Red Dog Music | Oct 9, 2018 | 0
Focusrite Scarlett 18i8: our hands-on review
When we were reworking our hi-tech corner in the shop -fresh hard drive format, re-installs, all of that good stuff- we needed a new audio interface. We went for the Focusrite Scarlett 18i8. Why? Read on, and on this fine, Edinburgh morning, we’ll explain… Of course, it may not be Monday morning when you read this, and you may not be in Edinburgh, but that doesn’t necessarily make this review any less relevant…
We’re big fans of Focusrite‘s audio interfaces here at Red Dog Music. Their preamps sound great, and they just seem to make a good range of products that do what you need them to do. However, until recently, Focusrite hadn’t made an audio interface that catered for people who perhaps needed to record an acoustic duo or trio, or perhaps a multi-mic’d singing guitarist.
Focusrite’s audio interface range had included products such as the Scarlett 2i2 and Scarlett 2i4 (which we’ve reviewed before) and 6i6, which offer 2 microphone preamps, and interfaces such as the Saffire Pro 40 and now the new Scarlett 18i20, which offer 8 microphone preamps. Great audio interfaces, but what if you needed to record more than two microphones, but fewer than eight? Yes, you could pick up some additional external preamps and use the line-inputs on your interface, but maybe you just want one box you can pop in your laptop bag to take to rehearsal.
Now, with the release of the Scarlett 18i8, there’s a nice interface that sits right in the middle, with 4 preamps…
Scarlett 18i8 in the middle
With four microphone preamps, this is a great little interface that can just give you a few more options and perhaps a bit more flexibility, without having to spend money on a rack of eight microphone preamplifiers that you don’t need.
Let’s imagine you are recording a cajon. With two mic preamps, you might put a mic in front to catch the snap, and one at the hole for the boom. With four mic preamps, you have the flexibility to record some additional mics simultaneously -maybe an SM57 and a condenser on the front-, giving you more options when you come to fit the cajon track in the mix.
Alternatively (and perhaps more commonly), if you’re recording a singing guitarist, you can record the vocals, a couple of guitar mics and the guitar DI as a safety net!
Scarlett 18i8 setup
Much like Scarlett 2i4, installation was painless (once we realised that our 5M USB cable was a bit optimistic for that purpose). We downloaded the latest version of the drivers and the Scarlett MixControl software and we were up and running.
As this is very similar to the 2i4 in terms of construction and the included software bundle, we’ll not really talk about that here, and just go onto the main course: why we put this at the centre of our setup.
Scarlett 18i8 in use
We wanted an interface that was affordable and compact, but offered enough flexibility to be able to do whatever we needed it to do. We want to have more gear out for you to demo, we want to be able to go into a DAW and help you troubleshoot any problems you may be having, we want to be able to record product demos, sample packs, tutorials… This is going to be a hard-working interface.
With its 4 mic preamps, this does the job nicely. We can get acoustic instruments recorded with multi-mic set ups with a minimum of hassle, and the line inputs on the back already have our Waldorf Blofeld and Moog Minitaur hooked up, and External Instrument devices setup in Ableton Live to easily route MIDI and audio to and from them.
The single pair of output jacks goes to our monitor switcher, but the two headphone outputs on the front with independent volume knobs are very handy. Using the MixControl software, you can set up several different mixes, then send them to whichever output you want. That means you can create different headphone mixes for different performers, perfect for tracking.
With its quick and easy installation, transparent sound and good mix of inputs and outputs, the Scarlett 18i8 is a great choice for our studio. And, should we need to record bigger bands, the optical input is perfect for adding additional preamps, such as the Focusrite Octopre. The 18i8 also has additional I/O on S/PDIF RCA jacks for hooking up your digital gear.
We’ve been using the Scarlett 18i8 with Ableton Live, Propellerhead Reason and Native Instruments Maschine and it’s performed faultlessly, with low latency and no issues. If we were to be picky, we might whinge at the lack of front panel controls for the switching in the pad, or for selecting between instrument or line inputs, but that is so quickly done within MixControl, that it isn’t really a big complaint. We’ll also be getting it set up when we spend some time with Pro Tools later…
Once again then, Focusrite have produced an interface that can be the hub of your studio, give you the features you need to get the job done, then get on and do its job with a minimum of fuss, which is exactly what we need our interface to do!
If you’re thinking about taking your Scarlett lust further, why not check out the full range on offer at Red Dog Music? We’ve even got a special offer for you as a way of saying “thank you” for reading this blog post. Click here to find out more.
Red Dog Music is the UK’s friendliest musical instrument and pro-audio dealer. Between our 5000 square foot Edinburgh shop filled with an incredible range of products, and a London showroom in Clapham specialising in high-end instruments, dj and pro-audio, Red Dog Music has you covered from north to south and from performance to playback.