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Focusrite Scarlett 18i18 3rd Gen Review

Focusrite is a leading manufacturer and designer of high-quality professional production equipment. Since the brand was established by Rupert Neve in 1985, they have continued to develop a wide range of quality, innovative solutions.

The Scarlett range of USB audio interfaces was introduced in 2010 and quickly became a top world seller in home studio recording.

So, let us take a look at one of these audio interfaces in our in-depth Focusrite Scarlett 18i18 3rd Gen review…

Focusrite Scarlett 18i18 3rd Gen
Our rating:4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)

Overview

The Focusrite Scarlett 18i18 is an entry-level audio interface and one of many from the hugely popular Scarlett range. And in order not to miss out on the extremely lucrative Scarlett market, Focusrite have released half a dozen varying packages at different price points.

What’s new?

All models come with the Focusrite Air feature. This is an emulation of the Focusrite ISA mic preamps used at Air studios to lift the high mid-range. Being ordered originally by Sir George Martin, they are a special piece of recording history.

What else?

The Dynamic range has been improved, with lower harmonic distortion and increased gain on the mic, line, and instrument inputs.

What makes the package stand out?

Well, that has to be the free software bundle. This includes Pro-tools First, Live Lite from Ableton, and a great range of plug-ins.

Quick-start

As with all audio interface packages, the challenge is to get you up and running as quickly and stress free as possible. Here, a quick registration process is necessary, using your serial number to access your details and an instruction video, which will navigate you through your downloads and the installation.

Is it complicated?

Not really, and depending on the extent of your knowledge of these devices, some parts you won’t need to look at. You can also ignore the software if you already have a favorite DAW and just want to record quickly; just plug in and go.

Design


The third generation of the Scarlet 18i18 has a very solid build with a lovely brushed metal finish. It comes in its signature red color, with Focusrite emblazoned across the top. The front panel is intelligently, logically, and nicely laid out.

Mic Preamps

The interface has access to four of the companies award-winning, high performance mic amps on the front. They come with the excellent Air feature I mentioned earlier and are positioned just below the gain knobs. The mic preamps have a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz, and a dynamic range of 111dB.

Line inputs

The unit comes with eight line inputs for your synths etc., and two high-headroom instrument inputs on the front, which can be used for guitars or bass.

Gain controls

The gain controls are lit with the halo level indicators, which are very intuitive for gain staging. The instrument input, Air feature, and the pad illuminate next to the gain knob.

Back and front panels

The back panel has four balanced outputs, four-line inputs, midi i/o, S/PDIF i/o, an optical input, and a USB input.

While, the front panel also has two 48-volt phantom power buttons, two headphone inputs with controls, and a main monitor control knob.

In use


As we mentioned, this is the newly improved 3rd generation Focusrite Scarlet 18i18 and is easier than ever to use, with superior sound quality and super-low latency.

With supported sample rates right up to 192kHz, this box isn’t messing around and has a sound quality that would be comfortable almost anywhere; from home studio to broadcasting to podcasting, there are an endless number of potential applications.

Super-low latency

The Focusrite Scarlett 18i18 audio interface is a super-low latency unit. Having low latency when you are monitoring your guitar, and trying to tap into that killer solo, is everything. Native plug-ins can also be monitored in real-time. Therefore, there will be no more timing issues distracting you from achieving a superb recording.

Sound quality

The award-winning Scarlett mic preamps speak for themselves, with low-noise, low-distortion, bucket loads of headroom, and now the inclusion of the Focusrite ISA preamps, in the form of the Air studio Mic-preamp emulator. You should consider yourself spoiled at this price point, to be honest!!!

Features

  • Newly upgraded set of four Scarlett mic preamps.
  • High-performance converters (24-bit/192kHz).
  • Air mode emulator to lift that high mid-range.
  • Two excellent high-headroom instrument inputs.
  • Super-Low latency monitoring.
  • Halo level indicators for gain staging.
  • Technology for dual-monitor setups.
  • Two headphone outputs with level controls.
  • Eight line inputs.
  • Four balanced analog line outputs.
  • 12V DC power supply.
  • Superb software Bundle.
  • 3-year warranty.

Software included

  • Pro Tools First.
  • Ableton Live Lite.
  • Soft-tube Time and Tone Bundle.
  • Focusrite Red 2 and 3 plug-ins.
  • XLN Audio Addictive keys virtual instruments.
  • Access to Focusrite plug-ins.
  • 3-month Splice Sounds subscription.

Sample Rates

  • 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, and 192kHz.

Computer Specifications

  • MacOS 10.12 or higher.
  • Windows 7 SP1 or higher (Scarlett), Windows 10 v1809 or higher (Pro-tools first)
  • USB 2.0 Computer Connectivity.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i18 3rd Gen Review Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Great software bundle.
  • High-quality mic preamps.
  • Super-low latency.
  • Incredible price point.
  • Ease of use.
  • Air Feature.

Cons

  • At this price, absolutely none!!

Verdict

Focusrite introducing the Scarlett range of audio interfaces was not an attempt at simply tapping into a lucrative market; it was about dominating that market. It’s easy to see why the Scarlett range are bestsellers; Focusrite understands what everyone, from the beginner to the professional, wants and needs.

Delivered

Focusrite have an understanding of these markets that only a company with their history would. The packages and quality in their interfaces have given Focusrite a hold on the Audio interface market in both quality and price point that most competitors will struggle to catch up with anytime soon.

Are you a fan of Focusrite but looking for fewer channels?

Then take a look at our in-depth Focusrite Clarett 4Pre USB Review, our Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 3 Review, and our Focusrite Scarlett Solo Gen 3 Review, as well as our review of the Behringer Audio Interface 4 Channel UMC404HD and our PreSonus Audiobox USB 96 Review.

Or, if you’re also interested in some other quality brands, check out our comprehensive review of the Best Audio Interface and the Best USB Audio Interfaces currently on the market in 2021.

Or how about our reviews of the Best Microphones Recording Electric Guitar, the Best Vocal Mics, the Best Microphone Preamp, the Best Kick Drum Mic, and the Best DI Boxes for Bass currently on the market.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i18 3rd Gen Review – Final thoughts

Having spent some time with the 3rd Gen Focusrite Scarlett 18i18 audio interface, I can, without a shadow of a doubt, say that this is a bargain at the price. You certainly will not want for more or feel unhappy after purchasing this or one of the many other excellent Scarlett range interfaces.

Happy recording!

Focusrite Scarlett 18i18 3rd Gen


Niall Flynn

Find out more about Niall and our other writers by checking out our About Us page.

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