The flagship of Behringer's newest line of mixers is a four-buss design with 26 inputs, four aux sends and an internal effects processor.
As more project studios move towards computer-based and all-in-one audio workstation solutions, the traditional large mixing console is becoming increasingly redundant. In its place, smaller mixers are being drafted in to help 'glue' audio and hardware MIDI systems together or to provide a means of routing a limited number of analogue sources into a computer's audio interface for recording. In fact, a small traditional mixer of some kind is pretty much essential in any musician's studio as, in addition to mic preamps, it provides a means of controlling essential functions such as monitor levels, two-track playback, machine-to-machine dubbing and so on.
The Behringer Eurorack UB2442FX is part of their latest series of low-cost, general purpose analogue mixers, and this model comes with brackets for where rackmounting is more appropriate. It features eight mono and four stereo channels, where all of the mono inputs and two of the stereo channels have mic inputs (mono mic inputs only on the stereo channels), and all eight mono channels have the benefit of insert points and direct outputs, the latter being extremely useful when recording multiple sources at the same time. Additionally, there's routing to the main left/right mix and to four groups, again valuable in a recording situation. The mixer has no dedicated multitrack tape return monitor channels, but because of the flexible bussing system and the direct outs, it would be possible to record two or more sources at once and at the same time monitor an eight-track mix (or a soundcard with eight outputs) via the main stereo buss.
Though the Behringer UB2442FX is an analogue console, it includes a 24-bit digital effects processor based on Behringer's Virtualizer Pro algorithms and offering 99 preset treatments, including a large number of reverbs. Other effects include delay/modulation, compression, tube overdrive simulation, vinyl effects and so on. The send loop effects, such as delay and reverb, are accessed via aux three and use the aux three return. For insert-type effects, such as compression, the channel output routing should be disengaged so that the only route the signal takes is via the effects section.
The UB2442FX was designed by Uli Behringer himself (hence the UB in the model number), but, despite the modest cost, its technical spec is surprisingly good, with its 4580 op amp mic preamps claiming a 130dB dynamic range. The overall frequency response of the mixer (not counting the digital effects of course) extends up to 200kHz (-1dB at 90kHz), and switchable global phantom power means that capacitor microphones may be used. The mixer also uses an internal switched-mode power supply rather than an external adaptor, and this particular design automatically adapts to any mains voltage between 100 and 240 Volts.
There's little departure from convention in the layout of the mixer, which makes it easy to find your way around, but there are a few ergonomic points worthy of note, not least that the inputs, insert points and tape machine phono connections are on the top panel for easy access by those users who don't have everything connected to a patchbay. The two headphone outlets are also located at the top of the panel, which is less convenient than having them on the front edge, but having two phones outlets rather than one is thoughtful. Additionally, a BNC connector allows a 12V gooseneck lamp to be fitted — a feature mainly of benefit in live applications. All the effect preset names are printed on the front panel, and a two-character LED display shows the number of the patch currently selected alongside an effects input level meter.
All the remaining connections are on the rear panel and these include the direct outputs on channels one through eight (unbalanced, pre-fader), four stereo aux returns, eight subgroup outputs numbered one to eight (on unbalanced jacks), four aux sends, and the main output's balanced XLR connectors. There are also main outs on balanced jacks, along with main insert points, separate control room outputs, an effects output jack (a stereo TRS jack carrying the output from the internal effects section) and an effects bypass footswitch jack — especially handy for live use.
The eight mono channels are identical, and comprise both mic and balanced line inputs, though you can only use one at a time. Accompanying the usual Gain control is a low-cut filter switch (18dB/octave at 75Hz), after which comes a three-band EQ with swept mid-band. This has no bypass, though the controls are centre detented, and the mid-band can be adjusted from 100Hz to 8kHz. The high and low filters are set at 12kHz and 80Hz respectively and all bands have a ±15dB gain range. The EQ fitted to the stereo channels is four-band with two fixed mid-bands set to operate at 500Hz and 3kHz. The other main difference between the mono and stereo channels is the input section: two of the stereo channels have the option of stereo line inputs or mono mic inputs with switchable low-cut filters, while the other two stereo channels are line only with no low-cut switches.
The first two aux sends can be switched as a pair for pre-fader or post-fader operation, the other two being fixed post-fader for use as effects sends. Aux send three feeds directly to the internal effects processor, though there's also a conventional output for this send. All four sends have master level controls with Solo buttons in the master section. The Pan/Balance controls operate in the usual way, regulating pan position or odd/even routing on the mono channels and stereo balance/routing for the stereo channels. Every channel has a mute button with yellow status LED, a Peak LED to warn of clipping, and a Solo switch, plus routing to the two stereo subgroups or the main mix buss. All faders are short-throw types, but they have a nice smooth action.
The reason this mixer has eight subgroup outputs is that it's sometimes useful to be able to split a sub output to feed two destinations at once, and here they've done it for you by providing two sets of linked outputs hard-wired together internally.
There's nothing complicated about the channel layout, and the same can be said of the master section, which is more clearly set out than on many mixers I've tried. The aux send master level controls and their Solo buttons join four return level controls, and also two further controls to allow effects to be added to a monitor mix — providing you send to an effect from aux one and return the effect to return two and vice versa. Aux three has a pair of buttons that allows it to be returned either to the main stereo mix or to either of the subgroup outputs. Finally in this section, there's also a button that allows the aux returns to be fed into the Solo buss, so that when you solo a channel, you still hear any effects added to it. The internal effects processor control section sits just above the master aux controls and is controlled via a single knob — turning the knob selects the preset number while pressing the knob loads it.
In the middle of the master section is the all-important control room monitoring panel, at the centre of which is a level control that affects both the control room outputs and the phones levels. The control room source is switchable between Tape, either of the two subgroups, or the main stereo mix, though there's also a Tape To Main button that allows an external stereo feed connected to the tape inputs to be added to the main stereo mix. This would be especially useful for those live performers working to backing tracks, but it also has applications in the studio, as it provides a means to get one more stereo signal into the mix. Below the level control is a switch which selects between Solo and PFL modes. The main difference between these two modes is that PFL works independently of the channel fader setting, whereas Solo doesn't change the monitored level of a signal when it is soloed. When Solo is active, a large red Solo light comes on in the master panel and the channel's red Peak LED also stays on. A 12-section stereo LED bar-graph meter monitors the main stereo output levels or the PFL level when a Solo button is down.
That leaves only the master fader section, where each of the four group faders is fitted with a pair of separate Left and Right routing buttons. This addition means the groups may be used in mono if desired, then routed to either left, right or centre (Left and Right buttons down together), in addition to using the groups as stereo pairs. The Main Mix fader sets the master stereo mix output level. Alternatively, the subs can be left unrouted so that they only feed the rear-panel outputs, as may be required when recording.
The effects section is extremely simple, operating entirely on presets. In the case of things like compression and gating, where you might want different threshold levels, you are presented with a small choice of presets rather than one preset and a user control. The same is true of delays, where you get everything from a slapback echo to a day in the Alps! The quality of the effects is better than in many mixers of this type with the reverbs being particularly good, my main concern being that many of them err on the longish side. However, there are a couple of sensibly small rooms and ambience settings, so there are some usable studio treatments in there.
In addition to the familiar single reverb, delay, modulation and dynamics effects, there's also a handful of dual effect presets comprising modulation plus reverb or delay plus modulation. The effect patch number window also includes a bar graph effect input level meter, so there's no excuse for driving the effects section at the wrong level. When set up properly, the effects are gratifyingly clean — except for Vinylizer, which adds crackles and clicks to whatever you feed through it. Preset 99 provides a test tone oscillator, which can be useful in setting up PA systems or tracing signal path faults in studios.
I found the UB2442FX Pro to be easy to operate, though some of the panel legending is a bit small to read in subdued lighting and it's hard to tell whether the all-black routing buttons are up or down. The mic amps are quiet at all but the maximum gain setting, where a little hiss is audible, and the overall impression is of reasonable transparency and accuracy. There's enough headroom to prevent overload, unless you're very careless with the gain settings, and the EQ sounds surprisingly useful for such a budget console — you can use it quite heavily before any tonal smearing sets in and the high control adds a useful degree of airiness without provoking harshness.
The effects hold up well for a mixer of this type, albeit with some of the reverbs longer than you'd use in normal mixing applications, and the only real limitation is that the presets don't have any user-variable parameters at all, so compressor thresholds have to be fine-tuned by adjusting the relevant send level. Also, as there's only one effect, you can only use one insert effect at a time, and then at the expense of a send/return effect. I would imagine that in most instances the effects section would be set to reverb for mixing and the insert effects used mainly when recording one track at a time.
Once again Behringer have come up with a budget mixer that manages to deliver a level of performance which is better than expected, including good-quality internal effects. It has been deliberately kept simple, but is still versatile enough to use in the studio as well as live. The direct outputs on the first eight channels are particularly useful for recording, as are the subgroup outs, and the overall signal path quality is more than adequately quiet for making serious recordings, provided that due care is paid to gain structure. Having four stereo returns is more than generous for a mixer of this size, and getting the rackmount kit as standard rather than as an option is also welcome.
Overall, my impression is of a solidly constructed, workmanlike mixer, and it's clear that some careful thought has gone into its design. On a more expensive product, I'd have liked all the line ins and outs to be balanced, but in the kind of situation in which this mixer is likely to be used, unbalanced connections are unlikely to cause problems. The other evidence of cost saving is the use of short-throw faders, but, once again, these don't cause any practical problems and they have a good feel to them. Whether this mixer is right for you depends on your budget and on the facilities you require, but there's no denying that it offers extraordinary value for money in the UK and, used properly, it is capable of seriously good results.