Review:Focusrite Clarett 8 Pre Thunderbolt

In terms of I/O and features, the Clarett 8Pre adheres pretty closely to the template established some six years ago by Focusrite’s Firewire–based Saffire Pro 40, and recapitulated on the USB–based Scarlett 18i20. Its eight analogue inputs can all accommodate mic– or line–level signals on their combi jack/XLR sockets; the first two, located on the front panel, can also act as high–impedance inputs for the direct connection of electric guitars and other instruments. The rear panel, meanwhile, hosts five pairs of line–level outputs on quarter–inch jacks, to go with the two independent headphone outputs on the front.

The 8Pre also boasts a reasonably comprehensive array of digital I/O. There are optical In and Out sockets supporting up to eight–channel audio transfer using the ADAT protocol, plus separate stereo coaxial S/PDIF In and Out, MIDI In and Out, and the ubiquitous BNC word clock input.

The 8Pre’s 1U metal front panel is more crimson than claret, but its layout is significantly cleaner and smarter than that of its Saffire or Scarlett predecessors. A black rectangular cutout area to the right of the panel hosts the main volume control, plus Mute and Dim buttons and a very clear six–segment LED array that shows levels for the main output and each of the eight analogue ins. Phantom power is available on all mic inputs, but is switched in two banks of four using front–panel buttons, while input gain is set using potentiometers. Beneath these are LEDs indicating the activity or otherwise of the new Air feature, which is engaged in software on a per–channel basis, and of which more presently.