Focusrite Clarett series vs. Motu M4 - worth a switch from a 2i4?

Taketheflame

Member
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1
Hey all,

So I'm a bit curious about possibly changing my audio interface, and looking for some opinions/advice!

I currently have a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4, which I've had for about 5 years. It's in great condition and still works well, but as someone who has become a bit of a home audio gear geek in recent years, I'm wondering if it might be worth switching over to something newer/a bit higher up the food chain for my needs?

While I originally bought the interface for recording my own music (and still use it for such), I'm actually probably using it even more for digitizing rare recordings that I come across on analog formats (primarily vinyl, but also old local music demo cassettes and such - all stuff that's unavailable on streaming services and whatnot).

I've read opinions about the Clarett series having much better preamps than the Scarlett series, and also came across a thread (on another forum) about digitizing vinyl, and praising the performance of the Motu M4 for the job (and claiming it came close to the performance of some much more expensive interfaces they tried).

While I've never had any true complaints about the performance of the Scarlett, I also understand that it's an entry-level unit, and am wondering if some improvements can be had for not too much more $? I've certainly noticed quite an improvement in vinyl playback by going above entry-level tables and phono cartridges for example, and am wondering if the same applies to audio interfaces?

I still only need a simple interface for both my own music/digitization needs (2 inputs, MIDI support), but am really just curious about possibly getting some better quality preamps/some improvement in my results from them - or should I just stick w/the Scarlett and save the money? FWIW, the turntables/tape equipment I'm using are all pretty high quality stuff, so the input preamp/audio interface might be considered the weakest link in the chain atm.
 

DunedinDragon

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1,521
Getting a better audio interface is only going to be "better" if your speakers are really top notch and positioned correctly in an good acoustic room. Otherwise it's unlikely you'll hear much of a difference.
 

Billy Moss

Member
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6,544
I have an Motu M4 and it works great. I love the control layout.

I've never used a Focusrite Clarett. I watched a lot of Youtube videos before making my decision.
 

Gasp100

Silver Supporting Member
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26,273
I went from a very old 2i4 gen 1 to a MOTUM$. Overall, I'm happy with the change and I like the LED levels, size, feel and quality of the unit. I still think the headphone output is low (not as low as Gen 1 Scarlett) when playing guitar plugins. The round trip latency must be better because the overall full when using plugins is much better.
One thing that is super annoying is the "line level" inputs on the back seem very low and don't have a volume control.
I sometimes use modeling gear and wanted to run directly into the line inputs on the back for stereo and very clean configuration, but the are simply way to low volume. So I have to route into inputs 1/2 and use the trims pots ont the front.
 

russ6100

Member
Messages
4,776
I went from a very old 2i4 gen 1 to a MOTUM$. Overall, I'm happy with the change and I like the LED levels, size, feel and quality of the unit. I still think the headphone output is low (not as low as Gen 1 Scarlett) when playing guitar plugins. The round trip latency must be better because the overall full when using plugins is much better.
One thing that is super annoying is the "line level" inputs on the back seem very low and don't have a volume control.
I sometimes use modeling gear and wanted to run directly into the line inputs on the back for stereo and very clean configuration, but the are simply way to low volume. So I have to route into inputs 1/2 and use the trims pots ont the front.
I don't know which modeling gear you're using but most gear like that is putting out "instrument level" - a rather nebulous way of indicating something between mic and line level. Most keyboard outputs fall into this range. I can't off the top of my head think of any of this type of gear that puts out true +4 line level.

I have the M2, which doesn't have a line level input on the back but instead has "ganged" inputs on the front panel labeled "MIC / LINE / GUITAR".

I was initially concerned about going through another gain stage instead of having a dedicated line input but I've found that sending true line level (I run a 1073 clone through an 1176 clone in series) into the front input via a balanced TRS cable (volume pots fully counter-clockwise - "off") to be so clean that the extra gain stage in the M2 is pretty much undetectable.

The last interface I purchased was back in around 2000-ish, a Lexicon Lambda. I had nothing to compare it to at the time, except the usual Soundblaster / Realtek stock soundcard stuff. After it died, I took a break from recording til last year, when I got the M2.

The M2 is leaps & bounds better sounding, much lower latency, has much more stable drivers etc.. It doesn't allow me to go OTB (I think the M4 does?) but I don't really feel the need.
 

soundchaser59

Thank You Great Spirit!
Gold Supporting Member
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13,321
Getting a better audio interface is only going to be "better" if your speakers are really top notch and positioned correctly in an good acoustic room. Otherwise it's unlikely you'll hear much of a difference.
That's the bottom line right there. Are you in a place and a room with the kind of top shelf gear that is going to allow you to hear the differences? If you even suspect the answer is no, then you're blowing your money. If you spend the extra $$ and you do find a noticeable difference then it's probably because the gear you left behind wasn't as good as you hoped, not because the new stuff is so much better.
 

nightchef

Member
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1,111
Focusrite Clarett stuff sounds great — I own an 8pre and it’s right up there with Apogee and Apollo to my ears, an easily audible step up from the Scarletts, which I’ve also used. The MOTU M2/M4 units are also very solid quality; I bought an M4 recently for my songwriter son, and the recordings he’s made with it sound pretty impeccable to my ears.

So they’ll both sound good. I would choose based on features and compatibility (I don’t think you said what OS you’re working in, but if it’s Windows, I’ve seen some complaints over the years about driver issues with Focusrite interfaces on that platform—I’m a Mac user and their stuff has always worked flawlessly for me).
 

RockMaster

Member
Messages
187
So they’ll both sound good. I would choose based on features and compatibility (I don’t think you said what OS you’re working in, but if it’s Windows, I’ve seen some complaints over the years about driver issues with Focusrite interfaces on that platform—I’m a Mac user and their stuff has always worked flawlessly for me).
Yeah, Focusrite is very widely adopted and supported, which is another important thing to consider. For instance, Focusrite doesn't even officially support Linux, but all of it's devices are class compliant, so they work out of the box and there's even 3rd party UI software matching the features of Focusrite Control for most if not all Scarlett series.
 

nightchef

Member
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1,111
That's the bottom line right there. Are you in a place and a room with the kind of top shelf gear that is going to allow you to hear the differences? If you even suspect the answer is no, then you're blowing your money.

This assumes that the OP is the only person who's ever going to hear their work, and that the only place they're ever going to hear it is their studio. Obviously good monitors in a good room will = better mixes. And it's true that bad monitors and/or a bad room will limit the amount of good you can get out of an improvement in interface quality. But some aspects of that improvement, namely clearer/quieter preamps/ADCs, will hold regardless of monitoring situation.

That said, I agree that if the OP's monitoring equipment/environment is seriously deficient, I'd address that before upgrading from a Scarlett interface, which is not great but far from unusable.

If you spend the extra $$ and you do find a noticeable difference then it's probably because the gear you left behind wasn't as good as you hoped, not because the new stuff is so much better.

:huh

I'm not sure how this distinction is relevant to the purchase decision. Better is better, no?
 
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1,137
I have a second gen Focusrite, it's been replaced with an Audient id4 mk2 and an RME UCX II.

Sonically the Focusrite was fine and it had acceptable latency, but it didn't have an easy to use loopback function like the replacements and the Audient is bus powered and definitely an equal outside of the # of inputs. The Audient definitely wins the small desk form factor though. And RME's support plus Total Mix put it on a different level. I think both have less latency than the Focusrite but I also moved to Mac M1s when I switched.
 

taez555

Member
Messages
9,325
I've had a Focus rite 18i6 and 2i2. Both sounded fine. Changed over to an M4. Didn't' notice a huge improvement. It's kind of a pain to get going with my laptop. it has to be turned off and turned on in a specific order or it doesn't play right with my DAW. I swear I spend 10 minutes each session, starting and restarting my DAW, then powering down the M4, powering it up, etc... Once it gets going it's fine, but who knows.. It just doesn't like my laptop.

Anyway... Got a WARM 73EQ and plugged that in the direct inputs of the M4, instead of using the M4's preamps. NIGHT AND DAY difference in sound quality. It came alive.

That's my unpaid 2 cents.
 




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