With over 30 years into the making, the third generation of audio interfaces from Focusrite is the newest one to hit the market and amaze you with its performance.
Although there are a few models in the Scarlett series, we will be focusing on the 2i2 and tell you right from the start that setting it up with your computer recording system is easy. Focusrite’s quick start tool will automatically offer popup prompts and take the user to a webpage for customized and assisted installation.
Keep in mind that recording high-quality vocals in your home studio can be quite challenging, even if the technology has massively evolved over the past few years in the field, becoming more accessible. Even so, Scarlett 2i2’s Air feature steals the show by capturing details, ambiance, and a sense of space that you would normally achieve by renting outboard gear and preamps worth thousands of dollars.
What’s even better is that Scarlett can work with almost any type of mic, including the inexpensive and small condensers, without sounding off at all. On the contrary, you’ll be pleased to know that the product’s overall clarity and detail offer incredible high-end performance even to entry-level mics.
No product can be perfect, so it comes as no surprise that the Scarlett 2i2 failed to impress some people.
Most customers seem to have a problem with the third generation of Scarlett audio interfaces, claiming the 2i2 requires external drivers. With the new generation of interfaces switching to a USB Type C connector with lighting, you will face some challenges. The item requires another driver and, in order to find it, the unit shows as a USB drive with the installation media.
However, this will cause the system to stop booting if the device is plugged in. Also, Focusrite seems to force users to register their devices and drivers on the company’s website before the USB connection can be made. The driver may also crash quite often, right in the middle of a recording session.
Main features explained
As we previously mentioned, you’ll have to download the latest version of the company’s Control software to enjoy the latest improvements of the Scarlett 2i2.
This will give you access to the main global device parameters that can be set up according to your preferences, including the clocking of instrument inputs, as well as various mixing and routing options.
The brand’s communication with the client seems effortless and its official website provides enough ways to customize your latest Scarlett 2i2, according to your preferences. Simply head to the download section on the main website, select your device, and finish the QuickStart Procedure if you haven’t done that already.
The software offers Input Settings and Output Routing tabs for increased convenience. You will find the internal DAW routings and the I/O main routings in the Settings tab, with the outputs (including S/PDIF, headphone loopback, and line) appearing top to bottom and left to right. The DAW connectivity options and software can be found at the bottom.
You can make changes to the input routings since you’ll receive an overview of all the available inputs located on the far right of the UI. Therefore, you can easily configure stereo pairs of inputs, according to your preferences.
The Control software provides other features and settings for maximized customization for each client. Overall, it is easy to configure and use, which is exactly what the Scarlett experience is all about.
For detailed information about the installation process and the overall UI experience, you can read more on Focusrite’s official website or in the instructions manual offered with every product you purchase. We’re sure you will find a lot more useful features and ways to customize your Scarlett interface to help you enjoy the perfect sounds and effects, according to your liking.
Playing with the various sound opportunities the Scarlett 2i2 has to offer, you’ll find out that the sound provided by the product is of unmatchable quality. You can try the mid-range 8i6 and top-end 18i20 for most of the listening tests, as these provide more flexibility, while still keeping the same preamps used by the Solo.
The first thing that you will notice when setting the inputs is the lack of noise. No matter how noisy your electric instruments are, the new 2i2 will provide incredible sound quality, completely eliminating noises and delivering a deep and rich sound.
Using the microphone recording feature will provide a similar experience, meaning you can record without worrying about background hums and noises. What’s even better, you won’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a professional microphone – the Scarlett 2i2 can be successfully used with low-quality mics too and still eliminate unnecessary noises while increasing the overall sound quality.
As a playback interface, Scarlett also performs incredibly well. By comparison to the popular 8i6 of the same series, you can’t easily spot the differences, even though the latter is marketed for several hundreds of dollars more.
Perhaps the only thing that’s missing on the 2i2 is the input-LED metering. Other than that, the sound provided by playback devices is comparable so you’ll have a hard time telling apart these interfaces.
To sum up, the company did a great job with the improved sound features on the latest series of Scarlett interfaces, which allows for further sound experimentation. Strictly from the sound point of view, sticking to the 2i2 is the perfect solution if you’re on a tight budget and don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on an audio interface.
You will get similar effects and noise-canceling features even when using low-grade recording mics, which can only be a plus.
By comparison to other more expensive models from the same brand, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 seems to be the better option.
The Solo is a dinky unit and boasts every piece of hardware and design you would expect it to. It is light, compact, and well-built at the same time, capable of absorbing shocks without interfering with the overall sound quality.
It is small enough to be easily transported wherever you go and bass-powered also, which means it scores high when it comes to the mobile-recording option. The item features a mic input around the front and a preamp you’ll spot on all other devices from the third generation of the Focusrite Scarlett.
You can also find a high-impedance instrument input, specifically created for instruments like the bass or the guitar, which also acts as a receiver of line-level signals from synths and drum machines. The flick of the switch is located to the right.
The so-called gain halos located on the front of the gain dials will light up green when the levels are good, orange when they are improvable, and red when they clip, which allows you to make further adjustments easier and faster, according to your preferences.
Finally, the Direct Monitor button is conveniently located on the Direct Monitor, which allows you to hear everything you’re playing and recording with zero lag. The front-panel controls are similar in layout to the second generation of the Scarlett Solos, which may come in handy if you are familiar with other similar devices from Focusrite.
One of the upgrades of the third generation of Scarletts, including the 2i2 we’re reviewing, includes two balanced TRS speaker outs located around the jack. In the previous models, these were RCA connections.
To sum up, the hardware part of the 2i2 is similar to the one you can find in previous models and generations, with certain improvements that boost the overall UI experience.
We would also like to talk about the overall quality press provided by the Scarlett 2i2. Whereas many of the company’s competitors spent the last few years building their reputation for providing quality press, Focusrite wasn’t even dragged into the battle as this technology was one of the founding principles of the company.
However, this doesn’t mean that the brand took things for granted and stepped outside the innovation field in this matter. On the contrary, Scarlett’s 2i2 input stage is as impressive as the one provided by other similar brands. The interface promises and delivers high-quality recordings thanks to the 96kHz recording specifications
In other aspects, the Saffire series is similar to the Scarlett products, including the 2i2. The latter feature the same design as the Saffire models, remaining as clean as ever. All sounds provided by the Scarlett-fronted projects can be later enhanced with the help of the Scarlett suite of plugs. All you have to do is install the plugs, together with a copy of the Ableton Live 8 Lite that you can normally find on a DVD format.
The plug-in suite boasts Reverb, Compressor, Gate, and EQ that together offer incredibly useful parameters that can help you shape the sound, according to your preferences.
To sum up, the Scarlett 2i2 product is everything you would expect from the third generation of similar devices from Focusrite. It sounds great, is well-designed, and boasts a flexible interface built into a slender frame that won’t occupy too much space.
The lack of the digital I/O might seem like the only downside of the product but, given its market price, the interface seems to do more than an honorable job. However, you don’t have to believe us – check it for yourself and see if the Scarlett 2i2 is the right item for you.