Review: Behringer Ultragain ADA8000 Mic/Line Preamp & A/D/A Converter


If you’re looking to expand the inputs and/or outputs of your recording interface, and that interface comes equipped with ADAT (also sometimes called “Lightpipe” or “Toslink”) inputs and outputs, look no further than the Behringer Ultragain ADA8000. The ADA8000 is an 8-channel Mic/Line preamp and A/D (Analog-to-Digital) converter. But as a bonus, it’s also an 8-channel D/A (Digital-to-Analog) converter. This comes in handy if you need additional analog outputs from your DAW, like maybe for mixing “out of the box” using an analog console, or if you need additional analog outputs for creating headphone mixes for multiple performers while tracking in the studio. Many of its nearest rivals offer only the A/D conversion at more than twice the price, making the ADA8000 quite the attractive package, indeed.

Ins and Outs

Each of the ADA8000’s 8 input channels feature a balanced XLR Mic input and a balanced TRS Line input. The input connectors are located on the front of the device, so you should plan to route your cables accordingly. The only controls provided for each channel are a simple gain knob, with both a signal-present and clip LED to assist you with setting your levels. The ADAT connections are on the back of the unit. This is where you would connect the ADAT output of your recording interface if using the ADA8000 as a D/A converter. The final input connection is a dedicated BNC Word Clock input, which we will talk more about in just a moment.

The outputs of the ADA8000 include the ADAT output, which you connect to the ADAT input of your recording interface, and 8 balanced XLR line outputs (also on the rear of the device). One point of confusion for many users is that the XLR line outputs simply pass through the signals received at the ADAT input–they do not carry the signal from the Mic or Line inputs.

However, if you want to use the ADA8000 as a straight analog-in/analog-out mic preamp (for connecting microphones to the line inputs of some other mixer, recording device, etc.), you may do so by simply taking a single Toslink cable, and connecting it from the ADAT output to the ADAT input of the ADA8000. Technically, this takes your analog signal, converts it to digital, and then converts it back to analog, so you’re passing the signal through both the A/D and D/A converters. But the ADA8000 is a very low-noise unit, so the signal shouldn’t be noticably degraded by doing this.

Recording Drums

One of the best reasons for adding an ADA8000 to your recording setup is for recording acoustic drums. You can easily require 8 or more inputs just for the kit: Inside Kick Mic, Outside Kick Mic, Snare Top, Snare Bottom, High Tom/s, Low Tom/s, Left Overhead, Right Overhead, Room Mic/s, etc. So the ADA8000 is a logical choice for expanding the inputs of your interface, giving you 8 additional mic preamps for recording the kit.

It should be noted that when recording really loud sources (like drums) and using high-output mics with the ADA8000, you may overload the input stage, even with the Trim knob turned all the way down. In scenarios such as this, you’ll need some in-line XLR pads. A “pad” is simply a device that “pads”, or reduces the strength of a signal to prevent it from overloading the input. Some mic preamps have a pad switch built in, but the ADA8000 does not.

Fortunately, many condenser microphones already have a pad switch built into the mic itself. If your mics are so equipped, you can simply engage the pad switch, and you should be good to go. However, it’s very common to use dynamic mics, especially when close-miking the kick and snare, and dynamic mics almost never come with pad switches built it. So if you find that some channels clip, even with the gain all the way down, you’ll want to get your hands on a few in-line XLR pads to rectify the problem. But be sure and try it before spending the money, because if your drums aren’t too loud, or your mics have a lower output, the pads may not be necessary.


Any time you’re using multiple A/D or D/A converters in a single recording system, you’re going to encounter the issue of clocking. Basically, clocking is a way to keep all of the separate units in digital sync with each other. If the units get out of sync, you will very likely experience dropouts or random noise in the recorded audio, such as pops and clicks in your recorded material. When synchronizing these multiple devices, one device’s clock must serve as the “master”, with the other device/s set as “slaves”. The ADA8000 offers several options for clocking to other units via a simple switch on the back of the unit.

First, when setting the ADA8000 as the Master, the ADA8000 (and any connected slave units) will be clocked to the ADA8000’s own internal clock. In this scenario, be sure to set the clock for your recording interface to “slave” to its ADAT input (consult the documentation for your interface to find out how to do this).

As a slave, the ADA8000 can be clocked either to its ADAT input, or to its dedicated Word Clock input. If you’re using the ADA8000 as a D/A converter, you should already have an ADAT cable connected from the ADAT output of your recording interface to the ADAT input of the ADA8000. So you may as well select “ADAT” as the clock source. If you’re not using it as a D/A, or you have an extra Word Clock Cable (RG59 75-ohm coax with BNC connectors), BNC Tee-connector, and 75-ohm terminating resistor laying around, you can set it to use the Word Clock input (WC In) instead. For complete details on connecting and using the Word Clock input, consult the ADA8000 user manual.

In my experience, I found that when I used the Word Clock input, the Tee-connector didn’t fit very snugly to the unit, and the system had a tendency to lose sync, which is not a good thing, especially when you’re recording a paying client! I would then have to jiggle the Word Clock cable to get it to regain sync. This could very well be a problem with the Tee-connector or cable, and not with the ADA8000, but I figured why bother? So I removed the BNC cable, Tee-connector, etc., set the ADA8000 to slave to its ADAT input, and it works like a charm. I haven’t lost sync (or sleep) since!


On paper, the ADA8000 can only record at up to 24-bit/48 KHz, but one nice “undocumented” feature of the ADA8000 is the ability to use S/MUX to record at a higher sample rate of 88.2 or 96 kHz. S/MUX (pronounced “ess mucks”) is short for “Sample Multiplexing”. Basically what this does is utilize multiple channels of a lower sample rate to represent a single higher-bandwith channel. So, in effect, with S/MUX, instead of the ADA8000 recording 8 channels at 44.1 or 48 kHz, it can record 4 channels at 88.2 or 96 kHz. To use S/MUX with the ADA8000, simply set the ADA8000’s clock switch to “ADAT In”, and set the clock for your recording interface to “Master”. Then, set the sample rate of the interface to to 88.2 or 96kHz. When using the ADA8000 in this manner, you’ll only use the odd-numbered inputs of the ADA8000 (channels 1,3,5, & 7). Each sequential pair of ADAT outputs (1&2, 3&4, 5&6, 7&8) will carry the higher samples rate signals accordingly. Note that for S/MUX to work, your recording interface must be capable of operating at the higher sample rate of 88.2 or 96 kHz.


One common criticism of the ADA8000 is that both the Mic and Line inputs are routed through the same preamp circuit, with the Line input featuring a hard-wired pad to step down the signal and accept the higher impedance of line-level signals. Some dedicated gearheads, who only want to use the ADA8000 as a line-level converter have opted to rewire the unit, bypassing the preamp circuit altogether, and going straight for the converters. Some who have performed this mod claim that the sound quality is noticably improved, while others say the improvement is very subtle, and isn’t worth the time, money, or trouble. I’ll let you be the judge of that. Just Google-search “Behringer ADA8000 Mods”, and you’ll keep yourself busy for hours. But for what it’s worth, I’m still using my ADA8000 in its stock form.


The Ultragain ADA8000 is yet another winner for Behringer, offering features that no other manufacturer can touch at this price point. The unit does have a few shortcomings (no pad switches, input connections on the front, etc.), but for many recordists, these gripes become negligible when you consider what you’re getting for the money–a quick and easy way of greatly expanding the inputs and output of your recording system, for very little money.


Behringer has only recently released the new Ultragain ADA8200, an update to the ADA8000. This new model boasts several improvements, including Midas-designed preamps (the same as their X32 digital boards), non-detented gain controls (for more precise level-setting), an improved power supply, and upgraded converter chips. Be sure to check it out as well.

Shop for the ADA8000 at

Behringer Ultragain ADA8000
Behringer Ultragain ADA8200 (newly-updated model)

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