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Focusrite Clarett 8Pre USB review

Focusrite has earned quite the reputation among many over the years, having been the recipient of four Queen’s Awards for Enterprise as well as two for International Trade, and another two for Technology. Their products are by and far some of the most popular choices for musicians and it’s not difficult to understand why – they sound great. The Clarett 8Pre USB is no exception to the rule.

Table of contents:

Clarett 8Pre USB overview

The Clarett 8Pre USB is an 18×20 audio interface, and it’s arguably one of the best units the company has to offer. The Clarett is simple and easy to use, and it looks great with the classic red plating we’ve come to expect from Focusrite.

It’s a bit of a workhorse, and while it may not have a lot of the added features that other interfaces have come to offer, the Clarett stands as one of the best items on the market for its price range.

The true beauty of the Clarett 8Pre USB lies in the simplicity of its design and the quality of its function. Let’s take a look.

Inputs/outputs 5.0

The 8Pre USB is an 18-in/20-out interface with 8 mic preamps, 10 analog outputs, MIDI I/O, 8 channels of ADAT I/0, and stereo S/PDIF. With all of this, the Clarett 8Pre has ample connectivity to earn its place in almost any recording session.

Focusrite Clarett 8Pre USB audio interface (front panel)
Clarett 8Pre USB (front panel) / Image credit: Focusrite

The outputs can be configured as stereo pairs so you can send them to two pairs of monitors, and there are also two headphone ins on the front.

All the inputs support both XLR and 1/4″ line connections, making the 8Pre USB very flexible in the studio.

Focusrite Clarett 8Pre USB (back panel)
Clarett 8Pre USB (back panel) / Image credit: Focusrite

All 8 inputs support phantom power, as well as having their own individual preamps. Each one has its own assigned rotary dial to adjust gain, giving you a great amount of control over the levels being sent to your DAW. We have absolutely nothing to complain about here.

Audio/recording quality 5.0

The Clarett 8Pre USB might be one of the best options on the market for bands or medium-sized studio projects looking for noiseless, latency-free recording power.

Considering that Focusrite was founded in 1985 by audio engineering titan Rupert Neve, it’s no surprise that the Clarett’s ability to deliver fantastic sounding recordings is unquestionable. (As a general rule of thumb, most things Neve has been associated with is of utmost quality).

Sample rate/dynamic range

The 8Pre USB can support sample rates from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz, and has a dynamic range of up to 119 dB. For all intents and purposes, the quality of sound is well beyond sufficient for even the most critical of audiophiles.

Preamp

The preamps on the Clarett 8Pre are wonderful, and they come with an analog “Air” effect which you can engage on each individual input.

As we already mentioned, Focusrite was founded in the mid 80’s by Rupert Neve. One of his first commissions for the company came from none other than George Martin (the fifth Beatle), to build a “no-compromise” microphone preamplifier and equalizer for his custom Neve setup at Air Studios in Montserrat.

It was from this that heralded the creation of the ISA (Input Signal Amplifier) 110. When enabled, you’ll find that your recordings will take on a brighter character with a lot of presence.

This is a fantastic edition that can really add a new flavor to your sessions, and it’s one of the things that make the Clarett 8Pre, as well as Focusrite’s other units, worthy investments for anybody.

At home/studio 5.0

There are several reasons why this interface belongs in your studio. For starters, it’s incredibly easy to use, and the design is intuitive and simple to understand.

The Clarett 8Pre USB provides you with unbridled recording power and asks for nothing in return. Plus, you have the added benefit of impressing your friends with how elegant and professional-looking it is, not to mention how pristine it sounds.

Mobile recording 2.0

If there’s anything for us to say against the 8Pre USB, it’s that we haven’t found it especially easy to transport. Because of this, we wouldn’t recommend the Clarett for those of you who find yourselves bouncing around from one recording space to another.

It’s not that the interface is particularly large, nor is it very heavy, but it won’t fit in your backpack. We are sure you can find a bag online or somewhere that could fit it, but it feels a little unnecessary.

If you’re bringing the Clarett somewhere you’re probably going to want to have your monitors handy anyway. Then you’ll need to grab your mics, your mic stands, XLRs, amps, instruments, and soon enough you’ve filled up the entire van with gear.

Of course, we’ve done all of this countless times out of necessity, but we wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have a car, or a friend who does. It’s only worth it if you’re going to somebody else’s home studio, but then you shouldn’t have to bring it anyway because the studio should already have one themselves.

All this is to say that if you’re looking for an interface that’s light and easy to take on the go, we’d suggest you try looking for something smaller.

Build quality 5.0

The Clarett 8Pre is a sturdy unit, so if you’re a little clumsy it’s not the end of the world. We’ve dropped it a few times and it’s never damaged the hardware. However, it is an expensive unit so try to keep it safe to save yourself a headache.

If you’re really curious to see if it could handle a fall down the stairs, we’d simply advise you not.

Software bundle 5.0

If you do purchase the Clarett 8Pre USB, Focusrite will throw in their software, Focusrite Control, at no extra charge. The software gives you a digital control surface that you can use to set the routing and recording parameters of your unit, as well as your input settings depending on your device.

Downloading is easy and fast, and when you open the application you’ll see that there are two screens. The first is “Device Settings”, which allows you to configure your recording sample rate – where your outputs are being sent – and specify whether inputs are to be mic or line. You can also engage the Air feature for each individual input here.

The second screen allows you to configure which mix is feeding the monitors, namely either the DAW mix or what’s coming from the direct inputs. You may set your levels and pan, mute, and solo your inputs here to your liking.

The Control software is amazingly simple to use and understand. Plus, it’s available as an iOS app that allows you to control the software and the 8Pre wirelessly.

You’ll also gain access to some additional plugins such as their Softube Time and Tone, XLN Audio Addictive Keys, and Red Plugin suite.

Compared to other interfaces

Even though the Clarett 8Pre USB is a great audio interface, here are some other options for you to consider. Also, check out our picks of the best audio interfaces and the best budget audio interfaces.

Clarett 8Pre USB vs. Motu 828es

The Motu 828es sits along the same price range as the Clarett 8Pre USB. At a quick glance, their specs look generally the same, although the Motu 828es offers more connectivity with 28-in and 32-out.

The caveat here is that the Clarett offers 8 XLR-1/4″ combo inputs (8 inputs that can support both microphone and line)versus the Motu which only has 2 combo inputs while the rest are line. This isn’t a huge deal breaker but it will certainly affect your workflow depending on what mics you have.

The main difference between the two is that the Motu isn’t just an audio interface – the unit is actually a live mix interface. The benefit of using the Motu as a live mixing tool is that you get the added power of inserting the onboard DSP effects in real time. This way you won’t have to worry about overloading your CPU and crashing during a performance.

They’re both great options, but it depends on what you need out of your system. In a live setup, the Motu 828es might just be your best option, while the Clarett remains more suitable for those of us who record at home.

Clarett 8Pre USB vs. UA Apollo Twin MkII

Another great option you might want to consider is Universal Audio’s Apollo Twin MkII. It’s a bit cheaper than the 8Pre, but while this might seem better for your wallet, what you get is very different.

Firstly, the Twin MkII has far less I/O options than the Clarett with only 10-in and 6-out. However, it makes up for this with being extremely portable as well as having amazing preamps, an extensive software bundle of UAD plugins, and built-in UAD processing.

The Apollo Twin MkII lets you record audio through UAD plugins in real time with super low latency, making it an amazing option for engineers looking to mix outside of their studio, or DJs looking for the best live sound they can get without having to worry about their computer having a heart attack.

Again, it’s evident that the Clarett 8Pre USB isn’t the best choice for producers on the go, so remember to factor that into your decision making.

Check out our full Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII review

Clarett 8Pre USB vs. RME Babyface Pro FS

The last interface we’ll look at is the Babyface Pro FS. It has 12-ins and 12-outs, not as many as the Clarett, but it is far more portable. Just as the Clarett comes with Focusrite Control, the RME comes with the TotalMix FX software which allows you to configure your internal routing.

TotalMix FX does the same job as Focusrite Control, but it looks and feels dated, and isn’t as fun to use. However, the software seems more powerful having a flexible 288-channel mixer with 46-bit resolution, including a 3-band EQ, low-cut filter, reverb, and echo.

To be honest, the Babyface Pro FS looks like a great product, but at $950, it’s more expensive than the Clarett 8Pre and doesn’t seem to be worth the extra $50. We’ll go with Focusrite on this one.

Check out our full RME Babyface Pro FS review

Final verdict on the Clarett 8Pre USB

The Clarett 8Pre USB is a simple, reliable, and great sounding audio interface. What it lacks in versatility it makes up for by how robust and pristine its performance is. So, if you decide to go ahead and buy one for yourself, you can be assured that this interface will not disappoint.

  • Outstanding build quality
.
  • iOS compatibility
.
  • High-quality audio
.
  • Air enabled preamps.
  • Mobility
.
  • One-trick pony.
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