Most interfaces that boast features such as four top-notch preamps, dual headphone outputs and ADAT connectivity will cost you a fair chunk of your hard-earned cash. Focusrite have stepped up with an interface that packs all this and more for a pretty amazing price. Let's take a closer look at the new Saffire Pro 26 to see if it's all it appears to be.
The Focusrite Saffire Pro 26 in all its glory.
If you are a fan of the rest of the Saffire range, then you'll be glad to know the new Pro 26 follows the same design standards. This doesn't just mean it looks the same, it means you get the same metal case, metal knobs, clear level displays and sturdy buttons.
I own the excellent Focusrite OctoPre and I can say the build and design is almost identical throughout. It's hardly surprising that these two also work so well together, but more on that later.
So apart from good continuity with the other Saffire boxes and reliable Focusrite build quality, what else do we get here? Focusrite have long prided themselves on their preamp and converter technology, and as you would expect that is all here. Let's take a closer look at exactly what you get.
You can expect the same reliable build quality as the existing range of Saffire interfaces.
Operation And Features
When it comes to the famous preamps, you actually get four of them in total, plus 24-bit / 96 kHz conversion, dual independent headphone outputs, and even ADAT connectivity. The whole thing can be buss-powered via Firewire and is even Thunderbolt compatible (using an Apple Thunderbolt to Firewire converter).
There's inputs on the front panel...
All of this adds up to 18 inputs and 8 outputs in total, giving you a pretty serious recording solution. Even a demanding session could be handled here. If you do plan on using the full spread of inputs, you will need some kind of ADAT interface to couple with the Pro 26.
... and more on the back.
By adding an ADAT expander such as the Focusrite OctoPre, you can actually introduce not only 8 extra analog inputs, but 8 more Focusrite preamps as well, giving you 12 in total. This would allow an entire drum kit and band to be recorded in one take. I tested the ADAT interface with my kit here and it was slick with all connections recognized immediately.
The whole system worked very well in testing. The software control panel gives you options to set up a few different cue mixes and gives you solid feedback for all input and output levels. Firewire connectivity and buss power worked well, but if you plan to use Phantom power or indeed perform any heavy-duty mixing, I would suggest using the included power supply.
Thoughts And Conclusion
If you are looking for a Firewire (or indeed Thunderbolt) interface with bags of connectivity, then the Pro 26 ticks all the boxes. It may not have the built-in DSP of some other units out there, but it has excellent preamps, built-in MIDI, and great features like dual headphone outs.
For features including SPDIF, ADAT and MIDI as well as the quality and number of ins and outs, you'd expect the Saffire to cost much more than it does.
For £299 / $349.99 you really couldn't ask for more. The build quality, sonic performance and feature set are much better than they should be at this price point. Of course if you want to take advantage of the full spread of inputs, you would need an extra ADAT unit but these are also really affordable.
My only gripe is that there is no sign of rack ears in the box, and if past Saffire units are anything to go by, rack mounting may not even be an option. It does look great on the desktop, but it's certainly something you should be aware of.
So to sum it all up, this is a solid interface with great mic pres, clean conversion and great connectivity all round. I'd certainly be happy to use it in the mix, and at this price I may have to consider grabbing one myself.
Price: £299 / $349.99)
Pros: Great value for money, dual headphone outs, buss power. ADAT, SPDIF and MIDI connectivity.
Cons: No rack mount option as of yet. A front panel output meter would have been handy.