Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 Review

With 18 channels in and 20 channels out, the Scarlett 18i20 is currently the best value audio interface available in the sub $500 price range.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 Audio Interface
Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 (front & rear views)

On its own it will allow you to record via 8 analog channels simultaneously, or you can use the optical lightpipe ADAT connection to hook it up to another 8 channel interface and record simultaneously with an additional 8 channels at 48kHz or 4 extra channels at 96kHz.

The 18i20 is ideal for recording drum kits with the 8 channels allowing you to keep the neccessary separation of tracks for post production and mixdown - the same goes for those times when you need to record multiple singers and instruments simultaneously.

It comes with the famous Focusrite pre-amps which produce a clean uncolored tone and allows the characteristics of your condenser microphones to shine. The only minor downside of the inputs is that phantom power can only be turned on and off in the 2 blocks of 4 channels - 1 through 4 and 5 through 8. Usually it won't hurt to send phantom power to a mic that doesn't use it, however I wouldn't have a ribbon mic plugged into one of the banks that has phantom power on.

The input configuration has been well thought out with 2 of the 8 balanced combination XLR/TRS inputs on the front - when that's all you need you don't have to keep reaching around the back to plug and unplug. The two inputs on the front are also instrument inputs so you don't have to have a DI box to record guitar and bass directly in (although I still prefer to use my trusty DIs). The two independently controlled headphone outputs are also on the front with their separate volume control knobs.

One handy thing about the USB 2.0 connection is that I can't find anyone who's had a problem plugging it into a USB 3.0 port on their computer - this is important for anyone who has a newer computer that only provides USB 3.0.


Focusrite Scarlett MixControl Software
Scarlett MixControl (pictured right) gives you a massive amount of control over the 18i20 allowing you to route almost any input to any output.

You can have completely different sub-mixes going to each of the headphone outs and to the studio monitor outs as well.

If you have a headphone patchbay already in your home studio, you can even create 4 separate sub-mixes for that using the line outs on the back.

Of course you can also route any channels from your DAW to any of the outs or sub-mixes as well.

Additional bundled software included:

  • The Scarlett Plug-in Suite - this includes compression, reverb, gating and EQ in VST/AU/RTAS formats - these produce a better sound than most of the free reverb and EQ plug-ins out there.
  • Novation Bass Station - an analog modeled plug-in version of the classic bass mono-synth in AU/VSTi formats.
  • Loopmasters - 1 gig of royalty free samples and loops.
  • Ableton Live Lite - if you're buying the Scarlett 18i20 then you probably already have a DAW so this doesn't really add to the appeal much but I guess it's handy to have it there just in case.

System requirements

  • Mac: OSX 10.7 Lion or 10.8 Mountain Lion or later
  • PC: Windows 7 or Windows 8 (Not including Windows RT)


  • The pre-amps and the AD converters are top-notch leading to crystal clear recordings and better than the AudioBox 1818VSL in my opinion.
  • The latency of the DSP mixer/router software is so low it's basically undetectable on any half-decent computer.
  • It has a good range of sample rates: 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz and 96 kHz.
  • Although it's not specifically designed for the iPad, I've been told by a friend of mine that it works just fine with his 16GB iPad 2 running Auria and using the Camera Connection Kit (CCK) to plug the USB connection into.


  • You have to register your 18i20 on the Focusrite website to get the drivers and the MixControl software - make sure you don't lose your warranty card which contains the reg codes. If you ever decide to sell it second-hand then the new owner will need the registration codes too. I suggest you take a photo of the warranty card for safe keeping and tape a copy to the top of the unit.
  • There are no LED indicators for the 8 outputs, only the inputs - makes me wonder why they didn't make the LED display switchable between in/out.
  • The bundled Scarlet plugins work in Pro Tools 10 but not Pro Tools 11 - there's no word yet on Pro Tools 12 compatibility.


If you're ready to step up to 8 channels of simultaneous recording then the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 has the best price/performance ratio while allowing you to make professional level recordings suitable for any kind of public release.

Where to Buy:

Get the Scarlett 18i20 now or read customer reviews at Amazon

Digital Performance

A-D Dynamic Range

109 dB A-weighted (all inputs)

D-A Dynamic Range

108 dB A-weighted (line outputs)

Supported sample rates

44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz A 96 kHz

Clock jitter

<250 ps

Microphone Inputs

Frequency Response

20 Hz ± 0.5 dB, 20 kHz ± 0.1 dB (min. gain)


0.001% (1 kHz, –1dBFS, 20 kHz BW)

Noise EIN

–122 dBu CCIR-RMS (measured at 60 dB of gain with 150 ohm termination)

Maximum input level

+8 dBu (without pad)

Line Inputs

Frequency Response

20 Hz – 20 kHz ± 0.1 dB


0.007% (1 kHz, –1dBFS, 20 kHz BW)

Noise (NiPoS)

–105 dBFS CCIR-RMS (measured at min. gain with 50 ohm termination)

Maximum input level

> +28 dBu

Instrument Inputs

Frequency Response

20 Hz – 20 kHz ± 0.1 dB


0.007% (1 kHz, –1dBFS, 20 kHz BW)

Noise (NiPoS)

–103 dBFS CCIR-RMS (measured at min. gain)

Maximum input level

+8 dB (without pad)

Line Outputs 1 & 2

Maximum Output Level (0 dBFS)

+16 dBu, balanced


0.001% (1 kHz, –1dBFS, 20 kHz BW)

Buy it now for $449.99 at Amazon




Analog Line Inputs: 


Instrument Inputs: 


Headphone Outputs: 


Phantom Power: 

48 V




8 In/Out or 4 channels in via SMUX 2 @ 96kHz & 4 channels out via SMUX @ 96 kHz

MIDI Inputs: 


MIDI Outs: 


Max Sample Rate (kHz): 


Max Bit Depth: 


Connection Type: 

USB 2.0

Connects to iPad: 

Yes via CCK

Officially Made for iPad: 


DSP Effects: 


Routing Software: 


Direct Zero Latency Monitoring: 


Word Clock I/O: 


Bundled Software: 


Street Price: 


( the number of dollar signs indicates the approximate cost rounded to the nearest $100: