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Budget DAC Review: behringer UMC204HD

amirm

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#1
Regular readers of this forum know that we have been searching for an excellent performing DAC for under $100. So far we have not found it. All DACs tested underperformed my reference, the iFi iDAC2 ($350).

If you missed them, here is the review of Schiit Modi 2: http://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/budget-dac-review-schiit-modi-2-99.1649/

And Micca Origen+: http://www.audiosciencereview.com/f.../budget-dac-review-micca-origen-usb-dac.1476/

Next up is a product from professional world (i.e. designed for music recording/playback), the behringer UMC204HD. I paid a meager $79.99 for it, shipping included: https://www.amazon.com/Behringer-UMC204HD-BEHRINGER-U-PHORIA/dp/B00QHURLCW

upload_2017-5-17_19-40-4.png


As you can see, this unit does everything but wash dishes. You have headphone amp, stereo input capture, multiple outputs, microphone phantom power, MIDI, etc., etc.

The unit itself seems quite stout and much more stable than the other budget DACs. It sits where you put it despite cables tugging on it. As with other DACs, it is self-powered through USB.

As you all know, my weapon of choice in testing its performance is to through a 24-bit, 48 KHz J-Test signal at it. Ideal output would be a single spike at 12 Khz. Here is how it did as compared to iFi iDAC3 at over 4X its cost:

umc204HD-jtest.png


Color me impressed! Yes, there is a bit of mains related noise at 60 Hz and harmonics but its level is more than 120 db below reference so of no audible consequence at all. There is also a spike at similar level at 10 Khz. Other than that, the response is very clean.

In the above graph it looks like the noise floor is lower than iFi iDAC2 but that is not entirely the case since the output of the behringer is lower. If we were to amplify its output to the same level as iFi, the two would roughly equalize.

Now let's try another test: a 7 Khz, 16-bit/44.1 Khz simple tone:

7khz.png


As we saw in the Schiit Modi 2 review, the iFi has surprisingly high second harmonic noise at 14 Khz. The behringer UMC204HD on the other hand shows no such harmonic. Both have third harmonic distortion but even compensating for output level differences, the behringer shows superior performance with lower level than iFi.

Considering both of these tests, the Behringer easily outperforms the iFi iDAC2!!! The company has been around for decades and it is remarkable what they can achieve with proper engineering and testing. Boutique company products tested lose to it from performance and by far, on functionality side.

The value the behringer provides is impossible for me to imagine. All those connectors, case, controls, ADC and DAC jammed into a product with shipping included for $80! I just can't fathom how this is done but here it is. Bargain of the century.

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

Recommended! If you need a high performance DAC for the price of a few CDs, your wishes have been granted.

Edit: see the test and review of its headphone output here: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ds/behringer-umc-204hd-headphone-review.2013/

Also the output level from this DAC is anemic which may cause you to not be able to play as loud.
 
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Jinjuku

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#2
Do you know how many audiophiles have chided and laughed at me when people asked for a budget DAC and I recommended the Behringer or an equivalent mastering interface?

It's why I pushed to have this unit benched.

Now here is the kicker:

The 404HD can take external power so you could get a 1 amp, 5 volt LPS or even balanced power supply and see if you can get the 60Hz mains noise to go away.

It's $99 shipped from Amazon.
 

amirm

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#3
Ah, I should have given you credit Jinjuku! Sorry about that.

As to your comment, from here on you can send them here :). Actually, let's make sure the word gets out on good products like this. They deserve it.
 

Jinjuku

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#4
So would the Behringer tempt you to sell the iFi DAC2 and pocket the loose change?
 

amirm

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#5
The iFi plays DSD so no, I still need to keep it. Indeed that is the main reason I bought it. It is on my workbench though and not in my main system. There, I resample DSD to PCM.
 

Blumlein 88

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#6
Good report. These pro audio interfaces are revealing the Emperor's lack of clothing. I think it is partly why all the crazy outlandish ever odder design and marketing tricks to sell higher priced DACs to audiophiles. Anything to keep them from realizing for a few hundred bucks or maybe about $100 or less you can have sound that is close or is audibly as good as it gets.

You didn't mention the travails of getting it to work in your review. So did you have an arduous path, like plug it up and it worked?
 

Jinjuku

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#7
In the above graph it looks like the noise floor is lower than iFi iDAC2 but that is not entirely the case since the output of the behringer is lower. If we were to amplify its output to the same level as iFi, the two would roughly equalize.
One thing to take away is that this is Pro-level output vs consumer. An amp with balanced inputs can be effectively driven to full power with the Behringers output then the noise level of the Behringer actually has the iFi beat floor wise across the full spectrum including 60Hz.

It's the benefit of balanced connections.
 

amirm

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#8
You didn't mention the travails of getting it to work in your review. So did you have an arduous path, like plug it up and it worked?
I had my son install the drivers and he said it was effortless.
 

amirm

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#9
One thing to take away is that this is Pro-level output vs consumer. An amp with balanced inputs can be effectively driven to full power with the Behringers output then the noise level of the Behringer actually has the iFi beat floor wise across the full spectrum including 60Hz.

It's the benefit of balanced connections.
Yes I will need to test the balanced outputs. That is another bonus that I forgot to mention.
 

Jinjuku

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#10
You didn't mention the travails of getting it to work in your review. So did you have an arduous path, like plug it up and it worked?
I can safely say the install was a cakewalk for Amir. *Sorry didn't see his response*
 
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RayDunzl

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#13
Did you test both channels?
 

Jinjuku

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#14
Are all the outputs live concurrently? If so you could go Balanced TRS out to your mains, you could go S.E. L/R to an amp with DSP for a sub, sum the channels for mono, and apply whatever filter and delay you needed or you could actually do stereo subs!

Too bad audiophile's will preach against this interface.
 

oivavoi

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#16
Cool! I love Behringer. Insane value for money. The only thing with Behringer products is that they sometimes fail. The quality control is not top-notch. My experience is that a Behringer product either functions flawlessly, or just stops working and breaks down after a time.
 

Blumlein 88

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#17
Cool! I love Behringer. Insane value for money. The only thing with Behringer products is that they sometimes fail. The quality control is not top-notch. My experience is that a Behringer product either functions flawlessly, or just stops working and breaks down after a time.
Yes, Behringer has that reputation they earned over years. It does seem in recent years they have been better in this regard, but it will take time to shed that rep.
 

Blumlein 88

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#18
@amirm do you plan on doing any other measurements on the Behringer?

At least one I would like to see is the -4 db of white noise in a 44.1 or 48 khz file recorded at 192 khz. That will confirm the FR is basically flat over the first 20 khz, and if combined with a 19 khz tone overlay it will show us the steepness of the filter and whether it does a good job of keeping out aliasing. Here is one for the HDMI switcher this one is 48 khz so I used a 20 khz tone.

ViewHD Jurgen 5 wideband plot.png


I actually find combining the white noise trace and silence with a portion of a sweep to makes it easier to see what is reflection/aliasing around the sample rate and what is a spurious idle tone. Here is the same graph only I used an FFT of a small portion of a slow 20-20 khz sweep. The noise floor is modulated by the below 20 khz signal even out to nearly 80 khz.

jurgen hdmi switcher sweep.png


For comparison here is a Tact RCS 2.0. You see less modulation of the noise floor. You also can see several idle tones which actually were in the ADC.
Jurgen sweep tact 48.png
 

oivavoi

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#19
Yes, Behringer has that reputation they earned over years. It does seem in recent years they have been better in this regard, but it will take time to shed that rep.
Great if their quality control has improved. Out of the five behringer thingys I've owned, one broke down after 1 month. The others still work flawlessly. I have a friend though, who bought three A500 amps to power his DIY speakers. Two of them broke down very quickly, and took with them two of the tweeters on their way down...
 

RayDunzl

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#20
The quality control is not top-notch.
My DEQ2496 wouldn't save settings. Opened it, found splayed pins on the big ROM chip.

My Buddy bought one, random resets ensued. He opened it, found bent-under pins on the big ROM chip.

Both fine (six years?) since reinserting ROM.

Duh.
 
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