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Behringer UMC204 HD Audio Interface Review

anli

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Yeah, I was just about to post my updated results. :)
I did some RMAA measurements again, because the last time I used some janky improvised cables that were actually affecting the results in some cases. Or a loose connection here and there can mess up the results...
Posting the screenshots of the summaries, but you can find the full reports and a few more tests in the attached zip:

RCA 3-4 outputs on the UMC204HD to inserts, max volume:
View attachment 160692
(RCA 3-4 outputs have the best performance. RCA 1-2 and the main outs measure almost the same, but with slightly worse crosstalk.)

Apple USB-C on the phone to inserts, max volume:
View attachment 160693

Headphone out on the UMC204HD with the Philips SHP9500 headphones (using a splitter) to inserts, volume at 12 o clock:
View attachment 160694

Apple USB-C on the phone with the Philips SHP9500 to inserts, max volume:
View attachment 160695


Some notes:

I didn't include the front inputs measurements, because they're the same as last time and they are still bad.
But the insert line in performance is actually good and this time it beat the onboard Realtek. :)

The Philips SHP9500 are 32ohm headphones.
The maximum volume for the headphone test on the UMC (the one in the zip that doesn't say volume) was at a bit over half. That's also about the max before RMAA started to complain about too much distortion in the signal.
The max I'd use in practice with these headphones is around 11 o'clock volume (without the splitter).

Audio that's played on the UMC204HD from Windows leaks into its inputs, mostly into the right channel. :oops: This happens even without any headphones or speakers being plugged in. I'm not sure how much this affects the loopback tests, I didn't investigate too much, it's just something I noticed at some point. You can see it with some recording app that shows input levels when you play loud sounds with the UMC as the playback device.
Great, thanks!
FR plots for the cases with phones result in conclusion the phone amp has got rather big output impedance.
 

Guilherme

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Hello,
I'm coming from the 2017's review to this thread and got two questions, as a layman:
1) I have always used the RCA output for playback, but now I am inclined to think that using the main out (p10 plugs) and set the main volume controller on the dac to a bit less than the max what would give me less distortion than the RCA connection. Is it right? Could someone explain this to me?

2) How am I supposed to face such high difference in the measurement equipments? I say, the umc204 measured very well then in that measurement equipment, but so-so on this one. The discrepance between the umc204 and others budget-dacs still the same or maybe this new gear would measure now better a dac measured worst then? How can I compare, now?


Very grateful for all this forum, from which I learn a lot.
 

BeerBear

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@Guilherme : since you asked something about this and I was just testing recently...
The main outs actually have a distortion/clipping problem that is not there on the RCA outs. It's easy to hear if you play a 0 dBFS 1kHz tone at full volume. You need to lower the volume in software to about -0.5 dB to get rid of it. Lowering the volume with the analog pot in the front does not help. It helps to reduce some other distortion, but not this 0 dBFS clipping noise. FWIW, I was testing this with an unbalanced connection (TS to RCA) to an integrated amplifier, if it matters.
This clipping/distortion is even easier to hear through the headphone output.

I was sure this is just a property of the DAC in this thing and that all analog outputs have the same problem. But the RCA 12 and RCA 34 outputs don't, they sound fine. I listened through the amp with headphones and raised the volume, but I couldn't hear it.

RMAA testing didn't show this difference and I think that's because the RMAA test signal mostly stays at -3 dBFS. If you do that, or if you just stay at -1 dBFS, you'll be fine. But I'd still use the RCA outs for connecting to an unbalanced amp input, because they have better LR channel balance (YMMV).
 

drake5000

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The main outs actually have a distortion/clipping problem that is not there on the RCA outs. It's easy to hear if you play a 0 dBFS 1kHz tone at full volume. You need to lower the volume in software to about -0.5 dB to get rid of it. Lowering the volume with the analog pot in the front does not help. It helps to reduce some other distortion, but not this 0 dBFS clipping noise.
This was exactly my experience as well. I'd like to add that turning INPUT MIX knob to the left also seems to affect this.
 

Needbettersound

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Ok so this test explains or confirms why my 204hd records mediocre quality sound from my synth that is connected to the main midas preamps on 204hd via 2x TS cables.
2 outputs on synth have following impedance:
AUDIO OUTPUT (L / MONO, R)6.3mm (Mono) Phone jack, Unbalanced
Output Impedance: 1.1[kΩ] (L / Mono terminal: in case of Mono output, = 550[Ω])
Maximum level: +16.0 [dBu], Load Impedance: more than 10 [kΩ

Basically recorded sound is about 30% worse in DAW than sound coming from headphone jack on synth itself that sounds great In headphones clear and rich. But once monitored from 204hd headphone jack or DAW from laptop, sound is poor. Not the same clarity and richness, somewhat like having EQ filter basically.

1. So my question is could I use back inserts in 204hd to record the synth via 2 TS cables for better results?

2. Or as I am reading would apple USB-C dongle be usable to record trs headphone output from synth insteadd directly to the laptop (old MacBook) be a better option for clearer sound? I mean if it is even possible.
headphone output on synth has following impedance:
3.5mmStereo phone jack
Output Impedance: 33[Ω], Maximum level: 60 + 60[mW] (In case of 33[Ω] Loaded)

3. Or as some suggested Does connecting USB charger to 204hd make it better performing? (Am asking first so I won't shorten something in motherboard or so)

4. Any other cheap audio interface/ dongle for best possible synth recording?

PS: Microphone inputs on 204hd sound good, only recording synth sounds poor...

Update: I tried inserts and it records while cable is half inserted, but it's very quiet, but seems slightly better quality than front inputs. Also while monitoring in DAW sounds clean wowever when playing recorded audio there is introduce some interference that I don't hear while I only monitor which is strange because before monitored sound sounded always same as recorded in DAW.

Thanks
 
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BeerBear

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1. So my question is could I use back inserts in 204hd to record the synth via 2 TS cables for better results?
Not TS, because you need to use the RS (ring+sleeve) connection. You can do it with TRS to 2x RCA plugs, using the right channel (red) RCAs.
A couple of these would work, for example:
index.php


Half inserted TS plugs could work too, but it's probably hard to achieve a good connection that way.

2. Or as I am reading would apple USB-C dongle be usable to record trs headphone output from synth insteadd directly to the laptop (old MacBook) be a better option for clearer sound? I mean if it is even possible.
Apple's USB-C sound card only has a single (mono) input, so you can't record a stereo signal with it. And it's meant for electret (headset) mics, so I don't know if you'd get a good recording with a line level signal.
The Macbook's line in however could be a good option, but we can't know for sure without some measurements.

I think the UMC204HD inserts audio quality is not bad and I'd stick with it, unless you're sure you need more. Maybe your synth's line out quality is already the bottleneck here.
 

Needbettersound

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Not TS, because you need to use the RS (ring+sleeve) connection. You can do it with TRS to 2x RCA plugs, using the right channel (red) RCAs.
A couple of these would work, for example:
index.php


Half inserted TS plugs could work too, but it's probably hard to achieve a good connection that way.


Apple's USB-C sound card only has a single (mono) input, so you can't record a stereo signal with it. And it's meant for electret (headset) mics, so I don't know if you'd get a good recording with a line level signal.
The Macbook's line in however could be a good option, but we can't know for sure without some measurements.

I think the UMC204HD inserts audio quality is not bad and I'd stick with it, unless you're sure you need more. Maybe your synth's line out quality is already the bottleneck here.
Thanks for feedback. I was wondering how I connect TS 1/4 from synth to RCA with some adapter? Also thinking about it, could I connect headphone out from synth directly to inserts perhaps via headphone audio cable with trs jacks on both sides? It's small headphone jack from synth but I would use bigger 1/4 jack adapter jack to the insert in 204hd ... I am not expert on impedance matching but was told headphone out is boosted(louder) than main TS audio out in the back
 

BeerBear

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TS to RCA is easy, there are plenty of adapters and cables like that. TRS to TRS (to one of the inserts) might work, but you'll only get one channel this way.
 

Needbettersound

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TS to RCA is easy, there are plenty of adapters and cables like that. TRS to TRS (to one of the inserts) might work, but you'll only get one channel this way.
20220121_115137.jpg
actually I wonder if this would be possible alternative over RCA to connect from headpphone out on synth into both inserts ? Or would it create some channel interference or impedance mismatch? Also I hope it wouldn't damage synth internals, so I inquire first before trying.
Basically I have this on hand otherwise would have to source additional cables adapters
Thanks
 

BeerBear

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I assume that Y-splitter is 2x female TRS. In that case you'd get the Right channel from your synth to both channels on the UMC.
In case it's 2x female TS you'd get no sound.
I don't think you can damage anything by connecting it that way, but I'd keep the volumes low at first, just in case. The sends are both line level inputs (on the Ring+Sleeve connection) and line level outputs (on the Tip+Sleeve connection). But I don't know for sure. I'll let someone else chime in on the possible consequences of two sources sending a signal to each other.
 

Needbettersound

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I assume that Y-splitter is 2x female TRS. In that case you'd get the Right channel from your synth to both channels on the UMC.
In case it's 2x female TS you'd get no sound.
I don't think you can damage anything by connecting it that way, but I'd keep the volumes low at first, just in case. The sends are both line level inputs (on the Ring+Sleeve connection) and line level outputs (on the Tip+Sleeve connection). But I don't know for sure. I'll let someone else chime in on the possible consequences of two sources sending a signal to each other.
Yes female trs. Actually I haven't tried this option on pic, but when I connected both main audio outs from back of the synth TS cables to the back inserts and put both channels as a source in DAW, then there was only 1 channel. And there was still noise probably from TS cable inserted halfway and perhaps touching something. the sound through inserts was marginally perhaps better (but with interference noise and quieter in volume vs when TS connected to the front inputs on 204HD. Front inputs seem to take away both top and bottom frequencies slightly more probably due to preamps, but back inserts are still of poor quality too vs rich and clean sound inside synth.
Ultimately this umc204hd is unusable to record the high quality samples sound from synth into daw, because native sounds in DAW are of much higher quality then recorded sound from synth. Saying that the native sounds inside synth are of better quality then native sounds in DAW (logic pro), however once synth routed through 204hd, sound mediocre as mentioned...
Yes it can be used for live playing or even DAW and I am sure many ppl are happy with it and won't notice it, but to me it's just lower quality.

Also Reading forums I found out ppl don't notice the difference between "native synth sound" vs "recorded one in daw through audio interface" because they usually don't compare it. They route synth through audio interface either to speakers or DAW resulting they hear the same quality only and usually don't compare original sound from synth internal headphone jack.
Further reading I came to conclusion that even multiple thousands worth of higher quality audio equipment have hard time to transfer the "same sound" that's inside synths or high quality keyboard sounds into daws and almost always results in some kind of degradation basically (of course higher quality achieve cleaner better sound but I suspect if I listen carefully I would find difference and some ppl found too but), but again one won't know unless they compare the synth sound with studio headphones and listening the same recorded sound of synth in DAW through whatever audio interface with "same studio headphones".. I had this discussion with musicians and engineers telling me I am wrong and I am using bad cables, etc for umc204, only when I asked them if they ever compared inside synth sound vs their recorded one routed through whatever audio interface, in many cases they never compared it because most were happy with how it already sounded from audio interface. I am not saying one can't achieve great high quality with audio interface in today's lofi compressed world of sound, but I suspect many ppl don't bother with slightly lower quality sound audio interface introduces because either in the mix or for live sound it's less noticeable.
Sorry for repeating myself but I am not music tech engineer and sometimes I noticed ppl misunderstood what I mean when I talk about this scenario.
lastly connecting condenser mic to this interface delivers great clean sound, but once I connect synth it turns its high quality 8-velocity per each note piano samples into lo-fi mess...
and as mentioned I suspect more expensive audio interfaces would degrade the sound one way or the other but perhaps slightly less than 204hd, but would most even high end gear would have hate time reproduce "identical internal synth sound"... But perhaps I am unnecessarily too audiophile about it and 99% ppl wouldn't notice probably
 
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Gershy13

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So is the dac out really bad on the 204hd? If i use the rca outputs, how bad is it?
 

617

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Unfortunately, i already have the 204, so upgrading to the m4 would cost me £200+ (i need 4 outputs)
I've had both. The M4 is slightly nicer in most respect (nice meters, good build quality, feature set) but there was nothing wrong with the 204hd. I think the mic preamps in the m4 a a touch less noisy, but were totally fine in the 204hd. I don't remember the m4 being any better sounding with my monitors.
 

Gershy13

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I've had both. The M4 is slightly nicer in most respect (nice meters, good build quality, feature set) but there was nothing wrong with the 204hd. I think the mic preamps in the m4 a a touch less noisy, but were totally fine in the 204hd. I don't remember the m4 being any better sounding with my monitors.
Thanks, yeah the input on the 204hd isnt whats lacking to me. The dac output im not sure if they are bad or good enough for mid-fi. I just got the TYGR 300r, and i think i need a headphone amp to pair with the 204hd, as the front output doesnt sound too great and is pretty quiet. My question is, am i okay to feed the new headphone amp from the 204hd (3-4 RCA), or would i be wasting the amp on a subpar dac? How bad is the dac in the 204hd.
 

Bruce Morgen

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So is the dac out really bad on the 204hd? If i use the rca outputs, how bad is it?

I have a UMC202HD (which has the same DAC circuit AFAIK) and it's perfectly adequate in that role. I eventually replaced it with a Topping E30 and honestly could hear very little difference -- perhaps a slightly more "open" sound at the higher frequencies, but not by much. I now use it primarily as the amp for my (very easy to drive Yamaha RH-5Ma) headphones with (IMO) very good results.
 
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