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Review: Focusrite Saffire PRO 26 - Audio Media International

Review: Focusrite Saffire PRO 26

Review: Focusrite Saffire PRO 26
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With the robust and solid feel expected of Focusrite interfaces, the Saffire PRO 26 FireWire/Thunderbolt-compatible unit is suitable for both studio and live use, writes Simon Tillbrook.

When it comes to portable flexible audio interfaces, Focusrite has a long and well-established reputation for being right at the top of manufacturers offering this type of device.

When it comes to portable flexible audio interfaces, Focusrite has a long and well-established reputation for being right at the top of manufacturers offering this type of device.

 The Focusrite Saffire range of units are well known to us, and the latest to join this line- up is the Saffire PRO 26.

Overview

This is a desktop/portable interface, not a rack mountable one, which is 319mm x 192mm x 43mm, weighing just under 3kg. As you would expect, Focusrite has shoehorned in a comprehensive range of input/output options in this compact package.

The Focusrite Saffire PRO 26 offers 18 inputs and eight outputs with a 24-bit resolution and sample rates of 44.1, 48, 88.2, and 96kHz.

Connection to your host Windows or Mac computer/DAW is via FireWire or Thunderbolt connection, which also provides bus power to the interface, and a mains power supply is also supplied. The rear of the Focusrite Saffire PRO 26 has a single FireWire 400 port, but the unit is supplied with a FireWire 400 to 800 cable, and a FireWire 400 to Thunderbolt cable is an optional extra.

Also supplied is the Focusrite MixControl routing software, as well as a software package made up of Ableton Live Lite, Novation BassStation, and Focusrite Midnight and Scarlett plug-ins. You also get 1GB of Loopmaster samples to get you up and running.

The 18 inputs are made up of six analogue inputs comprising four mic/line and two additional line inputs. We then have 10 digital inputs – eight via ADAT optical and two S/PDIF. The eight outputs comprise six balanced line outputs and an S/PDIF output.

The Ins and Outs

The Focusrite Saffire PRO 26 front panel starts with two TRS sockets for inputs 1 and 2. These can accept either a line input or instrument input based on the selection switch associated with these two channel inputs. On the rear panel are the XLR sockets for mic input 1 and 2; these have associated gain controls, along with mic inputs 3 and 4, on the front panel.

Phantom power can be applied to microphone inputs by two selection buttons. This is done in pairs – one button for channels 1 and 2, and then the same for 3 and 4. Next up we have a pad switch for channels 1 and 2 only.

Each of the six analogue input levels can be monitored in the meter section. Each channel has a five-segment LED meter -42, -18, -6, -3, and 0dBFS.

A monitor output level control, along with dim and mute switches, sits next to two stereo headphone outputs, each with its socket and associated level control.

The power switch (power can come from either the FireWire bus, or the supplied power adapter) completes the front of the Saffire PRO 26.

On the rear, alongside mic input 1 and 2 XLRs, there are mic/line XLR/TRS combination sockets for channels 3 and 4. Line input TRS sockets for channels 5 and 6 complete the analogue input connections for the Focusrite Saffire PRO 26.

The 10 digital inputs are supplied via ADAT optical, and S/PDIF RCA. MIDI input and output are via the usual five-pin Din sockets, and the Saffire PRO 26 outputs complete the line-up – six balanced line outputs and two via S/PDIF RCA.

MixControl

It is worth a quick mention of the MixControl software supplied with the Focusrite Saffire PRO 26.

Users of Focusrite interfaces will be familiar with this, but in brief this is the supplied comprehensive routing system you can configure and save templates for a wide variety of scenarios and applications.

I know that some will not see the need as the routing through their chosen DAW would be all they felt they required. In live scenarios or specific recording setup situations this can save a great deal of time when you may want or need to use the Focusrite Saffire PRO 26 on another unfamiliar DAW system, for example.

This software is straightforward to configure, and I can see the value of it.

The Test

I have used a number of Focusrite interfaces in the past and always found them simple to use, robust and solid in look and feel; the Saffire PRO 26 fits perfectly into the range.

The mic preamplifiers are crisp with a touch of character and with the ADAT optical input I was able to expand the input preamplifier setup for a session by connecting through a Focusrite OctoPre unit with ease, leading to great sonic results.

Metering is simple but clear, and combined with the MixControl software I was able to quickly generate multiple independently- controlled monitor mixes.

Like others in the range, the Saffire PRO 26 provides good flexibility, ease of use, great sound quality, robust feel, and total dependability. It is a portable device in my eyes – there are smaller units in the range for those who do not need such an array of connectivity and functionality, but given the capabilities of the Focusrite Saffire PRO 26, it is compact and light enough for me.

Conclusion

The Saffire PRO 26 is a welcome addition to an already excellent range of FireWire audio interfaces from Focusrite.

A solid range of great- sounding and easily accessible features with excellent supporting software to use as your requirements dictate prove that it is at a very attractive price point – this should be on your shortlist of units to audition.

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