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A review of the Behringer Ultrafex Pro EX3200


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Hmmm a silent review, which talks about something which is all about how sounds sound. This might not work – but heck, I’ll give it a go.

 

A few weeks ago, I bought a Behringer EX3200 – not that I’m unhappy with my Ramsa (Panasonic/Technics) sound system – it sounds good already – my sound system and I have “an understanding”, - I don’t push it - it doesn’t go bang – and so it has been for about 12+ years. So why did I buy a EX3200 multiband sound enhancement processor? Well, you know how it is, I had this gap in my rack which was, of course, letting in dust, and needed filling...honest.

 

So, what does it do?

Now theres a question...Its been mentioned before that Behringer push, squeeze and cram the features from what could so easily be several different pieces of separate equipment, all into one unit – and it really makes sense in terms of cost. After all, think about it, A well made 19 inch rack case, a high quality mains transformer to take the voltage down to circuit board level, input connectors, output connectors, some LED ladder displays to show you what the signal is doing ....... all these things are common to virtually all audio gear – so if you want to do 5 things to your audio, do you pay for 5 rack cases, 5 mains transformers, 5 sets of input connectors etc etc etc, or just one of each of those, and just one really clever circuit board? Exactly. Also just having one unit, saves you money and signal loss, by you not needing 5 sets of patch leads to daisy-chain 5 units together. Simple.

 

Behringer mention in the 20 page manual, that the EX3200

 

• Gives your music that Extra sparkle and makes your instruments and mixes stand out

• Releases untapped resources and details instruments, vocals and mixed program material

• “Natural sonic” processor for Ultra-musical sound improvement

• Variable sound processing circuit for simultaneous enhancer and exciter process (oo err)

• “Dual mode” Ultra-bass enhancer produces “soft” or “tight” bass sounds

• Surround Processor provides you real spatial enhancement and improved stereo imaging

• Built-in noise reduction system

• Ultra low noise 4580 audio operational amplifiers for superior sound performance

 

Not bad for a unit which retails at: £69 rrp, and can be obtained for even less than that.

 

 

 

A Quickie ‘round the back:

The unit is one rack unit high, or to put it another way, its 44.5mm (1 and 3/4inches) high by the obligatory 19inches wide to the extreme edges of its rack ears, with each sides ear containing 2 holes, for secure mounting into standard racks.

 

The unit is 2 channel, for most of us, that simply means “It’s stereo!” (yay!) but, some users might want to use the 2 channels separately, in mono eg: running 2 mono sound systems in different rooms for example.

 

The back of the unit has 8 connectors – now don’t get scared... These are simply Left and Right IN, and Left and Right OUT...hang on, that’s only 4, I hear you heckle... True. These ins and outs are duplicated with both professional XLR sockets AND 1/4inch TRS (jack) sockets too. You’re not limited on having to use the same style of plugs for both the input and output – so, you could run from your mixer to the EX3200 with XLRs and run from the EX3200 to your amps using 1/4inch TRS jack leads – however, running XLR all the way through would offer your music signals the advantages of maximum immunity to external interference, as all inputs and outputs on the EX3200 are fully balanced. The XLR connector pins have the glint of gold about them.

 

The last feature on the back panel is the IEC (kettle lead) power connector – why bother mentioning this? Well, for one thing IEC plugs tend to stay plugged into their power sockets more than the old Figure-8 cassette deck style power leads do. For another thing, theres a very clever little voltage selector in the fuse holder, which you take out, turn around and point it to either 100~120volts, or 200~240volts depending on which country you happen to have taken that “easy” last minute booking for.

 

Common to many Behringer units – IF the power lead did fall out, or indeed if the unit lost power for any other reason – such as Diane the Drunk’ed sloshing her Barcardi Wa’ermelon breezer, all over the unit while she slurs “Can yer play – I will seerrviive” in your ear, the input and output connectors on the EX3200 will “instantly” latch together the moment the powers lost – so the music signal going into the EX3200, is passed straight out of the EX3200 into your amps, or the next unit in your audio chain – a great failsafe to have – just in case the un-happenable happens (and it wouldn’t be the first time).

 

 

 

“Take one large, fresh, sharp Axe...”

The front panel consists of 11 rotary potentiometers (knobs to you and me), 11 illuminated and 2 x 13 LED ladder displays. You’re starting to get scared again aren’t you... Right....Take one large Axe, and chop the unit in half, cleanly down the middle – There now! I said that the unit was two channel – everything on the left hand side, is just the same as whats on the right hand side. Just like your equaliser on your home hifi might have 5 sliders for the left channel, and 5 channels for the right.

 

There are two unique controls, which are right in the middle of the front panel. A knob allowing you to control the amount of Surround sound processing that you’d like to apply to your music, and a simple illuminated push button, for on/off of this feature. A handy feature – shame your axe went through it really.

 

So, thanks to Mr Axe, we’re left with 5 knobs and 5 five push buttons, and a nice bouncy LED ladder display to talk about (each side) - that’s better isn’t it.

 

 

“From the Left – quiiiick March” (Although it probably wont be March by the time I finish this review)

The left most group of controls that we come across on the front panel is the Bass Processor.

 

* A Rotary control labelled “Low Mix” with markings from 1 to 6, which determines how much of your original signal you want to get used for Bass processing – only readers of Max Power, or those with a distinct dislike of their neighbours need bother with settings 5 and 6...although I found that different tunes, with different bass frequencies didn’t even need levels 3 or 4 – this is really a “dilute to taste” feature – so perhaps leave it on 3 for a gig or two, and see how you get on.

 

* An illuminated push button labelled “Mode” lets you choose between “soft” or “tight” (I knew a girl like that once). This is one of those sound things that’s almost impossible to put into words – but here goes. Play a tune – I choose Janet Jackson – “Above and beyond” the bass goes Bommm bommm bommm, well that’s sort of “soft” bass...push the button in for “Tight” bass and re-start the tune – the bass goes more like “BMP BMP BMP” but not actually louder, or with more energy – just...tighter, sharper, more solid (see, I told you this was gonna be tricky to describe). Sticking with another favourite Jackson song for a moment – The intro to “Billie Jean” also sounded distinctly different with the Mode set to “tight”, rather than soft. Soft mode did however, sound better on some types of music which I tried – notably, the extremely smooth bass (double bass?) on the beginning of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly me to the moon”.... “hmmmm....niiiice...”

 

* That last elusive illuminated push button here in the Bass processor section is innocently labelled “Shift”, but unlike “shift” on a computer keyboard, this little button does quite a manly job. It sets the cut-off frequency of the bass processor, between “low” or “Ultra low”. The “low” setting makes the unit less effective on really deep tones, whereas “Ultra low” gives the unit an unlimited free hand to all bass frequencies.

 

Now, a word (or indeed two whole sentences) of warnings which appear in BOLD in the manual, which I MUST pass on in this review.

 

“Please note that the bass processor should be set carefully to avoid possible speaker damage. Most near-field monitors are not capable of handling the bass produced by the Ultrafex Pro”

 

Not many mobile DJ’s use near-field (sometimes called close-field) monitors as part of their mobile setup eg: A single or pair of small(ish) speakers often on their own amp (or internally powered/amped) )– pointing AT the DJ from just a few feet away, for use as Booth monitor speakers. However, such speakers are often used in club and home DJ environments.

 

I would also consider extending this warning to anyone who pushes their main speakers to within a milliwatt of destruction. Eg: an unattenuated 400watt amp feeding a 150watt speaker;- Frequency, combined with excess power can chew a driver up as a snack and still feel hungry –especially on synthesized sounds.

 

Part of this warning is perhaps understandable when you glance at the units specifications at the back of the manual. Now, we’re all used to seeing fairly bland frequency response characteristics between different bits of equipment...does “20hz to 20kHz” ring any bells? Yeah, the fairly standard quote for everything from cassette decks, to video recorders, to mp3 players etc. Well, hold onto your chins...the EX3200 boasts a frequency response of a staggeringly deep deep 0.35Hz (yes that’s a NOUGHT POINT in the front – less than 1 Hz), right up to a whopping 200kHz... Both these ranges are of course way below and above human hearing, and indeed too extreme for most of the rest of your audio gear to do anything with at all (as good as its weakest link theorem, etc) but, the unit will at least acknowledge the presence of such extremes, making it very capable in the more humanly audible ranges.

 

With this in mind, its advisable therefore to start “playing” this unit with the “low mix” rotary control on just “1” and the “Mode” switch set to just “Low” instead of “Ultra Low” – if that works fine for a gig or two, then consider the higher numbers, and the other mode – at the first sign (or sound) of smoke, turn it down a digit – and remember (or make a note) of what the setting was that gave you trouble.

 

 

“Hands up! You’re surround sounded-ed”

Want another easy section to think about before we move onto the section with lotsa twiddly bits on it? Ok then... In the dead centre of the front panel (next to the axe mark and gaffa tape field dressing) is the Surround Processor Section, which features just two controls:

 

• A single illuminated push button labelled “In/out” which is either a training aid for the Oxford and Cambridge rowing teams, or simply an “on/off” switch for the whole surround effect – my money’s on the latter.

• A rotary knob labelled “Surround” with markings from 0 to 6. As it should be, with the knob pointing at zero, there is no perceivable audio change when you push the above button to “In” if the rotary is set to zero. This sounds logical enough, but it’s a refreshing change to some units which instantly add a minimal effect to the sound when you change from “off” to “on”, or “out” to “in”, or “bypass” to “in-line”, making it impossible to subtly switch in an effect, or process without the audience noticing a sudden change.

 

In use, this worked well, and (with someone else twiddling the control as I stood in the middle of the dance floor) the sound was crisp and sounded more “live”, without sounding “brash”.

 

With the majority of our DJ time being pre-mixed audio programmes eg: A song that’s already got all of its instruments mixed down into two channels; left and right, rather than us plugging a guitar, or synth keyboard into the EX3200, I wasn’t expecting the surround processor to do a great deal. However, with the surround control on about 4, the sound was such to make me think that the speakers were a little bit more around the sides of the dancefloor, rather than just in the 2 corners. The intro to The Eagles “Hotel California” sounded more distinctive – again difficult to describe – it was as if the lead guitar was closer to you than the rest of the music. This separation of one thing being more easy to distinguish from another sound was also apparent in some vocals in modern dance tunes too where the vocals sometimes seemed a little lost.

 

It is of course possible to have too much of a good thing – with the surround knob turned up to “6”, the maximum, the sound was starting to sound a little wispy, almost bordering on hollow for most tracks, although the Candlelight mix of DJ Sammys “Heaven” sounded really breathy (oh, time for a cold shower and one of my pills, nearly). I’ll definitely consider using surround settings from now on for my slow spots – for my fast spots theres “Oxy 10”.

 

As an ending note on surround audio – they only work on Stereo sound – so, if you’re running your system entirely in mono – just leave the Surround In/Out button on Out, safe in the knowledge that its only one function, out of several which this compact unit has to offer.

 

“Come follow the band...”Theres no getting away from it now, we’ve got to cover the Multi-band processor section, with its 4 rotary knobs, 3 illuminated buttons and its bouncy LED ladder.

 

Well lets take one of those illuminated push buttons out of the equation straight away –

• The “Solo” button on most devices allows you to listen to the effect that the unit is providing WITHOUT hearing the original material coming into the unit. On a Digital delay unit for example, pressing “Solo” would let you hear the delayed sound only, not the original, undelayed sound. However, as the EX3200 enhances otherwise lost acoustics in the original sound – pressing “solo” doesn’t actually give you much to listen to at all. So we can forget the solo button, in nearly all but very specialised cases – there that’s one button dealt with already.

 

“Imagine...”Nope, not a plug for a song from an Ex-Beatle, but a cue for you to get a little creative here. One the left of the Multiband processor section, there is a push button marked “Auto NR” and next to it a Rotary control marked “Sensitivity”. Now I need you to imagine 2 things here, firstly imagine that the knob is labelled “NR sensitivity” rather than just “Sensitivity” and then imagine a nice border being drawn around these two controls and the LED ladder directly above them – they really should be grouped together in their own little section.

 

Multiband processing and Psycho-acoustics (don’t ask) are known to often create a slight amount of noise – especially during certain instrument solo’s – with quiet musical passages played by acoustic guitars coming off particularly badly apparently. So, Behringer added “Auto Noise reduction” (Hip hip.....) to alleviate this problem. But how does the unit know what is background noise, and what is actually a stunning piece of quiet, soft, emotional music. Well, you have to give it a hand actually.

 

Quite simply (honest) you need to turn the NR Sensitivity knob to a point where at least the first (left most) LED on the LED ladder is illuminated at all times EXCEPT when no music is playing. If the sensitivity is not high enough, the manual warns that audio pumping may occur – that nasty sound that’s unpleasantly similar to listening to Eric Prydz: “Call on me” with its side-chain compression effects on the bass.

 

“Tune in – drop out”OK, imaginations back on standby now...forget that border around the controls etc...onto the next rotary along – “TUNE”. This knob is labelled in Kilohertz, raging from 1 to 8kHz. This allows you to choose the lowest frequency which the units high pass filter will cut-off (suppress) and therefore what frequencies get passed onto the Natural sonic processor. Again – difficult to actually describe this, but vocals were made easier to hear above music with this control set to around 2~4kHz – much more effectively than simply boosting/cutting the same frequency range on an equalizer. I often find that a lot of modern tunes have vocals which are a bit “back of the box” and this element of the EX3200 really seems to offer aid in this area. I’ve often found that a couple of part favourites like the opening male vocals on “I’ve had the time of my life” have been indistinct (unless you momentarily whack the fader up), but with the “Tune knob” set to its 1kHz, old Bill Medley got shoved a little closer to the mic. Chris Issacs – “Wicked Games” and Chris Rea’s “On the beach” certainly felt the benefits of the extra “stand-out for the crowd” Fronty-brightness (here we go with the descriptive words again) which this feature promotes.

 

“I want my MP3...” (apologies to Dire Straights)

One thing that I was keen to try was claims that MP3’s sounded better through an Ultrafex, and....after listening to two identical tracks, one a shop bought CD, and the other an MP3 at 128kbps, and another MP3 (of the same track) at 192kbps, I was able to notice a benefit. The 128kbps track still suffered a bit of fuzzy/damped, saturated signal during loud sections, but both it and its 192kbps kin, definitely sounded more “lively” and less “flat”, less “2 dimensional” when run through the EX3200.

 

“Excite me.....or Enhance me”The next knob along is labelled “Process” and simply has “Enhancer” labelled up at the 7oclock position, and “Exciter” at the opposite end of the scale, at the 5 oclock side.

 

At any given moment, you can either have lots of “Enhancer” and no “Exciter” or vice versa, or anything inbetween. There are distinct audible differences each way, but its like trying to describe a taste of an alcoholic beverage to a tea-totaller. The manual, bless it, states that the Exciter function increases the signals transparency and sharpness, which I’d agree with. The manual doesn’t mention what the Enhancer should sound like, so I’d offer the terms “richer”, “wetter”, or “Smooother”. The manual does say however, that the Enhancer is best used on signals which already possess sufficient quantities of treble. Certainly the “Exciter” seems to work best on deeper, bass-rich music, with the bass guitar stabs in C&C music factorys “Everybody dance now” track getting really “Excited” and Princes “Kiss” getting very hot and bothered with a mid-way setting between Enhanced and Excited.

 

The last knob, is demurely labelled “High Mix” and is numbered 0 to 6. It allows you to determine how much of the incoming music program is used for any of the sound enhancement settings. Again, like “low mix” in the Bass section, start this control off at its lowest point (0) for no effect whatsoever, and gradually bring it up, number by number, gig by gig. I did notice, that 4 was about the highest which I personally liked to have this control, with 5 and 6 being a bit too “bright and shiny”, with my ears doing the aural equivalent of squinting at the sun, but how you set this will depend on many factors, including your own sound system, and of course personal taste.

 

The whole Multiband processor section can be switched on or off, using the last remaining illuminated push button switch, logically labelled “in/out”.

 

“I’ve got the power...”Lastly, the far right hand side of the front panel is home to a nice square power on/off switch. Deep inside the unit (not that its all that deep), the power relays don’t actually connect the audio until about 2 seconds after powering up the unit, preventing power up “Thwump!” to make it past the unit, out to your amps and speakers.

 

Conclusion:

All in all, theres not many things which will offer any sound system, be it a £200 cheap’n’cheerful, or something bigger, notable, audible and most importantly, worthwhile benefits. There are even less beneficial things offering audio benefits in this price range (£69).

 

For the cost of a fraction of a gig, (even when you’ve added on a really decent pair of XLR cables), this is something which almost any DJ, especially those running some, or all MP3’s, will be able to benefit from, in an almost “set-and-forget” manner, once the unit is set up initially, and tweaked at its first few gigs.

 

Take note of the Behringers warning about near/close field monitor speakers however, or if you're already driving your speakers very hard.

 

 

So, which of our featured forum retailers can offer DJU members a really good price on one of these, with a set of really good XLRs cables...?

Edited by Gary

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  • 1 month later...
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I tried an ultra fex for a few gigs and they are good....

Basicly it makes a pa sound "warmer" more like a hifi system

Good for when the music is quiet but only good if you have plenty of head room in your system when you crank it up.

 

I decided not to buy one as

A) its another peice of kit to add to the rack

B) i asked a few "punters" and they didnt really think it made much of a differance

c) I spent the $$ on new new cabling all round (often overlooked)

 

In saying this if I was doing a club install I would chuck one in

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QUOTE (nikidj @ May 20 2005, 12:50 PM)
i asked a few "punters" and they didnt really think it made much of a differance

Thats a good thing too in a way.

 

If a punter "detects" a difference, then there must have been something very, very different - and I'd hope that your sound system was reasonably good to begin with anyway. Indeed, we've no reason to think otherwise.

 

Since installing and setting up my 3200, I've had "regulars" tell me that the bass is even more "punchier" than normal, and that voices/vocals were clearer than usual. If anyone came up and said "Sounds like your using an Exciter/effector now", I'd consider that I had the 3200's settings too high.

 

There are several distinct additions that the 3200 can make to the sound, such as punchier bass, bringing "lost" background instuments, melodies, hooks etc out to the very foreground in audio terms etc, surround sound (stereo wide) and overall "crispness" to the music - without making it sound too "sharp" or "Brash" on the ears (causing ear/hearing fatigue after an hour or two). Most of these need a little "tweaking" once or twice to match the rest of the system.

 

Certainly nothing which I would like to present a punter with a "before" / "After" or "with/without" option on.

 

However, I take on-board your comment that leads are often overlooked - and can certainly play a big part in the overall performance. Although I'll never be convinced to buy a £60 IEC mains lead, instead of an average £10 one.

 

 

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iec means power?

I dont know if a power lead would make a diferance?

let me know if it does! http://www.dj-forum.co.uk/html//emoticons/533.gif

 

When I bough my PA it came with some crappy spkr leads, these were quickly replaced with some quality leads, the differance was simply astounding, clearer base could reach a higher spl with less effort on the gear.

 

replaced rcas with jack adapter between amp and mixer with a guitar lead with rca fiited to one again, agagin differance amazing, now run less gain on channels and have clearer sound.

 

as for regulars realising diferance, i agree, if installing bar/ club install i would probally chuck one in.

http://www.dj-forum.co.uk/html//emoticons/biggrin.gif

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QUOTE (nikidj @ May 24 2005, 09:24 AM)
iec means power?
I dont know if a power lead would make a diferance?
let me know if it does! http://www.dj-forum.co.uk/html//emoticons/533.gif

Yes, sorry, I should have refered to it as an IEC Power lead really.

 

IEC leads, are also known as Kettle Leads -

 

The £60 (and I've even seen £80 ones - probably the same as the £60 one) tend to get advertised in Audiophile mags and websites, such as this one.

 

The other aspect is that any enhancement or benefit that you get from using one such amazing power cable is going to be somewhat undone the moment the super power lead is plugged into the £3.99 Woolworths 2 metre Extention lead. http://www.dj-forum.co.uk/html//emoticons/533.gif

Edited by Gary

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A good revue Gary.

 

Did you try using this with your Microphone and if so, were there any noticable changes/advantages?

 

I have been thinking of road testing one of these with a band.

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QUOTE (Kingy @ May 24 2005, 11:12 AM)
A good revue Gary.

Did you try using this with your Microphone and if so, were there any noticable changes/advantages?

Yes, I did try some mic work through the unit, and it did very little to the microphone signal - partly I suspect because the mic isnt stereo and certain parts of the manual state that the most notable effects are heard on stereo sources.

 

With the controls on the EX3200 on MAX (eg: rotated up to 6 out of 6) there was a slight "ambience" heard under alongside the mic signal - difficult to explain, but it was a little like holding a sea shell to your ear, but not close - a few inches away...just room noise being processed/"enhanced" perhaps. This "effect" didn't seem to benefit the mic though, and even the ambient backing sound could be tuned out by turning the EX3200 controls down to 4 ish.

 

For use with a band, where live sounds have got a lot of dynamic presence/energy already, I would take it REALLY gently on the settings. Especially if the band already run more than the label-rated power into their speakers. As mentioned in the review above even Behringer warn against potential speaker damage on the Bass enhancer function, due to the astoundingly low frequencies that are attainable.

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I am just thinking out loud when I ask that Gary. If I set this unit to process my music whilst Djing, it will also affect my voice. This would be ok as long as neither are detrimental to the overall show.

 

Regarding the bands, dont forget I use active HK stuff front of house which have built in compressor limiters, so they attenuate any incoming spurious signals to a level they are happy with. I have had no problems at all with this.....yet!

 

I think I will borrow one and try it out having read your revue.

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  • 3 months later...

Ok, so May seems like ages ago now, but I have added one of these to the rig.

 

My verdict: Unbelievable. I fully recommend these units for anyone who wants to seriously improve the performance of their existing cabs. Careful use and a bit of experimenting will reap large rewards.

 

Best £65 I have ever spent!

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