Focusrite essentially revolutionised the home recording market with the Scarlett USB interface series, and with their third generation, they’ve only further asserted themselves as an industry leading brand. This new generation of the red classic features improved preamps, and the ultra-compact and lightweight unit features 24-bit/192kHz converters, which give you exceptional clarity and detail with next to no latency. It will slot into any bag pocket for on the go recording – simply power it up by connecting your Mac or PC via USB.
The instrument inputs feature very high impedance and headroom, essential for plugging guitars or basses straight in. The responsive Gain Halo function lets you easily adjust to avoid clipping, overall giving you a crisp and accurate recording without unwanted distortion. You have the option of connecting XLR or instrument jacks to either input, with an individual gain control knob for each and 48V phantom power available for microphones that need it.
Also for recording you've got a choice between 'instrument' and 'Air' modes. The Air function emulates Focusrite's original ISA preamps - ideal for miking up instruments or recording vocals. This tends to deliver a much brighter and open sound, especially handy for vocals. However, as with any new interface it will take a little fiddling to find the right settings for your own needs. Adjust the independent monitor and headphone volumes, and you're ready to record. The 2i2 offers independent recording and playback of both channels. For any new artists looking to fully harness their musical talent or those of you wanting to explore new degrees of in the box music making, the 2i2 interface also comes with a whole range of recording software, sounds and plug-ins.
This includes a starter version of both of the industry standards, Ableton Live and Avid Pro Tools, as well as a three-month subscription to Splice Sounds. The bank of royalty-free one-shots, loops and presets are added to daily and already feature millions of high quality releases. Finally, there is access to the Softube Time and Tone Bundle, and a range of Focusrite plug-ins packed full of mixing and mastering tools.
That said, these do get a little overwhelming at times. Companies love giving consumers an outrageous list of add-ons and extras, and it’s easy for them to chew up so much of your time sorting through them and figuring out what works for you - often at the expense of creativity. If you’re up to date with the tech and committed enough, Focusrite continue to release free downloads every couple of months, so you really never know what you might come across.
Keys players will also be aware of a lack of dual instrument inputs, as well as MIDI I/O (although larger models boast these features). If you're looking to split an instrument to its left and right during recording you need to use both inputs and pan them in your DAW. This can be frustrating at times if you're recording several instruments or playing with other people, as you're only able to do things one at a time and then have to readjust your gains to swap back and forth. However, the Scarlett has always tended to lure in solo performers or producers, so I’m sure they won’t be too fussed about this.
Overall, the third generation of Focusrite’s iconic interface still proves that these guys are the rightful rulers of their market. The Scarlett 2i2 is still best suited to home studio artists looking for an easy way to get their songs recorded and to begin playing around with digital workstations. At the end of the day you cannot knock the 2i2 for any possible limitations; for the price you are paying, you’re receive the best possible quality of sound on the market. There aren’t many brands that are preferred over Focusrite when it comes to USB interfaces.
Hits and Misses
Ultra-compact and lightweight
Affordable with excellent quality preamps
Not suitable for multi-tracking