Founded in 1985 by Rupert Neve, Focusrite was established to serve high-end professional recording studios. Focusrite are synonymous with creating some of the highest quality recording equipment for professionals that has ever existed.
I was lucky enough to get a chance to use the classic Focusrite Forte Blue at Metropolis Studios in London in the early 1990s. It was custom designed by Rupert Neve and was a sight to behold and wouldn’t have looked out of place on the star-ship enterprise. Since then, I’ve always been excited to get a chance to play around with a new piece of Focusrite hardware.
From 2004 Focusrite shifted its attentions to also focus on mid-range and home-pro music equipment. The company is already a solid player in the world of Audio interfaces, with the 2010 Scarlett USB series now being the most popular line in the world to date.
So, do we need another new interface in the pricier Clarett range? Let’s find out in our in-depth Focusrite Clarett 4Pre USB Review…
The Focusrite Clarett 4 Pre USB is a mid-range audio interface and the most versatile desktop interface in the Clarett line. It was designed to be a professional-level audio interface priced for the home recording enthusiast.
It is built to offer high performance with quality mic pres and the accompanying control software. The Clarett USB 4 brings the competition to interfaces twice its price with exceptionally low noise mic pres and low distortion. This gives a very clear and accurate representation of your original performance.
The recording of vocals and instruments are all handled with professional top-class sound quality.
Design and Build
The Focusrite Clarett is a good solid build, mostly metal except for the plastic back panel. The front panel is well laid out with solid smooth knobs. The unit contains all high-performance chips for the analog to digital and digital to analog conversion.
The 192khz/24-bit conversion is perfectly suitable for TV studios, professional studios, or just your home setup.
It is a 12-volt DC unit with a power supply included. The addition of a power button on the back is great as you don’t need to pull out your power supply to fully turn the unit off, as you have to do with a lot of more affordable interfaces.
Four at a time…
The Clarett 4 PRE comes with four mic inputs and four line inputs, allowing the recording of up to four microphones and a variety of keys, etc., simultaneously. And the halo gain indicators will allow you to keep your recording levels in check. The Clarett’s front panel also includes 48v phantom power.
The unit has four sets of balanced TRS line-level outputs. These can be used as either two sets of monitors or set to send audio to an amp or external hardware such as a compressor or reverb unit during mixdown.
The Clarett has the lowest in class round trip latency in a USB connection. And both USB type A & C cables are included in the package. Through USB, you can use all eight inputs at 44.1khz or 48khz, or four at the higher sample rates of 88.2khx or 96khz. It also comes with an optical ADAT input for analog input expansion using, for example, the Claret Octo Pre, if you find yourself needing more mic inputs.
We also have a midi in and out, and two headphone outputs, which allow you to set up different headphone balances for performers. One great feature which sets it apart from many other audio interfaces at a similar price is the ‘AIR MODE’ function, which is very similar to the original Focusrite ISA Preamp switch and allows you to add analog coloration to your input signal.
Focusrite states that the dynamic range of their mic pres is very high, and it comes in at 119 dB. This is great news as it gives you lots of headroom to record even with low-level microphones. With all that extra room to play with, there are no noise issues when you need to slam up that vocal or other instruments in the mix.
The front face we also really liked as nothing is cluttered, and it’s so easy to get your hands on as there’s plenty of room between the knobs. The unit itself is very simple to set up, and yes, it does sound very clear and crisp, as you’d expect from Focusrite.
Quality as you expect…
The four mic pres and four line inputs are very high-quality, and to have so many inputs available with such ease, makes this audio interface such a pleasure to use. The two headphone outputs are great also as different headphone balances are always useful to have at hand.
Mac users also do not need to worry about drivers as the 4PRE is core audio compliant. Even at the lowest buffer size of 32 samples, the performance of this unit is very impressive. The ‘Air’ option really does add noticeable enhancement and works nicely with vocals and guitars.
Supported Operating Systems
Mac OSX 10.11 El Capitan, 10.12 Sierra or 10.13 High Sierra, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10
Frequency response: 20 Hz – 35 Hz +/- 0.5 db min gain .Dynamic range 118 dB A-weighted.Max
Max Input Level: +18 dBu at minimum gain. Gain range 57 dB.
1-4 – Frequency response 20 Hz – 35 Hz +/- 0.5 db min gain. Dynamic range 118 dB A-weighted
Max Input Level: +26 dBu at minimum gain. Gain range +18 dBu at minimum gain
Frequency response 20 Hz – 35 Hz +/- 0.5 db min gain. Dynamic range 117 dB A-weighted.
Max Input Level: +14 dBu at minimum gain. Gain range 57 dB.
Line and Monitor Outputs
Dynamic range outputs 118 dB A-weighted. Max output level balanced line/TRS outputs +18 dB
Focusrite Clarett 4Pre USB Review Pros and Cons
- Lots of free software in the package.
- Being Focusrite, you get the best tech support available.
- Two-year warranty.
- Quality mic pres with ISA transformer preamp option.
- Solid, proven low latency USB drivers.
- No onboard DSP processing. With no onboard processing, even a basic high pass filter requires DAW level intervention.
Looking for more superb equipment for your studio?
Then check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Audio Interface, the Best USB Audio Interfaces, the Best Microphones Recording Electric Guitar, the Best Microphone Preamp, and the Best DI Boxes for Bass currently on the market.
You may also be interested in our in-depth review of the Behringer Audio Interface 4 Channel UMC404HD.
Focusrite Clarett 4Pre USB Review – My Verdict
This is a well-rounded and impressive audio interface, as you would expect from Focusrite, and has most of the features that you expect from a high-end audio interface. However, it is not the most affordable interface considering its features, but it is going to satisfy a lot of critical ears at a reasonable price.
It’s hard to beat the Scarlett 18i20, but there’s no question that the 4PRE does. Taking into account the huge success of the lower priced Scarlett series, it will be interesting to see how many of the home studio enthusiasts will be willing to spend the extra money to upgrade to what is undoubtedly a superior unit.
Although made for use across the professional music spectrum, it still feels like a higher priced unit to be used at your home studio, which may not be a bad thing.
To find out more about Niall and the rest of our writers, please check out our About Us page.