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Review

Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen

Issue #53

Focusrite’s Scarlett range is hugely successful because it works simply and well, and offers enough scope to suit most types of users. The 18i8 sits just below the top of the Scarlett range, and I think it hits a particularly sweet spot; four mic preamps is plenty for most home studio users, and the line-in or ADAT options will allow the unit to grow as needed, but without feeling the need to invest in a rack and a bunch of IO that we may never use.
Andi Picker

PROS:

Very simple to set-up and use

Quality feels good

Solid neutral sound

Low latency connection

CONS:

No physical buttons for Pad and Instrument selection

Guitar Interactive star rating: Four and a half stars

Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen

MSRP £299 (UK)  $449 (US)


Ideal for multi-instrumentalists, producers and small bands looking to record audio from a wide range of sources. Andi Picker takes a closer look at Focusrite’s latest generation 18-in, 8-out Scarlett USB interface to find out if it lives up to the reputation of its predecessor.

The Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 is the smaller (18in, 8 out, desktop format) sibling of the rack-mount 18i20 USB interface that we reviewed back in GI Issue 46. Four channels of Focusrite’s  Scarlett microphone preamps are available on combi-sockets on the front panel, with instrument options on channels 1 and 2, and an additional four line inputs on TRS jacks on the rear panel. The remainder of the eighteen inputs are a pair of SP/DIF and the remainder (eight at 44.1/48 kHz, four at 88.2/96 kHz, disabled at 192 kHz) on ADAT digital; the eight output channels are split between a pair of balanced monitor outs, two independent headphone stereo outs and an SP/DIF pair. MIDI in and out is available on a pair of 5-pin sockets on the rear panel which also holds the 12V power socket, on/off switch and USB socket.

The front panel is split into two main zones; on the left are the microphone input channels with nicely linear individual gain controls with multicolored “Halos” providing basic metering, and 48V phantom power switches shared between inputs ½ and ¾. LED indicators show Instrument and Pad status (you need to use the Focusrite Control software to switch these options) on channels 1 and 2, and pad status on 3 and 4. Over to the right are the analogue main monitor level control and Mute button for outputs 1 and 2, and a pair of headphone sockets with individual level controls (mixes can be set in Focusrite Control) along with USB and MIDI status LEDs.

As with the larger unit, the preamps and instrument inputs are high headroom, easy to use, and clean and quiet, exactly as audio interface pres should be. If you need additional microphone inputs, then a separate digital-enabled preamp unit (like Focusrite’s Octopre) can be attached to the ADAT input, or standalone units can be connected to the line inputs. Latency is admirably low (better than I can manage with my RME interface) and was robust and reliable.

As well as the hardware, the package includes Focusrite Control that allows software control and routing (including setting-up individual headphone mixes), and a bundle with Pro Tools |First, Focusrite Creative Pack (a dozen effects for Pro Tools including Eq, compression, distortion, modulation, tuner, echo and reverb), Ableton Live Lite, Focusrite Red 2 & 3 plugins suite, Softube Time & Tone bundle,  Novation Bass Station, and a Loopmaster sample library – check online for latest bundle details.

Focusrite’s Scarlett range is hugely successful because it works simply and well, and offers enough scope to suit most types of users. The 18i8 sits just below the top of the Scarlett range, and I think it hits a particularly sweet spot; four mic preamps is plenty for most home studio users, and the line-in or ADAT options will allow the unit to grow as needed, but without feeling the need to invest in a rack and a bunch of IO that we may never use.

SPECS

18 in / 8 out USB 2 interface

2 x monitor, 2 x stereo headphones

2 x SP/DIF, MIDI

192kHz, 24-bit Conversion

For more information, please visit:

uk.focusrite.com

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Mark Tremonti

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