Focusrite Clarett 2PRE USB

New Gear/New Toys Reviews: Focusrite Clarett 2PRE USB

Focusrite adds to the Clarett audio interface line with the 2Pre ($399), 4Pre ($599) and 8Pre ($799) models all using a USB 2.0 Type-C connection. Compared to the original Focusrite Clarett Thunderbolt line, the Clarett USB Interfaces sound identical--the specs mapped out the same with the only difference being the slight inherent limitations of the USB 2.0 protocol for throughput latency.

I received and tested a Clarett 2Pre and it comes with 1-meter, Type-C to Type-A and Type-C to Type-C style USB cables. The new Clarett USB models are not bus-powered so it also comes with a wall-wart power supply module. However in the works is a firmware update to add USB bus powering to them.

One interesting feature is called Air. It switches the impedance of the microphone pre-amp to enable a "transformer resonance effect"--it mimics the characteristics of a transformer-based pre-amp. I noticed this brighter sound immediately as a shimmery effect that is just awesome for acoustic guitars and somber-sounding sources such as husky voices or overly dark keyboard patches. It is a nice option to have at the ready when recording and I plan to use it often.

The Air effect, other interface controls and routing are set using the new Focusrite Control 2.2.0 software that runs in the background of your DAW software. With it you can change or set parameters such as: sample rates up to 192kHz, clock source--the Clarett 2Pre can clock and sync to the incoming ADAT Lightpipe or S/DIF digital inputs; and you may configure the front panel inputs as direct instrument inputs using the front panel Combo jacks.

The Control Software also routes which inputs and software playback channels are being sent to particular outputs. You may route up to ten inputs comprised of a mix of: the two analog inputs (mic or line), stereo or separate S/PDIF digital inputs, and the eight ADAT Lightpipe inputs. In addition, you may route the four outputs in any combination--I liked to route a separate stereo headphone mix out of Outputs 3 and 4 to drive my headphone amp/box. I derived the headphone mix inside of Pro Tools but you could use all four outputs to connect to an outboard mixer such as for live sound playback (backing tracks) while recording the show at the same time

I think these new Clarett USB interfaces for PCs and MACs sound great and the latency is low enough at 44.1/48kHz sample rates and a 64 samples (or lower) buffer size, that I could monitor just fine right through Pro Tools 12.8.3 just as I do with my Pro Tools HDX rig. Awesome!

All Clarett USB interfaces come with ADAT inputs--the 8Pre also has ADAT outputs and features Word Clock out for syncing external devices.

Barry Rudolph is a recording engineer/mixer who has worked on over 30 gold and platinum records. He has recorded and/or mixed Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hall & Oates, Pat Benatar, Rod Stewart, the Corrs and more. Barry has his own futuristic music mixing facility and loves teaching audio engineering at Musician’s Institute, Hollywood, CA. He is a lifetime Grammy-voting member of NARAS and a contributing editor for Mix Magazine.