Focusrite is hostile to Linux, avoid if possible

Last year, I acquired a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4. The main purpose was to improve the quality of my live coding sessions, and also to allow me experiment with recording my own songs.

It was a pain from the moment I plugged this card into my laptop, until now.

As of today, I’m happy that I’m finally getting rid of it.

Allow me to explain how much of a disaster their approach is. Most USB digital audio interfaces are compatible with industry standards – they’re class compliant. That means they advertise features, inputs, outputs, etc, using a standard USB protocol.

Not Focusrite.

Focusrite decided they didn’t like hardware buttons. So they removed them, and switched to software-controlled features.

For some reason that I’m yet to understand, Focusrite decided they wouldn’t use any standard protocol to advertise these features. So they invented a proprietary protocol only to control these features. This protocol is only usable through their Focusrite Control software – which, as you might have guessed, is proprietary, and only runs on Windows and Mac.

Focusrite decided they didn’t want their hardware to work on Linux, so not even a minimal documentation about routing was published. That makes it even harder for the heroes trying to reverse-engineer their cards.

I’ve contacted them and shared my thoughts about it. Their response, while clear and unambiguous, is still disappointing:

Focusrite clearly states on their website that Linux is not supported. And that’s okay, very few digital audio interface manufacturers claim that. But that wouldn’t be a problem if their hardware were at least class compliant. They are not. With that, there is enough evidence that Focusrite is hostile to Linux users, and we should not support their business practices until they switch this stance.

11 thoughts on “Focusrite is hostile to Linux, avoid if possible

  1. My recommendation then would be the Behringer one I use (or the higher-end variants with more ports; this is the mini review I did to compare it with the other model variant: https://youtube.com/watch?v=g3xgw1U8sIg …).

    It has been working fine for the last two years with PulseAudio. I’m hoping it continues working fine with PipeWire in F34. I’m secretly hoping you get the same device so that I can be sure our software stack for it never breaks 😛

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    1. I actually avoided Behringer due to the claims I’ve seen across the web of some noise coming from their headphone output. I mostly use phones, so it should be as good as possible. Temporarily on a Mackie Big Knob Studio, but soon will be on a Motu M4 🙂

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  2. I’ve found this to be an issue for myself as well. My Focusrite Solo came set into some weird mode that I needed to boot into windows to change the setting for.

    What alternatives would you recommend? I’ve been upgrading all my audio gear lately and would love to buy something class compliant.

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    1. I temporarily replaced it by a Mackie Big Knob Studio interface, which is completely class compliant, and is working flawlessly so far. Plug and use. But I ultimately want to get a Motu M4 interface, which seems to be class compliant as well.

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  3. Yeah, I avoided the focusrite for this reason. Also even if it was supported on Linux, I don’t want to have to turn on my computer to enable monitoring when I want to play guitar.

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  4. I own a gen 2 Focusrite, which dates back to when they had hardware switches. I wouldn’t buy the newer gens because of the issues that you mentioned.

    I bought a Behringer UMC404HD, and it works great on Linux (with pulseaudio, pipewire, or jack). Plenty of connections (inputs, outputs, and inserts), good preamps, class compliant, no headphone noise (it even drives my Sennheiser HD600). Everything has a button or a switch (pads, line/instrument, etc).

    I use it to record music, and it’s also great for live streaming.

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  5. seriously, thanks so much for posting this. i’m finding this a day after you post this, when i’m looking for help because i can’t get this interface (scarlet 4i4) to work like the previous one (2i2) on linux. i now know why, and i just ordered an alternative suggested by another commenter. hopefully i can get back on track soon.

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  6. My focusrite 6i6 works fine in class compliant mode, and starting with some 5.x kernel, the extensions, such as the mixer, work too.

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  7. My Scarlett 2i4 works out of the box. May be that is an earlier generation product?

    The only gripe I have is that it only shows a 4.0 output. Two stereo outputs would be more useful, but either in PulseAudio or Jack this can be worked around pretty easily with some manual routing.

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    1. Would you mind walking me through how you achieved this? I’m currently trying to fix the 4.0 output on my 2i4 as well. I have pulseaudio and jack installed.

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  8. Fast Track Pro and M- Track from M-Audio work fine on Linux. Great for lives with OBS for example and they can be used with Reaper to record audio. And they are cheaper than Focusriten. Fast Track Pro’s benn discontinued but M-track still can be found new.

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