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Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 (1st GENERATION) 18 In/8 Out USB 2.0 Audio Interface with Four Focusrite Mic Preamps
|Price:||$349.99 & FREE Shipping|
- Four award-winning Focusrite mic pres with 18 inputs and 8 outputs
- Two independent headphone outputs each with a level control
- Rugged metal unibody chassis. High quality 24bit 96KHz audio interface for Mac, PC and iPad
- Includes an authorization code for Ableton Live Lite, Scarlett Plug-in Suite (RTAS/AU/VST), Red 2 & Red 3 Plug-in Suite (AAX/AU/VST), the Softube Time and Tone Bundle, Novation Bass Station, and 1GB of Loopmasters samples
- Compatible with Mac OS X 10.8/Windows 7 or higher
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Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 Audio Interface
The new Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 18 in/8 out interface extends the Scarlett range of USB 2.0 interfaces from Focusrite, each of which offers a series of high-quality inputs and outputs for different recording requirements. With four Focusrite mic pres, Scarlett 18i8 is designed for producers and recording artists or bands that require the ability to record a significant number of sources at the same time, including multiple mics/instruments, with the expansion capability to handle multiple studio recording requirements. Scarlett 18i8 works on Mac, PC and iPad (Apple Camera Connection Kit required for iPad).
18 Separate Inputs, 8 Independent Outputs
At the heart of 18i8 is a set of four Focusrite mic preamps with up to 60dB gain, designed specifically for Focusrite's computer audio interfaces. The first two inputs offer Mic/Line/Instrument on universal XLR/TRS connectors, while inputs 3 and 4 offer Mic/Line capability on universal XLRs-all four are on the front panel with pads and 48V phantom power. Four more line inputs are provided on TRS connectors. An ADAT optical digital connector provides eight additional digital inputs that can also be used with external mic preamps like Focusrite's OctoPre Mk II (sold separately) to increase the number of mic inputs the 18i8 can handle to 12. A stereo S/PDIF coaxial input is also included. On the output side, there are two TRS monitor outputs, stereo S/PDIF coax, and two independent stereo headphone outputs, each with their own volume knob so both the artist and the engineer can control their own personal monitoring. All analog inputs and outputs have their own connectors, so there is no need for breakout cables, and all feature Focusrite precision 24-bit, 96kHz sampling A/D and D/A conversion to get the most accurate signal possible into and out of recording applications on Windows, Mac and now iOS apps.
Tough and Innovative Hardware
Scarlett 18i8 is housed in a compact red unibody metal case to withstand the rigors of the road-and the studio. Input level controls feature signal halos-LED rings around the level control that give a simple and immediate go/no-go level indication: green means there is a recordable signal while red indicates overload. A large main monitor knob with mute button means that main monitor levels are always at your fingertips.
Inside the box you'll find an authorization code for Ableton Live Lite (available via online download), as well as Focusrite's Scarlett plug-in suite and the Red 2 & Red 3 PlugIn Suite (AAX/AU/VST) upon registration of interface. Compatible with all major DAWs, Scarlett plug-in suite provides EQ, Compression, Gate and Reverb-essential tools for polishing your mix.
Which Scarlett Interface Is Right for You?
The Focusrite Scarlett series comes in a range of interface configurations. Use the chart to the left to compare models and find the right Scarlett for your recording needs.
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Setup was relatively easy and well documented. However as another reviewer noted the actual output configuration is not intuitive, and I still don't have a separate control for the subwoofer. Hopefully tech support will reply next week (its all by email) However I was impressed by the audio quality of the interface and very happy to be able to hear my music again. In addition I was surprised at how much software was included, and I look forward to using Ableton. On the downside I would have liked more ability to control the audio output directly through the Scarlett Mixer control with the great Focusrite EQ, compressor included. Probably there is someway to do it by routing ITunes through Ableton - I need more research. Overall am delighted to have my music back working, and look forward to exploring more of the software
First off this isn't my first dance with Focusrite. I previously had a Scarlett 2i2. The 2i2 had great Mic Pre-Amps and a great build quality. While I did like the interface I traded it for the Propellerhead Balance Audio Interface. Balance was also a 2in/2out device but it allowed you to connect multiple devices at once and switch the inputs at the push of a button. Balance was an awesome interface but lacked in the multiple outputs. After much research I came across the Focusrite Scarlet 6i6 which according to the specs it would suite my needs.
The Scarlett 6i6 has great build quality as you would expect. It has a thick, rugged metal casing so it should stand up to some abuse. The jacks feel solid and durable. My only complaint on the build quality would be the monitor and headphone knobs. They seem to be of cheaper quality when compared with the solid feel of the gain knobs located by the Mic Pre-Amp inputs. I'm sure if you take care of your unit the monitor and headphone knobs will be just fine. However if you're rough on equipment be very cautious with those knobs because I could see them potentially breaking if too much stress is put on them during travel.
Setup and Use
The install was very easy. Simply register your unit and then proceed to download and install the Scarlett MixControl software. Be sure to do this before connecting the unit to your computer. This unit does require external power and comes with an included 12VAC adapter. It will not run off of USB bus power! This is quite understandable considering how much this audio interface can do. Once the device is installed you should be ready to go. If you're on a windows based computer simply set this to be your default audio device and you'll be ready to use the Scarlett as WDM Audio Device as well as an ASIO Device for Music Production based programs. My installation was on a Windows 8, i7 laptop and I had no hiccups or issues at all.
As I stated before install was easy but as for using the MixControl software, I think there could be some improvement as far as the ease of use. The MixControl software allows you to have multiple routing possibilities so you have the option to send certain mixes to different outputs, at different levels. Figuring out all the routing stuff for your setup takes a bit of time to understand how it all works. While the user manual (downloadable pdf) gave you a general idea of what the controls do in the mix control I think would be better if they had practical examples of how exactly one would setup a routing. I found videos of other Scarlett Products that also use the MixControl software that were helpful in understanding the routing but I had to really dig to find them on Focusrite's website/youtube channel.
-Edited for clarification-
The mix sent to the various headphone outputs can be adjusted in the MixControl software and your DAW depending on how you setup the routing.
One of the features that I was hoping that this unit would have is a loopback feature. This would allow you to record say for instance audio from a youtube commentary back into your DAW. While there is no software loopback feature on this device you can still set this up via the hardware using the SPDIF connectors. Simply connecting the SPDIF output back into the SPDIF input will allow you to capture and record system audio. You must be careful and make sure that if you're recording the what's coming from output 1/2 that you don't playback/monitor it output 1/2. The signal must be played back/monitored on output 3/4! If you don't do this you'll end up with a feedback loop which will get very loud in your headphones! How to do this isn't specified in the manual anywhere but you can find it buried on the Focusrite's website.
There's not much to say here. The sound quality is as I expected; clean audio with no hisses, pops or random noise! Focusrite has always had some of the best mic pre-amps so you should expect nothing less from them. Nothing like clean audio and super low latency!
Overall I'm pretty satisfied with the Scarlett 6i6 and I'm giving it 4 out of 5 stars. It would get 5 stars if the software MixControl was a little better organized. Too much of my time was spent trying to wrap my head around how the MixControl routing worked and to me it shouldn't have taken that long to figure that out. Other than that I would say it's a rock solid unit that will definitely be a welcomed addition to my humble music setup.
- Update -
I'm still pleased with the Scarlett 6i6 but I have a couple of other notes to add...
There was a high pitched noise/feedback when plugging in my guitar and using my DAW (Reason 7). No matter how low I turned the gain down I could still hear it in the background. This was also recorded into tracks in my DAW. I also had this same problem using the ASIO driver in Adobe Premiere so it's not app specific. Upon doing some research often times guitars on unbalanced inputs can be too hot and pick up ground loop interface. This will results in noise feedback problems. To solve this I purchased a Behringer DI100 Direct Injection Box that turns my unbalanced, line input to a balanced input! While this solution cost me an additional $40.00, I now have a clean signal when running my Guitar into the Scarlett. Plugging in other devices have been fine. It was just my guitar having the issue.
Also I found a video that explains the MixControl Software better than what I've found on Focusrite's website. Search youtube for the channel, The Recording Revolution by Graham Cochrane and look for his video "Focusrite Saffire MixControl Tutorial." Even though this video is talking about the Saffire MixControl it still applies to the Scarlett series as well. Graham's explanation makes it clear how to setup and monitor your mixes via the Focusrite MixControl.
I'm still keeping this review at 4 stars despite the complexity of the MixControl Software and the having to get a DI box for my guitar. Having a DI box is never a bad thing for a studio or any music setup for that matter in case you do have grounding and balance issues. The Scarlett 6i6 is still a solid unit and very flexible!
-August 2 Month Update-
I've been back and forth with Focusrite Tech Support about the high pitch noise when recording my guitar. The noise was occurring at 8 kHz and 16 kHz according to spectrum analysis in Reason 7.0. Focusrite tech support only gave me suggestions on new cables, driver updates, and so on but ultimately they were not able to resolve the problem. They were nice and tried to be helpful but for the record their email support is a bit on the slow side. It was typically 4+ days for each response after I replied to them.
From research I found that noise at 8kHz and 16 kHz is a typical indication of a ground loop issue. I went back and checked everything in my setup. All the cables had been replaced except the USB cable so I decided to try a high-quality USB cable with two ferrite chokes, one on each end of the cable. The cable didn't work. As a last resort I decided to separate all the items in the setup as much as possible. I moved my guitar away from the computer and 6i6 but that didn't work. Finally I moved my audio interface away from the computer. As I moved the 6i6 away from the computer the noise chopped in and out! Come to find out all this time it was the USB jack on the 6i6 causing the problem. If the metal shielding on the USB cable came in contact with the metal case of the plug I got the noise. If I moved it just right to minimize the contact the noise went completely away. For a more permanent fix I wrapped electrical tape around the USB cable plug to tighten the connection and avoid the metal on metal contact. It's been working great since!
This seems to be a potential design flaw for certain system combinations. While Focusrite said they didn't have the issue on their computers and trying with a guitar, I had the issue on two laptop computers (Asus and HP) with multiple guitar/basses at different locations.
I'm still keeping my review at 4 stars! The Scarlett 6i6 hardware is solid and works well! Issues like the one I was having are hard to identify because Focusrite has no way of testing every hardware/software combination. Also ground loop issues can pop up anywhere depending on your environment, cables and proximity to other devices. These things can be hard to locate and find no matter what audio hardware you use. Hopefully this will be helpful to anyone else having these types of issues.
The software is a bear to figure out (lots of options in there), but I found if you choose the 'DAW Recording' preset and send it to the device it's remembered in the Scarlett next time it's powered up. Haven't had to change anything since, but your mileage may vary.
I've been using this mostly for my iPad (Air 1 and Pro) and MacBook, and been rock-solid so far. Hard to beat for the money.