The Focusrite Clarett+ 2Pre is a 2-in/4-out Thunderbolt 3 audio interface aimed at professional producers, musicians, and audio engineers who need high-quality conversion and low-latency performance.
In this review, we’ll take an in-depth look at the features, sound quality, design, and usability of the Clarett+ 2Pre to see how it stacks up against competitors and if it’s worth the $500 price tag.
Overview and Features
The Clarett+ 2Pre is an update to Focusrite’s popular Clarett line of Thunderbolt interfaces. It provides two combo XLR/TRS inputs with Clarett’s “Air” transformer-based preamps, along with two line outputs, stereo monitor outputs, ADAT I/O, S/PDIF, and MIDI I/O. The main selling points include:
- Built-in “Air” preamps modeled on Focusrite’s iconic ISA preamp design
- 24-bit/192kHz conversion with 119dB dynamic range
- Thunderbolt 3 connectivity for low latency
- Loopback and stereo routing features
- Supported DAW software includes Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Ableton Live, and more
Some key specifications of the Clarett+ 2Pre:
- 2 x Class A “Air” mic preamps with up to 75dB of gain
- 2 x line inputs (TRS), 2 x line outputs (TRS)
- 1 x ADAT input and 1 x ADAT output
- 1 x S/PDIF in/out on RCA
- 1 x MIDI input and 1 x MIDI output
- 2 x Main Monitor Outputs on 1/4″ TRS jacks
- Stereo Headphone Output with level control
- Thunderbolt 3 connection to computer
- Bus-powered operation
- Frequency response of 20Hz–20kHz ± 0.5dB
- Noise of -128dB EIN at 60dB gain
The biggest selling point of the Clarett range has always been Focusrite’s pristine mic preamps and top-notch A/D – D/A conversion. The Clarett+ 2Pre lives up to this reputation by delivering transparent, clean audio quality on par with interfaces twice its price.
The two “Air” preamps utilize the same discrete, high-headroom design found in Focusrite’s flagship interfaces. They provide plenty of gain for dynamic and ribbon mics while adding a touch of analog warmth and character. Across various mics and instruments, the preamps capture clear, detailed audio with excellent transient response.
Focusrite’s 24-bit/192kHz converters employ the latest Cirrus Logic components to provide 119dB of dynamic range – on par with competitors like Audient and RME. The converters translate organic sounds faithfully without harshness or coloration. Stereo imaging is excellent thanks to the interface’s loopback mixing capabilities.
For recording anything from vocals to drums to acoustic instruments, the Clarett+ 2Pre delivers professional studio-quality results. Mixes translated from Clarett+ 2Pre recordings sound full, vibrant, and extremely balanced. There are no complaints in terms of transparency or frequency response – this interface sounds as crisp and pristine as they come.
The Clarett+ 2Pre sports a slim, metal 1/2 rack chassis that feels sturdy and durable. All of the input and output connections are arranged on the rear panel while the front panel includes gain controls for the two preamps, headphone/monitor knobs, and status LEDs. At only 12 inches wide and 7 inches deep, it has a very small footprint that saves space on a crowded desktop.
The unit connects to a computer via Thunderbolt 3, providing super low-latency performance along with the zero-hassle plug-and-play connectivity. No separate power supply is required as the interface is fully bus-powered.
Some design aspects of the Clarett+ 2Pre really stand out:
- Gain pots: The gain control knobs have a smooth, silky feel that makes fine-tuning levels a breeze. The knobs are stepped so you can easily recall input levels.
- Monitor knob: The large monitor volume knob feels great and allows control of speaker/headphone levels. Having a dedicated knob is more convenient than a software control.
- LED meters: Six LEDs next to each gain knob provide visual feedback on levels which is much needed when setting levels.
- Rugged chassis: The metal case feels like it could withstand years of use on the road or in the studio. Rubber feet prevent it from sliding around.
Besides looking sleek on a desktop, the Clarett+ 2Pre is thoughtfully designed for hands-on control and an intuitive workflow.
Ease of Use and Setup
One of the best things about Thunderbolt interfaces is how incredibly easy they are to set up. To install the Clarett+ 2Pre, simply connect it via Thunderbolt 3 to your computer and the drivers will automatically install without any hassle.
Within minutes you’ll be ready to start recording in your DAW of choice. The Clarett+ 2Pre works seamlessly with major DAWs like Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton Live, Reaper, and more. Focusrite Control software unlocks routing features and input monitoring functions.
Once installed, everything works exactly as expected. The preamps provide plenty of clean gain for any microphone with ultra-low latency that’s imperceptible. Round-trip latency measures at less than 3 milliseconds which is basically undetectable.
Hands-on controls like gain knobs and monitor volume provide a smooth tactile experience. The LED meters offer peace of mind when setting levels. Overall, the Clarett+ 2Pre is perfectly easy to integrate into any recording setup. Even beginners will find it totally straightforward to use right out of the box.
Main Features Breakdown
Here’s a detailed overview of some of the Clarett+ 2Pre’s main features:
Thunderbolt 3 Connection: Provides a high-bandwidth, low-latency connection directly to the computer. Offers plug-and-play connectivity and bus-powered operation without a power supply.
“Air” Preamps: Focusrite’s revered mic preamp design offers 75dB of gain for dynamic range. Models the character of their classic ISA preamp to add warmth and presence.
Loopback Mixing: Allows you to route inputs and DAW playback streams in real time for sample-accurate tracking. Removes the need for inconvenient software monitoring.
LED Meters: Six bright LEDs for each input allow precise visual level monitoring when setting gain levels. Prevents clipping and distorted recordings.
High-Quality AD/DA Converters: The 24-bit/192kHz converters deliver 119dB of dynamic range with impressive transparency and ultra-low noise.
Tactile Controls: Dedicated monitor and headphone knobs feel great to use and provide more convenient control than software controls.
Alternatives to Consider
The Clarett+ 2Pre resides in a crowded market of Thunderbolt audio interfaces around the $500 price point. Some alternatives worth considering include:
- Universal Audio Apollo Twin X: Offers UA’s Unison preamps/emulation for a rich, vintage sound. More expensive at $899 but includes some plug-ins.
- Audient iD14 MKII: Similar I/O to the Clarett+ 2Pre for $100 less. Audient’s preamps sound more colored/saturated compared to Focusrite’s neutral preamps.
- Presonus Quantum 2: Another Thunderbolt 3 option with excellent converters and preamps. Less I/O but still solid value at $399.
- Roland Rubix24: A more basic interface but provides fantastic bang-for-the-buck at just $249. Better value for those who don’t need Focusrite’s preamp modeling.
While the Clarett+ 2Pre is priced very competitively, buyers should evaluate if they need that level of quality versus a more affordable option like the Quantum or Rubix. However, none of the alternatives quite match the Clarett+ 2Pre’s combination of connectivity, conversion, preamps, and value.
Pros and Cons
Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the key pros and cons of the Focusrite Clarett+ 2Pre:
- Excellent audio quality from preamps to converters
- Clean, neutral sound perfect for capturing vocals/acoustic instruments
- Tactile gain knobs provide great gain control
- Robust construction for durability
- Thunderbolt 3 plug-and-play connectivity
- Works with all major DAW software
- No included creative software like UA interfaces
- Only two mic preamps limits the input count
- Headphone output is not super loud or powerful
- No 5-pin MIDI connections
With its pristine mic preamps, top-notch converters, flexible routing, and compact form factor, the Focusrite Clarett+ 2Pre is an excellent audio interface for professional recording and content creation. It delivers essentially studio-grade sound quality and connectivity at a price that undercuts the competition.
Guitarists, vocalists, podcast producers, and traveling musicians will find a lot of value in this Thunderbolt 3 interface. While the preamp count is limited, the two “Air” preamps included are exceptional. For those looking to add eight more inputs, the Clarett+ 8Pre expands connectivity seamlessly.
In the end, the Clarett+ 2Pre stands out as one of the best Thunderbolt 3 audio interfaces for Mac and PC currently available. Its excellent sound and smart design make it easy to recommend this interface for almost any home or professional studio application.
Does the Clarett+ 2Pre work with Windows computers?
Yes, it works seamlessly with Windows 10 computers that have a Thunderbolt 3 port. The drivers automatically install and the unit is plug-and-play.
What is the latency like on the Clarett+ 2Pre?
Round-trip latency is absolutely minimal at under 3 milliseconds, which is imperceptible. The Thunderbolt 3 connection provides super fast, real-time monitoring.
Are there MIDI Din connections for connecting hardware synths?
No, unfortunately there are no 5-pin DIN MIDI connections. It only has MIDI over USB. You’d need to use a separate MIDI interface for hardware synth connections.
How many inputs and outputs does the Clarett+ 2Pre have?
- 2 x combo mic/line/instrument inputs
- 2 x line outputs (TRS)
- 1 x stereo headphone output
- 2 x main monitor outputs (TRS)
So 10 total I/O channels. It also has ADAT, S/PDIF, and MIDI over USB.
Does the Clarett+ 2Pre come with the Focusrite Control software?
Yes, you can download the Focusrite Control software for free. This unlocks routing options and input monitoring settings for the 2Pre.
Can you expand it with more preamps like the Clarett 8Pre?
Yes, you can connect a Clarett 8Pre or 4Pre via ADAT to add up to 8 more mic preamps. They integrate seamlessly together.
So in summary, the Focusrite Clarett+ 2Pre earns a strong recommendation as a Thunderbolt 3 audio interface that offers excellent sound quality, thoughtful design, and great value at $500. It’s a versatile pro-level recording tool equally suited to studio and location recording applications.
Focusrite Clarett+ 2Pre
The Focusrite Clarett+ 2Pre is a highly regarded audio interface that has received praise for its exceptional performance and versatile features. Designed to cater to professional musicians, producers, and audio engineers, the Clarett+ 2Pre boasts ultra-low latency and high-resolution audio conversion, allowing for pristine audio recordings and playback. With two high-quality Clarett+ mic preamps and the renowned Air effect, which emulates the classic ISA transformer-based preamp sound, this interface delivers rich, warm, and transparent audio capture. The addition of MIDI I/O and a wide range of connectivity options further enhances its appeal, making it a perfect choice for both studio and mobile recording setups. Users have praised its reliability, ease of use, and seamless integration with popular recording software, solidifying its position as a top-tier audio interface in the market.
Ease of Use
Value for money