Behringer F-Control Audio FCA202 Issue 47

Behringer F-Control Audio FCA202 Issue 47
REVIEWS: IN BRIEF
EDIROL UA-4FX USB AUDIO/MIDI INTERFACE
BEHRINGER F-CONTROL AUDIO FCA202
PRESONUS EUREKA
I’m cleaning up the studio and in between a pair
of racks I find what can only be described as
the world’s smallest USB audio interface. These
things seem to be growing out of the woodwork!
Roland (Edirol’s parent company) has done
an impressive job of cramming pretty much
everything you’d need to get audio captured
and mixed in a unit no larger than a video
cassette – and a Beta one at that. So what’s in the
diminutive UA-4FX? Let’s take a tour.
Now this is the kind of thing that technology,
together with Chinese manufacturing, should
be bringing us… a Firewire 96k-capable audio
interface for $160. Yes, that’s right. Forget about
USB, let’s just head for an inexpensive Firewire
version. Admittedly, the F-Control Audio
FCA202 is about as simple and cheap as an audio
interface gets, which for many could well be its
most attractive feature. The unit is also quite
small (measuring 28 x 115 x 95mm), so portability
is no doubt high on the F-Control’s agenda.
With the market flooded by budget recording tools
it can all become a bit confusing when making
the decision of ‘where to spend your hard earned
dollar’. I recently had the opportunity to test out
the Eureka channel strip, which hit the market
some time ago now, and I must say PreSonus has
definitely got it right with this bit of kit.
As mentioned, the unit connects via USB 1.1
and is completely bus powered. Compatibility
extends to Mac OSX, OS9 and Windows XP,
2000, ME and 98. Traipsing around the unit
you’ll find stereo RCA inputs and outputs capable
of recording and playing back 24-bit/96k audio
streams. 96k sample rates only support single
streaming unfortunately – a shortfall of USB’s
bandwidth no doubt. Digital I/O is via optical
Toslink connectors, which also offer 5.1 playback
under Windows XP. There’s also Midi In and
Out for connecting the odd keyboard or ‘sound
module’ (now there’s a term I haven’t used in
years). Along the forward panel there’s a single
headphone output and a jack input suitable for
both microphone and guitar impedances, along
with the strange inclusion of a 3.5mm mini jack
for powered electret microphones. For a more
professional touch there’s an XLR mic input with
phantom powering. The 48V switch is, however,
mounted underneath the UA-4FX.
Across the console-inspired top surface there
are three large knobs dedicated to mic input
level, guitar input level and overall output
volume. Above these you’ll find four smaller
pots for adjusting the 14 on-board COSM effects
(‘COSM’ is Roland’s own modelling-based effects
algorithms). These consist of noise suppression,
enhancement and high- and low-shelving EQ for
some basic mastering. You’ll also find high and
low boost, a centre-channel cancelling algorithm
(to strip out vocals), a reverb feature and the usual
delay and chorus effects. The final effects section
provides vacuum tube simulation to serve up that
extra helping of ‘fatness’ when required. The little
tube LED even slowly glows when turned on. A
nifty and capable unit that won’t put too much of
a dent in your bank balance. Brad Watts
Price: $399
Roland Corporation: (02) 9982 8266 or
info@rolandcorp.com.au
AT 76
The F-Control sports two unbalanced ¼-inch
jack inputs and two balanced jack outputs. Then
there are two six-pin Firewire ports and a 12V AC
power supply input. You can plug the F-Control
into the wall but the unit will happily function
via bus power if connected to another 6-pin port
(a 6-pin cable is supplied). Alternatively, if you’re
operating the unit with the (supplied) four-pin
cable with a PC laptop you’ll need plug in the
PSU as four-pin cables don’t carry power.
On the front section you’ll find a single
headphone output and its corresponding level
control. To the right is a red LED for power and
a blue LED to indicate that Firewire connectivity
is functioning.
The unit will work at 44.1, 48 and 96k sample
rates and 24-bit word lengths. Drivers are supplied
for XP and the F-Control is automatically
recognised in OSX – addressing CoreAudio
directly. Behringer has lashed out on the software
front, packaging a copy of Audacity (a crossplatform audio editor), along with a Behringer
edition of Ableton’s Live Lite (version 4).
The pertinent question is: ‘how does it sound?’
Well, obviously $160 doesn’t buy the best
converters. Line it up against something pricier
and you’ll hear a narrower stereo image and
a certain lack of depth in the soundfield. But
whether it sounds $500 or $1000 worse than a
more expensive product, probably not.
The PreSonus Eureka is a professional recording
channel strip containing a discrete Class-A
transformer-coupled microphone preamplifier,
FET compressor, and three-band parametric
equaliser. The microphone preamp features
variable input impedance allowing it to be matched
and ‘tuned’ to all types of microphones, as well
as a Saturate knob for simulating tube warmth.
Standard 48V phantom power, 80Hz filter, 20dB
pad and a phase inversion switch are also included.
The compressor features a variable threshold,
attack, release, and gain makeup. Soft-knee
compression mode and a hi-pass filter on the
sidechain for frequency-dependent compression,
such as de-essing. There’s also a fully parametric
three-band EQ with overlapping bands and
switchable staging for the EQ and compressor,
enabling the order of the EQ and compression
to be swapped. Line, mic and instrument inputs
are included as well as an insert send and return.
Dual outputs (TRS and XLR) can be used
simultaneously, which is cool, as well as an optional
digital output card capable of up to 24-bit/192k
output on AES/EBU or S/PDIF.
During a recent session I recorded several different
signals through the channel strip, including
vocals, acoustic guitars, keyboards etc. I was quite
surprised by how transparent and quiet this unit is.
The lows and highs of anything recorded through
it were very tight, and introducing the compression
and EQ worked a treat. Even running some of my
two-track mixes through two of these boxes helped
smooth out a lot of digital harshness from internal
mixing.
When you think about it… $160… it’s absolutely
incredible really. Brad Watts
The PreSonus team has done an extraordinary job
squeezing so many features into a single rack unit
of this calibre. It’s sleek, well-built and performs
every bit as well as many of the more expensive
units on the market. For those considering any
new purchases, the Eureka is not one you should
overlook. Oh and by the way, if the sound doesn’t
grab your ears the price tag will! Adam Ellis
Price: $159.99
Behringer Australia: (03) 9877 7170 or
www.behringer.com.au
Price: $1250
Rode Microphones: (02) 9648 5855 or
bill@rodemic.com
The F-Control is a natural companion product
for a laptop, and whether it’s your first and/or
only audio interface, or an additional interface for
the odd foray out of the studio, then you can’t go
too far wrong.
REVIEWS: IN BRIEF
BEHRINGER U-CONTROL UMX61
BEYERDYNAMIC OPUS 89
Behringer’s new U-Control UMX61 is a Midi/
USB controller keyboard and if you’re in the
market for a controller keyboard, the UMX61
is a cost effective option with some handy
extras thrown in to get you up and running.
The extras comprise of a simple USB audio
interface and a swag of software.
Beyerdynamic continues to roll out its new
Opus line into Australia, the latest being the
Opus 89 vocal dynamic. The ‘89’ features
rugged construction, a hardy basket, and
a sturdy shockmount system. It has a
supercardioid pickup, a smooth top end, and
a present low midrange that gives the mic its
robust sonic character.
As far as controller keyboards go the UMX61
has a bit to recommend it. It’s one of the
few controllers under $300 with 61 full-size
keys (velocity-sensitive, of course), and eight
rotary encoders for real-time tweaking of
Midi information. Connection is via USB or
garden variety Midi. Plus the keyboard acts as
a USB Midi interface, allowing the control of
further Midi devices via the single Midi Out
port. The keys themselves feel good, although
they’re somewhat ‘squarer’ than your typical
synth-style keys – much more along the lines
of a piano key. A mod wheel and pitch-bend
controller grace the left hand end of the
unit, keeping the device relatively slim for
‘under-the-desk’ mounting. There’s a polarityrecognising foot-switch jack and power can
be drawn from either USB, a separate 9V
DC power supply or with three AA batteries.
Finally, alongside the mod wheels are octave
shift keys, should you need to quickly extend
the keyboard’s range – a feature possibly more
useful in the 49 and 25 note versions of the
UMX. Did I mention that – there’s also a
49-note ($279.99) and 25-note version ($199.99)
of the keyboard, both of which are identical to
the UMX61 in every way… apart from their
key count, of course.
As for the additional extras, Behringer supplies
a special edition of Ableton Live Lite V4 and a
nifty little USB audio interface. The interface
is smaller than your average 1x1 Midi interface
and provides stereo I/O on RCA connectors.
Combine this with the swag of included freebie
VST (Mac and PC) instrument and effects
plug-ins (in combination with your computer),
and you’ve got a nifty little composition rig.
Good value overall, and possibly the cheapest
un-weighted 61-note controller available today.
Brad Watts
Price: UMX61: $299.99; UMX49: $279.99;
UMX25: $199.99
Behringer Australia: (03) 9877 7170 or
www.behringer.com.au
AT 78
Designed with touring use in mind, the 89 is
seemingly based around the TGX-60, both
visually and sonically (although, admittedly
I didn’t have the TGX-60 with me to draw a
direct comparison)… and it also has the ‘big’
feel of the TG – one performer commenting
“It’s big isn’t it?”. Actually the shaft is only
10mm longer than an SM58, and in my
massive paws, I could hardly tell the difference.
The basket is quite solid, designed in the nowfamiliar Beyer style: hemispherical screw-off
end, vented rear with an open-cell foam insert
behind, and a nylon screen over the capsule
end – I’d suggest buying a stock of foam
inserts and changing them regularly if you’re
intending to use them as part of a touring rig.
In practice, the Opus 89 did the job nicely at
several gigs, as expected. Used on a hip-hop
act, it sonically outperformed two different
name brands radio mics that were being used
alongside it, its fuller midrange adding good
intelligibility to vocal and spoken word. As a
main vocal mic with a rock act it proved to be
much richer in the low mids, to the extent that
for some vocalists there was a need for some
tailoring of the EQ to avoid this affecting the
clarity, yet on other singers it proved perfectly
suited.
In terms of gain, the Opus 89 consistently
required less power from preamps than most
other dynamic mics on stage. There were some
feedback issues, mainly in the aforementioned
low-midrange, but these were relatively minor.
This microphone rounds out the Opus line
with a high-quality hand-held dynamic. There
are three ranges of Beyerdynamic microphones
to choose from: ‘Classic’, ‘Touring Group’
(TG), and ‘Opus’ – each of which has definite
stand-out mics. Happy choosing!
Price: $499
Audio Telex: (02) 9647 1411 or
www.audiotelex.com.au
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