Focusrite Scarlett audio interfaces

Ask questions and get answers about how to make music in any particular way. Hardware or songwriting or whatever.
Post Reply
User avatar
Lunkhead
Gorilla
Posts: 6566
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 12:14 pm
Instruments: many
Recording Method: cubase/reason/mac/tascam4x4
Submitting as: Berkeley Social Scene, Merisan, Tiny Robots
Pronouns: he/him
Location: Berkeley, CA
Contact:

Focusrite Scarlett audio interfaces

Post by Lunkhead »

Anybody have thoughts and experience with Focusrite Scarlett interfaces, particularly the third generation line?

I've had my current Tascam US-4x4 audio interface for >5 yrs. It's got some issues. Some are just design things that have always bugged me. It doesn't have an on/off switch. It's got two headphone jacks on the front which I need but I can't control their volume (which would be really really nice) or mixes (which could be cool but I'd probably be too lazy to use) independently. (I need two headphone outputs for when I'm tracking Erin's vocals for Merisan songs etc.) Others are probably wear and tear issues which may be my fault. The phantom power and/or mic preamps are really weird acting sometimes. I was trying to record today and the gain level was slowly going up and down as I tracked. Super annoying! Also since it has no on/off switch, I just leave it on, and either it or my stupid Mac or both have power/electrical issues and sometimes I go to use the audio interface and it's off and I have to unplug it and plug it back in to power cycle it to get it to work again. Very annoying! Another issue, I have no idea if it's just how it is or a problem or what. When I use the instrument inputs it's like there is a high-cut filter on it, and I get no high frequencies like when recording guitar. (Or maybe it's my guitar? I don't feel like I have that issue when I play this guitar through an amp.)

So I'm wondering about replacing it. One route would be to go down the Universal Audio path, shell out a lot of money ($800), have only two inputs, only one headphone out, no MIDI I/O, etc. (Or spend $1800 and have four input channels and two headphone outs, but still not have MIDI I/O.) That's not super duper appealing to me right now. Another is to find something new that's comparable to what I have. Tascam has an updated version of my interface:

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail ... -interface

Improvements include an on/off switch, instrument level setting for inputs 3 and 4, individual controls for instrument/mic line for every channel, individual phantom power on/off for all inputs (right now I can either turn it on our off for all four inputs). I think it's got more outputs but I'll probably never use those. I'm a little perplexed because it's $400 and I somehow managed to get my US-4x4 off Amazon for <$150. I was trying to figure out if it was already an old model at that point or something but I couldn't figure that out yet. Anyway, one advantage with this one is I'd know exactly what I was getting most likely. It probably functions the same as my current interface for hte most part.

For the same price there's this Focusrite Scarlet 18i8:

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail ... -interface

It's got the stuff I want: four preamps, two headphone outputs. Individual volume knobs for the two headphone outputs. Instrument level settings for all four front inputs. It's even got four extra line level inputs on the back, which could actually be really handy. When I'm doing live synth jams I've love to be running each synth through stereo effects, with a drum machine and four synths, or, run a drum machine and two synths through stereo effects but also play guitar and keys or something. The main thing though that I'm a little wary of is that it seems like most of the control of the interface in terms of I/O setup and routing would have to be done in their mixer app. The Tascam doesn't have a mixer app, just a very small control panel with only a few features, the only ones I care about being toggling stereo/mono live monitoring of inputs 1/2 and 3/4. I don't really want to have to fiddle around in yet another piece of software to do basic stuff. But maybe that's not as annoying as it sounds to me?
User avatar
jb
Lemur
Posts: 3812
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 10:12 am
Instruments: Guitar, Cello, Keys, Uke, Vox, Perc
Recording Method: Logic X
Submitting as: The John Benjamin Band
Location: WASHINGTON, DC
Contact:

Re: Focusrite Scarlett audio interfaces

Post by jb »

I have the second-gen little brother of that Scarlett. Can't remember which model but it has two xlr in front and then some line ins in the back. USB2.

Works great with my macbooks-- even with my new one, using a cheap USBC converter. I basically have no complaints other than its not bus powered. That would be nice.

It kind of "just works" in my experience, with everything I've plugged into it, which is basically guitars and various mics. I don't ever do anything fancy, don't reroute the ins or anything like that.

HTH
blippity blop ya don’t stop heyyyyyyyyy
User avatar
grumpymike
Tamarin
Posts: 300
Joined: Sun Apr 17, 2016 3:12 pm
Instruments: Rage and curmudgeonry
Recording Method: Zero-turn lawnmower
Submitting as: Grumpy Mike

Re: Focusrite Scarlett audio interfaces

Post by grumpymike »

This thread sums it up: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=11279&hilit=focusrite

I have 2nd gen. There's very little difference. It does what it does well without getting in my way so far.
User avatar
Caravan Ray
bono
bono
Posts: 8362
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 1:51 pm
Instruments: Penis
Recording Method: Garageband
Submitting as: Caravan Ray,G.O.R.T.E.C,Lyricburglar,The Thugs from the Scallop Industry
Location: Toowoomba, Queensland
Contact:

Re: Focusrite Scarlett audio interfaces

Post by Caravan Ray »

I have the 2nd gen one I think. Bought it about 2 years ago, plugged it in and never thought of it again.
User avatar
roymond
Gorilla
Posts: 5115
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 3:42 pm
Instruments: Guitars, Bass, Vocals, Logic
Recording Method: Logic X, MacBookPro, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Submitting as: roymond, Dangerous Croutons, Intentionally Left Bank
Location: brooklyn
Contact:

Re: Focusrite Scarlett audio interfaces

Post by roymond »

I've got an old version of the Scarlett 2i2, which i bought a long time ago and like Sam said, it just works great. I use it with a Presonus tube pre-amp. Perfect for my simple setup these days.
roymond.com | songfights | covers
"Congratulatons, roymond; you finally managed to write a song I don't really care for." - Märk
User avatar
vowlvom
Galago
Posts: 756
Joined: Wed May 17, 2017 3:29 am
Instruments: guitar, keys, "other"
Recording Method: PC, reaper, ableton
Submitting as: Vowl Sounds, Vom Vorton
Pronouns: he/him
Contact:

Re: Focusrite Scarlett audio interfaces

Post by vowlvom »

Another vote for "I'm very happy with mine". I think I have the 18i8. The extra inputs on the back are handy for stuff I want to leave connected all the time, and since I have no friends I use the extra headphone out to send a signal to my digital piano so I can play nice sample libraries through it. Many happy years of problem-free usage. Plus if you have an account on the focusrite website they give away free plugins regularly and some of them have been pretty great!
User avatar
Chumpy
Twilight Sparkle
Posts: 655
Joined: Sat Apr 18, 2015 2:06 pm
Instruments: Vocals, guitar, bass
Recording Method: Logic
Submitting as: Jerkatorium, Chumpy
Pronouns: he/him
Location: Seattle, WA
Contact:

Re: Focusrite Scarlett audio interfaces

Post by Chumpy »

Initially, I was not sold on Universal Audio interfaces. I was angry about being potentially locked into their plugin ecosystem, and was highly dubious that their custom silicon DSP had any advantages over cheap general purpose commodity CPUs. I still feel this way, but UAD interfaces do have some special properties that make them worth the cost for me. I started out with an UAD Arrow interface just to explore the possibilities, and eventually moved to an Apollo x4, which as Lunkhead noted is a whopping $1800. Ouch.

I'm somebody who likes to hear myself while I record. When singing along with the backing track, I want to sound as good as I can in my headphones. This helps me be confident, and helps me hear issues with my performance. The old way I'd do this was to stack up a couple of compressors, bus out to a vocal plate & some room ambiance, and set my recording input buffer to 32 samples. This got me mostly where I wanted to be, but put a ton of stress on my computer, and still had more lag than I'd like. Playback of any non-trivial project while monitoring with this setup was impossible, as the computer couldn't keep up, and would either glitch out or quit with an error.

Sometimes I'd make compromises to make this sort of work. I'd increase the buffer size, and fight some lag. Or I'd turn off some of my vocal sauce, or perhaps mute large swaths of the backing jam. But ultimately it's a frustrating compromise, and often I'd have to stop all together because my computer fan was so loud I could hear it on the recording, and I'd be starting to sweat because my computer is now a space heater driving up the temperature in my little studio.

The UAD interface solves this problem for me. I now run all the plugins for my monitoring vocal chain on the UAD device, which I hear with no perceptible lag while I'm tracking, and what gets printed in my DAW is the dry vocal. This is exactly what I want, giving me the flexibility to process the vocal later to make it work with the song. The same is true when I'm tracking guitar. On the UAD, I can track through a detailed amp/cabinet model with a spring or plate reverb on it -- all with no lag, and what gets printed to the DAW is the DI guitar signal. Sometimes when I'm composing, I want to sing and play guitar at the same time, while a drum track plays, with all my plugins and sauce -- I can do this on the UAD, again with zero perceptible-to-me lag.

The UAD preamps also deliver good amount of clean power. I often sing through a Shure sm7b, which is a dynamic microphone that isn't super sensitive. If you want to hear yourself singing at a less than full volume, you're gonna want to crank the gain up to at least +60dB. Most consumer interfaces top out well before that. For example the Focusrite 18i8 tops out at +56dB, and it's unclear at what point it distorts. The UAD gain knob goes all the way up to +65dB, and it's clean the whole way. You can fix this problem on the Focusrite by slapping on a cloudlifter ($150) which will use your interface's phantom power (not used for dynamic mics) to provide more gain.

I've also found that even if I turn off monitoring on the UAD device itself and track/monitor through plugins on my computer's CPU (I love my BIAS Marshall plexi amp sim) I subjectively hear noticeably less lag than I did on my old USB interface at the same 32 sample input buffer size. I believe this is because the USB interface itself introduces additional latency. I've heard horror stories of upwards of 30ms average end-to-end latency being introduced under Windows -- just for using USB. The UAD device, being thunderbolt, can do DMA over the bus to move data from main memory to the CPU, which in theory should be super low-latency. I admit this is subjective, and you may have an OS/USB hardware combination with hardly any lag. I could also just be hearing things.

Anyway, there are plenty of reasons not to buy into UAD bullshit. It costs a fortune, their shit is totally proprietary, you end up buying plugins that only work on their hardware, and for you a cheap Focusrite interface may totally fit the bill and serve you well for years. That being said, the UAD interface has allowed me to do things I couldn't do before, and given me many hours of happy, lag free, sauced-up tracking and noodling.
"How did these fuckin' guys get signed? Bring on the Beach Boys meets Ween." --boltoph
User avatar
fluffy
Howler
Posts: 10120
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 10:56 am
Instruments: sometimes
Recording Method: Logic Pro X
Submitting as: Sockpuppet
Pronouns: she/they
Location: The Plaidlands (also, Seattle)
Contact:

Re: Focusrite Scarlett audio interfaces

Post by fluffy »

I recently upgraded to the third-gen 18i8 and I love it. It supports all the wonky routing and monitoring stuff I care about, and it's been rock-solid and reliable for me so far (after I repaired my system installation, anyway). And you know how easily-annoyed I am at trivial bullshit.
Post Reply