Focusrite Clarett 4Pre

Focusrite’s lat­est Clarett in­ter­faces mark a re­turn to USB: a back­wards step? Jon Mus­grave in­ves­ti­gates

Future Music - - CONTENTS -

CON­TACT KEY FEA­TURES WHO: Focusrite WEB: 18 in­put, 8 out­put, USB 2.0 in­ter­face with MIDI I/O, 24 bit/192kHz A-D/D-A con­ver­sion I/O: ADAT TOSLINK op­ti­cal in­put, S/PDIF RCA in­put & out­put, USB-C, MIDI In & MIDI out DI­MEN­SIONS: 222 x 192 x 63.5mm WEIGHT: 1.35kg

Son­i­cally, the Clarett 4Pre is an im­pres­sive de­sign

Acou­ple of years ago, Focusrite’s orig­i­nal Clarett in­ter­faces in­tro­duced pre­mium qual­ity mic pres, ISA trans­former mic pre mode (Air) and su­per-low la­tency op­er­a­tion at a great price. They also re­quired a Thun­der­bolt equipped com­puter – fine for Mac users, but not for Win­dows. Thank­fully, the Clarett Thun­der­bolt in­ter­faces are now joined by USB ver­sions.

Much like the Thun­der­bolt ver­sion, this is an 18-in­put, 8-out­put in­ter­face with MIDI I/O. On the in­put side, that’s achieved via two combo mic/line/in­stru­ment in­puts, two combo mic/line in­puts, four line-level in­puts, stereo S/PDIF and eight chan­nels of ADAT op­ti­cal. Mean­while the eight out­puts com­prise four line-level and two stereo head­phone outs.

USB op­er­a­tion uses the USB 2.0 pro­to­col, nev­er­the­less the Clarett’s USB con­nec­tor is USB-C and this can be suc­cess­fully hooked up to USB 2.0, USB 3.1 and Thun­der­bolt 3-com­pat­i­ble ports us­ing one of the two in­cluded ca­bles.

The Clarett 4Pre’s front panel in­cludes phys­i­cal con­trols for mic gain, 48V phan­tom power, mon­i­tor and both head­phone lev­els, with LED in­di­ca­tors (48V and Air) and con­cen­tric in­put level LED ‘ha­los’ for the gain knobs. Still, some func­tion­al­ity, in­clud­ing en­gag­ing the Air fea­ture and switch­ing from line to in­stru­ment in­puts, is only avail­able via the Focusrite Con­trol soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tion. Fur­ther soft­ware-based op­tions in­clude sam­ple rate and clock source se­lec­tion, and also which of the phys­i­cal out­puts fol­lows the front panel mon­i­tor knob.

Nev­er­the­less, the key func­tion in Focusrite Con­trol is zero la­tency out­put rout­ing. Re­fresh­ingly sim­ple to use, you can make di­rect as­sign­ments or cus­tomised mixes for out­puts 1 and 2, out­puts 3 and 4, the S/PDIF out­puts, and the sec­ond head­phone out­put. Cus­tom mode al­lows source faders to be added and out­puts can be han­dled in­di­vid­u­ally or in stereo – a nice touch. Focusrite’s iOS Con­trol app pro­vides in­put/out­put func­tion­al­ity on iPhone.

Son­i­cally, the Clarett 4Pre is an im­pres­sive de­sign, and the Air op­tion, which adds no­tice­able en­hance­ment from about 1kHz up­wards, I found par­tic­u­larly se­duc­tive on vo­cals and gui­tars. I was also im­pressed by its per­for­mance at my low­est buf­fer size of 32 sam­ples.

Neg­a­tives? As men­tioned, full func­tion­al­ity re­quires Focusrite Con­trol to be open, a pain if you just want the in­stru­ment op­tion. Sim­i­larly, with no on­board pro­cess­ing, even a ba­sic high pass fil­ter re­quires DAW level in­ter­ven­tion. This aside I was pleas­antly sur­prised. The ar­guably steep price in­cludes a high value soft­ware bun­dle (Ableton, XLN Au­dio, Sof­tube and more) to sweeten the pill.

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