Behringer U-Phono UFO202
Inexpensive; works with second- and third-generation iPads
Bundled software not good; low gain
If you’re still hanging on to your old LPs or have recently become a vinyl convert and are seeking a way to digitise those records, Behringer offers an inexpensive way to do it – the $60 U-Phono UFO202 USB audio interface.
The U-Phono is a compact plastic USB audio converter that contains a phono preamp for digitising LPs (which means it’ll work with any record player). It can additionally capture line-level signals from a cassette deck or recorder, for example. Off the left side dangles a USB cable. On the top you find a switch for flipping between Line and Phono input, a ground connector for your turntable and gold-plated RCA inputs and outputs. At the bottom of the box is a 3.5 mm headphone jack and volume wheel for adjusting the headphone port’s volume. The U-Phono is powered via your computer’s USB port so no external power supply is necessary. In addition to working with your Mac, it can also cleverly be used with an iPad 2 and third-generation iPad via Apple’s $35 iPad Camera Connection Kit. The device supports 44.1- and 48kHz stereo audio at 16-bit resolution.
The U-Phono is nothing if not inexpensive. And one reason it can be is because the editing software bundled with it costs Behringer nothing. As with many inexpensive audio capture devices, the company bundles the open source Audacity audio editing application with it. While Audacity gets the job done, it’s not a pleasure to use. I find its interface and menus cluttered and confusing. Unless you plan to capture LPs in their entirety without then going on to split them into individual tracks, you should figure in the cost of a decent audio editor for splitting and tagging your tracks – Rogue Amoeba’s US$32 Fission, for example. Behringer bundles other software with the device, but it’s largely intended for musicians.
The U-Phono by itself is okay but not great. You don’t have the option to increase the volume gain when making a direct connection between it and a turntable, so you must rely on it having decent input gain. Regrettably, it doesn’t. In my test captures I found the gain too low – both on my Mac and third-generation iPad. I was able to increase the volume of the captured recordings in my editing application but I would have preferred that it got closer to the mark when capturing my LPs. For line-level captures, good input similarly relies on how “hot” the output is from your player.
Macworld Australia’s buying advice
It’s hard to beat the price of the U-Phono – particularly compared to USB turntables or other USB audio capture devices than include a phono preamp. If you’re on a budget, don’t mind tweaking the volume of your recordings after they’re captured and have either a better audio editing application or can put up with Audacity, it’s a reasonable purchase.