In order to connect an XLR microphone to a computer and create a home studio, you need an audio interface. There are a few different ones on the market. In this comparison, I’ll try to compare two of them – Focusrite Scarlett Solo and 2i2.
Both of the interfaces are the second generation models, and they come with a few improvements.
Let’s start with the cheapest and most compact model from Focusrite – Solo.
The unit is very well built. Its casing is made of a red anodized aluminum that feels very sturdy. The knobs feel great and have the perfect amount of resistance. The knobs don’t have a feel of being cheap.
On the bottom, there are rubber feet to keep the device in place.
When you plug in the device, a gentle green light will indicate the USB power. When you activate the Phantom Power, the button becomes red.
Around each gain knob, there is a LED light. The green light indicated that the signal is present and the red light indicates clipping. This method of monitoring your levels while recording is quite smart and it’s a great feature.
The installation is very easy. Just download the driver from the Focusrite’s website, plug in the Solo to your PC or Mac with the included USB cable and you are ready to record.
The Solo records at the max of 24bit 192 kHz, which is a really great quality, and you are able to monitor everything in real-time.
This device is good for singers, guitar players, voice-overs, commentating, streaming, and for everybody who works alone. If you want to record studio-quality music without spending a huge amount of money this is a great choice.
The Focusrite 2i2 costs about 50$ more than Solo and offers a few additional features.
The main difference between these two models is the number of inputs. In Solo, you have two inputs: one of them accepts XLR input and the second one 1/4’. In 2i2, there are also two inputs, but they are combo inputs that accept both XLR and 1/4’ plugs.
The second difference is that inputs on the rear panel are 1/4’ balanced TRS, instead of unbalanced RCA inputs on the Solo.
The third difference is that in Solo there is a single knob that controls volume for both the monitors and the headphones. In 2i2 there are two separate knobs, you can simply turn down whichever you don’t want to use at that time.
All Focusrite interfaces come with Ableton Live Lite, which is a stripped-down version of Ableton Live and Pro Tools | First – a limited version of Pro Tools 12, but can also work flawlessly with other DAWs.
It also comes with Focusrite Creative Pack, which gives you 12 additional plugins, such as Eleven Lite for real-life guitar amp emulations and Black Op for distortions and overdrives.
Times have changed. Now, you can have the whole package for a few times a lower price than you could 10+ years ago. Solid quality for 200$+ with additional software.
But which one should you choose? In my opinion, 2i2 offers enough additional features, like two microphone inputs and separate knobs to control monitors and headphones to be a better choice than Solo.
You can also get the full package of both Solo and 2i2: audio interface, microphone, headphones, and XLR mic cable.
Take a look at another Focusrite interface – 2i4. It’s slightly more expensive than 2i2 but offers additional features that you can find useful.