Clarett 8PreX is Focusrite’s Flagship Thunderbolt Audio Interface

With the Clarett 8PreX Focusrite offers an audio interface with Thunderbolt support and high quality at an attractive price tag. In conjunction with the Focusrite Control application, you now have a highly versatile and professional solution for routing high-quality audio to and from your computer recording system with extremely low latency.

Clarett 8PreX and Clarett 8Pre USB

The flagship Clarett 8PreX offers 26 inputs and 28 outputs. 8PreX is your stationary audio interface, ideal for larger studios. Focusrite did send a review unit with no strings attached.

The Clarett 8PreX as an audio interface connects microphones, instruments, line-level audio signals and digital audio signals to a MAC or PC through the computer’s Thunderbolt port. Physical inputs signals are routed to your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and the outputs from the DAW are configured as the unit’s physical outputs.

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Installation

On a MAC the installation is easy, you need to install the Focusrite software tool, reboot your MAC and the device works with your MAC computer. There are no Thunderbolt cables in the box. You need to purchase it if you do not own one already. On latest iMac’s from 2019, the Thunderbolt 3 Interface need to be adapted. The Thunderbolt does not daisy chain, which would be nice if you need more interface and IOs to connect. The Clarett 8PreX concurrently accommodates 26 inputs and 28 outputs. The Clarett 8PreX also manages multichannel digital audio in ADAT optical format – sixteen channels at 44.1/48 kHz sample rate, eight at 88.2/96 kHz or four at 176.4/192 kHz. 0S/PDIF I/O support is included.

Sound

Clarett 8PreX, one of Focusrite professional Thunderbolt audio interfaces including high-quality Clarett analog pre-amplifiers with the novel AIR function.

Clarett 8PreX offers an excellent sounding interface with eight mic preamps eight outputs. The unit supports a 119dB dynamic range, low noise, precision 24-bit/192kHz conversion and eight uniquely created mic preamps with a unique analog Air effect. The used Preamps are fabulous and very clean and do not add any character. The unit offers a 1.67 ms round-trip latency. The latency was never an issue. This is a very low latency to support monitoring setups, not before achievable.

Preamps

As mentioned one or two times the preamp sounds fantastic, why is that important you ask? With other budget audio interfaces, you could have the issue that the preamps are less clear or they run into issues with increased gain. The sound quality of the high-end converters in this unit is absolutely surprisingly impressive. The 119 DB of dynamic range blows pretty much everything else in its price range out the water. The quality of the stereo output of the audio interface is as good as anything I’ve heard. The quality of the converters on the Clarett 8PreX is just absolutely stunning you can certainly hear it.

Thunderbolt

The used Thunderbolt connection is outstanding fast. The absence of a second Thunderbolt port means you cannot do pass-through which could be key for you. The Thunderbolt input and output has virtually no latency and is unnoticeable. I did also love the low latency input monitoring that is possible through the Headphone amps which are very clean. When you record an instrument or vocals you want the signal as clean as possible and if needed run it through additional units for coloring and vibe.

AIR

The AIR feature adds that Airy mid-high presence replicating the vibe of Focusrite’s classic transformer-based ISA mic preamps. Without AIR enabled, the preamps are clear and neutral. When you enable the AIR feature so you can truly hear the difference. You can enable AIR individually on each channel.

Clock and Midi

You can easily synchronize Clarett 8PreX with other audio equipment in your studio. The device can work both as a slave to an external clock signal or as the master clock source. It also has standard DIN connectors for sending and receiving MIDI data. With the MIDI Interface, you can play in your DAW on your keyboard and route the MIDI signal to a vintage synth or directly into your Eurorack.

Future Proof and Support

When you buy an audio interface you need to be ready for the next years and OS releases to come. Focusrite has an excellent record in supporting Windows and MAC users over the years. MAC is less of an issue as you do not need special software like on Windows. The audio interface is built for professionals and shows that in the support from Focusrite.

Software Tool

I set up the signal routing with the included software tool on a MAC OS computer. Routing sound and signals are comfortable with the Focusrite software. If you do come from an audio interface with fewer inputs and outputs you change the way you process audio. As you do have access to plenty of I/Os you can permanently connect for example a compressor or other hardware units and just route when needed the sound through those units. I use different available inputs to capture dry and wet signals. For example, from Eurorack, Effect Pedals, and Synths. All recorded tracks could then be easier mixed before mastering. Audio like mics, instruments, audio signal, Eurorack or Pedals are recorded into your DAW and then played back from there through speakers and headphones.

The Clarett 8PreX is a Thunderbolt audio interface for studio use. Where it makes sense cables for both microphone and line sources are permanently attached to the device. That makes perfect sense as you want to rack mount the 8PreX and not access the back of the rack often. The audio interface sounds completely musical and looks great.

SCARLETT 18I20 vs. Clarett 8PreX

Comparing the Clarett 8PreX to the SCARLETT 18I20 I found that the Scarlet delivers a sound can be transformed close to final with some work. Where the Clarett plus the AIR feature gets you closer to that finished sound. When you use the AIR feature the Clarett is really ahead of the Scarlet and shows off its sound capabilities. The Clarett 8PreX shines also with its Interface, Look of the unit, Excellent Preamps Quality, and less latency through Thunderbolt. For the SCARLETT 18I20 speaks the lower price, good Preamps and that the Scarlett is smaller and requires less space in your rack.

Rating:  Five Out of Five Stars

Clarett 8PreX Thunderbolt offers very low latency. The Clarett 8PreX and the USB only product Focusrite Clarett 8Pre USB are the best value audio interface money can buy. This Audio Interface completely sounds transcendent, undoubtedly exceeding other interfaces in the same league. The audio quality of these preamps/converters is unmatched and for the price of the unit. When I enabled Air it did add a bit of glow and vibe without getting flat. The Clarett 8PreX has practically every potential option you would need in an audio interface.

The Clarett 8PreX has become my new go-to audio interface in my studio. The device captures sounds from my Eurorack, AE Modular, DAW, Synths, and Pedals. I can easily route the sound through my hardware effects units when needed. When recording video the inputs are really needed as we tent to add mics on top. The device arrives perfectly on time for the Summer of Eurorack Love.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Clarett 8PreX by Focusrite - a Thunderbolt Audio Interface Review
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