Focusrite Clarett 8Pre Is Online Station’s Perfect Audio Interface
It’s a safe bet that when Francois Vaxelaire hit upon the idea to launch a live-streaming internet radio station in Brooklyn, the nuts and bolts of audio interfaces were not foremost on his mind. There were more pressing matters — small details such as where to locate the station, how to make it economically sustainable, and how to navigate the roadblocks of New York City rules and regulations. (The answers: within a shipping container in a vacant lot on the Williamsburg/Greenpoint border; by opening an attached café; and taking what seemed like an endless journey of dealing with the city bureaucracy to gain approval for the plan.)
Following months and months of hard, frustrating work by the Belgium-born Vaxelaire and his crew, The Lot Radio hit the digital airwaves in early 2016, and the DJ-centric station quickly grew into an essential component of the NYC music scene, with a vast array of local stalwarts and boldface-name artists doling out the beats from early morning till late at night seven days a week. And from the start, Focusrite’s been there. “We started with a Scarlett 2i2, just to input the sound from the DJ mixer to our computer so that we could then live-stream,” Vaxelaire says. That’s when we discovered that Focusrite was really stable, and was really high quality for the price.” The Scarlet 2i2 is still at the heart of the studio, but lately the station has been branching out by producing off-site live shows — mainly ambient and experimental sessions held in an adjacent church: San Damiano Mission, located right across the street from The Lot.
The Clarett 8Pre on location at the San Damiano Mission, across the street from The Lot. Performing are the string quartet of the American Contemporary Musical.
But the biggest challenge to date came this past March, when the station was invited to West Texas to live-stream a series of shows from the annual Marfa Myths festival. Francois and the team needed more than the Scarlett 2i2 alone could provide, and once again, Focusrite — specifically the Clarett 8Pre Thunderbolt audio interface — was the answer. “We needed a mobile set-up that was capable of mixing a small concert live, while having continuous streaming,” Chris Cherry, The Lot’s sound engineer, explains. “We were looking for something with easy mobility and a minimal set-up, but with the highest quality. We tested some other hardware, like Universal Audio’s Apollo Twin, but that was a whole different price point, and to be honest, we couldn’t tell the difference between that and the Focusrite Clarett, sound-wise.”
The Lot Radio’s Chris Cherry at the controls during the Marfa Myths festival. The rig in the foreground merges video signals with live-mixed audio for the live stream.
With the decision made and with the 8Pre in hand, the team headed down to Texas. “We had to do everything from interviews with DJs to full live bands,” Vaxelaire says, “and we would take all those inputs into the preamp and then mix it live on the laptop. Then we would just take the mixed output from the Clarett, and connect it to the streaming machine, using the Scarlett 2i2.”
“There’s literally no latency, which is great. Even when using it in the most maximum way.”
— Chris Cherry, The Lot Radio
If it sounds simple, it was. “It was super-easy to figure out,” Cherry recalls. “You unpack it, you download the software, you plug it in — and it just works. There’s literally no latency, which is great. Even when using it in the most maximum way — using eight inputs, and having processing on each channel, there are no problems.”
Chris Cherry (r) monitors the live mix mid-session during the live stream of a performance by Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramid.
Cherry also raves about the Clarett 8Pre’s sound quality. “We just did a Bing & Ruth recording [pianist/composer David Moore’s electroacoustic project] in the church using the Clarett 8Pre,” he says. “And while I was mixing for front of house, I was simultaneously recording the whole thing — and it sounded amazing. There’s no noise level at all. It’s pure clarity.” And with the addition of the team’s Clarett OctoPre, the Lot Radio can put on shows of a grander scale as well. “We just add the OctoPre to the 8Pre via an optical cable, and it directly adds eight inputs to the setup,” Vaxelaire says.
According to Cherry, it seems as though Focusrite is going to have a permanent home at the Lot Radio. “We’re trying to record and archive absolutely everything we do,” he says, “and it’s really necessary to have something that’s both really high-quality and really dependable. And for all that, Focusrite is amazing!”