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Beyond excellent preamps, amazing control and connectivity options.
Slightly pricey, control interface is Apple-device only. More on-board mic preamps would be nice.▼ Article continues below ▼
Crammed in this 1-rack unit interface are four of Focusrite’s Red Evolution Mic preamps, which sound fantastic. They also feature the analog “Air” effect, which we quite enjoyed on the Clarett range of interfaces we’ve reviewed previously. “Air” gives a unique presence to vocals that simply must be heard; in fact, we tended to leave it on whenever we were tracking vocals.
Yes, there are only 4 XLR inputs, but this is meant as a hub, or base, while using external input devices through a Dante-enabled networked devices. Dante utilizes Ethernet connections for ease, through a network, placing External Dante enabled input devices in the live room for example, and the Red 4Pre in the control room. The Red 4Pre is 58in/64out interface, where you can, according to Focusrite, “connect up to 64 additional channels to the Red 4Pre via Ethernet-based Dante networking…[meaning] 32in/32out of Dante channels that can be routed to/from the interface.” And since you can drop the Red 4Pre right into your Pro Tools HD rig seamlessly, you should be up and running instantly (and you’ll even be able to link your existing Avid devices, too).
Focusrite’s made their bones with their Preamps, and they still deliver here with amazing performance. We find them to be hyper clean, and work great with pretty much any mic (dynamic and condenser). At 24bit and 192kHz, the D/A converters are super clear, and the latency isn’t a hard factor to work around nor did we encounter any tonal sacrifices. Thunderbolt is faster than USB, and this is where it pays off! And trust us, we purposefully try to throw the kitchen sink at these units to get them to cough, stutter and puff smoke out of their vents when handling lots of stuff being thrown at them at once.
The big deal here is the controllability via Focusrite’s iOS control interface, which allows all the routing and control of the preamps via an iPad or iPhone. The connectivity options to external devices, such as interfaces and hard drives and the fact it is so flexible to connect really makes this the brain of the operation, and we really dig the Control software a lot. A ton of plug-ins are included with the Red 4Pre as well; Softube Time and Tone Bundle (Tube Delay, Saturation Knob, Drawmer S73, and TSAR-1R Reverb. The only downside is to consider the fact that Apple devices are slowly losing favor in the creative world, and since that’s the primary control of the “under the hood” features, it could be a bit of a drag for any future Windows converts.
All this goodness doesn’t come cheap, though, and the Red 4Pre clocks in at $2499. It’s more than a few notches above a simple interface, though, and is definitely designed with the professional in mind, rather than the home recorder end of the spectrum (fear not, however, as many of Focusrite’s interfaces are designed with that user in mind). For a studio that wants a great set of mic preamps and can handle a ludicrous amount of expandability, we feel the Red 4Pre a fantastic start. This is one of those “go big or go home” items. Sure, from a cursory glance it may actually feature less analog I/O than even the lower-priced Clarett line (and truth be told, we would have liked maybe a few more mic pres on the back), but it makes up for this in increased expandability/expansion options via Dante, fantastically low latency levels, and the ability to use it as a hub for multi-room recording control in commercial studio spaces.