Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 by Char2000
The latest in the Scarlett line of interfaces, the 18i20 promises users the flexibility and quality of interfaces of its' class.
A myriad of inputs and outputs
Two headphone outputs
Beautiful red paintjob
Heavy duty construction
Free mixing plugins
Standby mode allows throughput just by turning on
MIDI in/ MIDI out
The free MixControl software
You must install MixControl to install appropriate drivers as there is no driver CD in the box. Small one time annoyance.
Gain has to be cranked sometime to get an appropriate level signal.
Phantom power can only be turned throughout inputs 1-4 and 5-8 at a time. No on an as needed. so if only input 3 needs phantom power you must push the phantom power 1-4 button engaging it for all 4 inputs. Don't worry as this will NOT damage or affect the other inputs using dynamic mics and will only hurt older ribbon mics.
Lets start with the preamps. Focusrite is world renowned for their preamps and it really shows here. The interesting thing I noticed when I first ran my guitar through it was the it sounded WORSE than my Mbox Pro's preamps in terms of EQ. Thats because the Scarlett is more transparent in it's preamps allowing you to more accurately here your tone. After adjusting my tone the sound increased in quality by sevenfold. Also there was a noticeable increase in dynamic range as the Mbox had more of a compressed sound.
Included is the MixControl software which allows users to route different mixes to any output they see fit. This come in handy for live sound as it allow you to set up monitor mixes, both wedges and in ear. The Mixes may be up to 8 output channels consisting of either 4 stereo mixes, 8 mono or a mix of the both summing to equal 8 channels. Those familiar with mixing monitors for live sound may find it easier to navigate the software but to others there is a slight learning curve to using the software.
The 18i20 allows for up to 18 simultaneous inputs to be recorded into you DAW.The inputs are as follows:
Input 1-8: Analogue inputs on the unit,
Input 9-10: S/PDIF inputs,
Input 11-18: ADAT inputs.
However, it is slightly misleading as the unit BY ITSELF is NOT capable of recording 18 channels. It is capable of 10, 8 via combo XLR and 2 S/PDIF. The ADAT input on the unit acts as any other allowing and additional 8 inputs via an external interface such as the OctoPre MkII being sent via light pipe (TOSLINK) at 48kHz or 4 inputs and 98kHz. Word clock synchronization is also done via the ADAT.
Much to my delight the interface allows for dual independent headphone outputs. This is a small yet significant feature that more interfaces should have.
A firmware update provides the 18i20 the ability to enter standby mode allowing latency free throughput of signal. This comes in handy for the musician who simply wants to plugin his instrument and hear it without having to enter his DAW and setup inputs and outs.
The included suite of plugins include:
Ableton Live Lite
Novation Bass Station
and 1GB of Loopmasters samples.
As for the construction of the unit, it's made of a sturdy aluminum chassis painted a beautiful "Scarlett" red. However since it is a 1U rack mounted interface only the black front panel of the unit will be seen when mounted in a rack, a crime as the interface such a marvelous signature color.
Overall this is a amazing unit, providing the world acclaimed sound quality of Focusrite and software to compliment it.
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