Recording - May 2018 - 40

REVISITED

Focusrite
Clarett
2Pre USB

(and the Focusrite Plug-In Collective)
By Mike Metlay

Focusrite has been a dominant force in the world
of audio interfacing for years now. The UK-based
company has developed multiple product lines for users
ranging from the nervous beginner (the Scarlett
Range) to the seasoned pro (the Focusrite Pro Red
Range and RedNet system for networked audio).
The Clarett Range falls between the extremes; it's
intended for serious users who want pro-quality input and conversion options without the investment
that would normally be required with a huge studio
interface rack. The Clarett preamps are a cut above
the Scarlett pres (which are already pretty darn
good); there's an optional Air function that models
the famed Focusrite ISA preamps' behavior for a more
open and natural sound; and the converters are designed
to run at 24-bit/192 kHz at very low buffer sizes,
so more powerful computers can hit latency f igures
low enough to allow tracking with plug-ins.

40

RECORDING May 2018

Originally, the distinction between these interfaces and
the Scarlett Range was a little easier to make off-the-cuff; you
could shrug and say, "Scarlett's USB and Clarett's Thunderbolt." That's changed with the new Clarett USB Range, which
takes all the yummy goodness of the Thunderbolt Claretts and
makes it available to USB users.
Note that these are USB 2.0 interfaces, although they can be
plugged directly into USB 3 ports; the rear-panel connection is in
fact a USB-C jack, and the interfaces come with cables that connect
to either USB-C or traditional USB-A ports on your computer. USB
3 provides enough power to bus-power the interface; if you hook it
up to USB 2, you'll need to also plug in the included power supply.
First reviewed in its Thunderbolt form by Giles Reaves in
our June 2016 issue, the USB version of the Clarett 2Pre is
identical in feature set and audio quality. I had a chance to
play with one for a while, and was as impressed as Giles was
with what it delivered.
The Clarett 2Pre USB is a 10-in/4-out interface. It offers two
Clarett preamps with individual phantom power switches and
Gain controls with Focusrite's color-LED Gain Halo indicators, a
Toslink optical input for stereo S/PDIF or 8-channel ADAT (great
for the Clarett OctoPre rack preamp with its eight Air-enabled
pres), four balanced TRS outputs, and MIDI In and Out. Note
that the preamps have XLR/TRS combination jacks, so either
one can take line-level signals or a guitar/bass direct input.
Focusrite apparently counts DAW playback as Inputs 9 and
10; it's easy to work with, given its own set of controls in the
Focusrite Control software app. This is where you build custom
monitor mixes, enable/disable inputs and outputs, and handle
device settings and clock sync. The Air function for each preamp, and the Hi-Z option for each 1/4" input, are controlled
from the app, although both functions have front-panel activation
LEDs on the hardware. This is also where you set up the buses
feeding the Monitor knob and front panel 1/4" Headphone
output and have functions like monitor mute and dim.
In use, I found the Clarett 2Pre USB to be a definite step up
from the usual range of small interfaces. The preamps were
what impressed me most; never having heard the Air function
before, I was enchanted by what it does to highs and high
mids on vocals and acoustic string instruments like guitar,
mandolin, and lap dulcimer. I don't think Air is all that subtle-
it's a pretty hefty boost (peaking around 4 dB up at 20 kHz)
with a seriously broad bandwidth, audible all the way down
to the low mids. It feels more 'organic' than creating similar lift
with an EQ plug-in, but you'll want to be careful combining it
with mics that already have a significant presence peak.
The rest of the unit's functions are of similar quality: the
monitor and headphone outputs are sparkling clean and way
louder than you'll ever want them to be, so they don't strain at
all reproducing fast transients, the converters are crystal-clear,
and routing and setup are trivially simple.
What about that famed Clarett low latency? On my primary
test Mac, a 2.6 GHz quad i7 pre-Retina MacBook Pro with 8
GB RAM running Ableton Live 9.7, I was able to get usable
(i.e. no crackles) round-trip latency numbers of around 6 ms,



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - May 2018

Contents
Recording - May 2018 - Intro
Recording - May 2018 - Cover1
Recording - May 2018 - Cover2
Recording - May 2018 - 1
Recording - May 2018 - 2
Recording - May 2018 - 3
Recording - May 2018 - 4
Recording - May 2018 - 5
Recording - May 2018 - Contents
Recording - May 2018 - 7
Recording - May 2018 - 8
Recording - May 2018 - 9
Recording - May 2018 - 10
Recording - May 2018 - 11
Recording - May 2018 - 12
Recording - May 2018 - 13
Recording - May 2018 - 14
Recording - May 2018 - 15
Recording - May 2018 - 16
Recording - May 2018 - 17
Recording - May 2018 - 18
Recording - May 2018 - 19
Recording - May 2018 - 20
Recording - May 2018 - 21
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Recording - May 2018 - 25
Recording - May 2018 - 26
Recording - May 2018 - 27
Recording - May 2018 - 28
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Recording - May 2018 - Cover3
Recording - May 2018 - Cover4
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