Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 Second Generation – A Podcasting Review

focusrite-scarlett-18i8-second-generation-a-podcasting-review

I’m a long time admirer of Focusrite gear. The English audio equipment manufacturer has an outstanding global reputation for developing some of the best kit on the market.

I’ve been using the Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 Second Generation‘s little brother – the 2i2 – for a few years now, and I think it’s a fantastic USB preamp.

A lot of podcasters ask us about recording more than 2 microphones into individual channels at the same time though. This is something you can do with the Scarlett 18i8, so I thought it was time to check it out.

IMG_3978Who Would Use the Focusrite Scarlett 18i8?

  • Someone who wants to record directly into their computer editing software (DAW)
  • Someone who wants to record 3-8 people onto their own individual audio tracks

Recording audio from multiple participants onto individual tracks gives you much greater control, both in the recording stage, and in the editing process.

Podcasters who run ’roundtable’ style discussion with everyone gathered together in the same room would really benefit from using something like this. Alternatively, audio drama producers who want to record 3-8 voice actors in a scene together would find it ideal too.

What Software Do I Need?

Scarlett 18i8 with Adobe Audition

Recording with 4 mics inside Adobe Audition

With any USB preamp, you need to record into a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) on your computer.

Firstly, you won’t be able to get the best out of your Scarlett 18i8 if you record with Audacity. You can still edit and put together your show in Audacity, so don’t worry if that’s the software you’re most familiar with, and recording audio in another DAW is fairly straightforward.

The Scarlett 18i8 comes with versions of Ableton and Pro Tools, or you can use something like Reaper or Adobe Audition.

You also need to download the Focusrite Control software (which is free) from the company’s website before you can use it on your Mac or PC.

Features

You need to plug the Scarlett 18i8 in via its mains adaptor to power it. It connects to your Mac/PC with the USB cable provided, and has an on/off switch on the back.

There’s 4 XLR/1/4″ (combo) inputs on the front for plugging your microphones into. Each has its own gain dial to control the mic sensitivity.

Also on the front of the 18i8, there are some output controls. Two different headphone ports that you can plug in and monitor your recordings with. These are 1/4″ ports and have their own individual volume controls, as well as a mute button.

There’s also a volume dial for monitors/speakers if you’re connected to any, as well as phantom power buttons to switch on and power condenser mics if you’re using them.

IMG_4037On the rear you’ll find inputs 5-8, in the form of 1/4″ ports.

The first two inputs (1-2) are capable of being either Mic (XLR), Instrument (1/4”) or Line level (1/4”), inputs 3-4 are either Mic or Line level, and the four rear inputs are Line level only

There’s an optical ADAT input port, which gives you the option to connect another preamp (with an ADAT output port, via a TOSLINK optical cable), this can provide up to an additional 8 audio inputs for your recordings if your second preamp supports them. For 99.9% of podcasters this will never be relevant, but the option is there if you need it.

You probably won’t ever use the MIDI or SPDIF inputs/outputs on the back either if you’re just working with spoken word content, but again, they’re there if you need them.

What Does The Scarlett 18i8 Sound Like

That does depend on your microphone, but you can be assured that it’ll get the best out of whatever you plug into it.

In this sound sample I was using the MXL990. I haven’t processed/treated the recording in any way. It was recorded in semi-sound dampened conditions.

How Much Does It Cost?

The latest Amazon prices are £275 in the UK, and $350 in the USA.

Conclusion

IMG_4034The Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 Second Generation is overkill for most podcasters, because it has more inputs than most people will need.

If you run a solo show, co-hosted show, on location or Skype interview show, then I’d absolutely go with the Scarlett 2i2 instead if you’re looking for a quality USB preamp.

But if you want to have 3 or more input options for on location recordings into your PC or Mac, then this is the best option I’ve come across so far.

The 18i8 has all the quality and characteristics we’ve come to expect from Focusrite over the years, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed using it so far.

It is, without a doubt, the device I’ll be recommending for multi-input, multi-channel USB recording from now on.

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10 Comments

  1. Thanks for the review. I was all set on setting up a mixer-digital recorder setup, but this article has me second-guessing.

    Am I understanding correctly that an audio interface like the Scarlett allows you to record all tracks as separate tracks to your computer (to be handled in post-prod), whereas a mixer would only send a maximum of two channels (Left and Right) to the digital recorder? (Is this also the case for mixer’s with USB out – in that they also only send L/R to the PC?)

    So, how do I make my decision? Is it better to control all the channels individually during the recording, or have them all separated for editing on the PC in post-prod.

    (I’m getting ready to launch a podcast, normally a 1-1 over Skype but also the possibility of having me + 2 guests in person).

    Thanks for your time,

    Reply
    • Hi Kevin. Most mixers will just give you the L/R option yes. And you’re right, the 18i8 allows you to record everyone present to record onto their own individual channel. The 18i8 is a great preamp, but you might still want to get a mixer instead, if you wanted to do a mix minus Skype recording setup. But if you plan on recording your Skype interviews online with something like Ecamm, then the 18i8 or 2i2 could be ideal.

      Reply
  2. We are looking to record 2 live hosts at one location, with a third host being remote over Skype as well as having another guest on over Skype would the Focusrite 18i8 handle this situation? We will also be sending out mixed show over to a radio station for live broadcast. Yes this is all happening at the same time.

    Reply
    • Hi Wren, getting multiple remote guests on their own independent channels can require a lot of extra equipment. I’d look at the Zencastr or Cast apps as recording options, or if possible, ask your guests to record their own audio at their end.

      Reply
  3. I have 4 at2035 mics and im trying to record 4 peoples audio with adobe audition and it only reads input 1 and 2 but not 3 and 4

    Reply
      • Thanks for your help do you know how to get all 4 mics to work for OBS so I can Stream with 4 mics?

        Reply
        • With any app/program you’re using you’ll want to set the 18i8 as your input device.

          Reply
  4. Our podcast uses the 18i8 and it works great. However, when we do a Skype call using call recorder, we’ve run into a problem. We can hear our Skype guest just fine, but the guest can only hear one mic from our side. Is there a setting where the Skype guest can hear both of our mics? We use Garage Band to record and it picks up both mics at the same time call recorder is running, but call recorder only recognizes one mic I’ve thought about buying a small mixer like a Yamaha MG6 or 10 to combine both of our mics onto one mic input on the 18i8 just for Skype calls, but I don’t know if that will actually work or not. Any thoughts?

    Reply
    • Hi Jason, this is an issue with Skype yes. It only seems to regognise the 1st port in any USB audio interface. A couple of workarounds are, 1 – to use an XLR splitter to feed both your mics into that port, or 2 – to share a USB mic for the purpose of Skype and your interviewee hearing you both, but at the same time, continue to record both your audio tracks independently at your end in your DAW.

      Reply

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About the author: Matthew McLean

Matthew is the head of audio production at The Podcast Host, taking care of client podcasts and our own shows alike. He also produces audio dramas galore, and talks enthusiastically about them on the Audio Drama Production podcast every week.