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Budget DAC Review: behringer UMC204HD

Old Listener

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#81
Thanks to everyone who replied.

You know the joke about the difference between theory and practice. The punchline is "In theory, there is no difference."

I was looking for hands on experience using the Behringer DAC.

Two points:

1. I understand the USB specs. However that 0.5 amp at 5 volts input to the DC has to do more than just provide current to the balanced audio outputs.

2. Computers may not provide as much power as the USB specs says they should. Yesterday, I was trying out a configuration with a 2016 Lenovo Flex 4 laptop connected to a Peachtree USB to spdif (coax) / Toslink device. I got quite inconsistent results. Sometimes the laptop recognized the converter as an audio device and sometimes it did not.

That laptop had recently has the Win 10 update with UAC2. The converter is a UAC2 device requiring a 3rd party driver for all but recent Windows versions. I suspected that the UAC 2 support in Win 10 on the laptop was not working properly. I ruled that possibility out and got to work troubleshooting the problem. Here's what I found:

On one USB port, the converter's power LED was on but the converter wasn't recognized as an audio device. This was consistent whether the laptop was on battery power or plugged in to house power.

On a different USB port, the converter wasn't recognized as an audio device when the laptop was on battery power but was recognized properly when the laptop was on house power.

Defective laptop? No, just a bit of cheating on the specs to get more battery life.
 

Blumlein 88

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#82
Thanks to everyone who replied.

You know the joke about the difference between theory and practice. The punchline is "In theory, there is no difference."

I was looking for hands on experience using the Behringer DAC.

Two points:

1. I understand the USB specs. However that 0.5 amp at 5 volts input to the DC has to do more than just provide current to the balanced audio outputs.

2. Computers may not provide as much power as the USB specs says they should. Yesterday, I was trying out a configuration with a 2016 Lenovo Flex 4 laptop connected to a Peachtree USB to spdif (coax) / Toslink device. I got quite inconsistent results. Sometimes the laptop recognized the converter as an audio device and sometimes it did not.

That laptop had recently has the Win 10 update with UAC2. The converter is a UAC2 device requiring a 3rd party driver for all but recent Windows versions. I suspected that the UAC 2 support in Win 10 on the laptop was not working properly. I ruled that possibility out and got to work troubleshooting the problem. Here's what I found:

On one USB port, the converter's power LED was on but the converter wasn't recognized as an audio device. This was consistent whether the laptop was on battery power or plugged in to house power.

On a different USB port, the converter wasn't recognized as an audio device when the laptop was on battery power but was recognized properly when the laptop was on house power.

Defective laptop? No, just a bit of cheating on the specs to get more battery life.

Pretty easy fix though. Buy a powered USB hub. I think Amir has tested some so you'll know your getting one that doesn't pass on lots of noise. Get a USB 3.0 hub, those have a bit more oomph to them, and are backwards compatible to USB 2.0. The 204HD will have plenty of USB power then, and presumably (theoretically :)) so would the Peachtree.

I believe Jinjuku has either the 204 or 404HD if you have specific concerns he may can answer questions.
 

Jinjuku

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#83
Thanks to everyone who replied.

You know the joke about the difference between theory and practice. The punchline is "In theory, there is no difference."

I was looking for hands on experience using the Behringer DAC.

Two points:

1. I understand the USB specs. However that 0.5 amp at 5 volts input to the DC has to do more than just provide current to the balanced audio outputs.

2. Computers may not provide as much power as the USB specs says they should. Yesterday, I was trying out a configuration with a 2016 Lenovo Flex 4 laptop connected to a Peachtree USB to spdif (coax) / Toslink device. I got quite inconsistent results. Sometimes the laptop recognized the converter as an audio device and sometimes it did not.

That laptop had recently has the Win 10 update with UAC2. The converter is a UAC2 device requiring a 3rd party driver for all but recent Windows versions. I suspected that the UAC 2 support in Win 10 on the laptop was not working properly. I ruled that possibility out and got to work troubleshooting the problem. Here's what I found:

On one USB port, the converter's power LED was on but the converter wasn't recognized as an audio device. This was consistent whether the laptop was on battery power or plugged in to house power.

On a different USB port, the converter wasn't recognized as an audio device when the laptop was on battery power but was recognized properly when the laptop was on house power.

Defective laptop? No, just a bit of cheating on the specs to get more battery life.
Then get the UMC404HD as that can take external 5v power via a barrel connector.

 

Old Listener

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#84
Pretty easy fix though. Buy a powered USB hub. I think Amir has tested some so you'll know your getting one that doesn't pass on lots of noise. Get a USB 3.0 hub, those have a bit more oomph to them, and are backwards compatible to USB 2.0. The 204HD will have plenty of USB power then, and presumably (theoretically :)) so would the Peachtree.

I believe Jinjuku has either the 204 or 404HD if you have specific concerns he may can answer questions.
A good practical solution that reminded me of a Vaunix USB hub that caught my eye years ago. I added it to one of Amazon wish lists but I never needed a USB hub. Certainly not enough to warrant spending $ 200 on one.

http://vaunix.com/products/usb-hubs/overview/


I have not yet found a mention by Amir of a good USB hub.

I'd prefer to keep the number of (small) boxes to a minimum. In one arrangement, I'd have a couple of small components tucked away behind one speaker. A 4 1/2 by 4 1/2 NUC PC and a small form factor DAC appear to be the necessary items.

Jinjuku has replied in this thread several times so far with good comments.
 

Old Listener

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#85
Then get the UMC404HD as that can take external 5v power via a barrel connector.

A very good suggestion. The 11.5" width is a bit more than I wanted for the DAC component but I think I can tuck it out of sight behind a speaker stand.

It would be nice to have XLR as well 1/4" phone plug balanced connectors as well as 2 pairs of unbalanced outputs. The power adapter would be good to have around even if I don't need it for the first use.

Looking at all those outputs makes me think about other arrangements. I change the configuration of my audio gear every so often and it is nice to have flexible gear that can be used in each new configuration.

I note that the 404HD comes with a 5V adapter. Have you used the 404HD with that adapter?

Thanks for your good input so far.
 

amirm

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#90
While you are here, do you have a recommendation for a well behaved USB hub?
I have bought a few to test. But I only have data on two of them: the bestbuy Insignia and the D-link. The Best Buy insignia is cleaner. All of this is with the Schiit Modi 2 DAC though. For any well-behaved DAC it probably doesn't make a difference. Let me test that when I get a chance. :)
 

Palladium

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#91
Thanks to everyone who replied.

You know the joke about the difference between theory and practice. The punchline is "In theory, there is no difference."

I was looking for hands on experience using the Behringer DAC.

Two points:

1. I understand the USB specs. However that 0.5 amp at 5 volts input to the DC has to do more than just provide current to the balanced audio outputs.

2. Computers may not provide as much power as the USB specs says they should. Yesterday, I was trying out a configuration with a 2016 Lenovo Flex 4 laptop connected to a Peachtree USB to spdif (coax) / Toslink device. I got quite inconsistent results. Sometimes the laptop recognized the converter as an audio device and sometimes it did not.
Ok, so you think you understand USB specs, but Behringer doesn't? Suuuuuuuuuuuuure.
 

Old Listener

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#92
Thanks, Amir.

I would not be looking for a hub to improve the performance of a less-than-well behaved DAC like the Modi 2 but rather to get more power to a well behaved DAC.

You seem to have verified that the Insignia hub didn't lead to worse performance for DACs other than the Modi 2 (which was improved.) That may be enough for my purpose.

You have been very willing to provide measurements for quite a few people. I appreciate your efforts and your patience in responding to unhappy vendors of gear you've tested. More patience than I would have had.
 

Old Listener

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#93
Ok, so you think you understand USB specs, but Behringer doesn't? Suuuuuuuuuuuuure.
Several people recited the USB current spec to me so I just stated that I was familiar with that USB spec. I said nothing about whether Behringer understood USB specs or not. I have been asking questions to better understand whether the 204HD would perform as I needed it to. Experiments and measurements independent of the manufacturer answer such questions. So does sharing real world experience is for.

Other people have given me good information and several options for solving problems. I appreciate that.
 

Blumlein 88

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#94
A poster at Gearslutz with username Plush posted his review of the 204HD. This guy is an award winning big time fellow in the recording world for those who like credentials. Uses some of the best gear available and gets kudos for his work worldwide. He decided to buy and review the 204HD. Here is a link to his review. I think it is pretty high praise for a $79 unit. The other converter he is comparing to is a pro interface over $5k.

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/12805173-post169.html

Behringer U-Phoria UMC204HD $79.95

Bottom line--excellent sound but lacks refinement. Loud headphone amp.
Analog section lacks last 20% of detail.
Restricted dynamic range at 110dB, A-weighted
D/A better than A/D
Has fidelity better than a dat machine.

I judged by listening.


The Behringer unit is cheap and cheerful and performs very well. It has fidelity better than a dat machine, a very loud headphone amp, and good detail encoding on a/d. Its playback characteristics are very high fidelity with a slightly bright character but not Chinese bright. Unit is quiet.

Usable on all styles of music including classical orchestra.

Unit is devoid of features that get in the way of you using it right out of the box.
I tested it on a Mac computer and it worked right away after I selected the Behringer as the input and output device in Core audio.

Works with mic, line and instrument input. Good a/d encoding, good d/a playback.

One thing is not so great about this unit. 192kHz. recording bandwidth tops out at 30kHz. Something is wrong.

I have dedicated it to using on my computer to hear music, and videos. I listen to it on headphones.

If you need it quick and you need it good, spend $79.95 and use it today.
 
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Jinjuku

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#95
About sums it up. I think it would perform better if it had stronger output. It's certainly knocking the legs out of the $400 Audiophile DAC's.
 

Old Listener

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#97
A poster at Gearslutz with username Plush posted his review of the 204HD. This guy is an award winning big time fellow in the recording world for those who like credentials. Uses some of the best gear available and gets kudos for his work worldwide. He decided to buy and review the 204HD. Here is a link to his review. I think it is pretty high praise for a $79 unit. The other converter he is comparing to is a pro interface over $5k.

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/12805173-post169.html

Behringer U-Phoria UMC204HD $79.95

Bottom line--excellent sound but lacks refinement. Loud headphone amp.
Analog section lacks last 20% of detail.
Restricted dynamic range at 110dB, A-weighted
D/A better than A/D



The Behringer unit is cheap and cheerful and performs very well. It has fidelity better than a dat machine, a very loud headphone amp, and good detail encoding on a/d. Its playback characteristics are very high fidelity with a slightly bright character but not Chinese bright. Unit is quiet.



Works with mic, line and instrument input. Good a/d encoding, good d/a playback.

One thing is not so great about this unit. 192kHz. recording bandwidth tops out at 30kHz. Something is wrong.

I have dedicated it to using on my computer to hear music, and videos. I listen to it on headphones.

If you need it quick and you need it good, spend $79.95 and use it today.
Thanks, Blumlein 88.

Reviews of pro audio interfaces often fail to even mention playback characteristics. This review has some useful detail.

Buying a 404HD is on my list to buy but problems with electronics keep popping up faster than I can troubleshoot and resolve them.
 

Blumlein 88

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#98
Was "Plush" most likely referring to a Digital Audio Tape (DAT) machine?
I assumed so. Maybe it was something else.

The DAD is Digital Audio Denmark which is also a pro audio company.

http://www.digitalaudio.dk/Forside



BTW, the little $79 DAC must be pretty okay. He has thrown rather expensive microphones he didn't like or one whose company he didn't like in the street from his moving car when he really dislikes them. Doesn't want the gear and doesn't want anyone else using it either.
 

Old Listener

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#99
About a week ago, I asked about the Behringer 204HD's ability to drive balanced cables and got a number of responses.

Today I found a couple of reviews that provided some additional information about output from the 204HD.

From a customer review by OCDShopper on Amazon (https://smile.amazon.com/Behringer-...TF8&coliid=I2KCX53CXRWSRH&colid=1LHJSAHO9QMMU)

"Both on the product's box, as well as 2 places on the manufacturer's website, this model is said to have "Main Outputs on balanced XLR". I found this to be completely false.

Those who know how balanced audio works know that XLR pins 1, 2, and 3 correspond to "ground", "hot", and "cold". If you output a steady sine wave (e.g. generate one with Audacity and play it), you should be able to measure (e.g. with a high impedance digital multimeter, preferably true RMS) a small AC voltage between "hot" and "ground". The voltage between "cold" and "ground" should be exactly the same, except that it's reversely phased. Consequently, the voltage measured between "hot" and "cold" will be twice the voltage between "hot" and "ground" or "cold" and "ground". (That's why balanced audio is described as having twice the headroom.)

Anyway, on this device, I found that there is always 0.00 AC volts between "cold" and "ground" and equal voltage hot-to-ground and hot-to-cold. (If you measure resistance w/o power or signal connected, you'll find only about 100 ohms between cold and ground.) So, if you use this device, you will not get balanced audio output even on the main channels (as advertised), much less on the other outputs, and this output will be much more susceptible to picking up interference."

and from a review by CameraTim (http://www.cameratim.com/reviews/audio/behringer-u-phoria-umc404hd-audio-interface/)

"It's a four-channel line-out digital to analogue converter (DAC), with ¼″ TRS and RCA jacks for balanced and unbalanced connections. They're not actually true balanced outputs, they're what's known as “impedance balanced” (one leg of the output is driven (tip), the other leg (ring) is terminated to ground with a resistance similar to output-driver's impedance).

I can't say that I like impedance-balanced connections. If not done precisely (and it rarely is—a simple resistor to ground does not have the same characteristics as the output stage of the driven half of the allegedly balanced output), CMRR will be poor. You don't have the isolation that a fully-floating (non-ground-referenced) connections will have. You get no signal if someone has made an unbalanced connection by grounding pin two instead of pin three. And some balanced-input equipment doesn't work too well when only one leg is driven (I have one mixer like that). While some may say I'm being picky, haveing the best possible noise-rejection is important when working in electrically noisy environments, especially when you have leads going all over the place."

and

"Monitoring sounds good, though is seriously on the low side (on all of the unit's line outputs), I have to turn my amplifier up much higher than I do when monitoring the +4 dBuoutput of other gear (this is with all the computer's software volume controls set up at maximum). Normally, professional equipment has a +4 dBu output when producing a nominal output level...

I know it's difficult to produce full standard output levels when using equipment running from a low voltage supply (the whole thing runs from 5 volts DC from the computer, or a wall-wart), but it obviously has at least one switch-mode power supply in it to produce the 48 volt phantom supply, so they could have done something similar for the main line-outputs (provide the output stages with a high-enough supply for producing industry-standard output levels)."



I checked the Behringer 204HD / 404HD user guide from found that the spec for output level was 0 dBu rather than +4.

The reviews won't keep me from buying the Behringer 404HD but I will be a bit more cautious.
 

Blumlein 88

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About a week ago, I asked about the Behringer 204HD's ability to drive balanced cables and got a number of responses.

Today I found a couple of reviews that provided some additional information about output from the 204HD.

From a customer review by OCDShopper on Amazon (https://smile.amazon.com/Behringer-...TF8&coliid=I2KCX53CXRWSRH&colid=1LHJSAHO9QMMU)

"Both on the product's box, as well as 2 places on the manufacturer's website, this model is said to have "Main Outputs on balanced XLR". I found this to be completely false.

Those who know how balanced audio works know that XLR pins 1, 2, and 3 correspond to "ground", "hot", and "cold". If you output a steady sine wave (e.g. generate one with Audacity and play it), you should be able to measure (e.g. with a high impedance digital multimeter, preferably true RMS) a small AC voltage between "hot" and "ground". The voltage between "cold" and "ground" should be exactly the same, except that it's reversely phased. Consequently, the voltage measured between "hot" and "cold" will be twice the voltage between "hot" and "ground" or "cold" and "ground". (That's why balanced audio is described as having twice the headroom.)

Anyway, on this device, I found that there is always 0.00 AC volts between "cold" and "ground" and equal voltage hot-to-ground and hot-to-cold. (If you measure resistance w/o power or signal connected, you'll find only about 100 ohms between cold and ground.) So, if you use this device, you will not get balanced audio output even on the main channels (as advertised), much less on the other outputs, and this output will be much more susceptible to picking up interference."

and from a review by CameraTim (http://www.cameratim.com/reviews/audio/behringer-u-phoria-umc404hd-audio-interface/)

"It's a four-channel line-out digital to analogue converter (DAC), with ¼″ TRS and RCA jacks for balanced and unbalanced connections. They're not actually true balanced outputs, they're what's known as “impedance balanced” (one leg of the output is driven (tip), the other leg (ring) is terminated to ground with a resistance similar to output-driver's impedance).

I can't say that I like impedance-balanced connections. If not done precisely (and it rarely is—a simple resistor to ground does not have the same characteristics as the output stage of the driven half of the allegedly balanced output), CMRR will be poor. You don't have the isolation that a fully-floating (non-ground-referenced) connections will have. You get no signal if someone has made an unbalanced connection by grounding pin two instead of pin three. And some balanced-input equipment doesn't work too well when only one leg is driven (I have one mixer like that). While some may say I'm being picky, haveing the best possible noise-rejection is important when working in electrically noisy environments, especially when you have leads going all over the place."

and

"Monitoring sounds good, though is seriously on the low side (on all of the unit's line outputs), I have to turn my amplifier up much higher than I do when monitoring the +4 dBuoutput of other gear (this is with all the computer's software volume controls set up at maximum). Normally, professional equipment has a +4 dBu output when producing a nominal output level...

I know it's difficult to produce full standard output levels when using equipment running from a low voltage supply (the whole thing runs from 5 volts DC from the computer, or a wall-wart), but it obviously has at least one switch-mode power supply in it to produce the 48 volt phantom supply, so they could have done something similar for the main line-outputs (provide the output stages with a high-enough supply for producing industry-standard output levels)."



I checked the Behringer 204HD / 404HD user guide from found that the spec for output level was 0 dBu rather than +4.

The reviews won't keep me from buying the Behringer 404HD but I will be a bit more cautious.
I thought here, maybe it was in another thread, I mentioned the output was somewhere they cut corners. That it was 0 dbU. Now being fake balanced is an even bigger corner cut. I guess no worse than so many single ended DACs for several hundred dollars. Still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Anyway, thanks for the info.

The Focusrite 2i2 might be better though it will be close to $150. It has true balanced outputs and 10 dbU output levels.
 
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