The Behringer Q802USB mixer doesn’t send audio to the headphone output in both directions (in and out) when using the USB to interface with your computer. In other words, you can’t hear yourself and the audio from the computer (e.g. Skype) at the same time when using the USB connection.
When I did my initial overview video of the Q802USB I didn’t find this quirk. Mostly because I had never seen it before nor did I know that there were mixers that could not do what seemed like an obvious task.
I posted the video on YouTube and I started to see some comments that alerted me to this potential issue. I searched other videos and reviews and found one that indicated that indeed this was a problem. I needed to know more so I asked B&H (they had originally supplied the review unit) if I could get the mixer back for some testing and they promptly sent me one to review… again.
After hours of testing and endless notes, I confirmed with my own ears and eyes that indeed this was a limitation of the Q802USB.
The next steps were to figure out exactly what the problem was and if I could make the mixer do what I wanted it to do; allow me to monitor the audio I’m getting from the computer as well as hear the audio I am sending.
Here’s how the USB routing buttons on the Q802USB work and how they prevent monitoring in both directions.
To hear audio coming into the mixer via USB from your computer, you need to enable (press down) the USB/2-Track to Phones/CTRL Room button. This sends audio that the USB is receiving from the computer into the “Phones” output.
When this button is active (in the down position), it is also mutes any audio that you are inputting into the mixer’s inputs. This means you cannot hear, through the Phones output, whatever you are inputting into the mixer via the analog channels…in other words, you can’t hear your own microphone a.k.a., yourself.
Interestingly, this also cuts off the audio meters from displaying your audio levels despite the fact that audio is still carried to the Main Out and you are still sending audio out of the USB. I’m not sure why this happens but it means that you not only can’t hear your audio, you can’t see the levels either. That’t not good.
Any other setups/routing configurations for the USB will result in one side being muted. When you leave the Phones/CTRL Room button in the up position but activate the USB/2-Track to Main Mix button, the inputs (your microphone) will not be sent out of the USB hence Skype will not receive your audio.
This is listed in the manual, “USB/2-TR to Main Mix – button routes USB/2-Track playback to MAIN MIX and mutes the 2-TR OUT/USB recording signal.” What they don’t tell you is that the USB/2-Track To Phones/CTRL Room also mutes the signal, the one that should send your microphones audio to the Phones output and the audio meters!
It’s important to note that none of the audio that comes in via the USB ever goes back out of the USB or Tape Out. This means that loopback of the incoming audio is not an issue and you couldn’t just plug your headphones into the Tape Out to hear both sides.
Also, I did contact Behringer and they confirmed that this was just a limitation of this lower-end mixer. Here’s exactly what they said,
This is a limitation of the smaller Xenyx mixers (the 502’s and 802’s), the higher mixers in the range have more monitoring and routing options. Having said that you can still use the USB/2-Track and specifically the Phones or CTRL RM outs to monitor USB returns whilst recording, but this won’t really help with skype, it is more for recording purposes and monitoring USB playback.
I was happy to confirm that this mixer is just not setup to do what many podcasters would want to use it for, Skype interviews or co-hosting. This is another example of how podcasters often have to work around gear that is built for musicians.
However, the “why” still remains unanswered. My follow up questions to Behringer, asking for the technical reason why this happens, were never answered.
What doesn’t make sense, and perhaps someone reading this will know, is why audio from a microphone is cut off from the Phones and the audio meters when receiving the computer’s audio to the Phones via USB?
You are still sending out the audio from your microphone and it is still going out the Main Out so why can’t I also hear it? Why mute that signal? And it’s not a feedback issue because again, the audio is still being sent and any audio from the USB cannot go back out of the USB.
Is this just a design flaw? Cheap parts? I have yet to figure out a technical reason. What do you think?
The good news is I found a few ways to use this mixer to monitor both the incoming and the outgoing audio. Despite this limitation, it’s still possible to monitor both sides!
Here are my solutions including the gear I used to accomplish each setup.
What’s the Fix?
Option 1 – Mix-Minus
The first solution would be to remove the USB from the audio chain. One of the nice features of the Q802USB is that it provides you with an auxiliary channel (labeled FX Send). Using the mixer in a classic mix-minus setup enables you to monitor the audio in both directions because you are not relying on the USB connection.
Audio from the computer is being sent into an available channel on the mixer and audio from the mixer is being sent out the FX Send, minus the channel that has the computer audio on it. To understand how this works and to setup a mix-minus for yourself, see my complete guide and video.
There is another nice advantage of going with a mix-minus setup that actually brings the USB back into play. because you are not using the USB for Skype or other VOIP software, you can record all the audio from your mixer into audio recording software (Audition, Audacity, etc.) using the USB connection. This is great option for recording your interviews, podcasts, etc., on the very same computer that you are using Skype on.
Option 2 – Splitting the Headphones
The next option is sort of a hack but I was very happy that it worked. If you still want to use the USB as your input and output for Skype, you can monitor both directions by using a Y-cable to split the 1/8″ connection of your headphones to 2 1/4″ leads that will pull audio from the phones (Skype) while at the same time send your own audio into your headphones via the Main Out.
The Main Out on the Q802USB always receives all analog inputs. Therefore, by plugging one lead of your headphones into the Main Out, you will be able to hear yourself. At first it may feel strange to have yourself in one ear and your guest in the other but with time you may actually come to prefer monitoring the audio this way. You can more easily pick out which side contains any audio issues.
To create this split headphones setup, you’ll need a female to female adapter that fits the size of your cabling. In my case, my headphones have a 1/8″ male lead and the Y-cable has the same. The adapter allows me to make the connection between the headphones and the Y-cable.
Once you’ve created your split headphone cabling, place one 1/4″ lead into the Phones output and one into the left side Main Out.
In the USB routing section, leave both buttons in the up position if you want to also use the USB to record into software.
Option 3 – Splitting to a Recorder
Another option is much like the last except in this setup, you don’t need the female to female adapter.
Use a Y-cable like before, plugged into the mixer the same way (one lead into Phones, one into Main Out) and plug the 1/8″ lead of the Y-cable into an audio recorder.
From there you would monitor the audio on the recorder itself which is receiving both sides of the audio.
The advantage here is that you are monitoring at the very same source that is recording the audio. This is the best place to monitor your audio because you are hearing exactly what your recorder is hearing and you can ensure that any audio issues are not occurring after they leave the mixer.
Option 4 – Software Monitoring
The final option is the least favorable. If you are using Skype recording software that allows you to monitor the incoming audio such as Audio Hijack, you monitor both sides of the Skype call.
When you enable monitoring in Audio Hijack, it sends back your own audio albeit with some latency.
This is why I don’t like this option; it is really hard to talk when you are hearing your own voice on delay.
That said, Audio Hijack’s latency is so low that it’s still manageable. This is partially due to a “hidden” feature of Audio Hijack 3 called “Experimental Low Latency Mode.” You can access this feature by holding the option key on launch. Read the linked article for full details.
In sum, the mixer is still a great buy at only $80 U.S. and I would still say that it’s the overall winner of my $100 Mixer Shootout. The Q802USB offers the most features (aux send, good preamps, USB, multiple inputs and single knob compression) and despite this quirk, I would still say it’s the best value in the sub $100 mixer lineup. It’s far from perfect but at the price point it’s pretty amazing.
GEAR USED TO MAKE THIS VIDEO
• Y-Cable/Insert cable (various lengths)
• Female to female adapter: (I used an old one from Radio Shack).
• Eneloop (pro) rechargeable batteries (non “pro” seen in video)
I post lots of behind the scenes content and gear tests between videos. Follow me at your favorite!
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