focusrite scarlett vs clarett

Focusrite Scarlett vs Clarett – Which Is The Best Audio Interface?

If you’re on the hunt for a new audio interface, you’ve probably come across these two names: Focusrite’s Scarlett and Clarett ranges.

You could be forgiven for thinking at first that someone forgot to run a spellcheck before publishing, as the names are deceptively similar. In fact, the Focusrite interfaces themselves look incredibly alike, making it all the more difficult to determine which is the best.

Rest assured, though, you’re not going crazy. There are a few (albeit fairly subtle) differences between the Focusrite Scarlett and Focusrite Clarett interfaces, and we’re going to air out those differences right here.

It’s the fight of the century, as it were: Focusrite Scarlett vs Clarett.

Ding ding.

Focusrite Scarlett – A Modern Classic

Focusrite Scarlett

In the red corner…

Focusrite’s Scarlett range has to be the most popular set of audio interfaces on the planet.

From the single microphone input Scarlett Solo to studio-expanding Scarlett 18i20, there’s an interface to suit everyone’s needs in the Scarlett suite. So what makes them so popular?

Firstly, they are incredibly affordable. The entry-level Scarlett Solo comes in at under $150!

Secondly, they sound amazing. The preamps are clean, and offer a seriously low noise level and great dynamic range. The low latency AD conversion is very well developed too, as it should be. Focusrite has been in the game since 1985.

Thirdly, as if all of that wasn’t enough, every Scarlett interface comes with some sweet virtual goodies:

  • Ableton Live Lite
  • Avid ProTools | First
  • Three months access to Splice Sounds
  • One free XLN Audio Addictive Keys software instrument
  • Focusrite’s Red 2 & 3 plugin suite
  • Softube’s Time & Tone plugin bundle
  • Focusrite Control (software interface for recording and monitoring)

So, not only do you get a world class interface, you’ve got two options for DAWs, a bunch of sick samples, and a whole host of plugins. All you need now is a microphone.

Guess what, Focusrite has those too! The Scarlett Solo pack comes with a mic, XLR cable and headphones.

Scarlett Audio Interfaces

Thinking of going with one of the Focusrite Scarlett interfaces, but not quite sure which one is right for you?

The main difference between each of the models is the inputs and outputs, so make sure you pay close attention… or you could find yourself coming up short in the connectivity department.

InterfaceInputsOutputs
Scarlett Solo1x XLR input
1x ¼” line input
2x 1/4″ line outputs
1x stereo headphone output
Scarlett 2i22x combi mic/instrument/line XLR inputs2x 1/4″ line outputs
1x stereo headphone output
Scarlett 4i42x combi mic/instrument/line XLR inputs
2x ¼” line ins
1x 5-pin MIDI input
4x 1/4″ line outputs
1x stereo headphone output
1x 5-pin MIDI output
Scarlett 8i62x combi mic/instrument/line XLR inputs
4x ¼” line inputs
1x 5-pin MIDI input
1x S/PDIF digital input
4x 1/4″ line outputs
2x stereo headphone outputs
1x 5-pin MIDI output
1x S/PDIF digital output
Scarlett 18i82x combi mic/instrument/line XLR inputs
2x combi mic/line XLR inputs
4x ¼” line ins
1x 5-pin MIDI input
1x optical ADAT input
1x S/PDIF digital input
4x 1/4″ line outputs
2x stereo headphone outputs
1x 5-pin MIDI output
1x S/PDIF digital output
Scarlett 18i202x combi mic/instrument/line XLR inputs
6 x combi mic/line XLR ins
1x 5-pin MIDI input
1x optical ADAT input
1x S/PDIF digital input
10x 1/4″ line outputs
2x stereo headphone outputs
1x 5-pin MIDI output
1x optical ADAT output
1x S/PDIF digital output
1x Word Clock Out

Introducing The Focusrite Clarett

introducing the Focusrite Clarett

In the, ah, other red corner….

The Focusrite Clarett range is best seen as an upgrade or refreshment to the Scarlett interfaces. It’s less like comparing a Strat with a Tele, and more like comparing a 98 Strat with a 2015 model.

So what’s different then?

Well, for starters the Clarett doesn’t stick to USB connectivity only.

In fact, the Clarett was originally launched as a Thunderbolt only interface. More recently the range has begun converting to USB (signified by the term 2PreUSB as opposed to simply 2Pre), however the flagship model 8PreX still uses Thunderbolt.

Due to this change, you may see in some stores the older Clarett models alongside the newer Clarett USB interfaces.

The Focusrite Clarett interfaces are also a little bit more expensive like for like, but that’s due to a few key upgrades.

Preamps

The biggest difference between the Focusrite Scarlett and Clarett ranges is the preamps. All Focusrite Clarett interfaces utilize newer, better preamps which offer greater dynamic range and lower input noise.

The Clarett was also the first audio interface to feature Focusrite’s AIR mode, which emulates the sound of their famous ISA preamps. This legendary preamp offers the absolute best in sound quality, and was developed by Rupert Neve… a household name in the audio industry.

Conversion

The Clarett interfaces feature an upgraded AD conversion unit too. This won’t necessarily result in any audible changes to your audio recordings, but it will mean that in heavier recording sessions, you are less likely to experience latency.

Aesthetics vs Practicality

It hardly seems there’s much to complain about with the Scarlett models, but of course, people will always find a way.

Many Scarlett users complained that the LED lights used in these interfaces were ‘too flashy’, particularly when working at night. This was changed in the Focusrite Clarett 4 Pre and sibling interfaces by adding a 6 level light intensity function.

Also, all of the Clarett interfaces fill the air in the box with both a USB C and USB A (the traditional kind) cable, whereas the Scarlett interfaces ship with only a type A USB cable.

Clarett Audio Interfaces

Most of the Clarett interfaces have a very similar brother in the Scarlett range. Once you decide on the ins and outs you need, then you simply need to decide whether it’s worth spending a few extra bucks in exchange for the best in audio quality, and lower latency.

InterfaceInputsOutputsClosest Scarlett Comparison
Clarett 2Pre2x combi mic/instrument/line XLR inputs
1x optical ADAT input
1x Stereo Loopback input
1x 5-pin MIDI input
4x 1/4″ line outputs
1x stereo headphone output
1x 5-pin MIDI output
Scarlett 8i6
Clarett 4Pre2x combi mic/instrument/line XLR inputs
2x combi mic/line XLR inputs
4x ¼” line ins
1x optical ADAT input
1x Stereo Loopback input
1x 5-pin MIDI input
1x S/PDIF digital input
4x 1/4″ line outputs
2x stereo headphone outputs
1x 5-pin MIDI output
1x S/PDIF digital output
Scarlett 18i8
Clarett 8Pre2x combi mic/instrument/line XLR inputs
6x combi mic/line XLR inputs
1x optical ADAT input
1x Stereo Loopback input
1x 5-pin MIDI input
1x S/PDIF digital input
10x 1/4″ line outputs
2x stereo headphone outputs
1x optical ADAT output
1x 5-pin MIDI output
1x S/PDIF digital output
1x Word Clock Out
Scarlett 18i20
Clarett 8PreX8x XLR inputs with high pass filter and phase flip
8x TRS line ins
2x optical ADAT inputs
1x Stereo Loopback input
1x 5-pin MIDI input
1x S/PDIF digital input
1x Word Clock Input
10x 1/4″ line outputs
2x stereo headphone outputs
2x optical ADAT outputs
1x 5-pin MIDI output
1x S/PDIF digital output
1x Word Clock Out
n/a

Summary – Is Clarett Better Than Scarlett?

So, in the battle of Scarlett vs Clarett, which takes out the title?

They both offer low latency recording, clean preamps that use Focusrite’s AIR algorithm, and feature pretty much the best audio recording quality on the market.

Like for like, the Clarett USB range comes out on top. Simply compare the Focusrite Clarett 4Pre with its brother in the Scarlett range, the 18i8, and you’ll see the Clarett wins in almost all aspects.