Behringer has been a groundbreaker in price/performance ratios since the turn of the century at least. More than one musician felt as though they joined the big leagues when a piece of Behringer gear came into their budget, when all similar equipment stayed out of reach.
The Behringer Xenyx UFX1604 Analog mixer continues that price/performance theme, while taking the company’s game to a new level.
At first glance, I thought this was an Allen & Heath board, owing mostly to the color of the side caps and the proportions of the long-throw 100mm faders. Spotting the logo and the price tag set me straight, but once the Behringer name was noted, something seemed odd.
Simply, it seemed like a lot of knobs for a Behringer board. I don’t expect to see 6 knobs on each strip dedicated to EQ on a Behringer mixer, but that’s just what the UFX1604 has on each of its eight XLR channel strips. One-knob compressors feature on these eight strips as well.
There are four auxiliary sends, two dedicated and two shared with the built-in FX units, across all twelve strips, including the four stereo strips. These have a simpler 4-band EQ section. Routing options are plentiful, making this an ideal board for mid-level live work.
Then, on top of all that, Behringer throws in multitrack USB/Firewire interface capability. This is one impressive bag of tricks, well worth a look, since the UFX1604 has been on the market for a while now without attracting the attention it deserves.
Most inputs and outputs lay along the back edge of the top surface. The back panel of the mixer carries power, interface routing, inserts, sends and returns. The XLR main outs are back here too, providing an alternative to the ¼-inch main outs on the top face.
Another nice touch is the built-in 16-track recorder that uses a USB thumb drive as media. Multitrack live recordings, just like that. There’s even a set of recording transport controls on the mixer’s face.
The four-band EQ includes two midrange bands with sweepable frequencies and asymmetrical boost/cut. Reducing a mid frequency creates a notch filter shape, while boosts produce bell filter shapes. In live music settings, notch filtering surgically removes resonances and annoying characteristics. Boosts with wider ranges enhance the good stuff in a natural sounding way. While that’s somewhat limiting for recording, most EQ can be done after the fact using DAW software and associated plug-ins. This helps the UFX1604 serve both worlds quite adequately.
The dedication to low cost has sometimes produced Behringer products that compromise on sound quality. I’ll say it. There have been some noisy Behringer mixers out there. Sometimes, a noisy mixer is better than no mixer at all, and Behringer did put equipment within reach, so I’ve often forgiven the performance based on the access.
There are no quality compromises with the UFX1604. The Xenyx preamps are clean and quiet with lots of headroom. Where some of the company’s micro mixers start to audibly compress before clipping, there’s little of that effect here. It’s easy to adjust virtually any mic into the magic -12 to -6 dB range without taxing the preamps. While the one-knob compressors can boost the apparent noise floor, that’s a matter of room noise. The compressor doesn’t add noise, it makes what’s already there more obvious.
The first FX units in Behringer mixers were of the take it or leave it variety. There were usually 100 presets with no ability to alter parameters. The dual 24-bit FS units on the UFX1604 have 16 general effects that have limited tuning control, including tap timing for echoes and rate-related FX. The returns from these are routable, so for example you could send reverb to a singer’s headphone mix without adding the effect to the track. It’s a good way to set a singer at ease as they hear the novel sound of an effect on their voice, rather than just the dry signal.
These are average sounding effects. They won’t embarrass you, even if they break no new ground.
Build has often been hit or miss with Behringer as well. While their micro mixers generally feel solid, even when they didn’t sound so solid, some of the larger Eurorack mixers felt a little flimsy.
The UFX1604 gives no such impression. While not quite the match for the A&H mixers it superficially resembles, it’s closer than I’d expect.
However, with so many capabilities that lend this board to live music settings, I’m surprised that there is no native rack mount option. The board seems durable enough, but the added protection of a road case or gig bag will extend its life.
There aren’t loads of reviews out there, and it’s a shame, since I’d love to know about how the UFX1604 operates in the real world. The reviews that are there are 4.5 stars and up. Raves are given for the routing options and native recording capability as well as its clean sound.
There was a time when “clean sound” and “Behringer” rarely appeared in the same sentence without a negative qualifier. Those days are gone, at least where the UFX1604 is concerned.
For a mixer/interface with intermediate channel count, a zillion routing options and solid sound quality, the Xenyx UFX 1604 delivers admirably. It’s a device that deserves a lot more mainstream popularity than it has, matching the performance of mixers that cost $300 or more above its level. For the home studio engineer moving to multitrack support of a computer-based DAW, this should be a mixer/interface on the short list. For the working musician who also records, this board handles small to medium combos with ease. With ease and easy live gig recording to boot.
The Behringer Xenyx UFX1604 is strongly recommended.