Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 - User review - Gearspace.com
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Focusrite Scarlett 18i20
3.9 3.9 out of 5, based on 3 Reviews

The Focusrite 18i20 may just be the best Bang for your buck interface on the market.

25th October 2013

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 by Char2000

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Focusrite Scarlett 18i20

The latest in the Scarlett line of interfaces, the 18i20 promises users the flexibility and quality of interfaces of its' class.

A myriad of inputs and outputs
Two headphone outputs
Beautiful red paintjob
Heavy duty construction
Free mixing plugins
Standby mode allows throughput just by turning on
ADAT support
MIDI in/ MIDI out
The free MixControl software
Focusrite Preamps

You must install MixControl to install appropriate drivers as there is no driver CD in the box. Small one time annoyance.

Gain has to be cranked sometime to get an appropriate level signal.

Phantom power can only be turned throughout inputs 1-4 and 5-8 at a time. No on an as needed. so if only input 3 needs phantom power you must push the phantom power 1-4 button engaging it for all 4 inputs. Don't worry as this will NOT damage or affect the other inputs using dynamic mics and will only hurt older ribbon mics.


Lets start with the preamps. Focusrite is world renowned for their preamps and it really shows here. The interesting thing I noticed when I first ran my guitar through it was the it sounded WORSE than my Mbox Pro's preamps in terms of EQ. Thats because the Scarlett is more transparent in it's preamps allowing you to more accurately here your tone. After adjusting my tone the sound increased in quality by sevenfold. Also there was a noticeable increase in dynamic range as the Mbox had more of a compressed sound.

Included is the MixControl software which allows users to route different mixes to any output they see fit. This come in handy for live sound as it allow you to set up monitor mixes, both wedges and in ear. The Mixes may be up to 8 output channels consisting of either 4 stereo mixes, 8 mono or a mix of the both summing to equal 8 channels. Those familiar with mixing monitors for live sound may find it easier to navigate the software but to others there is a slight learning curve to using the software.

The 18i20 allows for up to 18 simultaneous inputs to be recorded into you DAW.The inputs are as follows:

Input 1-8: Analogue inputs on the unit,

Input 9-10: S/PDIF inputs,

Input 11-18: ADAT inputs.

However, it is slightly misleading as the unit BY ITSELF is NOT capable of recording 18 channels. It is capable of 10, 8 via combo XLR and 2 S/PDIF. The ADAT input on the unit acts as any other allowing and additional 8 inputs via an external interface such as the OctoPre MkII being sent via light pipe (TOSLINK) at 48kHz or 4 inputs and 98kHz. Word clock synchronization is also done via the ADAT.

Much to my delight the interface allows for dual independent headphone outputs. This is a small yet significant feature that more interfaces should have.

A firmware update provides the 18i20 the ability to enter standby mode allowing latency free throughput of signal. This comes in handy for the musician who simply wants to plugin his instrument and hear it without having to enter his DAW and setup inputs and outs.

The included suite of plugins include:
Ableton Live Lite
Novation Bass Station
and 1GB of Loopmasters samples.

As for the construction of the unit, it's made of a sturdy aluminum chassis painted a beautiful "Scarlett" red. However since it is a 1U rack mounted interface only the black front panel of the unit will be seen when mounted in a rack, a crime as the interface such a marvelous signature color.

Overall this is a amazing unit, providing the world acclaimed sound quality of Focusrite and software to compliment it.

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Last edited by Grahamdwc; 29th January 2014 at 01:19 PM..

  • 1
25th June 2015

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 by The Guy

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 3 out of 5
  • Features 3 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 2 out of 5
  • Overall: 3
Focusrite Scarlett 18i20

This was my first interface with more than 2 inputs. Until buying this, I had been using various cheap 2 channel interfaces, eventually upgrading to an Apogee Duet 2. As my gear collection grew, I needed a better multichannel solution and the 18i20 ticked all the boxes.

I won't go on about features and specs here; another reviewer already listed plenty of information. It seems that the overall consensus is predominantly positive and the Scarlett line is held in relatively high regard as far as budget interfaces go. But I'm submitting this review as a counterpoint to this, as a previous owner and a current owner of a much finer interface with similar I/O configuration (Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt).

First of all, I've been through 2 of these units. the first one arrived damaged but the seller happily sent a replacement which arrived quickly, but with the same defect: half of the push switches were broken off, hanging loosely from their holes with the busted plastic bits rattling around the inside of the chassis. Thats right, two of them, back to back. To the credit of Focusrite, the customer service was top-notch.

Despite the defect it was still functional so rather than deal with the hassle of shipping and waiting yet again, i opted to just keep the interface. I had it for a few months and maybe put 25 hours on it.

Performance-wise the interface is nothing special, but its a <500 USD piece of gear. I had it connected to 2 different Macs at various times: both 2012, both i7 with maxed out RAM and SSD. Workable sample rate in Logic X and Live 9 was around 128-256 with a handful of plugins, yielding in the ballpark of 8-10ms RT latency. The quality of the converters seemed pretty good. If you cant get a good-sounding recording of it, its user error.

The Ensemble is heads and shoulders better than the 18i20 in every way, but what else is to be expected from a product retailing for 5X as much? Still, I have to say save your money. Wait. Take your time. The interface is "fine" if it isnt broken, but like my mother-in-law says, "buy nice or buy twice". I hate it when she's right.

  • 1
27th January 2016

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 by Toadfish

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 3 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
Focusrite Scarlett 18i20

I've got some good and bad things to say about this product. Firstly, I'll start with the non-negative: if you're looking for a cheap interface with lots of ins/outs then this will certainly do the trick, providing you check the compatibility with your chosen computer/OS type beforehand. With regards to sound quality, I don't have a £5000 interface to do A/B tests with but the sound quality has certainly been fine for me, and the labels/mastering engineers/musicians I've worked with have been very happy. I really like the front panel; gives me access to plenty of useful tools, plus having two headphones outputs immediately available is very, very useful.

The negative:

- Since purchase, I'm on my second Scarlett 18i20. The first unit died soon after purchase (support told me the board had fried, whatever that means) and I packaged it up and got it sent out to them straight away. I received an e-mail two weeks later saying they'd identified the issue and I'll be receiving a brand new replacement. From that point, it took them another 10 days to ship the unit back to me (UK to UK). Overall, a highly annoying experience. The support guy I was in contact with openly told me they forgot to send it back to me - refreshing honesty, for sure, but wholly unacceptable.

- The MixControl software that's provided with the interface is a total mindf***. So complicated (and unnecessarily so).

- This is a biggie: There's an occasional serious issue that's triggered simply by turning the interface on/off; the computer (Windows 7, in my case) will crash and shut down completely - blue screen of death 'n all. This is a known issue and Focusrite have themselves told me that they are aware of it. I have the latest drivers and I've also run the patch provided by them but it hasn't solved the issue. As a result of this, I'll be getting rid of this unit as soon as possible. There are no words to describe the frustration of losing 10 hours worth of work because your interface decided to spaz your computer out.


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