You are here

Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen: What is SPDIF?

All about the tools and techniques involved in capturing sound, in the studio or on location.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen: What is SPDIF?

Postby sld128 » Fri Sep 25, 2020 11:03 pm

Hello,
I'm currently using the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and I love it, but being the synth lover that I am I have found I don't have enough inputs. I'm thinking of upgrading to the Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen but I don't understand a couple of things:
What is SPDIF and why would I want SPDIF i/o on an interface?
What is an Optical Input and why would I want on an interface?
Are there any other interfaces of similar quality with more preamps/inputs that I could find for the about the same price as the 18i8? What sets the interface you recommend apart from the 18i8?

Thank you for your help, and I hope you day is great!
sld128
New here
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2020 10:58 pm

Re: Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen: What is SPDIF?

Postby James Perrett » Fri Sep 25, 2020 11:19 pm

The SPDIF and optical connections are both digital connections. They are useful if you have another device with digital outputs like an external mic preamp or a digital recorder. They also allow you to upgrade the quality of your analogue to digital convertors by using high quality external convertors.

A common way to expand the number of inputs on an interface is to use an external preamp with an ADAT optical output like the Behringer ADA8200 or the Audient ASP800 which will give you an extra 8 mic or line inputs.

I know Blinddrew on here has a Tascam 1608 which is cheaper than the Focusrite. My preferred option would be to go for an RME Digiface USB which only has digital connections and then partner it with whichever Preamps/convertors you prefer. This may work out more expensive initially but RME have an extremely good reputation for long term support and high quality drivers (plus you can expand it to 32 inputs and outputs).
User avatar
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 9802
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2001 12:00 am
Location: The wilds of Hampshire
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration. JRP Music Facebook Page

Re: Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen: What is SPDIF?

Postby blinddrew » Fri Sep 25, 2020 11:27 pm

Yep, you've probably only got a couple of options for cheaper high-input-count interfaces, the tascam that James mentioned (I'm happy with mine) or the Behringer UMC1820 - which i've never tried.
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 11643
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:00 am
Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Re: Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen: What is SPDIF?

Postby sld128 » Sat Sep 26, 2020 3:40 am

Those are really amazing interfaces, but they’re a little more than I need. I like the xlr-1/4” Jack combo on the scarletts a lot, which the tascam doesn’t seem to offer. Thanks for your insight on the practical application of the spdif and the optical - I’ll probably never use them but I also thought I’d never need to upgrade from the 2i2 haha. I will definitely consider these interface options tho, just because it’d be nice to have a rack interface
sld128
New here
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2020 10:58 pm

Re: Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen: What is SPDIF?

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:25 am

The Behringer UMC1820 has all combi sockets so can accept mic/line/instrument inputs on 8 channels and line inputs (usually fine for keys etc) on the other eight. A price of well under £200 has to make it a contender.
User avatar
Sam Spoons
Jedi Poster
Posts: 13627
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2003 1:00 am
Location: Manchester UK
Finally taking this recording lark seriously (and recording my Gypsy Jazz CD)........

Re: Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen: What is SPDIF?

Postby ef37a » Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:40 am

sld128 wrote:Those are really amazing interfaces, but they’re a little more than I need. I like the xlr-1/4” Jack combo on the scarletts a lot, which the tascam doesn’t seem to offer. Thanks for your insight on the practical application of the spdif and the optical - I’ll probably never use them but I also thought I’d never need to upgrade from the 2i2 haha. I will definitely consider these interface options tho, just because it’d be nice to have a rack interface

It may not have 'combi' front inputs but I would say the Tascam connectivity is more flexible than the F'rite?
It has 6 line inputs at the rear and that means you can leave 3 stereo sources connected all the time. I assume the front XLRs can be switched from mic to line level duty but I have not studied the user manuals (that is YOUR job! Download them and get stuck in)

Combi XLRs are a clever invention and handy in many circumstances but of course, by definition, you can only have one plug connected at a time. And "S/PDIF"? You might have it on your synth, if so you would have a top quality connection, no level matching problems and no need to take up two analogue inputs on the AI. Many FSTVs have digital out.

Dave.
ef37a
Jedi Poster
Posts: 12146
Joined: Mon May 29, 2006 12:00 am
Location: northampton uk

Re: Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen: What is SPDIF?

Postby sld128 » Sat Sep 26, 2020 5:18 pm

It may not have 'combi' front inputs but I would say the Tascam connectivity is more flexible than the F'rite?
It has 6 line inputs at the rear and that means you can leave 3 stereo sources connected all the time. I assume the front XLRs can be switched from mic to line level duty but I have not studied the user manuals (that is YOUR job! Download them and get stuck in)

Combi XLRs are a clever invention and handy in many circumstances but of course, by definition, you can only have one plug connected at a time. And "S/PDIF"? You might have it on your synth, if so you would have a top quality connection, no level matching problems and no need to take up two analogue inputs on the AI. Many FSTVs have digital out.

Dave.

On the tascam I wouldn’t imagine you can swtich since it doesnt have combo jacks? But idk this is only my second interface ever so it might surprise me. Multiple stereo inputs would be nice, but only as long as they can be switched to mono inputs. Im honestly not completely sure how often I’d need them just because most of the time a synth only has one output. I’m assuming the tascam would do that and I know ableton would recognize them as mono or stereo. Like you said that’s my job to read the manual and figure that out. The behringer is definitely a contender, the problem I have with it is that I don’t know where I’d put it? My desk has one spot that it could fit, but I’m not sure if the dimensions of the behringer so that might not work... I’ll go and look at it for sure. As for spdif, how do I know if my synth is supported? For example, I have an arturia microfreak. Do you know if that one is supported? It has a 1/8” headphone output as well as a 1/4” main output.
sld128
New here
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2020 10:58 pm

Re: Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen: What is SPDIF?

Postby blinddrew » Sat Sep 26, 2020 6:44 pm

The mic inputs on The Tascam at minimum gain are -12 dBu, the line inputs +4 dBu. In the mixer software channels can be stereo linked for gain, you would have to be wary of the phantom power though as there's no automatic cut (in the way there generally is with combi sockets).
There's also the instrument inputs on the front that can be switched to line level.

As to size, it, the focusrite and the behringer are all 19" 1u rack devices - it's only the front to back depth that varies.
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 11643
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:00 am
Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Re: Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen: What is SPDIF?

Postby sld128 » Sat Sep 26, 2020 6:54 pm

blinddrew wrote:The mic inputs on The Tascam at minimum gain are -12 dBu, the line inputs +4 dBu. In the mixer software channels can be stereo linked for gain, you would have to be wary of the phantom power though as there's no automatic cut (in the way there generally is with combi sockets).
There's also the instrument inputs on the front that can be switched to line level.

As to size, it, the focusrite and the behringer are all 19" 1u rack devices - it's only the front to back depth that varies.

Okay that’s helpful. One last question: I know focusrite has their app called focusrite control or something of that nature that allows for a virtual channel to playback audio for streamingand such. Does the tascam or behringer have a similar software?
sld128
New here
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2020 10:58 pm

Re: Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen: What is SPDIF?

Postby ef37a » Sun Sep 27, 2020 8:22 am

Sld, I would like to explain a couple of things regarding the Tascam's line inputs.

I said they could handle "three stereo sources" that does not imply they are "stereo" inputs, they are six discrete mono inputs that you could pair up in the DAW for a stereo source.

I know of no audio interfaces that have physical mono/stereo switches for line inputs.

If you wanted to feed a single, mono source into two inputs, not a problem you just need a suitable 'Y' splitter cable. They can be had TS jack plug to 2x TS plug or RCA phono to 2x TS plugs. Some RCA to TS plug adapters are always handy to have around.

The Tascam does have +4dBu/-10dBV switching, useful because many synths, AFAICT produce much less than +4dBu.

The Focustite Control software seems to be praised and damned in equal measure. I have a Mk1 8i6 and have tried Mix Control, it baffles this old valve amp jockey but YMMV!

Not sure I understand the phantom power 'problem'? I guess I shall HAVE to dld the book now and have study!

Reet Monkey! I have found what I need to know. The XLR inputs on the 16-08 are JUST microphone inputs so there is no problem with phantom power* and in any case the 48V can be switch on/of in banks of four.

There are 6 balanced jack inputs on the back and eight balanced outputs. There are two instrument/ line jacks on the front panel and so I think the Tascam at least equals the analogue input count of the Focusrite? It does not have S/PDIF nor ADAT but you professed ignorance of these things.."what you never had"?

I hope all that sheds some light on the matter?

*IF I had a very old ribbon mic worth north of £3000 I would not put spook juice on it. Everything else? Fine. (HAD I such a mic I would hardwire it to a capacitor isolator box!)

Dave
ef37a
Jedi Poster
Posts: 12146
Joined: Mon May 29, 2006 12:00 am
Location: northampton uk

Re: Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen: What is SPDIF?

Postby blinddrew » Sun Sep 27, 2020 10:37 am

My point about phantom power was that if you'd already filled up the line and instrument inputs, and figured you'd use a trs to xlr to plug a line source into the mic inputs (with the gain all the way down and watching the output volume on the source), you'd need to make sure that you'd remembered to disable phantom power.
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 11643
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:00 am
Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Re: Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen: What is SPDIF?

Postby ef37a » Sun Sep 27, 2020 11:24 am

blinddrew wrote:My point about phantom power was that if you'd already filled up the line and instrument inputs, and figured you'd use a trs to xlr to plug a line source into the mic inputs (with the gain all the way down and watching the output volume on the source), you'd need to make sure that you'd remembered to disable phantom power.

Yes but a phantom powered XLR mic input will ALWAYS potentially have phantom power on it so don't use it for a line input unless you know WTF you are at! There are always DI boxes if 8 line ins is not enough.

The Tassy does at least have 4 by 4 bank spook switching. Does the F'rite?

Dave.
ef37a
Jedi Poster
Posts: 12146
Joined: Mon May 29, 2006 12:00 am
Location: northampton uk

Re: Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen: What is SPDIF?

Postby blinddrew » Sun Sep 27, 2020 11:32 am

You know this, I know this, but...
Hence the advantage of combi sockets where it is almost always automatically disabled.
But yes, i think the focusrite has switchable banks of four.
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 11643
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:00 am
Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Re: Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen: What is SPDIF?

Postby ef37a » Sun Sep 27, 2020 11:40 am

blinddrew wrote:You know this, I know this, but...
Hence the advantage of combi sockets where it is almost always automatically disabled.
But yes, i think the focusrite has switchable banks of four.

Sorry Drew, we seem to be at Xpurples....I thought you meant adapting a line feed to connect via XLR? If so, 48V is always a possibility. By definition you cannot plug TRS into the Tascam's mic inputs.

The Focusrite has 8 line inputs OR 8 mics, not both. (it does have optical tho'but)

I see the ability to have all the line and mic inputs plugged up all the time as very valuable? The combi XLR is, as I said a clever and useful device but was after all part a cost saving exercise.

Dave.
ef37a
Jedi Poster
Posts: 12146
Joined: Mon May 29, 2006 12:00 am
Location: northampton uk

Re: Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 2nd Gen: What is SPDIF?

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Sep 27, 2020 1:51 pm

Back to the Behringer then :D
User avatar
Sam Spoons
Jedi Poster
Posts: 13627
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2003 1:00 am
Location: Manchester UK
Finally taking this recording lark seriously (and recording my Gypsy Jazz CD)........

Next