Focusrite Clarett 8pre vs Scarlett 18i20

If you’re confused between Focusrite Clarett 8pre Vs Scarlett 18i20, you are not alone. Many other people are also facing the same problem. Choosing between these two is difficult because they are quite similar in terms of connectivity. They each have 8 mic pre-amps and MIDI, ADAT, and S/PDIF support. Nevertheless, they come from different series and offer different features.

Continue reading the discussion below to learn further about:

  • The design and build quality of each Focusrite audio interface here
  • The available inputs and outputs on each model
  • The software and plug-ins that are included with each model
  • The sound quality of Focusrite Clarett 8pre Vs Scarlett 18i20
  • Whether you should choose Focusrite Clarett 8pre or Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 for the best value and performance

Focusrite Clarett 8pre: Design

Focusrite Clarett 8pre is an 18-input, 20-output audio interface. A quick tour around the front and back panels will show you the generous specifications right away. Coming in the undisputed colors of red and black belonging to Focusrite, this unit looks very stylish. Although the color scheme was started by the Scarlett series, it is now also a prominent feature of the elite Clarett models. See also: Audient iD14 Vs Focusrite 6i6

The rack-mounted Focusrite Clarett 8pre wears this red and black housing proudly. The chassis is made of rugged aluminum, with a standard 19-inch width. The front panel holds the controls and some of the input ports, and the rest is on the back panel. The unit feels well-built, robust, and highly reliable.

The bundle includes the Red 2 EQ and Red 3 Compressor plug-ins, which are welcome additions as they represent faithful recreations of the hardware units. However, keep in mind that these plug-ins run natively on your computer instead of inside the audio interface. As the effect, you can continue using these plug-ins even if the audio interface isn’t connected. The downside is that they will consume your computer’s processing power.

Nevertheless, Focusrite Clarett 8pre is very easy to use. The driver installation is straightforward. The control panel of the software is very neat and intuitive, whereas the on-board controls allow you to access the most important parameters quickly, including the phantom power switch, mic gains, and headphone output levels.

Focusrite Clarett 8pre: Features

The most obvious new feature that sets Focusrite Clarett 8pre vs Scarlett 18i20 apart is the Thunderbolt connectivity. Thunderbolt actually uses a USB-C connector, so Focusrite Clarett 8pre can still work if your computer supports USB-C but not Thunderbolt. Currently, Focusrite Clarett 8pre works with only Mac OS X 10.9 and above, but the company is working on the compatibility with Windows platforms and the drivers should be available soon enough.

The Thunderbolt connectivity for recording multi-track audio offers a great advantage: ultra-low latency. As a rule of thumb, faster connections and higher bandwidths will allow more data to be transferred at once, hence reducing the latency. The company claims that Focusrite Clarett 8pre has an average latency of 1.38ms, which is incredible.

Another new feature that Focusrite Clarett 8pre offers is the newly designed Clarrett preamps. The company describes these as “low-distortion, ultra-linear” preamps with a self noise of -128dB EIN. The sound is said to be clean, transparent, and open.

Focusrite Clarett 8pre comes with a straightahead approach, featuring 8 level knobs and a six-stage LCD metering for each channel. There are also headphone outputs with dedicated output controls. There are buttons for switching the Dim, Mute, and 48V phantom power. There are also two Neutrik XLR/TRS combo jacks on the front panel. On the rear, you can find the 6 more combo inputs, 10 balanced line outputs, MIDI I/O, S/PDIF I/O, ADAT I/O, BNC Word Clock output, Thunderbolt port, and power port.

The only thing that is not accessible from the hardware is the Air function. This can be enabled or disabled via the Focusrite Control software. The Air function is a special preamp control that alters the frequency responses of all the eight inputs independently, modeled after the legendary transformer-based ISA preamps. When the Air function is engaged, the preamps will impersonate the impedance and resonance characters of the said classic preamps. Though not identical, they do sound similar, providing great detail and presence without being harsh or brittle.

Focusrite Clarett 8pre: Performance

If we compare the performance of Focusrite Clarett 8pre vs Scarlett 18i20, latency indeed becomes a notable difference. The Thunderbolt connectivity of Focusrite Clarett 8pre is really impressive. The ultra-low latency will allow you to work with utter precision. Actually, the latency of Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 is also very low, but once you get the taste of Focusrite Clarett 8pre, you probably won’t come back.

Using Focusrite Clarett 8pre is straightforward. Just connect your mics, instruments, and other line-level sources that you need to use. Adjust the gain for each channel, and you can start playing immediately.

Instruments sound clean and clear. Synths which often require increased gain levels are somehow able to come out loud with nice clarity when connected to the digital inputs. If you use the line inputs instead, you will still get decent gain levels with plenty of headroom. The audio converters inside Focusrite Clarett 8pre must be very fantastic.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20: Design

Now, let’s take a look at Focusrite Scarlett 18i20. Once again, you are greeted by a red and black audio interface. Though, this time, if you mount the unit in a 19-inch rack, you won’t be able to see much of the red, as the front panel is mostly black.

The front panel looks smart and modern. Everything is clearly labeled, so you won’t need to fumble with the manual. There are combo XLR/TRS inputs on the front with instrument and pad buttons, along with two 48V phantom power switches that handle Inputs 1 – 4 and 5 – 8 separately.

The LED indicators will tell you if the USB connection is active or not, and whether the unit is locked via a digital connection or not. There are also 8 multi-segment LEDs to indicate the input levels. In addition, there is a monitor volume knob, a dim button, and a mute button. Two headphone outputs with dedicated volume controls complete the front panel.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20: Features

As mentioned in the beginning, Focusrite Clarett 8pre vs Scarlett 18i20 have similar connectivity. Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 does come with 18 inputs and 20 outputs. However, it has USB 2.0 rather than Thunderbolt.

The two inputs on the front and the six inputs on the rear are all combo XLR/TRS connectors with mic preamps and individual gain knobs. However, Inputs 1 and 2 can be switched for high-impedance instrument inputs and are equipped with switchable 10dB pads.

The ten analog outputs are balanced TRS jacks. The first two are meant for monitor speakers. You can add eight more channels via the ADAT input. Finally, there are MIDI I/O and word clock out. Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 can serve as a signal mixer when working in the stand-alone mode.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 can be controlled via the Focusrite Scarlett MixControl software. Although the input gains need to be controlled via the on-board knobs, you can access the monitor, Dim, and Mute controls via the software. Finally, Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 includes the Focusrite Scarlett plug-in suite, which offers some useful EQ, reverb, compressor, and gate plug-ins. You also get Ableton Live Lite, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, 2GB of Loopmasters samples, and one XLN Addictive Keys virtual instrument.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20: Performance

One nice capability of Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 is that the combo inputs can switch between mid and line levels automatically according to the inserted plug types. The 60dB gain can easily handle low-level signals, so working with dynamic or ribbon microphones won’t be an issue.

The MixControl software offers ultra-low latency, which is needed for recording with no a hardware desk. However, the latency doesn’t get as low as Focusrite Clarett 8pre. That said, the difference is not that much, and the performance of Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 is already very good.

Mics and electric guitars sound good right away through the front inputs. They sound clean and transparent, with almost no coloration. This means that you can plug mics, guitars, and headphones without having to tweak anything in your DAW – very convenient. The preamps sound a lot better than most other units in the market.

Just like Focusrite Clarett 8pre, Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 has an audio resolution of 24-bit and supports sample rates of up to 192kHz. When working with the highest sample rate, the sound is very detailed with great clarity. Of course, you can choose the 44.1kHz or 48kHz sample rate if you are working for CD release or if you want to ensure optimum compatibility with video formats.

Focusrite Clarett 8pre vs Scarlett 18i20

- Included standard USB and USB Type-C cables connect to PC or Mac
- Includes Ableton Live Lite, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, Focusrite’s Red Plug-in Suite, Focusrite Control, 2GB of Loopmasters samples, Choice of one free XLN Addictive Keys virtual instrument, all available via download upon purchase and registration
- LIMITED TIME OFFER: FREE Audiority Deleight and Distortion 1 plug-ins upon registration and download.
- Eight natural-sounding Scarlett mic preamps with plenty of even gain; two newly-designed instrument inputs, ten 1/4-inch balanced jack outputs including a dedicated stereo pair; two headphones output with dedicated gain controls; MIDI I/O; S/PDIF in and out; ADAT I/O (expand your channel count)
- Class-leading conversion and sample rates up to 192kHz / 24 bit; Super-low roundtrip latency for using your plug-ins in real time without the need for DSP; Focusrite iOS Control - download the free Focusrite iOS Control app and adjust cue mixes remotely from an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch
- LIMITED TIME OFFER: FREE Venomode DeeQ, Maximal 2, and Pivot, plug-ins upon registration and download.


In general, Focusrite Clarett 8pre is more recommended. It comes with Thunderbolt connectivity, which offers extremely low latency. The overall performance is better. The audio converters are incredible, capable of producing very clear, accurate, and detailed sounds. It also comes with the Air function, which can emulate the sounds of ISA preamps with great detail and presence.

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