It is quite incredible how much technology has changed music over the years. Some would say for the better. But, I’m sure others would point to some inventions that may not have enhanced our ability to make music.
Of all these innovations, created by brilliant, forward-thinking people, the Digital Audio Workstation or DAW could be considered one of the most significant.
Almost overnight we went from multitracking on a tape recorder like an Akai 4000, to begin the process of recording digitally. And then on to where we are now. Able to record at home and produce a quality that is acceptable for release.
Tracking Done At Home…
Musicians and songwriters jumped for joy but not the smaller and budget studios whose work dried up and then who largely disappeared. There was a knock-on effect on the larger studios as well. As tracking was done, sometimes at home, and maybe the drums, some overdubs, and the vocals conducted in the studio.
This loss of revenue had a disastrous effect on some while others changed their business operations to include other avenues of income. Smaller studios with the latest tech sprung up, and the recording of music was thrown on its head.
Today the DAW gives you more possibilities on your desk at home than a studio full of the latest hardware did in the pre-digital days. In amongst all this creativity though there were problems.
One was how do you take a guitar, bass, vocal or other instruments and convert their signal to a digital format for you to record. Cue the audio interface which does that and a lot more.
Piece Of Wizardry…
In fact, the sound you are recording depends heavily on this piece of wizardry. You can plug in your guitars and microphones and even your speakers or headphones for monitoring.
It is important to understand a little of how an audio interface works to be able to make an informed choice when buying. The Behringer audio interface is a quality product and provides this operation to convert your analog signal into its digital counterpart to be ‘recorded’ by your DAW.
So, What Does The Behringer Audio Interface Give Us And How Is It Different?
Let’s look at the basic things first before we get into the tech stuff…
It has a rugged build with its metal construction and will withstand some impact. This is interesting to us in that Behringer effects pedals are often made of plastic. Tough plastic they might be, but nevertheless plastic.
Pedals that are designed to travel are made of plastic. But this audio interface, which is likely to be static in a home studio is made of tougher metal.
Nevertheless, the casing is metal construction, and no one is going to complain. It is designed and engineered in Germany.
On first viewing of the Behringer Audio Interface, the controls and its operation may look a little daunting. Especially if you have never used an interface before. But once you have a basic understanding of how the interface operates it is very simple.
It’s a 4 x 4 2.0 USB/Midi interface for microphones and instruments and has four inputs and four outputs. It’s also got a stereo/mono switch for direct monitoring and an Input/Playback control. There is also a connector for headphones with level control.
Further signal controls include status, signal and clip indicators. The main outputs are XLR or 1⁄4 inch TRS connectors. And, the two outputs are stereo linked for output to your speakers.
Connectivity is provided for MIDI keyboards and other MIDI-based facilities such as synthesizers and drum machines.
It also has analog inserts for the use of compressors or other external effects.
In some respects, it is the bits you don’t see that make the Behringer special. It has four MIDAS designed preamps with +48v Phantom power.
Phantom Power is an electrical signal that is required to use Condenser microphones which are popular for recording. This is an important feature in this interface.
The signal goes into one of the preamps. These boost the notoriously low-level signal from a microphone to a higher level which is necessary for recording.
This is one of the areas that will have a big say in determining the quality of your recording and where the Behringer scores points.
We are assuming you are using a quality microphone. Therefore, the other contributor to the transferred sound will be the preamp in this interface. If your preamp is poor quality, it will have an impact on the finished recording.
The MIDAS preamps are excellent and give real quality to the transferred boost and sound.
One of the issues associated with digital recording is Latency. Put in simple terms Latency is a time delay between what might be played or sung and what you are actually hearing.
The Latency levels in the Behringer are very low, almost zero, which makes for ease of recording and great results without timing or other issues.
To ensure the quality of reproduced sound, this interface will give you up to 192kHz resolution. That is as high as any interface available, but it will take a very powerful computer to run at that resolution.
Most engineers record at 44.1kHz (CD standard) or 48kHz. Some at double those rates, but very few at higher rates because of the PC power needed and the massive size of the files produced.
Behringer also gives you as part of the package access to download 150 instrument or effects plug-ins.
An audio interface wouldn’t be much use unless it was compatible with the DAW’s it was working with.
The Behringer UMC404HD is compatible with all the most used recording software stations including Logic, Cubase, Ableton, Steinberg, etc. It is also compatible with Apple’s Logic lookalike freebie Garageband.
It is operative through Mac OSX or Windows XP or later. So, all the bases are covered.
So, What Is Our opinion?
We are in a fortunate position in that we have our very own professional recording studio with all the bells and whistles. But we also use this equipment for our tracking at our own live venue.
When you first get into all this, it is an exciting period where every day brings a new thing to learn and master. But quite soon you begin to realize that the sound you create is only going to be as good as the equipment you use and in particular the audio interface.
This piece of kit is absolutely vital, and Behringer are aware of that.
They have put a lot of thought into producing an interface that will work with you. To provide great sounds and produce them easily. We are particularly impressed with the four MIDAS preamps. These are so important in an interface and Behringer have given us real quality in that area.
Remember, it is called an ‘Audio’ interface. Sound is what we are talking about. And a quality preamp is vital for the microphone as well as other instruments.
They have also provided enough inputs and outputs to do the job well and to allow multiple instruments to be played at the same time. That is not always the case with an audio interface.
Latency can be a big problem, but not with this. It has been reduced down to virtually zero, so low that it is not registered on the human ear.