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Focusrite Scarlett review - STAY AWAY!!!!!

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ArmyOfQuad

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For many years, I have been happily recording and creating dvd-a and flac conversions with the use of M-Audio hardware. I picked up a Delta 1010-lt many years ago, and somewhere along the way I also picked up a Delta 44 to add to a 2nd computer. Both have been used in conversions. The 1010lt is also used in my internet radio/video streaming hobbies.

Unfortunately, M-Audio hasn't released an updated driver for either of these products since 3/15/2012, for Windows 7. Over 7 years ago now. The driver does technically work in Windows 10, but as time has marched on, problems arised, and have only gotten worse, not better.

I don't know if it's using 7 year old drivers in an OS version that wasn't even conceived of when it was developed, or using a PCI device on a motherboard that basically tacked it on with little thought since that is rarer and rarer these days. At this point, Windows 10 has been updated so many times, it's not the same OS it was when it was launched. So, with my computer crashing often during streams, I've come to the realization that the M-Audio will have to be replaced. The only solution to continue using it trouble free would be to roll back to Windows 7 (which is ending support), and even then, the problems started with this motherboard, so I'd really need to build an older machine with parts to the liking of this card.

Now, on the one hand, I've had 2 M-Audio devices that have served me well for many years. On the other....their lack of support for their perfectly working devices is a major factor that has contributed to my being forced to replace hardware, which is otherwise still functioning as designed. I absolutely detest the forced obsolescence of today's society, and since M-Audio has refused to support their paying customers, I will no longer be a paying customer of theirs. They are out, I will never buy another M-Audio device as long as I live, since I cannot rely on them to support their products. What if they end of life the model I decide to purchase the day after I purchase it? Yes....a rather unlikely extreme example, but what if they do it a few months, or a year later? I'd like at least a solid 10 years, and I do not feel confident that I can count on that from them.

So, I did some research. And I started looking at the focusrite scarlet interfaces, and the tascam interfaces. Given the specs and documentation, I felt both options would meet my needs, but I was still concerned about support being pulled on the devices, and being in the same situation in a year or less. So I put it to their sales department....what can you guarantee as far as a timeframe of support? Of course, no one will give any guarantees. Buy it today....maybe it will still work tomorrow? But, at least focusrite was able to point to many examples of longevity in software support, and continued support for lines of products which were no longer in production. So, I went with them.

HUGE mistake!!!!

First of all, right out of the box, the thing wouldn't output any sound without being jumpy or jittery. Now, my computer isn't the newest, but it's a pretty damn solid machine. The motherboard is 4 years old, the processor is an AMD 8 core (not really 8 core according to class action lawsuit emails I received recently, but I new that already) processor, 32GB of RAM, I built this thing to be solid and last. Focusrite support, which did not call me back after I opened a ticket and had to be chased down, were not very forthcoming with answers. They blamed drivers, tried to install an older driver that wasn't compatible with my device at all, suggested that updates are being developed, suggested rolling back to a previous Windows 10 version, which made no sense to me at all. From searching their site, I found information about testing for latency issues, and did the testing and it did indicate there might be latency issues. So I called back their support with this info, but they were still not helpful. Suggested updating chipset drivers for the motherboard....but I already had the latest drivers.

So....if you have a 4 year old motherboard, your out of luck? Their device can't handle 4 year old USB ports? I have LOTS of other devices that work fine with them.

Anyways, I figured, ok, if it's the USB ports and/or drivers that's the issue....maybe new USB ports? I happened to have a PCI-E USB add on card, threw it in, plugged it in there.....latency problem fixed.

You may notice, each step of the way I asked their support from help, got little response, chased them down, and got wrong or unhelpful answers, and basically had to figure it out myself.

But still, not done.

Now, for streaming purposes, I setup multiple audio programs to use different pairs of inputs and outputs on interfaces. M-Audio would break out the inputs and outputs to stereo pairs in the windows audio devices. I'm told many other interfaces do this as well. Focusrite does not do this basic functionality. Which left me completely out of luck for actually using the inputs and outputs the device has. It just completely baffles me that this functionality wouldn't be there to start with. And...they are on the 3rd generation of devices, and in the time they've been producing USB interfaces, it never occurred to them to add this functionality? I can't be the only one asking for this. Any streaming friends I mentioned this to were completely shocked that an interface wouldn't have this basic functionality.

Focusrite support did suggest software solutions to act as a middle man to break out the inputs and outputs. I did have some luck with that....but the software would only break out 1 pair of inputs and ouputs. But I found it very unintuitive, lacking in clear documentation, and also forcing wrong sample rates and overriding my settings. I never got it to completely work, and even if I did, that would have only gotten me 1 additional in and out to the one windows defaulted to. I need to have 3 stereo pairs of ins and outs for my streaming purposes.

Ok....but maybe at least I have a decent quadraphonic recording device?

Well, I decided to give that a test run this weekend.

So I went with the 8i6. It has 2 xlr/1/4" mic pre/line inputs on the front with level knobs, and 4 1/4" inputs on the back. Since the 4 on the back are all of the same type, I figured it would be best to use those for my quad recording. So I connected into that, and found that the levels were low. Extremely low. Like, peaking at -25dB low. And the software has absolutely NO settings for those inputs. Only settings I have are to set the fronts to be for mic or line, and to add a pad to some of them. No level adjustment. One stationary level set, that is way too low for any line level device.

So....with a lack of basic functionality, lack of decent or knowledgeable support, and lack of ability to simply record 4 channels of line level audio at a decent level, this has been a complete and total failure, not to mention a huge waste of time, and nightmare!

I will NEVER in my life buy another focusrite product ever again!

They can be added to the black list:

Lexicon
M-Audio
Focusrite



So...I'm back to battling the M-audio for now, while figure out what to try next. Not sure where to next. But just wanted to warn everyone what a piece of shit the focusrite boxes are.
 

quicksrt

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I'd keep an old machine going with some new old stock parts and the M-Audio gear working as well as ever. Or used > used parts to really save a bundle.

But... on my desktop I have a Windows XP Pro machine (needed for old large format scanner, and a printer), Windows 7 for certian tasks, and Windows 10 machine for other newer things that demand it.

And while I am not doing multi-chan recording or mastering on the level you are and have previously many many times, I did read up enough on system compatability and driver conflics, and all that noise to force me to simpy buy a nice six channel Tascam recorder. So my needle drops which I am proud of, get recorded on a recorder outside of the computer and windows interferences. Then I drag the files onto my computer of choice and work on the 24/96kHz files (track splitting, in/out fades, click repair) without the recordings being Windows OS or computer considered at all.

I'm surprised that more folks have not just given up on trying to get various hardware and windows to just get along at this late point in time. Take it off of PC / Mac, and just get the recordings done as clean and HQ as possible.
 

atrocity

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But... on my desktop I have a Windows XP Pro machine (needed for old large format scanner
I used to dream about having a large format scanner. Then I found out that for years I've had software that would let me scan 12" album covers in quadrants and effortlessly stitch them together. Not saying that would work for you, but just want to put it out there in case anyone else is in the same boat.

And while I am not doing multi-chan recording or mastering on the level you are and have previously many many times, I did read up enough on system compatability and driver conflics, and all that noise to force me to simpy buy a nice six channel Tascam recorder. So my needle drops which I am proud of, get recorded on a recorder outside of the computer and windows interferences. Then I drag the files onto my computer of choice and work on the 24/96kHz files (track splitting, in/out fades, click repair) without the recordings being Windows OS or computer considered at all.
Yes, yes and yes! I hold grudges forever and am still annoyed at how difficult (i.e., impossible) it was for me to get good recordings 20 years ago using Windows 98. I bought a standalone CD recorder and used that until handheld SD card recorders became practical. I now use a Roland R-05 and absolutely love it.

I'm also trying to save up my credit card points to get something like a Tascam. I know the days of multichannel analog inputs on consumer receivers are numbered and fantasize about capturing the output from my Surround Master. Though my workflow would be a bit different: Capture and clean up the vinyl in stereo first, then play back the cleaned up digital files through the SM and capture the decoded output. Or maybe I should just try the decoding scripts again, though the last time I did I was seriously underwhelmed.

One question about those multitrack recorders: They seem to all have balanced inputs and I haven't been able to figure out if it's easy or difficult to get them to work with plain vanilla unbalanced signals.
 

Mark Anderson

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I bought a new windows 10 computer and did not bother looking for one I could plug the delta 1010 into as the old windows 7 machine is fine. I thought I could just find a usb option but that has not panned out.
I wonder if a ide to usb interface for hooking up a hard drive might be a solution?
 

winopener

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I bought a new windows 10 computer and did not bother looking for one I could plug the delta 1010 into as the old windows 7 machine is fine. I thought I could just find a usb option but that has not panned out.
I wonder if a ide to usb interface for hooking up a hard drive might be a solution?
Are you saying you bought a new PC and it has NO usb anywhere???
 

winopener

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AoQ,
keep the old machine with Win7 and keep it out of any Lan, use it only for recording stuff. It's a shame, but at least you have a consistent machine to work on.
BTW, even in the old PCI multichannel sound cards world there were LOTS of issue and compatibility problem due to the different chipset used and their implementation. That's why i keep a machine specifically for that task and nothing else.
 

ArmyOfQuad

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Thanks, I appreciate the suggestions. My main PC has always been like that axe that's been in the family for generations, that's on it's 3rd handle and 4th head, so there isn't an "old machine" to go back to. I currently have the 1010lt in a retro machine that's running XP and 98, but that's not for quad recording. The 44 still works stable enough for quad recording, and has been getting me by with the streaming for now. I'm thinking because I'm using less inputs/outputs than when I had the 1010lt going in it. Knock on wood, I haven't blue screened during a stream in some time.

I have given thought to building a Windows 7 machine for it. But....the main problem at this time is the streaming, which requires network/internet capabilities. I don't think I've ever blue screened while the computer is just sitting there recording a quad album. And with Windows 7 support ending, as time passes having a Windows 7 machine on the network will become less and less secure.

Anyways, thanks for the suggestions. My main purpose was to share my honest experience with the Focusrite device. There's a lot of positive reviews out there for them, but....that's just not my experience, and I don't believe I have a defective unit. At first I thought it was just my streaming needs that were throwing a wrench into things, with that clearly not being in mind with the design of it. But....when I'm recording a quad record, and the levels are at -25dB....that says to me it's a poor choice for line level recording, period, which is the application most people around here would be interested in.


For now, I seem to have a good synergy going with the delta 44, it seems more stable than the 1010lt. It's less inputs than I wanted, but I think if I add another usb stereo card for skype calls, that will get me by. When the blue screens crop up again, I suppose it will be time to take up further research. I hear good things about berhinger and tascam interfaces. I just fear going through the same cycle again....I mean, my motherboard is only 4 years old, and it seems the driver updates ended around the time I bought it....what's to prevent that from happening with a new interface?


Computers suck! (but....that's why I have a job.)
 

DuncanS

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And while I am not doing multi-chan recording or mastering on the level you are and have previously many many times, I did read up enough on system compatability and driver conflics, and all that noise to force me to simpy buy a nice six channel Tascam recorder. So my needle drops which I am proud of, get recorded on a recorder outside of the computer and windows interferences. Then I drag the files onto my computer of choice and work on the 24/96kHz files (track splitting, in/out fades, click repair) without the recordings being Windows OS or computer considered at all.

I'm surprised that more folks have not just given up on trying to get various hardware and windows to just get along at this late point in time. Take it off of PC / Mac, and just get the recordings done as clean and HQ as possible.
That's what I have done, I did some research and didn't like all the issues I read about with lots of the USB multi-channel boxes. So I've a Tascam DR-680MkII on order (there is an order backlog at the moment :(), its got 6 analogue channel inputs and two digital inputs, records to an SDCard, so no software/driver compatibility issues. I suspect that's what you got as well.
 

DuncanS

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One question about those multitrack recorders: They seem to all have balanced inputs and I haven't been able to figure out if it's easy or difficult to get them to work with plain vanilla unbalanced signals.
Yes you can, with one side grounded, the noise performance probably won't be as good, but I want to record the output of my SM2 so the signal levels will be higher.
 

markshan

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It this day and age I'm impressed they answer a call or email at all. You've said nothing that would dissuade me from buying their product and giving it a go.
 

winopener

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No, it has USB but no e-ide slot to insert the card for the delta 1010. I have not found a sound card with 8 in, 8 out that uses a USB interface
Ok, i got it backward.

Here's an option:


 

Sonik Wiz

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Ok, i got it backward.

Here's an option:


J. Pupster has a new MOTU & learning how to use it.He seems pretty happy with it. If I run into problems with my Delta 1010/Win 7 combo I would probably go with that.
 

quicksrt

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That's what I have done, I did some research and didn't like all the issues I read about with lots of the USB multi-channel boxes. So I've a Tascam DR-680MkII on order (there is an order backlog at the moment :(), its got 6 analogue channel inputs and two digital inputs, records to an SDCard, so no software/driver compatibility issues. I suspect that's what you got as well.
Yes indeed that’s exactly what I got to record with. Very happy with it and have had no issues at all.

So nice to have Windows out of my recording world for good.

And I have read that these recorders have a “burn in” period and sound better after hours of signal flow going through them. Hummm?
 

quicksrt

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One question about those multitrack recorders: They seem to all have balanced inputs and I haven't been able to figure out if it's easy or difficult to get them to work with plain vanilla unbalanced signals.
I bought a few nicer high-end adaptor connectors - and since the signal to noise ratio is so much nicer (way low noise compared to cards used previously). I am not hearing or worried about any noise, nor hum, no nothing here!!!

So lovely to hit pause, set levels on a hot spot of the LP playback, then start LP side and hit record button and do other things on computer like forum reading, vinyl scans, and fixing dinner with the recoding so independent of computers.

I have a lovely set of Altec / Lansing computer speakers (eBay - old new stock) that are feeding off of the headphone jack of the recorder - so that I can monitor exactly what is going to the Tascam.
 

JonUrban

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I have been using MOTU 828's for years, and my Mk3 works fine with Windows 10 although when I rebuilt my PC earlier in the year I had to add a Firewire PCI card as the MOTU connects via Firewire, which is sort of obsolete. However, it records 10 channels in at 24/192 and lower and does a great job. You can adjust the recording levels with a software applet, and there are LED VU meters to monitor the audio. New they're $700 but used models are usually on eBay for a lot less.
 

quicksrt

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I think it was rather fast that computers dropped fw 1394 connections and just expected everyone to toss out video cameras in the $5,000 to $25,000 range right into the electronic waste / recycle bins.

And when you install a FireWire card, Win 10 does not have the driver until you go and download that so that it can be recognized.

Then 10 updates can and do often uninstall that card and driver on you.

I can’t see myself ever buying new computers ever again. I’ll take last years top of the line and save many hundreds in the process.

Even Samsung burned me on a shitty monitor - because they farmed out some of their production to a cheaper rival when they were selling really well and they were not keeping up. So I have a monitor that neither looks as good and crisp as it is supposed to, nor has features listed in manual. The serial number was the giveaway - after I looked up my issues online about this. I found mine was lacking an S before the number which means a real Samsung, but had a A instead.

So monitors I will buy used as well. I’ve been pushed off and into the used market by these companies marketing. How very odd. What a way to kill off your market.
 
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J. PUPSTER

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I'm definitely intrigued by that Tascam, the price is reasonable also IMO, the SD cards are an extra cost, but my Computer has built-in slots for those and I've had some Tascam gear in the past that was decent.

I've got a new MOTU UltraLite-mk4 I use with Win. 7 Pro. via USB 2.0; just started learning this sort of transfer, so I have limited experience to relay here on this thread. I've just been converting direct analog from my Surround Master v2 and out USB to the computer to make Up-mixes. Hopefully some conversions from QS/SQ and CD-4's in the future. So far so good. The only glitch I've had was having several apps open at once (i.e. AA3, Audacity & Foobar200) and something tied up the audio for monitoring and I wasn't getting any sound. Had to shut everything down and re-boot and it was fine again. Just a re-boot can do wonders (but yeah, still a hassle.)
I'm a little nervous about Microsoft shutting off support for Win. 7; because it's been a decent OS for me. However the Wasapi sound drivers for multi-channel are a joke IMO; just can't get it to work with the apps.
 

quicksrt

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USB drag and drop of album sides works so well that I never take out the SD card. I just drag those beautiful 24/96 sides to desktop folders.

I’m doing the Clash - Black Market Clash next. Original EP has not appeared on CD. And I have the nicer sounding 12” not just the common 10” pressing. Nice sounding record.
 
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