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Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen Review: A High-Quality Audio Interface

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Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen Review: A High-Quality Audio Interface

Choosing the right audio interface for your setup is a big decision. Focusrite has been a big name in the industry for years, and their Scarlett 2i2 3rd Generation certainly lives up to its reputation. At a reasonable price, the Scarlett 2i2 is an excellent choice for podcasters on a budget who are looking for something that is easy to use and compact. In this Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 review, we take you through its main features, how to use it, and compare it to some other big names so you can decide for yourself if this is the audio interface for you.

TL;DR

  • The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a budget-friendly audio-interface that is great for beginners
  • It is USB powered and has 2 inputs/outputs
  • It is compact, stylish, and extremely easy to use. But may let users looking for MIDI compatibility down. 

What is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2?

We can’t begin our Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 review without going back to the basics first. The Scarlett 2i2 is a USB-powered audio interface. The Scarlett 2i2 3rd generation is the latest iteration which came out in 2019. It is a 2-channel USB2.0 audio interface with a USB-C connection that works with both PC and Mac. 

Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 review
Focusrite Scarlet 2i2

What does the Scarlett 2i2 do?

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is an audio interface which means you use it to connect your XLR mics or musical instruments to your computer for recording high-quality audio.  

Scarlett 2i2 Key Features

The Scarlett 2i2 3rd generation has even more features than before. These are all designed to help you to get studio-quality recordings at home. 

USB Powered

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd generation is completely USB powered, making it the perfect desktop interface for a home studio setup. It connects straight to your computer and doesn’t require any external power to work. 

The Scarlett 2i2 also now works with iPad pros, which is great for creators who want to record on the go. 

Input and output connections

The Scarlett 2i2 has two combined XLR/jack outputs, a stereo headphone output, two balanced outputs for monitoring, as well as a USB-C connection. 

Compact & stylish 

The Scarlett 2i2 3rd generation weighs just 1lb, so it’s compact and easy to take with you on the go. On an aesthetic level, the Scarlett 2i2 looks great on your desk with its sleek, simple, and characteristic red design. 

Recording quality

The Scarlett 2i2 has 2 Scarlett Microphone preamps with switchable 48 V phantom power. Essentially, it gives you the ability to record studio-quality audio right from the comfort of your home. 

Air mode

Air mode brightens the high-end of your audio to produce the effect of Focusrite’s classic ISA preamps. This helps to optimize your audio quality and give it was Focusrite calls a ‘more open sound’.

Easy Start

The Easy Start tool means you can get yourself set up, recording, and playing back seamlessly within minutes. When you plug in your Scarlett 2i2, a pop-up will instantly appear to get you set up as quickly as possible. It’ll walk you through what you need to download, how best to set up your mic, and more. 

Gain Halos 

The gain halos are the two LED rings that encircle the gain controls on the front of the Scarlett 2i2. The red and green rings make it way easier to adjust your gain settings.  

Extra tools and software

The Scarlett 2i2 also comes with the Focusrite Hitmaker Expansion which is an add-on software package that supports you from start to finish in the audio production process. You’ll also get access to Ableton Live Lite, Plug-in Collective, and a 3-month Avid Pro Tools subscription. You’ll also get a 3-month Splice Sounds subscription where you can find royalty-free loops, sounds, and presets to use in your audio. 

Scarlett 2i2 Pros

If you’re not convinced, here are some of the advantages of choosing the Scarlett 2i2 3rd generation audio interface: 

USB powered 

The 2i2 doesn’t require any external power, all you need to do is plug it into your computer and start recording. This is super convenient for when you’re on the go, and also means that you won’t have excessive cables all over your home studio. 

Two outputs 

With two outputs, the Scarlett 2i2 is perfect for a small home studio setup. 

Easy to use 

One of the biggest advantages, especially if you’re a beginner, is just how easy the Scarlett 2i2 is to use. Combined with the help of the Easy Start tool, the 2i2 is essentially plug-and-play, so you can start recording with no problem straight away. 

High-quality recording 

With a max sample rate of 192 kHz, The Scarlett 2i2 can record excellent quality audio, especially for its price point. Focusrite’s signature mic preamps mean that even with high gain, your audio won’t be negatively impacted. Plus, since you can rest assured that you’ll be recording latency-free, there’s really nothing to complain about. 

Budget-friendly 

One of the biggest pros is how affordable the Scarlett 2i2 is. At only $179.99, this is the perfect audio interface for podcasters with a smaller budget. 

Scarlett 2i2 Cons

No MIDI connectivity 

The Scarlett 2i2 doesn’t have MIDI input/output which could be a dealbreaker for some. 

CPU intensive 

Since the Scarlett 2i2 is USB powered, it relies on your computer to work. Though that’s great in terms of portability and recording on the go, this can be fairly intensive on your computer’s CPU. 

Only 2 outputs 

If you’re planning to record with multiple participants in the studio, the Scarlett 2i2’s two outputs won’t be sufficient. 

How to setup and use the Scarlett 2i2

Focusrite makes it as simple as possible to set up and use your Scarlett 2i2 3rd generation audio interface. They’ve even got an online walkthrough. Here’s what you need to do:

Step 1: When you plug in your Scarlett 2i2, the Easy Start tool should kick into action to help you speed up the setup process. It will prompt you to create an account with Focusrite to gain access to your software bundle. 

Step 2: Download Focusrite Control, the driver you need to be able to use the Scarlett 2i2. And then restart your computer. 

Step 3: If you want to, you can then download the software that is included in your purchase such as Ableton Live Lit. 

Step 4: Once your computer has rebooted, you’re ready to start recording. Unplug and plug your Scarlett 2i2 into your computer with the USB-C connection again. 

Step 5: Toggle your computer’s settings to ensure they are correctly configured. 

If you’re on a Mac:

Head to System Preferences > Sound > Output, and then select your device. 

If you’re on Windows: 

Head to Sound in your taskbar, click on Playback devices, choose your Scarlett 2i2 and make it your default. 

Step 6: Open up your DAW. Note that the Scarlett 2i2 is compatible with any Windows-based DAW that supports ASIO or WDM and any Mac-based DAW that uses Core Audio. Ensure that the Scarlett 2i2 is set as your DAW’s preferred Audio Device. 

Step 7: Start recording! 

Scarlett 2i2 vs alternatives

Here is a brief look at how the Scarlett 2i2 performs in comparison to the competition: 

Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen vs Universal Audio Volt 2 USB Audio Interface

Like the Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen, the Universal Audio Volt is a 2-in/2-out USB audio interface and is a great choice for beginners. It costs a similar amount at $188.67 too. 

It also competes well in terms of audio quality and is equally easy to use. It also comes with Ableton Live Lite and also supports MIDI connection, which could be a huge plus. 

Depending on what you’re looking for, you may prefer the Scarlett 2i2 for purely aesthetic reasons, since the Universal Audio Volt has a comparatively pared-back design. 

Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen vs Scarlett Solo 

Since they’re both manufactured by Focusrite, you don’t need to expect too much difference. For creators on a serious budget who are looking for an interface to help them solo record, the Scarlett Solo makes a lot of sense. With only one input/output, this is aimed at individual creators who don’t intend to record with multiple instruments/vocals at one time. 

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Review: Is the Scarlett 2i2 studio good?

Overall, the Scarlett 2i2 is a great choice for beginners or podcasters on a budget. Its wide range of features combined with its great audio quality won’t let you down. And let’s be honest, at $179.99, it’s a steal. 

Don’t get us wrong, it’s an excellent audio interface, especially for its price point. However, if you’re more of a pro and looking for something more heavy-duty, then you may prefer something that’s designed specifically for professionals. 

FAQs on the Scarlett 2i2:

Which is better Scarlett Solo or 2i2?

It depends on your specific needs and setup. The Scarlett Solo is really aimed at creators who only intend to plug in one mic or instrument, so it won’t work if you want to record a multi-person podcast, for example. 

How long does Scarlett 2i2 last?

The Scarlett 2i2 is built to be robust. If handled and used with care, we don’t see why the Scarlett 2i2 shouldn’t last you at least a few years, if not more. 

Is Scarlett 4i4 better than 2i2?

This is a really subjective question and depends on what you’re looking for in your audio interface. As we’ve seen the Scarlett 2i2 is a great option for people on a budget who are looking for a small and compact interface for their home studio. The 4i4 is fairly similar, except it’s more expensive. However, this higher price does reflect the fact that it has more inputs/outputs and also comes with a 5-pin MIDI port. 

Is a Scarlett 2i2 professional?

Yes and no. At its price point, the Scarlett 2i2 is definitely aimed at beginners. That being said, we think it would serve pros very nicely - especially if they’re on a tighter budget. 

Should I use the air button on the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2?

Up to you. As we outlined above, the Air mode aims to optimize your vocal recordings by brightening and opening up the sound and emulating Focusrite’s ISA preamps. It’s all about the sound quality that you’re aiming to achieve. 

Why is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 so popular?

It’s no wonder the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is so popular: it’s affordable, easy to use, and records great quality sound.

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