Behringer, Good or Bad?
For those of you who don’t know, Behringer is a German company that does their manufacturing in China. They’re an audio equipment company that seems to specialize in copying existing designs from other manufacturers. While I believe they do have some original equipment, many of their products are “ripoffs” sold at a much lower price than the original. It’s always obvious that they’re Behringer products, and there’s no attempt to fool the customer, but sometimes even the names are not so subtle hints as to which products they’re emulating (Xenyx vs. Onyx anyone?).
If you lurk around various internet forums involving pro audio equipment, you’ll quickly find that people are usually pretty polarized about Behringer. Some people love the great value, and the fact that equipment formerly only available to the pro is made available (through a lower price) to the amateur. Others are upset at the blatant copying, and go as far as to advocate and practice boycott of the company. Still others are merely leery, citing poor build quality.
In my opinion, most of Behringer’s products are priced for excellent value. Take their mixers; no other company produces them at anywhere near that cost, and the Behringers come with relatively extensive feature sets. Actually, I’d say the vast majority of Behringer’s products have great feature sets at a relatively amazing price point. Some argue that for the price, even if they fail at twice the rate, that still makes some of these products a higher value at less than half the cost. I’m sure those that have had equipment break on stage during a gig would agree with me that this is not really a valid argument! At least not for everyone. Many (granted, not all) of these products have pretty good sound quality as well, making them a tempting buy.
The question around copying is a tricky one. The issue is in fact twofold. One is the question of whether Behringer’s copying is stifling innovation, and the other is whether this cuts into other companies’ profits. Actually, these two issues are quite linked, though they are not the same. I don’t have the answer to either. I would say, however, that some competition has definitely been good for the market, and I would venture to say that I have not seen Behringer harm the market overall. I believe that many audio products especially in the prosumer market are overpriced. Behringer has alleviated some of that. Still there is a certain point where the blatant cloning of products seems to me to be morally wrong and probably discourages innovation (why do R&D when someone else will take all your hard work for free?).
There are almost always people who say there are quality problems with one company or another, or sometimes a particular product. It’s really hard to say when these complaints are legitimate. Probably most of them are real, but people tend to complain when they come across problems and not speak up half as much when things go well. Thus, I’d expect people who have problems who complain constitute a disproportionately percentage of the vocal userbase in comparison to the whole userbase. One generally only hears anecdotal stories. Still, these stories are valuable because while individual cases may not be indicative of the company’s overall quality, in aggregate they can point to quality problems.
Having said that, I suppose I should proceed to describe a little of my personal experience. I think I’ve mentioned briefly before a few of the problems I’ve had with Behringer equipment, but I’ll list off the problems I’ve had again quickly. Our drummer purchased two UB-series Behringer mixers a while back probably around 2 years ago, I’m guessing. I think one was a UB1204-Pro and the other was the UB1202. In the middle of one session he accidentally hit one of them (the UB1204-Pro) with his drum stick while playing, and the left channel died. Another one of my friends owned a UB802 (my mini-review here), and after year or two of heavy use, some of the XLR jacks are a bit loose. I recently discovered that my own UB802 has a dead main left channel out. Our church uses a DI800 which is an 8-channel rack DI. We’ve found it quite useful, but recently the second channel died. It flips between loud and soft intermittently rendering the channel essentially useless. Note that I also own a BX4500H bass head as well as a V-AMP 2 (review here), and our drummer owns a B300 Ultrawave, all of which so far have been problem free. It should also be noted though, that these have gone through less wear-and-tear so far. We’ll see how they hold up in the long haul.
Make your own conclusion! While I think for now I’m going to cut back on the Behringer purchases, I wouldn’t go so far as to tell people not to buy from them. I’ve just had too much go wrong to want to risk much more money into their products. Do your research and form your own opinion. There are definitely good values to be had…