Focusrite has a well deserved reputation for creating high quality audio hardware. Over the past 25 years the British company have designed some of the most popular pre-amps in the industry. With the Scarlett range Focusrite have sought to deliver quality interfaces at a more affordable price point than their feature-filled Saffire lineup. Here we take a look at the entry-level Scarlett 2i2 to see what Focusrite have been able to bring to the crowded 2 x 2 interface market.
The first thing you notice about the 2i2 is the stunning anodized aluminum unibody chassis which stands well above most other interfaces on the market. The red won’t necessarily match everything else on your desk but when hardware looks this good it’s hard to find fault. While the various knobs and push buttons are made of plastic and thus not quite up to standard of the rugged metal chassis, they do feel reassuringly solid to the touch and are pleasantly smooth in operation. In particular, the monitor volume dial is generously sized and this allows for very precise control.
The 2i2 is surprisingly light in weight at 1.3 lb (580 grams) and is on the smaller size for an interface with the feature set that you see here. The compact form factor combines with USB powered operation to ensure the 2i2 is a truly portable device.
The Scarlett 2i2 features two inputs on the front panel and one pair of balanced TRS stereo outs to the rear. The Neutrik combo input jacks handily accept either XLR or TRS 1/4 inch inputs.
The two gain controls feature LED lighting halos which function as peak level indicators and work beautifully for their intended purpose. A lit green ring will display if the input signal is at an appropriate level, while a red ring indicates that the signal is too loud and you’ll know to reduce the gain to prevent clipping. The 2i2 offers direct monitoring via a toggle switch on the front panel which we found to reduce latency to zero as expected. Headphone output is provided with a 1/4 inch TRS Jack and the Scarlett 2i2 provides a 48V phantom power switch to cater for any condenser microphone you may wish to use.
Setup & Software
Setting up the 2i2 was trivial on our Mac (running El Capitan) and Linux machines with no driver installation necessary on either. We’ve seen a handful of reports of dropout and latency problems on Windows 7 and Windows 8 machines but we installed the manufacturer supplied drivers on a Sony laptop running Windows 8 and encountered no such issues. On a Windows 10 laptop we found it best to install the 3.2.2 beta driver (http://beta.focusrite.com/) to avoid some system crashes seemingly related to suspend and resume. Focusrite have included an authorization code for Ableton Live Lite and their Scarlett plug-in suite. The graphically themed suite comprises of compression, EQ and reverb plugins, and each are more than adequate for most recording situations. The compressor we found to be particularly enjoyable.
Focusrite advise the two mic preamps in the 2i2 share the same design as those found in their higher end flagship products such as the Saffire PRO 40. The 2i2 offers 24-bit resolution at sample rates of up to 96 kHz and to our ears the pres sound clean, transparent and warm. Highs are clear and noise is minimal. Though we were impressed with the audio overall, it should be noted that the 2i2 does not offer -10 dB pad switches as seen on other models in the Scarlett range. For this reason users of active or high output guitars may want to consider either using a D.I box in combination with the 2i2 or looking at the slightly more expensive Scarlett 2i4 which includes a pad switch for each input.
Focusrite have clearly aimed the 2i2 at a price concious segment of the market, and concentrated their efforts on the areas that matter most. As such, we get a great looking and sounding interface with an outstanding price tag. If you’re in the market for an audio interface and feel your needs would be met by two inputs then we’re confident in saying you’ll be suitably impressed with everything the Scarlett 2i2 has to offer.
- Excellent price point
- Great sound
- Built to last
- Limited inputs
- No pad switches