Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 1st gen vs. 2nd gen: Which one is better?


The Focusrite company is one of the most popular audio interface brands. The Scarlett series interfaces are some of the best-selling USB audio interfaces on the market. The 2nd Generation ranges of interfaces were created with 3 simple factors in mind: Better sound, faster speed, and easier operating experience.

And Yes, the 2nd Generation has been upgraded with better specs and improvements than the 1st Generation. But How different are they? And if you already have the 1st generation, is upgrading worth the money?

This article will compare the 1st Generation 18i8 Scarlett audio interface to the 2nd Generation model and hopefully answer some of these questions and possibly more!

We’ll look at their various features, functions, and even their physical appearances. We’re going to go over how they are both alike and different in their own ways and as well as the pros and cons of both. So let’s get started!

Direct Comparison

Focusrite scarlett 18i8 1st gen 2nd gen
Mic preampsGoodBetter (upgraded low noise preamps)
LatencyHigherLower
SoftwareFocusrite Mix ControlFocusrite Control
LooksBlack logo on topWhite logo on top
Inputs/outputsSameSame
Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First
211 Reviews
Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First
  • Eight analog inputs: four natural-sounding Scarlett mic pres with plenty of even gain; two inst. Inputs, four additional line level inputs. Two 1/4-inch balanced jack outputs; two discrete headphone outputs with dedicated gain controls; MIDI I/O; S/PDIF in and out; ADAT input to expand channel count
  • Class-leading conversion and sample rates up to 192kHz / 24 bit; Super-low roundtrip latency for using your plug-ins in real time without the need for DSP; Focusrite iOS Control - download the free Focusrite iOS Control app and adjust cue mixes remotely from an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch
  • LIMITED TIME OFFER: FREE Venomode DeeQ, Maximal 2, and Pivot, plug-ins upon registration and download.

Improvements

Physical Improvements

Since more research and development went into the 2nd Generation interfaces’ internal aspects, there’s really little difference between the two, visual wise.

  1. They still come with the red, ionized metal frame, 4 combos jacks (XLR/TRS) on the front. Along with 4 line inputs on the back. It still has 2 balanced monitor outputs, A standard, 5 pins, MIDI input and output, and a digital SPDIF in and out, which acts as a stereo channel.
  2. Also, both generations come equipped with an optical input, or ADAT, which allows you to connect another external interface giving you the ability to add an extra 8 microphone preamps! Making your total count of possible inputs 18 hints the name “18i8”. 18 inputs and 8 outputs.
  3. The only huge difference between the two physically is the logo on top of the interface and is ultimately how you can tell the two apart since they look so much alike. The 1st generation logo is black while the 2nd generation logo is white, which really pops against the red ionized metal!
  4.  The 2nd Generation models’ focus wasn’t really aimed towards the machine’s overall physical design or appearance as it’s already very compact and has everything you need while also managing to look great with the red ionized metal casing. The 2nd Generation Scarlett interfaces’ real focus was the internal side, or “under the hood” aspects, which sets the two apart.

Under the Hood Improvements

With the 3 concepts of “better,” “faster,” and “easier” in mind, the 2nd generation Scarlett interfaces are just that.

  1. For the “better” aspect, the microphone preamps have been upgraded with award-winning preamps with very low noise and reduced hum from static frequencies. They sound absolutely clear and crisp, which is exactly what you want when recording and trying to capture the best performance possible. The 1st generation interfaces tended to have a very loud background hum or white noise. This problem was also known to worsen as time went on, which can cause a lot of trouble and stress during a long recording session!
  2. It is “Faster” because of its super-low latency speed. With a Latency as low as 2.74 ms, it’s no wonder why the 2nd Generation Scarlett series has a massive advantage over the 1st generations. Super-low latency allows you to operate and use external effects with little to no drawback or hesitation from your monitors. The operating and sample rates are also rated at 24 bit / 192 kHz, allowing for the best sounding signal for every single one of your microphone preamps.
  3. Finally, the “easier” aspect of the 2nd generation, instead of the 1st, is the operating or control software that comes with the two. When the 1st Generation Scarlett interfaces hit the market, they used Focusrite’s “mix control” software, which was awfully confusing to the first time user or a beginner just looking to record some simple tracks or song ideas. However, The 2nd generation interfaces come with Focusrite’s brand new control software, “Focusrite Control.” In my experience, it has been a lot easier to navigate and control your mixes and makes routing your separate mixes extremely easier.

The fact that Focusrite is so dedicated to what they do, they’re able to grow, learn, and make their products better for the consumer. The 18i8 is a way for the average home studio to produce high-quality recordings at a very affordable price and the 2nd Generation model is a huge step up!

Extras Included

Both generations come packed with bonuses. However, the folks at Focusrite have added so many extras to the 2nd generation interfaces that it makes them a great go-to for someone looking to upgrade their home studio or for someone just starting to build their own home studio.

  • The 1st generation interfaces came with a simple bonus suite consisting of Ableton Live Lite 8, the Bass Station VST from Focusrite’s sister brand, Novation, and 1 GB of samples from Loop Masters. While these 3 added extras are great for someone just starting, they don’t really add much flair for someone who has already collected a vast array of VSTs and plugins over time.
  • With the 2nd Generation Scarlett 18i8, Focusrite has been generous enough to jam pack this thing full of added features and bonuses that it’s guaranteed to get your home studio up and running fast! Once you register your product on their website, you gain access to the same 3 bonuses that were offered with the 1st generation but with 2 GB of samples from Loop Masters as well as the Red 2 and Red 3 plug in-suite, Softtube Time, and Tone Pack (guitar cab sim), an exclusive version of Pro Tools (first Focusrite creative pack), and finally, XLN Addictive Keys VST, which is one of my absolute favorites of all the bonus plugins.

The bonuses alone are well worth the money. So it’s no surprise that the 2nd Generation Scarlett interfaces are a huge step forward from the previous first generation. Both also come with a 2-year factory warranty.

Why I like Focusrite 18i8?

The Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 was designed with small bands and home studios in mind. Being as it’s ideal for multiple instruments and a wide range of sources such as keyboards, guitars, basses, and even drums!

The slick, compact design is also targeted towards those who need a lot of inputs and outputs but are also limited on space due to recording in your living room, bedroom, or even while on the go!

Focusrite has been on the cutting edge of perfecting audio conversion for more than 20 years. They started making consoles back in the 1980s and have since made some of the best sounding audio interfaces and mixing consoles the music industry has ever seen or heard before.

The one thing that sets them apart from other brands is that Focusrite is strictly dedicated to making just interfaces and interfaces only, which means more research and development goes into each hardware piece. Making them a great choice when choosing an audio interface for your home studio.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First
211 Reviews
Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First
  • Eight analog inputs: four natural-sounding Scarlett mic pres with plenty of even gain; two inst. Inputs, four additional line level inputs. Two 1/4-inch balanced jack outputs; two discrete headphone outputs with dedicated gain controls; MIDI I/O; S/PDIF in and out; ADAT input to expand channel count
  • Class-leading conversion and sample rates up to 192kHz / 24 bit; Super-low roundtrip latency for using your plug-ins in real time without the need for DSP; Focusrite iOS Control - download the free Focusrite iOS Control app and adjust cue mixes remotely from an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch
  • LIMITED TIME OFFER: FREE Venomode DeeQ, Maximal 2, and Pivot, plug-ins upon registration and download.

Conclusion

So, all in all, you can see there have been massive improvements from generation one interfaces to the new generation 2 interfaces. Focusrite has definitely nailed the three aspects of “better,” “faster,” and “easier” with the 2nd generation that it’s a no brainer when it comes to the newbie looking to start and build their own home studio.

Better microphone preamps offer reduced hum and white noise from static frequencies to faster and shallow latency capabilities. Capable as low as 2.74 ms! Which is truly remarkable and almost non-existent.

The microphone preamps are award-winning and sound very clear and crisp, and the same pre-amps are found on all of the Scarlett gen 2 models. The Focusrite Control is a much easier control software, and it makes navigating/routing separate mixes to your outputs a breeze.

They both still offer the same number of inputs and outputs and even look identical except for the color of the logo on top of the interface. 4 combo jack inputs and 2 headphone outputs on the front.

Each with its own gain knob. On the back, we have 4 line inputs, 2 monitor outputs, a MIDI in and out, a SPDIF in and out which acts as a stereo pair, the USB connection, and finally the optical input or ADAT, which allows you to connect another interface giving you the option to add 8 microphone preamps!

They both offer 60 dB of gain and a -20 dB PAD option, accessible through the Focusrite Mix Control or Focusrite control software, which allows you to cut the incoming signal down -20 dB in case you have a hot signal coming through from guitars or a vocalist who likes to scream at the top of their lungs!

I hope this short comparison of the 1st generation and 2nd generation 18i8 interfaces has helped answer some of the looming questions between the two and help with your decision of which one is better and/or best for your own home studio application!

nik

Author: Nik Johnson, After getting my first drum set at the age of 11, I knew music would always hold a dear place in my heart. I’ve been in countless bands over the years and have had the great pleasure of touring the country and meeting some great people along the way! I’ve always had a passion for recording and learning about what goes on behind the curtains at a studio. So at the age of 23, I went to school for audio engineering and graduated top in my class! I have been recording and operating my own home studio ever since. 

Last update on 2021-05-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Vinnie

I'm Vinnie, and I'm here to support you to create your own studio at home, whether it’s for photography, recording audio, podcasts, or videos!

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