This weeks product launch from Focusrite as part of their run up to this years NAMM is the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20, which looks to be a strong entry into a section of the market which is perhaps a bit light on options at this price point.
About the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20
At it’s heart the Scarlett 18i20 takes the core of the popular Scarlett range of interfaces and expands the available I/O options by a fairly sizable amount. The design brief for this interface appears to be for a unit that can multitrack your average band with ease, making it an interesting choice for any act wishing to do their own demo recording or even produce their own work.
We’re looking at a total of 18 inputs and 20 outputs on this interface which isn’t unheard of at this price point with but with the solid advantage of it having 8 of Focusrites well regarded preamps for your mics and instruments to plug into. We can think of only a handful of units currently on the market with that number of preamps at this price point and perhaps only one or two that we would strongly recommend, so this interface comes in as a strong contender for anyone needing that many inputs at what is still a very reasonable price for this kind of feature set.
Along with those 8 XLR/Jack preamp’d sockets the is the option to (light)pipe in another 8 via ADAT leaving the last two inputs to enter the unit via the S/PDIF connection. Ouput wise we have 2 optical outs and 8 physical jack outputs which we reckon will be more than enough for the vast amount of regular users, it also perhaps opens this interface up to the audio install market where end user may wish have multizone playback configurations. We can see this interface cropping up in all sorts of places that we suspect even the designers may have yet to consider, as it does appear to be quite a versatile little thing.
Features of the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20
Eight award-winning Focusrite mic preamps with front-panel meters : With switchable phantom power, up to 60dB of gain, plus pad and instrument switches on channels 1+ 2.
24-bit/96kHz A-D/D-A convertors
Dual headphone outputs and comprehensive monitor control : Send separate, near-zero-latency cue mixes to artist and producer with Scarlett Mix Control, and control the level of your studio monitors quickly and easily from the Scarlett 18i20 front panel.
Compatible with Mac, PC and iPad : It uses the latest USB 2.0 streaming technology with stable, reliable drivers to provide outstanding performance on both Windows and Macintosh computers, and even iPad® (requires the Apple Camera Connection Kit — no drivers required!)
Complete software bundle : Including Ableton Live Lite music software, the Focusrite Scarlett plug-in suite, Novation’s Bass Station soft synth and 1GB of Loopmasters samples.
As we’ve said before at this price point and with this spec the are only a few options good available. The one we’d currently go for ourselves is the rather good MOTU 8pre so really this unit has to offer up something more for the money to take it’s title… and we have to say it does exactly that.
The 8pre is a Firewire interface in a world where Firewire appears to be on it’s way out and as such with ever more limited support, a good USB interface with similar features suddenly becomes very attractive. Add to the fact that this has the additional monitoring options thanks to the whole raft of output, the additional headphone socket and of course those famous Focusrite pre’s it means our sub £500 interface section could have a new leader for those who need a good value and fully featured recording interface when working in band recording scenarios.
The Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 ships in March 2013 for £399