The Focusrite Clarett range focuses on tour audio interfaces designed to offer the kind of quality and features found in units costing twice the price. The series ranges from the desktop Clarett 2Pre (10-in, 4-out) and Clarett 4Pre reviewed here (18-in, 8-out) to the single-rackmount Clarett 8Pre (18-in, 20-out) up to the Thunderbolt-only Clarett 8PreX, with a very respectable 26-in, 28-out. Aside from the consistent visual presentation, the line is also held together by its reliance on Focusrite’s decades of analogue design experience, along with Air-enabled preamps that reproduce the input impedance, clarity, and frequency response curve of the company’s original ISA mic preamp.
Available in Thunderbolt and USB versions, the Clarett 4Pre has four high performance, low-noise (-128dB EIN) mic preamps with a low distortion, ultra-linear design that guarantees a clean, open and transparent sound, giving accurate representation of the original performance. There are 18 inputs, including the four mic/line inputs (two of which are also high-impedance instrument inputs), four fixed line inputs, and an ADAT input which supports an additional eight channels when combined with multi-channel mic preamps like Clarett OctoPre. There are two monitor outputs with anti-thump technology, a headphone output with volume control, and two line outputs – and MIDI I/O is also included, of course. You can use the Focusrite Control app on Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch to easily configure your routing and monitor mixes, while other bundled software includes XLN Audio Addictive Keys, Focusrite Red Plug-in Suite and Plug-in Collective, Softube Time and Tone Bundle with four of Softube's world-class reverb, delay, mastering and distortion plug-ins, Ableton Live Lite, and Loopmasters with 2GB of royalty-free sample libraries.
Supported operating systems are Mac OSX 10.11 El Capitan, 10.12 Sierra or 10.13 High Sierra, and Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, while supported sample rates are 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz and 192 kHz.
The key to the Clarett 4Pre’s success is that Air mode, which boosts the high end significantly up to 35kHz. It’s an effect you feel as much as hear, bringing more intimacy to vocals, more sparkle to guitars, and more swish to hi-hats. It doesn’t work for everything, though – if you use it on every track you record, you’re going to have so much treble content to contend with that your mix will start to sound harsh, but use it selectively and it’s like a magic wand for your overall mix. Focusrite also nails it with a very helpful manual that explains the myriad ways to connect this bad boy up. It’s such a potentially complex system that it helps to have a little extra help in planning your signal routing.
Hits and Misses
Input gain LEDs handily integrated around the gain controls
Flexible routing options
Great-sounding Air mode on all four mic channels
A few USB ports for connecting other devices would be nice