UMC204HD ADC j-test Audio Measurements.png


Wideband THD+N versus frequency gives us elevated response:

UMC204HD ADC THD+N vs Frequency Audio Measurements.png


Conclusions
If you don't saturate the input/output stages of the UMC204HD, you have a decent, all-in-one audio interfaces with a bunch of functionality at a reasonable price. Go beyond that and performance gets ugly fast whether it is the DAC or ADC.

I could have given it the headless panther but as a face saving measure for myself :), I decided to give it the "I don't know" panther award. You all can judge its performance (and mine) as you see fit. Just remember: panthers have sharp teeth! They can get revenge if allowed....

--------
As always, questions, comments, corrections, etc. are welcome.

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RayDunzl

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#3
Response to our 12 kHz signal is very clean, albeit with high noise floor:

What constitutes a "low" noise floor these days?
 
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#4
Yikes! Thank you for the excellent update Amir. I purchased a Behringer UMC404HD a while back but found it had the poorest sound quality of the several dacs I have. I even preferred the Apple dongle to it and now I can see why. My biggest problem with it was the low output. I have enough gain with my existing amplifier but it always sounded anemic and lacking bass impact. All of my dacs that have higher output (clean) had more powerful bass and dynamics. With the Behringer I was really expecting it to be better because of the internet praise of it, but found it seriously disappointing. That was before seeing the measurements, so at least my fallible ears got that one correct...it's been gathering dust for months. Thanks again for the empirical data!
 

BYRTT

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#7
Thousand thanks review @amirm,

Regarding units ADC heard from other users over at diyA site that for line level signals if we hack our way into ADC using insert jack at back of unit we can bypass a handfull of distortion caused by the microphone preamp circuit, so will ask can you try that route out and see if ADC for line levels then will improve, technical the insert jack is a tip/ring send/return but at present i dont know if the line input or return into ADC is the tip or the ring terminal but we can see the data in below capture from the manual.

UMC204HD.png
 

Jimster480

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#9
I have a UMC202 and it seems to sound very good when I record things. I only use it for VOIP really though so... I think its more than fine.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #10
Regarding units ADC heard from other users over at diyA site that for line level signals if we hack our way into ADC using insert jack at back of unit we can bypass a handfull of distortion caused by the microphone preamp circuit, so will ask can you try that route out and see if ADC for line levels then will improve, technical the insert jack is a tip/ring send/return but at present i dont know if the line input or return into ADC is the tip or the ring terminal but we can see the data in below capture from the manual.
Them DIYAudio folks are smart! :) Had to kludge up a cable that worked and results are indeed much better:

UMC204HD ADC Inserts 1 and 2 Audio Measurements.png


Above still gets bad though if I push it until I achieve near 0 dBFS as I have done with other interfaces. But as noted, it is substantially improved.

Same is reflected in IMD vs Level:

UMC204HD ADC IMD Inserts Audio Measurements.png


If only it was able to handle 2 volts in, and produce 2 volt out. Seems like everything is designed around 1 volt.
 

Rja4000

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#11
If the issue is with the USB power, I wonder what happens if you switch phantom power on and feed a static or electret microphone with it.
This will probably measure even worse then.
 

Blumlein 88

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#13
If the issue is with the USB power, I wonder what happens if you switch phantom power on and feed a static or electret microphone with it.
This will probably measure even worse then.
That is a good question. Of course some microphones pull more current on phantom 48 volt power than others. Usually a few milli-amps. Of course some cheap, cheap interfaces cheat by letting the 48 volt power sag well below 48 volt. Many condenser microphones, will tolerate this. Some will function pretty well as low as 11 volts.
 
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#16
So, in regards to the DAC performance, how does this affect me as someone who has this connected to a headphone amp through the rca jacks? I see the measurements drop dramatically with a loud signal, but in terms of real world usage what does that translate to? Would it only come into play if I massively turn my amp up, or would I be affected at all times? What about the digital volume control on windows? The review says "Note that you can do the same via the front panel by turning the gain down," but the only gain knobs are for the mic preamps and the headphone out, not when just used as a DAC, unless I'm misunderstanding something.

Subjectively speaking everything sounds pretty good, and I don't notice any issues, but If I could be getting significantly better mileage out of my headphones/amp by upgrading my DAC, I'd definitely upgrade.
 

Bruce Morgen

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#18
Just a note based on my experience with the (smaller and even cheaper USB-powered) UMC202HD. I was experiencing random, unpredictable and very low-volume clicks in one of or both channels that sounded like shallow scratches in an LP. I rearranged my USB device connections in a way that Device Manager reported that the Behringer driver has exclusive use of one of the motherboard's USB Root Hubs -- and the problem went away. Perhaps this means that the UMC202HD's actual current requirements are the hairy edge of what any particular Root Hub can actually deliver in the USB mode required by the DAC -- that's just a technically naive guess, of course, but there it is...
 
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thefsb

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#19
I was experiencing random, unpredictable and very low-volume clicks in one of or both channels that sounded like shallow scratches in an LP. I rearranged my USB device connections in a way that Device Manager reported that the Behringer driver has exclusive use of one of the motherboard's USB Root Hubs -- and the problem went away.
Latency is critical in products like this since people use playback for monitoring while tracking. So we can expect the output buffer to be small. Activity on a shared USB interface could introduce enough delay variation in arrival of data at the buffer so that it runs dry. Then POP!
 

Bruce Morgen

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#20
Thanks -- that seems like a more plausible explanation than my insufficient current sourcing theory.
 
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