Review:Focusrite Clarett 8 Pre X Thunderbolt

The flagship of the Clarett range is the 8PreX. Designed, say Focusrite, “with the permanent racked studio install in mind”, it has no counterpart in the Scarlett range but shares many features with the earlier Liquid Saffire 56; the main functional difference is that the Liquid Channel preamp modelling technology used on the earlier Firewire interface has been dropped in favour of the new Air circuit.

The 8PreX occupies two rack spaces to the 8Pre’s one, despite providing exactly the same complement of analogue I/O. Its larger dimensions reflect, in part, the fact that the line and mic inputs employ separate jack and XLR sockets rather than the 8Pre’s combi sockets, but also the fact that each input has its own buttons engaging phantom power, polarity reversal and high–pass filter. There are also separate front–panel jack sockets for instrument connections, though these still share the same channels as the first pair of mic/line inputs.

Where the 8PreX does surpass its sibling is in the provision of digital I/O. The word clock input is joined by an output, and there’s a second pair of optical sockets, upping the 8PreX’s total channel count at base sample rates to 26 inputs and 28 outputs, all of which are available simultaneously. Unlike the 8Pre, the 8PreX also gives you the ability to switch the hardware input metering to show either bank of digital inputs instead of the analogue ins. Oh, and I should mention the stereo ‘loopback’ inputs, a feature introduced with the Saffire range and inherited by all the Claretts; these allow you to make available the output from stand–alone programs such as iTunes as input for recording in your DAW.

Focusrite have, alas, followed the lead of other companies in not supplying a Thunderbolt cable with either 8Pre. Quite why manufacturers think it’s acceptable to sell devices costing the thick end of £1000 without the cable needed to use them I don’t know, but if Zoom can bundle a cable with their very affordable TAC–2, surely the likes of Universal Audio, Apogee and Focusrite should be able to do so with interfaces costing much more?

On the plus side, all of the Clarett interfaces ship with Focusrite’s Red 2 & 3 plug–in suite, which is actually great. If Waves or UA stuck their name on these EQ and dynamics plug–ins, people would happily pay hundreds of dollars for them, so Clarett owners will rejoice in getting some seriously high–quality processors for nowt.