Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 Audio Interface Overview

The Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 is a glossy and comparatively easy mid-range audio interface that manages to supply premium options at half the worth of its direct rivals. Weighing in at simply 7.5 kilos and sporting a easy two-tone end with streamlined knobs and buttons, the 18i20 sports activities eight microphone preamps and direct compatibility with production-level audio gear, amongst different highlights. This mix of function set and worth, together with its total construct high quality, makes the third-gen 18i20 a significantly enticing choice for producers and musicians working newly expanded recording studios and dealing on a finances.

I just lately had the chance to check the third-generation Scarlett 18i20 in my modest dwelling studio by swapping it instantly with my on a regular basis recording interface, the Common Audio Apollo x8. The 2 have quite a bit in widespread by way of workflow and compatibility with outside gear, however the Apollo x8 runs greater than twice the price of the 18i20. Due to their comparable I/O configuration, I used to be in a position to evaluate the 2 items pretty instantly and discover the 18i20’s potential for integrating with my studio’s current workflow. Whereas the 18i20 does have some drawbacks that point out its mid-range price, it could possibly carry out at the next degree and prevent some cash when you’re open to working across the limitations of the Scarlett audio interface.

The design of the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20

The 18i20 is the most important of six Scarlett-line Focusrite audio interfaces, the smallest of which (such because the third-generation Focusrite Scarlett 2i2) are a number of the finest moveable USB-powered designs accessible immediately. The 18i20 has the identical signature red-and-black chassis as its smaller sibling, however its energy necessities and rackmount functionality make it an audio recording interface for integration with everlasting studio installations. It contains an IEC energy cable, in addition to a USB-C cable for a nice connection to any USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 port on Mac and Home windows computer systems. 4 low-profile rubber ft enable the 18i20’s slip-free use on desk surfaces, or you possibly can optionally benefit from the 2 included rack ears to mount to any 19-inch software rack.

Whereas the third-generation Scarlett 18i20 has the identical connectivity and performance as its predecessors, it has a significant enchancment in entrance panel materials and end, most notably in its achieve management knobs. Earlier generations used plastic knobs that felt impervious and supplied little resistance, however they’ve been changed with extra sturdy steel knobs that “stepped” to achieve extra reliably and constantly. -give a greater impression of total sturdiness. The entrance panel additionally homes a number of small, barely recessed buttons that present entry to quite a lot of toggles, together with 48-volt phantom energy and microphone/line switching. Accessing these capabilities through bodily buttons is sweet on paper, however they’re small and provide restricted tactile suggestions, which might hinder workflow if the 18i20 is not situated instantly in entrance of you.

The Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 comes with eight of its personal built-in inputs, two of that are accessible by the entrance panel through a microphone/instrument combo connector. The rear panel contains six extra microphone inputs, in addition to eight line inputs; Customers can join the road enter and microphone concurrently and toggle between the 2, however the interface is proscribed to a complete of eight inputs. For entry to the extra 10 inputs, you will must deliver your individual ADAT- or S/PDIF-compatible system and join it to the corresponding port on the again of the interface.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 Audio Interface
This slim audio interface is totally geared up with enter, output and digital synchronization with different tools you will want.

18i20. begin with

The Scarlett 18i20 capabilities as a plug-and-play system on Mac and Home windows computer systems with out the necessity for added drivers, but it surely requires customers to obtain and set up Focusrite’s management software program to ensure that it to work. The FocusRight Management program is totally important if you wish to entry and alter the 18i20’s enter and output routing choices, but it surely additionally offers elective one-click toggles for a number of the interface’s entrance panel controls, with out having to manually press any buttons. with out the necessity to press from and to press. In comparison with the 18i20’s streamlined, intuitive entrance panel, the Focusrite controls have a puzzling person interface that is troublesome to navigate and depends closely on textual content that is paying homage to late Nineteen Nineties internet design. I discovered a fast learn by the Focusrite Management person information to be sufficiently illuminating, but it surely was nonetheless obscure what the software program can and might’t do.

I linked the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 to my Mac Mini and different current studio tools through a mix of my microphone and line inputs, including a further eight from my Panasonic WZ-AD96M preamp by connecting through ADAT. This introduced the working whole of 18i20 to 16 inputs, mirroring the every day configuration of my studio utilizing my Common Audio Apollo x8. To ensure the ADAT preamp and 18i20 have been correctly synchronized, I additionally linked a single BNC cable from the 18i20’s world clock output to the clock enter of my ADAT preamp. Your complete connection and setup course of was extremely simple and simple and the Logic Professional, my digital audio workstation of selection, acknowledged and acquired audio from all inputs with out requiring any extra configuration. I believe it will be so simple as what you contemplate one of the best DAW.

A significant blow to the 18i20’s potential flexibility given its mid-price level is its lack of devoted converters for its two headphone outputs. Every pair of headphones linked to the entrance panel of the interface disables a pair of stereo outputs on the again of the 18i20, that means that utilizing two pairs of headphones will scale back the variety of interfaces from eight to 4. In the event you’re additionally utilizing a pair of studio displays, the variety of usable line outputs is lowered to simply two. This might not be an enormous difficulty for a small studio with low connectivity wants, but when flexibility is what you are after, you will should be inventive and compromise.

Scarlett 18i20 sound

The microphone preamps and converters on the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 have very comparable specs to these on my Apollo x8, with a comparable achieve vary of 56 dB and a most 24-bit/192 kHz AD/DA conversion price. These figures roughly imply that the 18i20 is able to recording at or above the {industry} customary for audio decision, which is equal to interfaces two, three, and even 4 occasions its value. Whereas the technical actuality is a little more difficult than that, as all-in-one units just like the 18i20 typically make technical compromises to save lots of area and lower prices, the 18i20 ought to nonetheless don’t have any bother producing high-quality information that which might be as much as {industry} specificity.

Focusrite has upgraded the preamps on the Scarlett line for its third era with all-new “Air” settings, aiming to recreate the wealthy, open high-frequency response of the corporate’s standalone ISA preamps. The Air setting adjustments the sign earlier than it reaches your DAW, so it is a good suggestion to experiment with it earlier than committing to your recorded sound; sound; I discovered it slightly too crisp and harsh for my tastes as utilized to the drums and my sound, but it surely added some further magic to my Casio synth and distorted electrical guitar in a really pure and natural method. For drums and vocals, I most well-liked the 18i20’s preamps with no air setting engaged; This produced comparatively neutral-sounding recordings with a barely woolly low-end that was a pleasant departure from the brims usually present in cheaper interface decision.

Since I had the distinctive alternative of doing a direct A-to-B comparability of the 18i20 with the Apollo x8, their refined sound variations have been simpler than common to identify. The Apollo 18i20 information on the similar decision because the x8, however its built-in decision and converters produce recordings of the identical enter materials that might be described as sounding “easy”. It’s neither good nor unhealthy; Recordings captured by the Apollo x8 solely appeared extra true-to-life by way of element. The brand new “Air” setting on the 18i20 lowered this hidden impact when engaged, including a little bit of presence and life again, particularly to woolen devices. General, the variations in sound between the 2 are extremely refined – though there are technical variations by way of parts, circuitry, and development throughout the items, none of this can even remotely matter to the tip listener if the content material is pleasurable.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 .  back of
The Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 is extremely inexpensive for its function set.

So, who can purchase the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20?

Pound for pound, the Focusrite holds its personal towards the Scarlett 18i20 USB audio interface, which prices considerably extra—a formidable feat of expertise that will have been unheard of some a long time in the past. The mixture of futureproof expandability, construct high quality, and industry-standard recording constancy at a really accessible value level makes it a wonderful selection for customers who wish to file massive ensembles, full drum units, and a number of inputs directly with out incurring prices. Wish to make the leap from a smaller interface. A fortune on a studio improve. The 18i20 is not fully flawless, however, for my part, its limits are little greater than studying alternatives for creating artists. Seasoned recordists could balk at its midrange converters or bristles on the notion of sacrificing line output for headphones, however the engineering is little greater than a problem-solver and the 18i20’s drawbacks are small fry. It lacks premium options resembling DSP, digital achieve management, and superior routing, however these options add important price—why they’re usually discovered on high-end units. With that in thoughts, except you are working an enormous industrial studio and do not want large I/O functionality, the Scarlett 18i20 deserves a spot in your shortlist of finest audio interfaces for cash .

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