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Behringer UMC204 HD Audio Interface Review

6speed

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No graphs handy, but I later confirmed via loopback that there is a ton of 2nd order distortion (presumably in the ADC) and >=3rd is really low.
 

AnalogSteph

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These units are perhaps not the easiest to do loopback testing on. Output gain needs to be kept below maximum to keep distortion from going overboard before 0 dBFS is hit (you shouldn't expect much more than 0 dBu out), and the input (a) generally wants to be kept below about -5 dBFS at ADC level and (b) will not accept more than -4 dBu or something via mic in (XLR) - you need to plug in a TRS to get a +20 dBu line-level input instead.

Lots of H2 in the input amplifier above a certain level would not be a major surprise - aren't these units using NJM2122 opamps there? Those have a single-ended output stage (2.5 mA current source, IIRC), which was an old and somewhat crude way of getting nearly rail-to-rail output in low voltage parts.
 

L5730

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The front page really shows how the DAC performs.
Most DACs can now output 2.0 volts RMS with 100 dB+ of SINAD. In comparison, we are at less than 100dB of SINAD and only 0.78 volts output.
It's useable, of course, but it's going to be quiet and there are dongles that do better. If in the USA buy the Apple USB-C dongle for comparable raw line out performance.
I suppose, with a microphone and proper headroom, the mic input is not soo bad.
Focusrite 2i2 seems better all round really.

But, the vast majority or folks who buy an I/O audio interface buy it for recording as well as playback, and a large chunk of these people want low latency processing and stable drivers. The latency part has been explored before, and some of the older studio folks who use to use analogue gear point out that folks tend to expect too much, and that no one ever did it that way before*.

I was toying with the idea of picking one of these units up when Amazon had a sale and they were about £50 and £80 a piece (202/204). I don't really need something that is sub-par, so better to put funds into something higher quality. Keep shaving off the price of these budget units that would sit in a drawer after 6 months, and the high price of an RME unit suddenly seems a lot more accessible. Windows driver issues be gone.

*Folks would record the DI signal, and would split the DI signal to an FX chain coming back to headphones/speakers for zero latency wet monitoring. The track recorded would be dry DI, other tracks could be used for a split from the full wet zero latency monitor sound. We seem to expect to now plug in an electric guitar and have amp sims, cab sims, reverbs, all manor of other junk, as well as all of the multiple tracks playing and not hear any lag from our in-the-box processed guitar sound. Probably a lot easier to just get a POD and run the zero-latency dry mix to that, whilst recording the DI. Re-amp if necessary or apply whatever FX chain in the box after recording.
 

bennetng

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The front page really shows how the DAC performs.
Most DACs can now output 2.0 volts RMS with 100 dB+ of SINAD. In comparison, we are at less than 100dB of SINAD and only 0.78 volts output.
It's useable, of course, but it's going to be quiet and there are dongles that do better. If in the USA buy the Apple USB-C dongle for comparable raw line out performance.
I suppose, with a microphone and proper headroom, the mic input is not soo bad.
Focusrite 2i2 seems better all round really.

But, the vast majority or folks who buy an I/O audio interface buy it for recording as well as playback, and a large chunk of these people want low latency processing and stable drivers. The latency part has been explored before, and some of the older studio folks who use to use analogue gear point out that folks tend to expect too much, and that no one ever did it that way before*.

I was toying with the idea of picking one of these units up when Amazon had a sale and they were about £50 and £80 a piece (202/204). I don't really need something that is sub-par, so better to put funds into something higher quality. Keep shaving off the price of these budget units that would sit in a drawer after 6 months, and the high price of an RME unit suddenly seems a lot more accessible. Windows driver issues be gone.

*Folks would record the DI signal, and would split the DI signal to an FX chain coming back to headphones/speakers for zero latency wet monitoring. The track recorded would be dry DI, other tracks could be used for a split from the full wet zero latency monitor sound. We seem to expect to now plug in an electric guitar and have amp sims, cab sims, reverbs, all manor of other junk, as well as all of the multiple tracks playing and not hear any lag from our in-the-box processed guitar sound. Probably a lot easier to just get a POD and run the zero-latency dry mix to that, whilst recording the DI. Re-amp if necessary or apply whatever FX chain in the box after recording.
I suppose people here are more or less just use these interfaces for measurements and vinyl rip. For what you are interested just visit various DAW forums, Gearslutz and so on. As a virtual instrument user I would say latency and hardware routing capabilities are essential.
 

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I have been browsing this site for few years by now and actually bought umc204hd due to amirms original review of it, I have been quite happy with the dac.

The re-review has somehow slipped under my radar until couple of days ago, and became curious about few things considering the new results and the dacs ¿subpar? performance, so curious actually that I finally went through the trouble of registering an account and was hoping that some of you guys (who seem to know quite a bit what you're talking about and seemingly are not inclined to audiowoo or pseudosciences) could help clear couple things for me.

The SINAD seems to scale with volume and I was wondering if the results could be even better with lower volumes? I'm aware that the output should be anemic to begin with but the thing is I rarely am able to go above 12 o'clock on the mainout knob and my studio monitors are quite loud even at 10 o'clock so it isn't a problem for my purposes which mainly are gaming and Tidal. Don't have a clue how loud you guys need the dac to go or how cleanly.

Which brings me to the second question, the noise floor is described as high and was under the impression the bar has gone up the past few years but is the umc204hd still adequate for playback purposes as I know its useful to have the extraheadroom for the pro stuff to fiddle with the content without any oddities arising from the depths. For my layman's eyes the noisefloor seems quite good and inaudible in most circumstances. Am I way off or is this atleast somewhat correct?

Finally I'd like to know if you guys think I could hear the difference if I spent 200€ for the Motu M2 or 260€ for the M4, which is a bit steep for my liking and I gues I could make do with the M2 as I only NEED the balanced output for my monitors and one rca out for my JdsLabs Atom and single xlr for my mic. If the M2 doesn't measure as well as the M4 I'd be inclined to go with the better. Ofcourse I'd prefer to stick with the 204hd and save the 200 for dt1990 but can't bear the thought I'm missing out on something. I'd like to remind you that behringer dac can be had around 80€ so to compare the noisefloor to a 800€ Motu doesn't seem quite fair :D

Almost forgot that I would also like to know if someone has any insight on the bigger 404hd version if it performs better thanks to the separate psu and would it be less prone to noise coming from my pc (sometimes a buzz can be heard from the monitors if he pc is under heavylod like folding with the gpu or playing some gpu intensive games)

Thanks to all reviewers and other contributors for a very informative and interesting site and keep up the good work.
 

AnalogSteph

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Sounds like the UMC204HD is getting the job done quite well for you as-is.

What are your monitors, what's their input sensitivity set like and which inputs are you using?

For my layman's eyes the noisefloor seems quite good and inaudible in most circumstances.
That's the thing that matters. We're still talking 99 dB(A) of dynamic range, that's still good for a more than decent compromise between maximum output and noise level, especially if you're not listening too loud - ideally you'd want a bit over 110 dB, then you never have to touch the input sensitivity on the speakers again at all. It's mostly a matter of idle noise anyway, given that you will be very hard-pressed to find any recording with more than about 90 dB of dynamic range.

BTW, you are judging noise floor with your eyes? :p

Finally I'd like to know if you guys think I could hear the difference if I spent 200€ for the Motu M2 or 260€ for the M4
I wouldn't be holding my breath. With some level juggling you should be able to get both higher maximum output and lower noise on your monitors at the same time, but I wouldn't expect anything night and day.

Almost forgot that I would also like to know if someone has any insight on the bigger 404hd version if it performs better thanks to the separate psu and would it be less prone to noise coming from my pc (sometimes a buzz can be heard from the monitors if he pc is under heavylod like folding with the gpu or playing some gpu intensive games)
This issue could be related to all kinds of things:
1. DPC Latency - this is what I would suspect if the issue only occurs when sound is actually playing at the time. If so, get LatencyMon to investigate. An update of graphics drivers or BIOS may be needed. Some people have also reported more reliable operation if the interface had a USB root hub entirely to itself.
2. Pin 1 Problem - your monitors aren't KRKs by any chance? RP5/6 up to at least G3 seem to be afflicted by this. In such a case you can be using proper balanced cabling and still be susceptible to ground loops to some degree. If so, modifying the cabling to disconnect the shield at the input side may be in order.
3. A conventional ground loop because the cabling is not actually balanced for some reason (e.g. erroneously using instrument cable).
4. USB power coming through. Doubtful but not impossible. If +12V and +5 V return currents are sharing paths, it is not impossible that high 12 V currents could lift up 5 V ground enough to effectively make +5 V drop enough to cause problems. This is most likely to happen when using low-end motherboards with few layers and cheap power supplies with thin cables. An external power supply would circumvent this, but so would a powered USB hub.
 

ZööZ

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Sounds like the UMC204HD is getting the job done quite well for you as-is.

What are your monitors, what's their input sensitivity set like and which inputs are you using?


That's the thing that matters. We're still talking 99 dB(A) of dynamic range, that's still good for a more than decent compromise between maximum output and noise level, especially if you're not listening too loud - ideally you'd want a bit over 110 dB, then you never have to touch the input sensitivity on the speakers again at all. It's mostly a matter of idle noise anyway, given that you will be very hard-pressed to find any recording with more than about 90 dB of dynamic range.

BTW, you are judging noise floor with your eyes?:p


I wouldn't be holding my breath. With some level juggling you should be able to get both higher maximum output and lower noise on your monitors at the same time, but I wouldn't expect anything night and day.


This issue could be related to all kinds of things:
1. DPC Latency - this is what I would suspect if the issue only occurs when sound is actually playing at the time. If so, get LatencyMon to investigate. An update of graphics drivers or BIOS may be needed. Some people have also reported more reliable operation if the interface had a USB root hub entirely to itself.
2. Pin 1 Problem - your monitors aren't KRKs by any chance? RP5/6 up to at least G3 seem to be afflicted by this. In such a case you can be using proper balanced cabling and still be susceptible to ground loops to some degree. If so, modifying the cabling to disconnect the shield at the input side may be in order.
3. A conventional ground loop because the cabling is not actually balanced for some reason (e.g. erroneously using instrument cable).
4. USB power coming through. Doubtful but not impossible. If +12V and +5 V return currents are sharing paths, it is not impossible that high 12 V currents could lift up 5 V ground enough to effectively make +5 V drop enough to cause problems. This is most likely to happen when using low-end motherboards with few layers and cheap power supplies with thin cables. An external power supply would circumvent this, but so would a powered USB hub.


Thanks for your reply Steph, yes I'm judging the noisefloor with my eyes when I'm reading the graphs, and I'll trust amirms graphs any day over my own ears :D because I'm not an expert in these things and I propably am oblivious to what good sinad sounds like in practice. 204hd being so good to my senses might have something to do with my listening environment which is somewhat noisy with fridge humming some 10 feet from me etc. the noisefloor thus being alot lower than my listening conditions :rolleyes:

If I remember correctly all my signal cables were advertised as balanced cables but I guess it isn't impossible that I have ordered instrument cables by mistake as I browsed so many cables that day so I'd have to check the receipts to be sure...Which I did and the cables that are jacks to xlr are advertised to be balanced and two cables that are xlr to xlr are infact instrument cables but those aren't in use at home they are a backup pair, and with xlr cables it should not matter?

The monitors are Behringer B2031A and I have paired them up with a Templor T10 sub and I haven't noticed the ground lift on the sub to make any difference on the buzzing. Maybe the cheapest route is to test a powered usb hub and if that clears the buzzing thing. Ofcourse the monitors are separately powered with their own powercords so it could still be a groundloop thing between the pc psu and the amps.

My motherboard isn't a budget model but I wouldn't doubt a second if it was the culprit somehow because the main reason I bought umc204hd so early before the monitors (been eyeing these for quite long because the B2030A versions that my friend has were impressive, and we have mutually arrived to a conclusion that these behringers are "the best money can buy" on a reasonable budget that is, and easily expandable to a killer surround system.) was the fact that the audiosignal from my pc audio outputs were dirty as hell, I could even hear a faint whine from my headphones when moving my mouse on the desktop, all this from a board that advertised to have shielding and snr of 120db, I could find others complaininng about the same problem but not solutions.
My psu is Corsair RM850x (one of the newer models with the 10year warranty) so I wouldn't describe it as a cheap one either.
On a side note I have noticed some difference between which usb port I use, there seems to be a slight volume difference between usb 3.1 gen1 and gen 2 but it might also be my imagination. I also have an usb expansion card in one of my pcie slots but the buzz is the same from there.

Guess I'll hang on to my umc204hd for a while longer and try to solve the buzzing problem somehow (allllllthough my son could use it also thus lowering the treshold of upgrading ;)) Apart from the buzzing which I get on high loads, after upgrading my tv I noticed there's a, much quieter, slight hissing noise coming from the monitors when using 4k 120hz, I guess its just more of the same thing but the stress isn't so great that the buzzing gets so noticeable.

Any tips what should I be looking for in the LatencyMon if latency is to be blamed, Behringers UMC Controlpanel does show the latencies and such also, so would there be any point for the LatencyMon? I have only used the dacs own drivers and I don't have ASIO ones active should those make any difference? Could Latency even be the culprit because I don't experience any pops or crackling?
 
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MTVhike

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I noticed a buzz (hum) when using my 202, but since my computer is a laptop, I simply unplugged it from AC power and the buzz went away.
 

AnalogSteph

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Thanks for your reply Steph, yes I'm judging the noisefloor with my eyes when I'm reading the graphs, and I'll trust amirms graphs any day over my own ears :D because I'm not an expert in these things and I propably am oblivious to what good sinad sounds like in practice. 204hd being so good to my senses might have something to do with my listening environment which is somewhat noisy with fridge humming some 10 feet from me etc. the noisefloor thus being alot lower than my listening conditions :rolleyes:
I thought you were being facetious. I have my listening space in an acoustically treated corner of my generally fairly quiet living room, with a listening distance of about 40 cm.

(BTW, acoustic treatment really helps with unwanted outside noises as well, and can be done quite cheaply if you are willing to DIY.)
The monitors are Behringer B2031A and I have paired them up with a Templor T10 sub and I haven't noticed the ground lift on the sub to make any difference on the buzzing.
Hmm. Aside from having a bit of a reputation for somewhat boomy bass and a bit of hiss (the rather limited amount of input gain trim of only 12 dB is not exactly helping - some other user here wanted to turn them down even more), I would suspect these to be afflicted by pin 1 issues as other classic Behringer products have shown to be. Then the ground lift should make a difference though... unless the Presonus sub is equally affected, that is.

Do you feel confident enough with a soldering iron to try modifying the cables from PC to sub?

Something else you could try is checking whether the buzzing is audible in just the sub with the monitors turned off. If so, you could try and disconnect the cables between sub and monitors and run only the sub with both settings for ground lift to see whether there is a difference between them like that. If none found, it has to be something else.
 

ZööZ

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Yes the scale on my monitors is from +6 to -6 (if I remember correctly) and they are set to +2db, not due to any problem with volume I get from them but rather adapting them to the sub which is quite loud considering I have had it set from -25db to -15db or so, now sitting around -15. The boomy bass shouldn't be a problem when paired with a good sub if, you dial the bass setting down that is, or just use a highpass filter which is set to around 80hz or 100hz (it isn't variable on the presonus, it is fixed to 80hz or off). If what I have seen written on the internet is correct Temblor T10 does amplify the signal throughput by additional 6db? There is a bypass footswitch to drop the sub from the chain completely so you can compare the setup with it and without quite easily. But to my experience the foot switch doesn't affect the volume of the speakers.

Quality of the sub might be questionable and it certainly doesn't go to 20hz properly, not when dialed down like I have it, the location of the sub might not be optimal for me also. I'm not sure what kind of problem the pin 1 issue could produce but I'm not talking about the hiss you can hear when closer to the speakers (mine are some 6feet away from me and the same apart from each other). Like I described the noise in question is ONLY audible at times when my pc is ramped up to max or close to it atleast, and it is more noticeable than any other inherent self-noise from my speakers, the sub included. Haven't tried if I can hear it from the sub only but it seems to me it is somewhat of a higher frequency than my sub is set at (around 80hz)

On a side note I have been quite happy with the Temblor also. Only downsides are an audible buzz from it when it is powered on which doesn't go away even when it is the only thing powered in the system, I have tried even disconnecting cable antennaes and such... but it also is only noticeable when turning it on and before listening anything, when playing music you'll have to concentrate on it in quiet passages to notice it at all but still more audible than the hiss from the behringers I think you're referring to, and the fact that it doesn't produce the lowest of the lows but it is a nuisance only almost exclusively when testing with frequency sweeps :) I have horrible dips in frequencies so it might also be the room modes or such and I am planning on playing around with the sub placement and definitely going to buy a second one later to smooth the response for a larger listening "window". Not sure though if I'll do it before or after expanding the behringers to a surround setup.

Acoustic panels are on my to do/to buy list and actually I have a lead on some spare ones I maybe could get for free or next to nothing but there isn't actually very much I can do considering my apartment and the fact that I'm not willing to sacrifice the space for bass traps and such. Luckily I'm not doing anything professionally or even close, just trying to get the best out of what I have and can afford. There is a very realistic risk that if I start really getting into this audio stuff there is no turning back as I do have some perfectionism in me when I let my self go and my wallet isn't all that flexible :rolleyes:

Couldn't the fact that the sub and the speakers all have their own power cables (connected to the same extension cord)be the reason that the ground lift of the sub does nothing for the earthing of the speakers when toggled on and off? The pc should be behind the same fuse as the rest of the setup but not from the same actual socket ( I would have to check from the electrical board that it actually is all behind one fuse) so it wouldn't be your conventional groundloop? Or have I missunderstood something? Could it be that my Pc isn't introducing something to the umc204hd's signal but rather the Pc introducing some awful currents to the earthing, ofcourse I could try to supply the speakers from a different fuse but all the earths meet at the distribution board all the same so I wouldn't hold my breath for it making any difference.

I'll play around with these things when I have the energy and get back to you guys for sure, but any further insights are ofcourse welcome before then.
 

AnalogSteph

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On a side note I have been quite happy with the Temblor also. Only downsides are an audible buzz from it when it is powered on which doesn't go away even when it is the only thing powered in the system, I have tried even disconnecting cable antennaes and such... but it also is only noticeable when turning it on and before listening anything, when playing music you'll have to concentrate on it in quiet passages to notice it at all but still more audible than the hiss from the behringers I think you're referring to,
I bet that's mechanical transformer hum, an all too common occurrence towards the budget end - it's a Presonus after all, not a Neumann or Genelec or even an ADAM. (Apparently you're not the first one to notice it on this model.) You can squeeze more power out of a mains transformer if it is allowed to run partially into saturation, but alas this also increases idle losses and hum. Core construction isn't necessarily textbook level either, allowing more eddy currents than really necessary. You can imagine what happens when you attach a humming transformer to a speaker casing.

One of the worst cases I remember is a pair of a pair of Genius brand 2.0 2-way PC speakers that cost all of 40€ new (less online) maybe 5 years ago... thin MDF and the cheapest transformer they could find no doubt, but really other than that these really aren't sounding or looking too bad. It's a bit of a miracle they these turned out as good as they are as-is, so I'm willing to forgive them a few weaknesses.
 

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Hi,
do you know if UMC 204 HD can work standalone without a pc powered via external USB adapter or battery? I know Motu M2 and other interfaces can. but not sure about Behringer. I'd like to use it occasionally as an external mic preamp via the insert outs to feed a field recorder's input. Thanks
 

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Haven't had the need to use it in such a way but can't come up with a reason it wouldn't work that way... maybe I can test it later this evening for you Carlo.

I just unplugged the signal cable from one of my monitors and the buzz wasn't there anymore, and when I plugged the xlr back in it was audible again (folding at the moment) which points to the direction of it definitely being in the signal path of the dac, or does it?

Actually ordered an extension lead with four usb outs and a usb in for pc connection last night but had to cancel it from the order when I looked at the manual from the manufacturer's site where it said the usb outs need an external powersupply for independent charging so it wouldn't have had external power fed to the dac when connected to a pc, so I'll have to find a new one to order.

Would something like this do the trick?
https://www.amazon.de/-/en/atolla-S...eywords=aktiver+usb-hub&qid=1606150668&sr=8-3
Not sure if it still takes power from the computer also. Could the power supply just be for the quickcharging thus all the usb outs not having separate source for the data and power and would most likely not eliminate the disturbances?
 

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Haven't had the need to use it in such a way but can't come up with a reason it wouldn't work that way... maybe I can test it later this evening for you Carlo.

Thank you very much. It would be a nice "alternative" use of the interface, though I suspect it's preamps not being of noticeable improvement in a field recording chain. The insert option is not common out of the expensive gear field.
 

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Thank you very much. It would be a nice "alternative" use of the interface, though I suspect it's preamps not being of noticeable improvement in a field recording chain. The insert option is not common out of the expensive gear field.

Sorry to say I didn't have an insert cable laying around so couldn't test the insert output if it works correctly but I managed to get sound from my mic to the main outs and the headphone ouput of the dac itself when powered by a smartphone charger, the volume for some reason seemed low, the charger is rated 5v/1A

No idea if this information is of any use to you, I bet people smarter and more experienced in these sort of things or with the right kind of cables can and will answer your question.

For some reason I couldn't get sound from my guitar to the main outs or the headphone output but the instrument cable might be faulty as I haven't touched the thing in years and bought it atleast 15 years ago. What I managed to get out of the mains when screwing around with the knobs and switches and the guitar was a godawful undescribable noise from my monitors and now I am kind of afraid to test them if they actually got broken:eek:
Guess I'll just have to bite the bullet and test it out... Wish me luck! Hotel california here I come.

UPDATE: Phewwww think they're allright, although did just a quick listening test, got me actually worried for a moment there.
 
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carlo

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Sorry to say I didn't have an insert cable laying around so couldn't test the insert output if it works correctly but I managed to get sound from my mic to the main outs and the headphone ouput of the dac itself when powered by a smartphone charger, the volume for some reason seemed low, the charger is rated 5v/1A

No idea if this information is of any use to you, I bet people smarter and more experienced in these sort of things or with the right kind of cables can and will answer your question.

For some reason I couldn't get sound from my guitar to the main outs or the headphone output but the instrument cable might be faulty as I haven't touched the thing in years and bought it atleast 15 years ago. What I managed to get out of the mains when screwing around with the knobs and switches and the guitar was a godawful undescribable noise from my monitors and now I am kind of afraid to test them if they actually got broken:eek:
Guess I'll just have to bite the bullet and test it out... Wish me luck! Hotel california here I come.

UPDATE: Phewwww think they're allright, although did just a quick listening test, got me actually worried for a moment there.

Glad things works for you! Thanks a lot for your testing. As far as I've read the low output seems to be peculiar of this interface, more than ampère powering. I wish that inserts were more standard in low to mid price interfaces....looks like a very flexible option but also quite rare.
Thanks again
 

MTVhike

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Hi,
do you know if UMC 204 HD can work standalone without a pc powered via external USB adapter or battery? I know Motu M2 and other interfaces can. but not sure about Behringer. I'd like to use it occasionally as an external mic preamp via the insert outs to feed a field recorder's input. Thanks
Have you tried a battery-powered USB source? Assuming you aren't using the USB for signal, wouldn't that work? I did that with my USB-powered 202.
 

ZööZ

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Glad things works for you! Thanks a lot for your testing. As far as I've read the low output seems to be peculiar of this interface, more than ampère powering. I wish that inserts were more standard in low to mid price interfaces....looks like a very flexible option but also quite rare.
Thanks again
I got it working now...so yes I can get audio from my mic through the insert input, don't actually know what I did wrong the last time... now it works (previously I thought that the insert just wouldnot work with a ts mono jack as insert cables are stereo trs split into two or something like that) so my updated answer to your question would be that yes you can use it the way you wanted, but to your knowledge I have no idea if this thing would be good in such scenario
 

carlo

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I got it working now...so yes I can get audio from my mic through the insert input, don't actually know what I did wrong the last time... now it works (previously I thought that the insert just wouldnot work with a ts mono jack as insert cables are stereo trs split into two or something like that) so my updated answer to your question would be that yes you can use it the way you wanted, but to your knowledge I have no idea if this thing would be good in such scenario
Thank you so much
I really learn a lot of things here!
 

ZööZ

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Glad things works for you! Thanks a lot for your testing. As far as I've read the low output seems to be peculiar of this interface
I haven't had any problems with the volume I get from the mic (or to my monitors and headphone amp on playback)when used with a computer but now when I use it with a phone charger I have to turn my headphone amplifier (where I connected the other end of the cable from the insert) quite a bit louder than when I'm using it through the pc so that I can hear my own voice loud and clear. Might just actually be the fact that I'm using open back headphones so I already hear my own voice loud and clear without "monitoring" and thus need to crank it up quite loud before it gets noticeable. But I'm not knowledgeable in recording tech so not sure if the volume would be different/sufficient for your needs.
 
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