Microphone and instrument preamps have come a long way.
It’s pretty amazing, the amount and quality of features they offer these days. Even single-channel preamps and channel strips have some great features, in addition to great tone qualities.
For singers or those who mic up their acoustic instruments, preamps are pretty much mandatory. They also come in handy for other instruments, most notably keyboards and basses.
For many of these uses, you usually find single-channel preamps being employed.
But what if you want to don’t want a bunch of different devices all doing essentially the same thing?
That’s where a multi-channel preamp like the Focusrite Scarlett OcroPre comes in.
It works great for many kinds of instruments and microphones. You can run all your sources through this one unit.
Even better: it is very affordable.
But does it perform? Does it do everything you need and does it deliver the sound quality you want?
We’ll answer those questions and more in this review. By the end, you will know if this is the right preamplifier for you.
Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre Review: Overview And Features
As the name suggests, this is a preamp with eight individual channels. However, it does more than just a regular preamp. It also offers ADAT functionality.
For those who are not familiar, this means that you can hook it up with an audio interface to get an additional eight channels that you can map out in your DAW of choice. Of course, the audio interface should support ADAT connection, plus you need an optical cable.
Although the OctoPre might look a little complicated, it’s actually pretty straightforward.
All of the inputs are the classic 1/4-inch and XLR combo jacks. The first two are located on the front panel and are designed to also provide users with high-headroom inputs for instruments.
The other six inputs are located on the back panel, along with outputs, word clock connections, and ADAT optical jacks. Each channel also has volume and pad controls, which are located on the front panel.
The analog to digital conversion is high quality. The OctoPre is able to deliver a 24-bit rate and up to 192 kHz resolution. With the right kind of audio interface, you’ll be able to do anything.
It’s also worth mentioning that this is a well-built device with some great additional visual features that let you keep track of any potential clipping on each of the channels.
- 8-channel preamp
- Works as ADAT that can expand audio interfaces
- 24-bit quality and up to 192 kHz sample rate
- Word Clock feature
- XLR and TRS combo inputs
- Balanced line outputs
- Pad switches for each channel
- Phantom power
- 109 dB dynamic range
- Frequency response from 20 Hz to 20 kHz
- Signal and clipping indicator for all channels
Controls And Functions
Like most of the other Scarlett products, the third generation brought significant improvements, mostly to sound quality, but also functionality-wise. When it comes to the Scarlett OctoPre, the 3rd generation version has two channels (with instrument inputs) on the front panel, whereas the 2nd generation had all eight inputs on the backside.
The biggest advantage this device is that you can use it both as a regular preamp for microphones and instruments or as an ADAT. And while we’re at it, there’s barely any other device out there with such a great analog to digital conversion.
First, we have 24-bit depth, which is pretty much the standard for most audio interfaces these days. But what’s really exciting is that you can have up to 192 kHz sample rate.
Of course, you can choose between different modes of operation, with 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, and 192 kHz sample rates. In practical situations, you’ll mostly use 48 or 44.1 kHz, but these options give more possibilities for different settings.
When you’re using it as an ADAT, there are a few ways the two optical cable jacks on the backside work. If you’re in the 48 or 44.1 kHz mode, you use the right one on its own for all the channels. With up to 96 kHz, the channels are divided by four for each output. And finally, up to 192 kHz, you can use only the first four channels, which are once again divided, two per each output.
There’s also the so-called “Word Clock” feature which allows syncing between multiple devices in one signal chain. When connected, all devices in a signal chain work as one and you won’t experience any noticeable latency issues or any kind of unwanted negative effects on the audio quality.
Pad switches are also pretty useful in case you have any higher gain sources plugged into any of the channels. This comes in handy for both regular preamp and ADAT uses. Basically, the feature increases the headroom of each individual channel by 8 decibels.
To put it simply, the Scarlett OctoPre finds use with pretty much anything, both as a preamp and ADAT. The two channels on the front allow great operation with instruments like electric guitars and basses, as well as keyboards, analog synths, and acoustic instruments with piezo pickups. And, of course, all eight channels can be used for microphones of any kind.
It can also come in handy for a full set of drum mics. Just plug them all into the preamp if you need a mic preamp for live shows or if you need it as ADAT to record the drums in the studio, along with the rest of the band.
The possibility to use it as a rack-mounted unit definitely makes it more practical for studio work. This is especially true if you’re using the Word Clock feature and want to keep things as tidy as possible.
Advantages And Disadvantages
- Great sound quality
- Can be used as both a preamp and ADAT
- Useful both for instruments and microphones
- Great build quality
- High-pass filter controls for individual channels would be a good addition
Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre Vs Art TubeOpto 8
Looking at their use and features, Focusrite’s OctoPre and Art’s TubeOpto 8 are two very similar devices.
The main difference is that the TubeOpto 8 features four 12AX7 preamp tubes in its circuitry. This adds to a somewhat vintage vibe, giving some saturation and even mild “organic” distortion in some cases.
There are a lot of similar controls and features, including the pad switch. However, what makes the TubeOpto 8 a bit more versatile is the addition of a high-pass filter. There’s also an additional switch on the backside for the overall attenuation of outputs. Once again, we have eight combo inputs, as well as two line inputs on the front panel.
The digital features, however, are not as advanced as the OcroPre. Using it as an ADAT, you only have 44.1 and 48 kHz modes. The bit rate is at standard 24-bits and we also have the Word Clock feature.
In short, the OctoPre is for fans of digital while the TubeOpto 8 is for the fans of analog devices. We can’t say which one is “better” or “worse” since these are two different worlds. If you’re a fan of that tube saturation in the input, then the TubeOpto 8 is the better solution. If not, go with the OctoPre.
Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre Vs Focusrite Clarett OctoPre
The Clarett OctoPre is also made by Focusrite and is similar, but it is meant for a different customer.
The Scarlett series is pretty popular, giving great quality for the price, both for home recording and more serious studio work. The Clarett is more on the high-end, making it closer to professional devices. It is meant for more professional users.
At first glance, you would think you have an almost identical preamp on your hands. While they do have many of the same features, the Clarett OctoPre has a few more advanced traits. For instance, there’s one unified line output with a 25-pin female connector.
Arguably the biggest advancement comes with inserts for each channel. This allows you to use external processing units for individual channels. What’s more, we have the so-called “Air” effect which gives a more open sound, especially for microphones.
When you use it as ADAT, the quality is pretty much the same. They also have exactly the same distribution of channels with optical cable outputs. Of course, there’s also the expected Word Clock feature.
In short: the Clarett OctoPre is a more serious device. It’s a bit more expensive as well, but it’s definitely worth it, if you are doing professional level work.
Scarlett OctoPre Review: Conclusion and Rating
The bottom line is: you just can’t go wrong with the Scarlett OctoPre. If you’re a home-recording enthusiast who’s more serious about making music, or a semi-professional producer and mixing engineer, the Scarlett OctoPre will work like a charm.
You can even use it for fully professional work. After all, there’s the pristine analog to digital conversion, the Word Clock feature, and a crystal clear sound for any instrument or microphone.
While it could use some high-pass filtering features, the overall qualities make this one great preamp and ADAT for the price. There’s hardly anything out there that’s as good as OctoPre in this range.
That’s why we give it a Musicaroo rating of 4.7 out of 5. But if you’re looking for something more professional and higher-end, we would recommend the aforementioned Clarett OctoPre instead.