Summary: Great interface, only $80. There’s a reason these are difficult to keep on the shelves.
The Behringer UMC204HD
The Behringer UMC204HD, originally announced at NAMM 2015, is an interface which led me to think “What’s the catch?” After all, a USB bus powered interface with MIDI, two inputs, and four outputs tends to be in the $200 ballpark (Focusrite 2i4, Roland Rubix24, NI Komplete Audio 6, PreSonus Studio 2|6, etc.), yet the UMC204HD is only $80.
The only catch is this: There is no software included with this except drivers. And, oh, it’s a little hard to get; I have seen it out of stock everywhere. Here in March of 2017, none of the music retailers have it, but the camera big box stores (B&H, Adorama) still have it in stock.
Like the Focusrite 2i2, its noise level is quite low, and more importantly, the noise is a pleasant and tolerable white noise instead of an irritating digital whine that older low-cost interfaces have. The Focusrite 2i2’s preamps have about 6db less noise, but the UMC204HD is perfectly usable, and has the about the same noise level when the preamps are bypassed.
In more detail: The noise floor reported by RTL utility when run the audio through the preamps and set the return loss to be 0db at 44.1khz for the UMC204HD is -90.1db; the first generation 2i2 does better here, getting a 44.1khz noise figure of -97.8db. The UMC204HD, when the preamps are bypassed, has a -100.2db noise floor with a 3.9db signal loss, giving us a 96.3db signal to noise ratio, comparable with my 2i2. Note that the 96khz noise figures are higher (around -82db for both the 2i2 and the UMC204HD), but, the noise is probably above 20khz where it can not be heard.
The preamps are bypassed by using the insert inputs on the back; for me to do this, I had to use a special splitting cable to connect to the UMC204HD. Nicely enough, the UMC’s clip indicators still work when using the inserts to get a lower noise floor.
Here is the latency I get, according to RTL utility; I am also including Focusrite 2i2 (first generation) figures at 44.1 and 96khz:
- 44.1 7.680ms -or- 8.733ms (2i2: 11.096ms)
- 88.2 6.822ms
- 96k 6.549ms (2i2: 7.923ms)
The UMC204HD driver is a little weird; if I set the sampling rate to 96k, then reduce it to 44.1k, it has a lower latency than if I set the sampling rate to 48k and then lower it to 44.1k. That said, considering we’re getting roughly the same latency at 44.1k that my older 2i2 got at 96k, I no longer see a need to use a higher sample rate to get the minimum possible latency like I did before.
The drivers, which are a download from Behringer’s website, are noticably better than the Scarlett 2i2 drivers I had on my Windows 7 computer. There were issues with the 2i2 making a very loud unpleasant sound if I had my VST Host give it the wrong buffer size; the UMC204HD does not have this issue because the buffer size is set in the ASIO control panel. Should the UMC204HD get the wrong buffer size anyway, the sound has digital aliasing — but it won’t make a loud sound that requires the monitors to immediately be turned off the way the 2i2 does.
I also have had issues with the 2i2 drivers no longer working until I rebooted my computer; this so far hasn’t been an issue with the UMC drivers.
This interface has two mic/line inputs, and six outputs: A 1/4" TRS balanced pair, whose output is duplicated on a pair of unbalanced RCA connectors, as well as a second RCA stereo pair, which could be useful for having the UMC204HD run two different reverbs at the same time during the mix down of a song. Unlike the 2i2, the UMC204HD also has a MIDI input and output.
While the UMC204HD costs about half as much as a Scarlett 2i2, it has the same inputs and outputs as the higher end Scarlett 2i4.
At $80, this is a very good interface. There plain simply is no other interface right now that matches the UMC204HD’s features at the under $100 price point. There’s a reason retailers have a hard time keeping this interface in stock.