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Focusrite Clarett 2Pre USB vs Thunderbolt: Everything you Need to Know

Focusrite Clarett 2Pre
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Are you interested in the Focusrite Clarett 2Pre, and don’t know whether to get the USB or Thunderbolt version? 

Focusrite has made this decision much easier since it discontinued the Thunderbolt model. 

However, many producers still wonder about the difference since you can still buy a used Thunderbolt Clarett 2Pre online. 

We’ll explain the difference between the USB and Thunderbolt models and help you decide which option is better. 

Overview

The only difference between the Focusrite Clarett 2Pre USB and Thunderbolt is the connection type. Thunderbolt connection transfers data faster than USB. 

With that said, Focusrite has discontinued the Thunderbolt Clarett 2Pre, but the USB model is still one of the best interfaces at its price point.

Focusrite Clarett 2Pre USB vs Thunderbolt

If you’re looking for a high-quality audio interface that can connect to your computer via USB or Thunderbolt, then the Focusrite Clarett 2Pre is an excellent option. 

The Clarett 2Pre USB is an excellent choice if you need a reliable interface that you can connect to any computer. 

Conversely, the Thunderbolt version offers slightly better latency performance and requires a Thunderbolt-equipped computer. 

Overall, the 2Pre USB and Thunderbolt are virtually the same interface.

Both versions offer the same sound quality and features, but there are some key differences to consider before making your purchase.

Focusrite Clarett 2Pre Thunderbolt Discontinued

Credit: Focusrite

Focusrite has discontinued the Thunderbolt Clarett 2Pre. Therefore, you’re unlikely to find a brand new version anywhere.

However, if you’re interested in this interface and prefer a Thunderbolt connection, you can buy a used model on several resale platforms. 

In our opinion, the difference between the Thunderbolt and USB units isn’t noticeable enough to where it’s worth buying a used version of the 2Pre. But it’s an option. 

What is a Thunderbolt Audio Interface

A thunderbolt audio interface uses the thunderbolt protocol to provide a high-speed connection between your devices.

Thunderbolt is a high-speed data transfer protocol developed by Intel and Apple. 

It debuted in 2011 and has become the standard for connecting high-performance audio devices to computers. 

The latest Thunderbolt 3 offers the highest data transfer speeds of up to 40 Gbps. Thunderbolt audio interfaces take advantage of these high speeds to provide low latency, high-quality audio connections.

You can use Thunderbolt audio interfaces with Mac and PCs with a Thunderbolt port.

If you’re looking for a high-performance audio interface for your studio or live rig, a thunderbolt audio interface is a great option.

Even though Focusrite has discontinued the Thunderbolt Clarett 2Pre, many high-end interfaces use this connection type – such as Universal Audio’s Apollo Twin.

Focusrite Clarett 2Pre Review

Clarett 2Pre USB vs Thunderbolt

Credit: Focusrite

Pros

  • Very high dynamic range
  • Crystal-clear low-noise mic preamps
  • Durable build quality
  • Clean design
  • Air mode feature

Cons

  • No level meter on the interface
  • You can only access features like direct monitoring and Air mode through the Focusrite Control Panel, not through the interface itself.

Who’s the Focusrite Clarett 2Pre Best for?

If you’re familiar with Focusrite’s Scarlett interfaces, its Clarett 2Pre has similar features with better audio quality – and can support up to eight additional ADAT channels. 

The Scarlett 2i2 is a great entry-level interface, but the 2Pre is top-notch for larger recording sessions.

Overall, it’s easy to use and comes with all the essential features for audio production, making it an excellent choice for both beginners and experienced users.

Build and Design 

The Focusrite Clarett 2Pre has a red and black metal chassis, which looks great and helps protect your investment. 

The front panel is easy to navigate and features four wiggle-less, smoothly rotating knobs. 

Each control is well placed and labeled, making it very easy to find what you’re looking for on the fly.

We’re also fans of the 2Pre’s large volume knob since it’s the control we tend to use the most.

Features and Controls 

The Clarett 2Pre has two mic/instrument/line inputs with corresponding gain controls – supplying up to 57dB of gain to each channel. The mic preamps in these inputs are very low-noise with an equivalent input noise (EIN) of around -129dBu.

Next to each input are two LED indicators that tell you whether Instrument and Air mode are enabled – along with a button to toggle phantom power for each input separately.

Focusrite Control Software 

You can change each ¼ input into a line or instrument input, activate Air Mode, and control other features in the included Focusrite Control software.

Air Mode 

Air mode changes the frequency response of each input to highlight high frequencies in your audio. 

In other words, when you enable Air mode, your audio will sound “brighter” and more “airy.”

LED Indicators 

You’ll get three more LEDs on the right that show the power status, the presence of a USB connection, and the internal clock’s status when working with an ADAT connection.

Back Panel 

Clarett 2Pre USB vs Thunderbolt

Credit: Focusrite

You’ll find four ¼-inch line outputs on the back and a MIDI In and Out

The additional line output makes the 2Pre great for connecting an extra pair of reference monitors or a headphone amp

Optical Input 

There’s also an Optical input for ADAT expansion.

You can expand your inputs by two at up to 192kHz, four at up to 96kHz, and eight at up to 48kHz. 

This input also supports stereo optical SPDIF connection.

USB vs Thunderbolt Power 

Next to the Optical input, you’ll get a Thunderbolt or USB-C port depending on your chosen model.

Both models also have a 12V DC power socket and a power switch.

Audio Quality 

In terms of audio quality, this unit doesn’t disappoint.

The Clarett 2Pre delivers pristine sound quality thanks to its 24-bit/192kHz converters and flat frequency response across all input and outputs. 

Its converters provide a clean and accurate representation of your audio, ensuring that your recordings sound natural and realistic.

The 2Pre outshines most audio interfaces with its extremely high 119dB dynamic range

In short, interfaces with a higher dynamic range provide additional headroom while recording. 

In this case, you can think of headroom as a buffer between your average recording level and the loudest sound your interface can capture before your audio distorts. 

With a higher buffer, you’ll have more leeway when setting gain. You’ll also achieve a cleaner and more polished sound by avoiding clipping and distortion.

Downsides

One thing we would’ve like to see is more controls on the actual interface.

You can control direct monitoring, Air mode, and other feature through the Focusrite Control software. 

However, with many other interfaces like the Scarlett 2i2, you can control these settings directly through the unit. 

Additionally, a similar price unit like the Universal Audio’s Apollo Solo has level meters and built-in DSP effects like reverb, EQ, and compression. 

In terms of audio quality, the Clarett 2Pre is second to none at its price, but you’ll find more features in slightly more expensive units.  

Takeaway: Focusrite Clarett 2Pre USB vs Thunderbolt

The main difference between Focusrite’s Clarett 2Pre USB and Thunderbolt is the connection type. One uses USB, and the other uses Thunderbolt. 

Thunderbolt connection is popular among high-end audio interfaces since it operates at higher speeds than USB.

Focusrite Clarett 2Pre Thunderbolt

  • Discontinued by Focusrite, but you can still find a used version online 
  • Thunderbolt offers higher speed and slightly less latency

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