If you need to purchase a new audio interface or replace an older one; one of the first things you’ll realize is the fact that there are quite a few choices out there.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd gen is definitely something you’ll come across in your browsing; but is it a good option? We’ll answer this question with a detailed review!
Finding the right audio interface
As we’ve mentioned in the very beginning; the are plenty of audio interface options available on the market. Especially if you browse online – you’ll find it quite easy to just get lost in the search. And let’s be honest – we all want to get the most bang for our buck.
When it comes to studio equipment, though, that choice is more complicated; you need to find something that specifically suits your needs and your style.
Naturally, the average musician has no real need to spend a ton of money on the most expensive audio interface you can find for home recording. And why’s that? At the end of the day, the difference between the many available models isn’t that great.
Actually, it’s mostly the question of how many outputs and inputs you get, and the software that’s bundled with the equipment. If you just want to use Garageband and record what amounts to your guitar and your vocals, there’s no real point to purchasing an audio interface that’s got 16 different mic inputs and heavy-duty software.
With that in mind, the first thing you need to ask yourself is – what number of audio sources do you plan on recording during the average session? This is the first thing you’ll have to bear in mind as you consider the different available models and their respective price points.
So, if you’re the average bedroom musician or just a singer-songwriter; chances are you’ll only be recording your instrument of choice and your vocals. And most people do this one at a time. Bearing that in mind; you don’t really require anything that’s got more than 2 mic inputs. Anything more would be overkill for your needs; as well as your budget.
Next up, we’ve got the objective quality of the model of the audio interface. These days, you’ll find that many audio interfaces contain built-in microphone phantom power and preamps. Some can get quite noisy if you turn the gain up.
That’s why you want to be certain that you’re putting down your hard-earned money for an interface that truly has high-quality preamps. Also, you need to be sure how much money you’re willing to invest in superior recording quality.
Taking all of this into consideration, how does the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 fare? We’ll dive into the details below!
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a good choice
After a lot of debate and research on the different audio interface models, we’re quite ready to give our judgment on the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. With extreme confidence, we can say that this model is a good audio interface option for the average home recording musician.
If you’re only going to record 1 or 2 inputs simultaneously, you’ll probably come to the very same conclusion. Seeing as its a USB audio interface, we’ll try to first give you a perspective on the choice between a USB and a Firewire audio interface.
USB vs. Firewire
If you know anything about the world of recording, you’ve likely encountered debates on whether Firewire or USB interfaces is the better option. And sure, a couple of years ago, Firewire was more or less an obvious choice. But in the past decade, things have definitely changed.
Firstly, Firewire has always had issues with different models of computers. If your computer doesn’t have a Firewire chipset that’s made by Texas Instruments, chances are that your interface might be buggy.
Also, pun intended, it seems there’s a reason why they named it Firewire; if you plug it in a Macbook, you’ll see that the computer gets ridiculously hot even if you’re not doing anything. It goes up to an insane 80C at certain times.
And the hotness of the laptop itself isn’t the only issue. As a consequence, the fans become loud enough that you can hear it in the background as you record your locals.
If you, like most bedroom musicians, don’t have a vocal booth; you won’t be able to live with the noise. So, one of the reasons we recommend a USB audio interface like Focusrite is that it doesn’t have issues with Macbook devices.
Also, in 2019, you won’t find many computers with Firewire laptops. On the other hand, saying that the USB isn’t going anywhere in the near future would be an understatement. If you invest in a USB audio interface, you won’t be limited in your future choice of computers.
In the end, there’s also speed to think about. And yes – Firewire is definitely faster than a USB connection. But again, this also varies in importance depending on what you’re actually doing. If you’re not working in a pro studio with 16 instruments simultaneously, you’ll find that the speed difference to be basically negligible.
Indeed, when it comes to home recording, you’ll see that other factors have a much higher degree of importance for speed. For example, the speed of your hard drive (it’s 2019 – get an SSD), as well as your RAM memory and processor speed. If you’ve optimized all of this, chances are you won’t need to think about your audio interface’s type of connection to the computer.
Inputs and Outputs
One of the best things about the Scarlett 2i2 are its 2 balanced outputs made for ¼-inch connectors. Seeing as balanced outputs don’t give as much hum and noise as unbalanced ones do, you won’t have any dips in quality of audio while connecting your interface with the studio monitors.
We’ve tested the audio quality of the Scarlett 2i2, and found that the quality of audio tends to be pristine and crisp; you may even see that the Scarlett 2i2 shines a spotlight on some of the traits of your song that you hadn’t even noticed yourself.
At the end of the day, this is your primary deciding factor for the purchase of an audio interface; to put it simply, you don’t want to invest in one, if the quality of the audio is bad.
While the now quite ancient Focusrite Saffire 6 could only record at 48 or 44.1 kHz, the Scarlett 2i2 can record at a sample rate of 192kHz kHz and in a 24-bit resolution. Some musicians find the difference to be negligible in terms of quality; but seeing as tastes can differ, this is something we find worth mentioning.
The most common issue regarding preamps within audio interface around this pricepoint is the fact that you may get something of noise and hissing if you turn the gain up. Though you won’t find that issue with the Scarlett 2i2, and that’s not too much of a surprise. For years, Focusrite was renowned in the industry as the manufacturer of some of the finest microphone preamps on the market.
As a result, even if you turn up the gain to the max, the signal will still stay as quiet as a whisper, and it’ll be capable of picking up a pin drop. That’s because the preamps found in the Scarlett 2i2 is actually the same one featured inside their mainstream audio interfaces. And seeing as these can cost about a thousand dollars, you’re definitely getting a good deal here.
One of the best aspects of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is how well it performs at lower buffer settings, without hogging your CPU too much. Even if you set a buffer size of 77 samples, you’ll find no pops, cracks or dropouts.
While monitoring, the latency is also surprisingly low. It drops down to around 6ms, which is why you won’t notice any audible delay if you’re recording a vocal while monitoring it through your headphones.
And if you’re particularly sensitive in terms of latency, you’ll find a direct monitor switch right there on the interface. This is great because it allows you to reroute the audio input so that it skips your computer, and goes directly to your speaker and headphone outputs. And that’s pretty much zero-latency monitoring, as you’re actually able to hear your audio in real-time.
The interface also boasts halo signal indicators. You’ll see the knob for gain light up when you record. If you’re achieving a good signal, the knob will become green, or red if you should reduce the gain because of clipping. Let’s face it – this is an amazingly handy option for monitoring the levels and sound-checking during a recording session.
As you can tell from our review up until now, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a pretty great option among audio interfaces. But, just like any mid-range device, it’s not exactly perfect; so we’ll touch on a couple of flaws as well.
First of all, it’s bus-powered. And that means that the device gets power from your computer’s CPU, via the USB port. So, if you’re running anything CPU-heavy or a lot of programs simultaneously while you use this, some recording hiccups are bound to crop up.
If you want to avoid this, though; you can find a powered USB hub. That way, the powering of the Scarlett 2i2 won’t hog the CPU resources of your computer.
Also, unlike some interfaces, you won’t find a MIDi input/output if you purchase a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. So, for those who have hardware synthesizers without USB inputs, connecting them with computers using this interface won’t be an option.
Though, this isn’t too much of an issue; it’s only a flaw for those using old devices. But nevertheless, we felt we’d be remiss not mentioning it.
Lastly, as we mentioned before – your choice of the audio interface will depend on your musical needs. If you want to record from various sources of audio simultaneously; you could be hampered with the Scarlett 2i2.
Though, as said before; this is definitely not a problem from home studio recording. But if you plan on using more than 2 microphones at the same time in your recording session, the 2 inputs the Scarlett 2i2 has could be an issue. But most of the DIY musicians out there won’t have a problem with this.
Pros and Cons
|Focusrite Scarlett 2i2|
Considering everything we’ve listed out above – just how good is the Scarlett 2i2? If you ask us, it’s definitely one of the best options for a musician who’s looking to craft a tiny studio in their home. And the same goes for DJs looking for a way to connect a PA system to their laptops.
In terms of features and the audio quality you get, this is definitely a worthy purchase. Especially if you consider what the competition has to offer. Sure, you’ll find plenty of other quality audio interfaces on the market; but you’d be hard-pressed to find a similar device for such an affordable price.