those reading this who know a little about the
professional side of audio equipment, you’d
almost be sure to have heard of Behringer already,
but for those that haven’t, Behringer is
a company that focuses on manufacturing professional
audio equipment at the lowest price possible.
Up until recently Behringer have been focusing
manufacturing Live and Studio sound equipment.
However, they have started to move towards the
computer music section of the market. This is
where the subject of this review comes in.
The Behringer FCA202 Firewire Audio Interface
is a simple two-in, two-out external sound card
aimed at laptop users, or those simply looking
for a low-cost professionally orientated soundcard.
the size of the FCA202, I was a little surprised
at both the size and weight of the box, until
I opened it up.
the box revealed a number of items in addition
to the FCA202; separate user manuals in both English
and German, and a jumbo user manual in 11 other
languages; AC adaptor; 6 pin Firewire cable, 4
pin Firewire cable, driver and applications CD;
Ableton Live Lite 4 Behringer Edition;
Behringer sticker and finally, a product catalogue.
The FCA202 is a relatively small device, only
about 15cm across, and fairly light – perfect
for laptop musicians on the go, and is probably
the least complex sound card I have ever come
front panel of the FCA202 has a very “Mac”
look to it, almost entirely white, suggesting
Behringer’s target audience.
left side of the front panel holds the 6.5mm headphone
jack and volume control. This control only affects
the headphone output, the rear inputs and outputs
the other side there are two LEDs, the red one
signifying if the AC adapter is connected, and
the blue one below it signifying if the Firewire
cable is connected.
rear panel holds the rest of the connections;
power input; Kensington lock socket; two Firewire
ports for daisy-chaining devices; two balanced
mono 6.5mm outputs; two unbalanced mono 6.5mm
The FCA202 has no microphone or instrument inputs,
so you’ll need to use a separate pre-amp
or mixer for these sources.
The terms “Balanced” and “Unbalanced”
refer to the amount of wires used per channel
of audio signal. Most consumer audio cables
are unbalanced, having only 2 wires per
channel (signal and ground).
in the professional world, balanced cables
are generally the norm. Balanced cables
have an advantage over unbalanced, as they
use three wires per channel; Hot: the original
signal; Cold: the original signal 180°
out of phase to the Hot wire; and the ground
advantage that balanced cables have is that
they drastically reduce the amount of interference
and noise picked up in cables over long
distances. Once the signal reaches the end
of the cable, the signal in the Cold wire
has its phase inverted again so it matches
the signal in the Hot wire as is mixed back
in. Any interference picked up would be
out of phase now, and is almost entirely
if the cable used is relatively short, high
quality and well shielded, unbalanced cables
will perform a decent enough job.
going out and buying a piece of hardware, it’s
always useful to know if it will actually work
with your computer or not.
GHz or higher CPU
800 MHz or Higher
or 6 Pin Firewire port*
or 6 Pin Firewire port*
OSX Panther or higher
using 4 pin Firewire cable, AC adaptor must be
The manual recommends that the drivers are installed
before connecting the FCA202, so I decided to
play it on the safe side and pop the Driver CD
in before I plugged anything in.
The driver installation is typical of any piece
of hardware, and once installed the FCA202 can
be plugged in.
Unlike most consumer and professional soundcards,
the FCA202 does not have a complex control panel
application, in fact it’s extremely basic.
are only two settings that can be adjusted here,
the sample rate, and the latency. Behringer decided
to give us a basic block diagram of how the analogue
paths of the FCA202 work. Not that it was really
needed – inputs to analogue-digital converter,
digital-analogue converter to outputs –
but it was a nice touch.
One downside to this, if the FCA202 is the default
audio device, is that there is no longer a master
fader in the Windows Mixer, in fact there are
no faders in the Windows Mixer – this means
that any programs that rely on the windows mixer
for volume control will not work, and neither
will the volume keys on many multimedia keyboards.
You will have to use the volume controls either
in any applications used, or on your speakers.
Unfortunately for many laptop users, whose laptops
only have the 4 pin Firewire port if at all, the
FCA202 will require the use of the bundled AC
Just plug it in and it works. Simple as that –
latency and sample rate are controlled from within
for many laptop users, whose laptops only have
the 4 pin Firewire port if at all, the FCA202
will require the use of the bundled AC adaptor.
If you are lucky enough to have a 6 pin Firewire
port on your laptop, you’ll be able to work
on the go, as the FCA202 can draw power from the
laptop. I know that some Mac laptops use the 6
pin cable, but I am not aware of any Windows-based
ones, so perhaps this is more proof of Behringer’s
most networking and gaming gurus, the word
“latency” won’t be a foreign
term. In networking and online gaming, it’s
also known as ping, and is the time it takes
for a piece of data to reach the other end
and back again.
When referring to audio latency, it’s
the time it takes for a signal at the input
to be processed and sent to the output again.
This also includes any audio files on the
the average consumer, a latency of up to
a second isn’t really an issue, but
in the professional arena, it’s critical.
If you’re trying to record a guitarist
along side a drum track, the guitarist may
think he’s playing in time, but will
always be off by that one second of latency.
So the answer is to drop the latency right
down? Wrong. The lower the latency, the
less of a buffer the system has, and if
it drops too low, there’ll be buffer
under runs that are audible as clicks and
pops, so like any system, you have to find
a compromise – the lowest latency
that you can work with without pops and
With the control panel being so basic, there’s
really not much set-up required – just select
the card in the Control Panel (Win) or System
Preferences (Mac) (if you want it as your default
soundcard), or from the settings menu within the
The FCA202 supports WDM (Win), Core Audio (Mac)
and ASIO (Win). One thing of note here is that
if an application using WDM is accessing the FCA202,
any attempt to access it via ASIO will cause an
error message. This is not a hardware problem,
but a software one, as using a third party driver
(Centrance Audio UD) would allow me to use both
WDM and ASIO simultaneously.
Streaming Input/Output. Professional audio
driver standard developed by Steinberg as
an alternative to WDM and MME drivers, providing
much lower latency and better control over
the inputs and outputs of an audio interface.
performance will be vastly different across a
range of systems, and the size of the project,
how many audio tracks and effects in use will
also affect the minimum latency.
the FCA202 on the system listed below, I managed
to get latencies as low as 8ms before hearing
the pops & clicks of audio death. To put this
in perspective, many hardware synthesizers have
a latency of 10ms.
Pentium 4 640 3.2GHz
1Gb DDR2 RAM 533MHz
Asus P5LD2 Motherboard
Quality and RMAA Testing
These days with many soundcard manufacturers in
the market, each proclaiming their card has pristine
sound quality while quoting 24bit, 96 KHz, as
if supporting that bit depth and sample rate is
the only evidence of quality they need. But there
are many other factors that affect the quality
of the sound produced by a soundcard. This is
where RMAA, Right Mark Audio Analyzer, comes in.
RMAA is a benchmark for soundcards, much like
Futuremark’s 3DMark is for graphics cards.
It runs a series of tests designed to test channel
separation, noise generated by the card’s
circuitry, and overall fidelity of the sound.
Ideally I would use a reference grade soundcard
to take measurements from, but lacking one, the
test I performed was the loopback test, where
the outputs are connected directly to the inputs.
I used high quality gold plated cables, about
1.5m in length to try to reduce any uncertainties
that may be caused by cheaper cables.
– FCA202 16_44_1.htm
– FCA202 24_48.htm
– FCA202 24_96.htm
listing – Comparison.htm
results show, that while not in the league of
professional equipment, this card is nothing to
be sniffed at for those looking for a quality
soundcard on a budget.
FCA202 is no doubt an excellent soundcard for
the price, with a MSRP of US$99.99, but it’s
not without its flaws.
see the target audience for this soundcard as
the users of Apple iMacs and Macbooks. They would
also be an attractive option for schools and learning
centers, when bundled a set of headphones, it
would be the perfect setup for a class learning
about music production and recording.
Small & Portable
Simple and easy to use
Excellent sound quality for the price
Plug & Play for Mac OSX
No microphone or instrument inputs
Inputs are unbalanced
No master fader for the windows mixer
What do these awards