Focusrite Scarlett 18i6 USB Interface Review

Aug 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Barry Rudolph



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After installing the software, I connected to Scarlett a USB cable from one of the rear sockets of my computer; an ADAT Lightpipe output from my Focusrite OctoPre MkII; two ¼-inch monitor output cables from Scarlett to my KRK Ergo monitor controller; and the S/PDIF out from my CD player into the Scarlett’s S/PDIF in—that was for playing CDs directly in the MixControl mixer, although I would have to change the sync source over to the CD player.

With Scarlett powered up I launched MixControl and changed the Sync source to ADAT in order to clock from the OctoPre. I started up my Pro Tools HD3 Accel rig (Version 9.0.2) coupled with a Westmere 8-core Mac Pro running OS 10.6.7 operating in 64-bit mode, and on the Playback Engine page I changed “HD TDM” over to “Scarlett USB.” After restarting Pro Tools, I launched a session that I had created in V. 8 LE on another computer and it came up perfectly, playing back the very first time.

Scarlett’s eight analog inputs, stereo S/PDIF channels and the eight ADAT inputs (from the OctoPre) show up automatically as 18 total inputs in the Pro Tools I/O. I planned my tracking session as follows: eight mics on the drum kit were in the Focusrite OctoPre Mk II so that I was assured they were all phase coherent with one another; two Shure SM57s—one for each guitar—in the two Focusrite Scarlett mic pre’s; the remaining six analog inputs received line level outputs from my RTZ Professional Audio 9762 2-channel mic pre for a bass guitar DI and amp; and a four-pack of API mic pre’s covered stereo miking for my baby grand and two room mics for the drums.

If you are a “one track at a time” songwriter, you can keep all your instruments and mics connected to Scarlett; there is no need to disconnect one analog source to connect and record another.

I switched to Zero Latency monitoring and developed a monitor mix of the 16 sources. Then I copied the monitor mix as a basis for building a different headphone mix that the band liked. Mixes included a stereo mix feed from Pro Tools that stayed muted until we listened to a take or did an overdub.

I kept Pro Tools’ edit and mixer windows and the compact MixControl GUI always visible on the Mac’s screen, and used Command + Tab to toggle between them. The mixer works well (even Pro Tools’ Option+Click shortcut works), but I would like to have fader grouping capability, because accurately changing eight individual drum monitor faders up and down together can be tedious.

Since we were all in the same room and on phones, I could have also used a duplicated rear panel headphone output jack to connect to my Aphex HeadPod Model 454 headphone amp for the band’s use. In lieu of that, I used a “Y”cord in the front panel headphone jack to make it work.

I was impressed by the small and powerful Scarlett 18i6. It’s a solid workhorse that just does what it does well and sounds great. Once connected and configured correctly, it ran all day and night without a single glitch or restart.

It comes with Focusrite’s Scarlett Native plug-in bundle with an EQ, compressor, reverb and gate. You also get Focusrite’s Xcite+ bundle along with Ableton Live Lite, Novation’s Bass Station soft synth and more than 1 GB of royalty-free samples.

Barry Rudolph is an L.A.-based recording engineer.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the Focusrite Scarlett 18i6 product page.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the Focusrite Scarlett 18i6 product page.

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