An easy to use audio converter
If you are like a lot of folks who have collections of great music on vinyl records, 8 tracks, cassette tapes or other older gear you might be wondering how to convert those classic tunes so that you can load them on your mp3 player. Or perhaps you want to record one of your favorite radio shows that does not have podcast yet. Or better yet, maybe you just want to record some tunes off the radio or satellite channel for easy listening later in the day or on a long car trip.
In some cases, it is simple to just connect the output of your radio (or other gear) directly to the line input on your current PC. There are other situations where it is not that easy. For instance, your old record, tape, 8-track or shortwave receiver are unlikely to have a 3.5 inch, stereo headphone jack. While most of these older devices do not have a suitable output jack, they usually do have stereo (or mono) RCA style output connectors.
The RCA style connector has been around for several decades and was very prevalent in the 1980’s-1990’s. Many of today’s audio devices no longer support this simple audio output format.
RCA audio output to PC input…and back again!
One of the easiest ways to convert your old audio source directly into digital audio that can be played on your computer or mp3 player is to use the Behringer UCA202 U-control audio converter. This small device plugs into your PC or Mac USB port and allows you to seamlessly import audio from your older devices right into audio recording software.
Small box, great features
For the amount of features built into the device, the UCA202/222 is surprisingly small. It provides the following features:
- Stereo RCA input
- Stereo RCA output
- Digital optical output
- 3.5 inch headphone output
- Volume control for the headphone output
- Monitor switch allowing you to directly listen to what is coming in on the stereo inputs
- Full duplex record/playback
- Low latency driver
Great consumer grade audio quality
While this device is not intended for the high end recording studio, it is definitely everything that a home audio enthusiast needs to transfer old analog audio to digital format. I found the quality to be very good for the price. In a previous career, I worked in as an engineer at a broadcast radio station and as a recording engineer in a local recording studio. The quality is definitely not up to par with what is required in either of those venues, but for the home archivist, casual recorder or even the small home recording studio the UCA202/222 provides the perfect bridge between the worlds of analog and digital audio.
A good buy
Given the audio quality, the number of features and the reliability of this device, I would rate the UCA202/222 as a 9 on a scale of 10. Given the price of the device, which is typically under $50, I bump my rating to 10 out of 10.
Real world usage examples
You can use the device to convert a lot of analog audio sources into a digital format including:
- Vinyl, LP’s
- Audio from a VHS or other video device
- Shortwave radio
- Ham radio
- Satellite TV/Radio
- Film projector
- Analog mixing console
- High quality USB headphone driver for a laptop or PC
- RaspberryPi Audio Interface
Audio Interface for Raspberry Pi Ham Radio TNC
The UCA202/222 makes an excellent USB audio interface for the RaspberryPi embedded, single board computer. The UCA202/222 is so good in fact, that it is being used by ham radio operators around the world with the RaspberryPi to implement a USB sound card TNC modem. QST magazine recently published an article in which the UCA202/222 was used as the primary audio interface for the RaspberryPI.
Software for converting and editing audio
The UCA202/222 is just hardware device, but the great thing about it is that the device is recognized by Windows and Mac without adding any new drivers. The operating system simply detects the UCA202/222 as another audio I/O channel and adds it to the list of available audio device. This allows you to very easily utilize built in audio editing tools or even some of the excellent free audio recording/editing/conversion tools such as Audacity. I have used Audacity for many years because it is easy to use and has a lot of plugins for customizing the project. If you want to convert your audio to mp3, then you will need to install the LAME mp3 plugin into Audacity.
If you purchase the UCA222, it comes with Audacity and a number of other software packages which will get you started recording even faster!
I have owned my UCA202 for about 4 years now and as of April 2010, Behringer is still making the unit and a follow on, upgraded product as well. The new product is known as the UCA222. The UCA222 is a revamp of the original UCA222 that comes bundled with lots of audio editing software. There is also a new converter known as the FCA202 that plugs into a firewire port and provides a higher sampling rate at 96khz and a bit depth of 24 bits.
Overall, I have been very pleased with the UCA202 and would recommend it to both friends and family. It seems that Behringer has donea very nice job putting together low cost, high-quality family of audio converters.