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Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 3rd Gen review

With every release, the folks at Focusrite have steadily improved nearly every aspect of their product’s performance. The 3rd Generation of the Scarlett 18i8 was released a little over two years ago and the unit still stands as one of the best interfaces on the market.

Table of contents:

Scarlett 18i8 3rd Gen overview

The Scarlett 18i8 is an 18×8 audio interface, bestowed with ample connectivity, great preamps, and the ability to produce pristine sounding recordings. Encased in the classic ruby-red plating we’ve come to love and expect from Focusrite, the 18i8 bolsters a high performance whether in the studio or on the road.

The interface is simple, easy to use, and most importantly – sounds amazing. Focusrite is an extremely reliable company in the world of recording, so let’s take a look at what might make this such a great interface.

Inputs/outputs 5.0

As its name would suggest, the Focusrite has 18 inputs in total, including four mic/instrument combo inputs, four line inputs, and the other two and eight inputs come from the S/PDIF and ADAT inputs respectively.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 3rd Gen (front panel)
Scarlett 18i8 3rd Gen (front panel) / Image credit: Focusrite

The unit also has four balanced outputs as well as four monitor-outs for those of you with two sets of monitors. This interface is well suited for any gear collectors looking for a small and compact unit.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 3rd Gen (back panel)
Scarlett 18i8 3rd Gen (back panel) / Image credit: Focusrite

Each input has its own designated rotary dial with an LED halo indicating whether you’re clipping or not. The colors of which can be changed within Focusrite Control. Phantom power can be enabled in pairs between inputs 1&2 and 3&4 by a simple switch.

Audio/recording quality 5.0

All the specs of the 18i8 have been upgraded since its last iteration. The dynamic range and gain range has been increased for every in and out harbored in the unit. For all intents and purposes, the 18i8 3rd Gen is a monstrously clean-sounding interface.

The company has a solid reputation for the high performance of its products and this is no different. The 2nd generation of Scarletts may have already sounded fantastic, but the 3rd generation sounds even better.

Sample rate/dynamic range

The 18i8 3rd Gen can support sample rates from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz and has a dynamic range of up to 110 dB-111 dB depending on whether you’re using line or mic inputs.

Preamps

As a custom, the unit features Focusrite’s iconic Air mode on the preamps. Some of you may already be familiar with it, but the design of these preamps were custom-made by Rupert Neve for none other than George Martin sometime in the mid-80s. The effect essentially sets a filter on your preamps which boosts the mids and highs of your recording signal, adding a bit of life and brightness while you track.

You can toggle the effect on and off for any input using Focusrite Control, a control surface software which we’ll touch on later in this article.

As a side note, if you find yourself using a mic like the RE-20 (or any mic that requires anywhere from 70-80 dB of gain), it may be worth considering buying an external preamp considering that the gain range of the Scarlett only hits 56 dB. In any case, the preamps here are unquestionably phenomenal.

At home/studio 4.5

As we already mentioned earlier, this unit is really well adapted for any gear-hungry producers. The added input capabilities through the optical I/O lend the interface to a wide variety of different setups. Its flexibility in the studio makes the 18i8 a great option for any producer, regardless of the size and nature of their setup.

Mobile recording 5.0

While the Focusrite 18i8 has no issue sitting on a desk, it’s a perfect candidate for mobile recording. It’s a lightweight and compact unit, so traveling with it isn’t a hassle.

Build quality 5.0

Like most other Focusrite interfaces, the 18i8 is a very robust and solid interface. The unit isn’t flimsy by any means, and it’s capable of faring a few accidents along the way.

Software bundle 5.0

The Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 comes with a generous software bundle to help you start creating as soon as possible. You’ll receive Ableton Live Lite as well as the Pro Tools First Focusrite Creative Pack. You’ll also gain access to a number of other software, such as the Focusrite Red 2 and 3 Plug-in Suite, the Softube Time and Tone Bundle, and several others.

On top of this is a free 3-month-long subscription to Splice, providing you with millions of high-quality samples, loops, and presets. 

Additionally, you will receive Focusrite Control – a control surface software that allows you to configure your internal routing, enable Air mode, as well as set levels, panning, etc.

Compared to other interfaces

While the Scarlett 18i8 is certainly a fantastic interface, there are so many great options to consider within the world of audio technology. So, before getting tunnel vision, let’s take a look at other suitable candidates.

Scarlett 18i8 vs. BLA Revolution 2×2

In terms of connectivity, the Scarlett is clearly the stronger candidate of the two here. However, the Revolution’s preamps are arguably better depending on your preference. Between the two of them, you can’t really go wrong but it depends on your needs. See our Black Lion Audio Revolution 2×2 review

Scarlett 18i8 vs. Tascam Series 208i

The Tascam might be the best unit to compare against the 18i8. While the Scarlett’s preamps have the upper hand, the Tascam’s connectivity and world clock capabilities take the cake. We might have to go with Tascam on this one to be fair.

Scarlett 18i8 vs. PreSonus Studio 1810c

On the surface, these two units look pretty similar but this isn’t the case in terms of their performance. The Scarlett is the obvious winner here.

Final verdict on the Scarlett 18i8 4.9

The Focusrite 18i8 3rd Gen is a fantastic option for any music producers looking for a reliable, pristine-sounding interface. Focusrite has yet again proven its knack for creating high-performing equipment at affordable prices, and we love it.

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