What is best budget standalone DAC to use with mic preamp

Hello everyone, I’m new to the forum and I’m just learning how to use the Audacity program. I’m happy to be a part of this awesome forum and wish everyone a happy new year!

I have a Dell XPS L501X Laptop using Windows Home Premium, Version 6.1.706 service pack 1, X64- based PC.

It has a Intel (R) Core ™ i5 M 480 @ 2.67 GHz 2667 Mhz, 2 Core(s), 4 Logic… Processor.

6GB Ram

I’m using a Joemeeks VC6Q preamp/compressor for my condenser mic.

My question is what would you recommend for a good sounding budget USB standalone Analog to digital converter that I can plug my preamp into using TRS jacks?
Thanks, jebsong

You said the magic word “Budget” and that’s the Behringer UCA202 I use or any of the variations: UCA222 or UFO202. I own two or three and there are a bunch of them at work. It’s not TRS, so you need to get an adapter cable.


Here’s one on my mixer:



It’s one of the devices certified for Perfect Overdubbing in Audacity – providing you put the headphones where I show.



What is the best budget sandalone DAC…

You are actually looking for an ADC, not a DAC. :wink:

The UCA202 should be adequte but you want to go upscale a bit, look for a [u]USB Audio Interface[/u]. These typically run $100 - $200 USD for a 2-channel “stereo” interface. These normally have XLR mic inputs, but look for one that has switchable mic/line inputs so you can use your preamp/compressor. You can also find them with combo XLR/TRS jacks.

An audio interface is basically a high-quality soundcard with both an ADC and DAC.

If you are recording to a backing track, look for an interface with zero-latency hardware monitoring. That will allow you to monitor yourself directly without going through the computer.

My question is what would you recommend for a good sounding…

Your choice of ADC won’t have much affect on sound. The preamp won’t generally affect the sound that much either, unless you are getting excessive preamp noise, or if you have a vacuum tube preamp that adds “character” to the sound.

Of course, the compressor and equalizer in the JoeMeek unit will affect the sound.

Other things that are more important than the ADC -

  • The performance
  • Room Acoustics & soundproofing
  • The microphone

Thanks for all the input everyone!
I was thinking more in the $200 to $300 price range and maybe less for a used one.

I have a Oktava MK 319 condenser mic and a AT 4033 condenser mic I tried the Octava out last night and it sounded pretty good going through my Joemeeks preamp. I recorded a few tracks on Audacity and they all sounded really good I did 2 with the eq flat and 2 with some eq added. I’m not really planing on using compression.

Adding the eq helped but I think that I will record with the eq flat from now on and do the eq in Audacity.

Let me know if you can recommend a analog digital converter in the $200 to $300 range?

Thanks, jebsong


That’s not budget. That’s what people spend for everything including the microphone.

Other things that are more important than the ADC -

  • The performance
  • Room Acoustics & soundproofing
  • The microphone

And no shortage of people trying to fix all those things in software.

As above, the converter should not sound like anything. About the only features you can get with a better A/D is higher sampling rates and bit depths. We have had complaints from people who have noise on their USB port and that affects “USB Power.” That is, equipment that’s powered by the USB port itself and do not have wall power. Wall power is better.


The expensive parts of a sound card tend to be the microphone pre-amplifiers and the case.
The Behringer UCA 202 and similar have a cheap plastic (but adequate as long as you don’t drop a heavy amp on it). It has no microphone pre-amps.
If you already have a good microphone pre-amp, there may not be that much point in spending a lot on more microphone pre-amps. The actual chip that does the analogue to digital conversion only cost a few dollars for the best available - the money goes on other components, notably the analogue components of microphone pre-amps, case, additional software…

$200 to $300 US is a bit of a strange price range for 2 channel line level in/out USB sound card. At this price there are a lot of multi-channel devices and a lot with high quality microphone pre-amps, neither of which you need. On the other hand, if you find something for that kind of money for stereo line in/out, you’re more likely to get something with balanced XLR in/outs than unbalanced TRS. That price range is between the budget multi-channel devices (or USB microphone pre-amps) and the 2 channel pro-range (from around $500 upwards).

Adding the eq helped but I think that I will record with the eq flat from now on and do the eq in Audacity.

IMO, it’s generally best to record “clean” because you can’t always un-do the effects in software. You also have more choices for less money with software.

But some people use a hardware compressor/limiter to “tame” unexpected peaks before they hit the ADC, because compressing/limiting in software after the ADC has clipped won’t remove the distortion. But, “in the studio” it’s not usually a problem because you can usually leave enough headroom and/or “take two” if you accidentally clip.

And, some people just like the sound of a particular hardware compressor.

I recorded a few tracks on Audacity and they all sounded really good

I hope you are not using the mic input on your laptop… The line-input on a regular soundcard is often acceptable, but the mic input is usually low quality, and it’s too sensitive for the line-level output from your preamp.

I am using the mic input for my preamp but I will try the line input now that you mention it. My Joemeeks preamp has a compressor and I plan on trying it out at some point.
I did a little research and I can get a analog to Digital converter without preamp’s with a Sample/Bit rate of 48kHz/24 bit for between $67.34 for a Lexicon Alpha to $542.81 for a MOTU Ultralite MK3 Hybrid. I’m going to spend more that $100 on one at this time but I might be able to get one of the $200 or $300 converters for $100 used.


That’s a good summary.

I know a singer songwriter that permanently has a microphone set up in a small enclosure that looks like a telephone box (heavily damped to cut down unwanted echoes). The microphone connects to a pre-amp with built in compressor. The compressor / pre-amp settings are permanently set for his voice and no-one is allowed to touch it. Any time that he wants to record, he just presses the record button, stands on “X marks the spot” and starts singing. With just a little amplification of the recording he has a very good recording. It took him 6 months to get the settings just right and it works because it is always his voice, his vocal microphone and a tightly controlled environment.

Quite often when I record vocals I will use a hardware compressor/limiter with compressor threshold of around -6 dB and a limiter threshold around -1 dB. The recording level will be set for a maximum peak level of -6 dB, so if all goes to plan there is no compression. Where it kicks in is if the vocalist becomes over excited and produces an unexpectedly high peak, which, without the compression would mean scrapping that take. Effectively the compressor just increases the amount of headroom (insurance).

I don’t know the Ultralite Mk3, but Motu make some very good kit (from around $500 upward).
What I would suggest is that you try a (cheap) Behringer UCA 202 or UCA 222 for now. It will get you started while you save up for a “pro” converter, but I think that you will be pleasantly surprised by what the little Behringer units can do. If you don’t like the Behringer, they only cost around $30 and you could give it away, throw it in the trash, or keep it as a spare. I’d not be surprised if you ended up keeping the Behringer for years before upgrading. It will almost certainly be a lot better than plugging directly into the laptop.

There is a thorough technical review of the UCA 202 here: NwAvGuy: Behringer UCA202 Review
Note that he is comparing it with a “Benchmark DAC1 Pre” (costing around $1500).

Hi DVDdoug,

Well you talked me into it and I just ordered the Behringer U-Control UCA202 from Sweetwater for $29.99. I decided that I’m not really sure if I will get into recording at the pro level and for now I think this is the best choice for me.

I’m not sure if I should start a new thread for this next question I have?
I have an old TASCAM DA-30 MKII DAT recorder and I want to record my tapes onto my PC.
Is there any type of interface that I will need for this?

Thank you and everyone for the great advice!


I have an old TASCAM DA-30 MKII DAT recorder

Oh, maaaaan.


Behringer U-Control UCA202

It’s not a gift from the angels, but I have and like two of them and there are several at work. All do what they’re supposed to do.