Behringer UCA202 tricky crosstalk
June 29, 2009 1 Comment
Behringer UCA202 (see product page or little video introduction) is a neat little box that’s plugged into your mixer (or whatever else in the analog signal realm) via two pairs of RCA cables and than it has another USB cable to your computer. With ASIO drivers you can see it in your favourite DAW and record sounds going into the UCA202 or send master via the same box out (to monitor via your mixer for instance). Simply put – it’s USB Audio Interface. It has absolutely awesome price – you can probably buy it under $30, I bought it for 34€. Obviously in this price tag you can expect some cons. First are pretty obvious – it’s only USB 1.1 which probably determines the sampling frequency (max 48kHz) and bit resolution (16 bit for every channel). And it’s stereo, no multi-input. But hey, that’s CD quality (48kHz is actually a bit better), it’s low latency device, so what do you want for that price?
Well, there is one twist I’ve discovered after some time. I wanted to practice an electric guitar, so I started REAPER, loaded some jam track in it started a playback. Immediately I noticed some signal on a guitar track (that was armed for recording) – signal that wasn’t there before. Now I thought that my out and in ways are well separated, I suspected that maybe it’s a problem in mixing console (also Behringer and also budget solution). But after some time of connecting and disconnecting various cables I found out the sinner. Even when UCA202 is plugged only to the computer (no RCA cables in or out) it sends part of the output back to the input. I’ve found some measurements for this box here and we discussed the issue with author of the blog where this comparison is linked – see the post and the discussion. Funny thing is that stereo crosstalk on the output is lower than this leakage into input. That probably means that there is some design flaw on the board – or maybe in some chip, I really don’t know.
Does it mean that UCA202 is unusable? Well – no. But you should know how much of the monitored music will go into your recorded track. In my case it’s quite alarming -48dB at 100Hz (which is normal frequency for bass, kicks, etc.). Other man mentioned -50dB and Behringer’s support confirmed -58dB. You can actually fight it pretty easily – just lower your master when you record. The unit has quite strong headphones output, so you can monitor there or further amplify your headphones on a mixing console. In that case you can get another 10-20dB which should be OK. But this fact is clearly the biggest flaw of the unit in my eyes. I can live with the CD quality, but this really affects my recorded track. It’s good to know.
Today I was also informed that UMA25S has the same problem like UCA202. I didn’t know what UMA is 😉 so I went to check it out and it’s basically like their former UMX25 (25 midi keyboard with some freely assignable knobs, when your SW can support it) but with USB audio interface actually built-in (UMX has UCA202 in the package). It’s a great idea – probably not their, but I just never thought of that before. So you have one unit with only one USB to your computer and then those RCA connectors on the Midi keyboard plus there is a headset and cool bag. Now I sound like an agent… but hey! Obviously the USB audio unit in the UMA25 has the same problem, which is kinda sad. And it’s still only USB 1.1. Man – imagine M-Audio AXIOM 25 with USB audio device built-in. But then… you still can buy two units – each making what you really want. But UMA25 is a great combo in one piece in case you’re starting with home recording. There is a good video review on this unit.
And the point? I would never expect this kind of problem – however cheap the unit is. It’s probably some design flaw that wasn’t thought of, because it’s crazy if you hear more from let’s say left output on any input than on the right output (that would be stereo crosstalk, right?). It’s unlucky that these Behringer’s units suffer from this (the real values vary piece to piece probably) but you can still use that “lower-your-master” workaround and the price is very interesting. But if you’re willing to pay more, go for something better – and maybe find out information about this kind of crosstalk too. 🙂 Good luck with your home recording.