Old 04-03-2017, 04:23 PM   #1
mikeroephonics
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Default My Focusrite 18i20 Is Broken (edit: bad usb cable)

Edit: It was a bad USB cable.

For the last 2 weeks or so, off and on, my Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 audio interface has been sending loud, audible spikes to its analog outputs. It used to take a few minutes to kick in, but now it's happening after about 20 seconds.

This may have been the result of damage to the 18i20 through its 5-pin MIDI input from a used MIDI controller I purchased 3 weeks ago (Studiologic SL-161.) I haven't had any audible spiking problems with the 18i20 prior to using the SL-161 MIDI controller, but have, on occasion, had to turn off and back on the 18i20 to re-associate it with REAPER. The association problem has been rare, but occurring over the last 8 months or so.

Here's what happens:
- Play audio back in REAPER or WinAMP
- Wait a few minutes while before the spikes start
- Clipping indicators light up in Scarlett MixControl
- Playback in REAPER and WinAMP no longer possible (they both lock up at the current play position)
- REAPER's TCP still shows the 5-pin MIDI input for the 18i20, however after the spikes, it stops registering any MIDI activity

To "fix" the problem:
- Turn off the 18i20 then back on
- Open REAPER's audio device preferences or close/open REAPER
- Wait about 20 seconds before the spikes start again

So I'm not exactly sure where things went wrong.
- Did the 18i20 just have its own component failure, independent of anything connected to it?
- Did the MIDI controller send a spike through the 18i20's 5-pin MIDI input causing a component failure in the 18i20?

I'm sure I need to get another interface now, as repair costs for the 18i20 would probably be too high to justify it.

Has anyone had (similar) problems with their Scarlett or other Focusrite products? Thanks for any help!

- Mike
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Last edited by mikeroephonics; 04-03-2017 at 08:52 PM.
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Old 04-03-2017, 05:09 PM   #2
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Have you tried a completely different USB port? Better if on a different internal USB buss. Also, the manufacturer says (random searching) there are some occasional intermittent issues if using it on a USB3 port instead of USB2. But that was 2014 reference.

Normally I'd say this smells of a bad capacitor/PSU issue or overheating but I know zilch about that unit. I actually just fixed my RME FF800 by replacing all the caps in the power supply but that was a known issue.
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Old 04-03-2017, 05:13 PM   #3
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I just spoke to their tech support on the phone and he recommends trying another USB cable. He said the audible spikes can be an indication of bad cables. He also said to check if the green USB light on the front of the unit remains on after the spikes occur.

I'll test it shortly using a new USB cable on the same port, then switch to another USB port if the problem persists. I can't recall if it's on USB2 or 3 but the mainboard does support both. I'll be sure to check.

I certainly hope it's only the USB cable! That would be a much cheaper and easier problem to deal with.

- Mike
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Old 04-03-2017, 05:40 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeroephonics View Post

I certainly hope it's only the USB cable! That would be a much cheaper and easier problem to deal with.

- Mike
That would be nice, I totally meant to mention the cable and forgot to type it. Fingers crossed.
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Old 04-03-2017, 05:55 PM   #5
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I've attached a new USB cable to the 18i20 and have had some audio on loop in REAPER for the last ten minutes or so with no problems! If this keeps up, I'll assume it was just a bad cable. The previous cable is the one included with the 18i20, which is good to know in case that was the culprit.
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Old 04-12-2017, 08:00 PM   #6
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I just wanted to post an update about Focusrite's awesome customer support.

I called them about this issue last week and their tech told me the crackles are usually due to a bad USB cable connection. He offered to send me a new cable for free. I didn't ask for it, they just offered. The cable came with a hand-written note and a Focusrite sticker.

Sure, a USB cable is a low-cost solution for them but it means a lot that a company wants to set things right.
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Old 04-12-2017, 11:00 PM   #7
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Since I have been fairly vocal over the years about focusrite`s shortcomings in terms of their software/drivers, I would like to endorse this.
Focusrite support really have always gone the extra mile for me on every occasion I contacted them.
They may use iffy coders, but their heart really IS in the right place.
And FWIW I still happily use several (non software-based) focusrite products.
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Old 04-13-2017, 12:38 AM   #8
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This is reassuring to read, since I'm mulling over buying an 18/20 in the next few days.
My question at this point would be, any regrets or if you could roll back time would you have spent the money elsewhere?
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Old 04-13-2017, 08:59 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by somebodyelseuk View Post
This is reassuring to read, since I'm mulling over buying an 18/20 in the next few days.
My question at this point would be, any regrets or if you could roll back time would you have spent the money elsewhere?
Aside from the USB cable going bad, the only other problem I've experienced with the 18i20 is when using the hardware volume control dial to control MixControl's software volume dial, sometimes I have to reduce the hardware gain very low then back up past where the software representation shows it in order for any changes to take effect. It's a slight nuissance but it works if I do it that way.

Aside from that, it's very solid and works great with REAPER. also, its DACs sound very good to my ears. Clear and full is how I'd describe them. Bass notes sound more discernible compared to my old M-Audio Audiophile 2496. I'm happy with it.
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Old 04-14-2017, 06:23 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeroephonics View Post
Aside from the USB cable going bad, the only other problem I've experienced with the 18i20 is when using the hardware volume control dial to control MixControl's software volume dial, sometimes I have to reduce the hardware gain very low then back up past where the software representation shows it in order for any changes to take effect. It's a slight nuissance but it works if I do it that way.

Aside from that, it's very solid and works great with REAPER. also, its DACs sound very good to my ears. Clear and full is how I'd describe them. Bass notes sound more discernible compared to my old M-Audio Audiophile 2496. I'm happy with it.
Thanks for the reply, Mike.
That's... spooky... I'm currently using a 2496!
As far as the volume control thing goes, I have a Blackstar digital amp that does the same thing when you hook it up to it's software. Irritating, but neither that nor a (presumably) cheap USB cable are deal breakers for me. Another plus is an IEC power cable instead of a wallwart adapter.
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Old 04-14-2017, 07:55 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by somebodyelseuk View Post
Thanks for the reply, Mike.
That's... spooky... I'm currently using a 2496!
As far as the volume control thing goes, I have a Blackstar digital amp that does the same thing when you hook it up to it's software. Irritating, but neither that nor a (presumably) cheap USB cable are deal breakers for me. Another plus is an IEC power cable instead of a wallwart adapter.
Since you're using the 2496 card, I'll add that the reason I bought the 18i20 to begin with is because my 2496 went bad due to a bad (bulging) capacitor. I used the card nearly daily for over 10 years so I'm not too upset about it. Yours may be a ticking time (electrolyte) bomb but hopefully not.
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Old 04-15-2017, 12:40 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeroephonics View Post
Since you're using the 2496 card, I'll add that the reason I bought the 18i20 to begin with is because my 2496 went bad due to a bad (bulging) capacitor. I used the card nearly daily for over 10 years so I'm not too upset about it. Yours may be a ticking time (electrolyte) bomb but hopefully not.
I don't doubt it. Mine's 13 years old, not so heavily used, but caps tend to be 'time sensitive' as far as I understand it.
The reason I'm looking to retire it is that I had a brief spell on Windows 8.1 and had loads of driver problems - went to W10 and it works much better. I could get away with an 18/8 (maybe) but the extra outputs will be useful and rackmounting tidies thing up significantly.
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