In this Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 review, you’re going to learn why both beginner and professional producers SWEAR by this audio interface and its GREAT value.
PLUS why this is one of our favorite audio interfaces for 2021.
Let’s get right to it.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Review
Armed with a well-known reputation for delivering well-built, high-performance audio interfaces and preamps that are affordable, the Scarlett 2i2 from Focusrite adds another layer of status.
Trading off the popularity of the Saffire collection they had previously released, Focusrite has brought to the market a compact line of amazing audio interfaces. This collection, known as Scarlett, uses a sturdy build with a funky aesthetic.
The back panel is well equipped with ports, both USB inputs and stereo line outputs. Most of the good stuff is built into the front panel. This includes those famous high-quality Focusrite preamps and several hybrid input ports.
The hybrid ports can take XLR or ¼” jacks. These are fitted with a switch that allows you to decide between instrument or mic inputs. Another great addition to the hold is the phantom power that is built into the condenser mic inputs. You can tell it’s activated when you see the cherry red indicator.
Monitoring the Scarlett 2i2 is easy as well, with the direct monitoring button that helps send input signals to double monitors. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is also fitted with a series of large dials meant to control both the speaker volume and the headphone levels separate from each other.
Now that you have an idea of the design and build of this fantastic audio interface let’s take a look at the features and benefits.
Features and Benefits
Industry-standard with audio interfaces of this size uses USB C as the bus system, which means there is no external power source. A high-quality LED light indicates the connectivity of the USB C cable.
One of the most intuitive dials available in the Scarlett 2i2 is the gain knob, which helps in selecting the right levels for each input. The Scarlett 2i2 utilizes a three-light system to let you know where on the audio levels the sound falls (much like a traffic light set-up).
This audio interface was designed for the mobile user, and that means that the illuminated lighting system will help in low-light situations that may arise when working in different studios.
The Scarlett 2i2 shines when you begin to look at the pres. This is because, unlike many other brands, this company started by focusing on this feature. Even with that, though, the quality of the pres is still amazing to look at.
This audio interface has a fantastic sample rate of 24-bit at 96 kHz, which means that there is a limited chance of lousy audio quality.
The Scarlett 2i2 uses the same pres as in the previous series from this company, and they are just as clean and well-built as they were in that series. The evolution of this unit comes with the Scarlett plug-in suite that comes with the system.
Not only do you get software like the Focusrite creative pack, but you also get a copy of Ableton Live Lite DAW. With the Live suite itself, you get access to plug-ins like compressor, EQ, gate, and even reverb. These can all help you craft a unique sound and build a reputation for versatility.
These features make recording vocals, guitars, or any instrument easy. These can be easily used with your DAW recording software and do so with the highest level of performance. This combination makes it perfect for any of your audio projects.
The monitoring is top-notch as well and allows for round-trip latency as low as 2.74ms. The monitoring system of the Scarlett 2i2 will allow layback while overdubbing on both devices. This will help separate your volume control for the headphones.
Using it with Mac, this system starts up automatically, and when dealing with Windows, you will have to install a special driver. The system is suitable for Windows 7 or higher. With Mac, it is good for 10.12 higher.
You can check the compatibility of different operating systems here.
- Preamps are excellent
- Direct monitoring capability
- CPU use is light
- No MIDI
- A limited number of preamps (2)
- Only powered through a USB cable
- Dual Scarlett mic preamps
- x2 instrument inputs
- ¼” balanced jack monitor outputs
- Headphone output w/ gain control
- Hi-Res audio (24-bit/192kHz)
- Compatible with Mac & Windows
- x4 analog outputs
There are a lot of features that are built into the Scarlett 2i2 that elevate its status in the USB audio interface market.
It offers a system that doesn’t run heavy on your CPU and is fitted with the illustrious Focusrite preamps. All of that combines to give you a high-quality sound for a very budget-friendly, entry-level price tag.
The Scarlett 2i2 does suffer from a few design flaws that can be detrimental to your high-quality audio production quality.
If you are looking for MIDI, this model lacks that in the build, so you will want to look at another option (perhaps check the alternatives below). It also is only fitted with two preamps, and no matter how good they are, this is a limited selection.
The last issue, though not a major one, is that it is a USB audio interface, meaning it’s solely powered via USB. If none of the issues of the Scarlett 2i2 is a problem for you, then looking at this unit and considering it may be a great idea.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Alternatives
If you are not sold on this model or the lack of MIDI is a problem for you, then we have taken a look at several other options and chosen three that will be great alternatives.
Many models on the market are comparable to the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, but these are by far the best. These alternatives offer answers to the few disadvantages of the focus of this review.
1. Universal Audio Arrow Thunderbolt Review
If you are an artist or engineer that records just one or two parts at a time, then the Universal Audio Arrow Thunderbolt could be the answer you need.
It’s a bus-powered interface that includes plug-ins for more versatility of sound. It has a clean and easy-to-use interface and allows for direct monitoring.
It also comes with Flexible Console software that is excellent. Unlike the Focusrite model, this piece is powered via a Thunderbolt cable, and that means it has FASTER data transfer capabilities and can handle larger file transfers as well.
Even with all the good, there are a few areas where this model lacks. The first is that though we love the multiple plug-in capabilities, the lack of a DSP of any significant power means that there is a limit to how many you can use at the same time.
It also only runs on a Thunderbolt 3 cable, which means if you are upgrading, you will not be able to just switch the cable over. Instead, you will have to invest in an all-new cable.
- Clean user interface
- Direct monitoring
- Great plug-ins
- Comprehensive bundled software
- Limited DSP
- Only runs on Thunderbolt 3
- 2×4 Thunderbolt 3 audio interface
- Hi-Res audio conversion (24-bit @ 192 kHz)
- Real-time UAD processing
- Unison mic preamp
- Bus-powered Thunderbolt 3 connection
- Compatible with Mac & Windows
2. Behringer U-Phoria UMC202HD Review
Maybe you are looking for a MIDI, and the lack of one in the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a problem for you. This USB audio interface from Behringer is an audio/MIDI interface and offers the same level of audio recording quality as our main subject.
On top of that, this unit is built to last and is a compact piece of hardware. It’s easy to use and is so lightweight and easy to transport.
The I/O port capability is excellent for mid-level projects, and it comes with a DAW program, TrackitON, that is fast and easy to learn. Although, just like with the alternative above, there is one major flaw, and that is the limited functionality.
- 2×2 USB 2.0 Audio interface
- Hi-Res Audio (24-bit @ 192KHz)
- Compatible with multiple software
- X2 I/O w/ ultra-low latency
- X2 MIDAS mic preamps
- Compact and lightweight design
- Multiple MIDAS preamps
- x4 I/O ports
- No external power source needed
3. Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 Review
Komplete Audio 2 is a super-compact interface that is a great investment. With a smaller price tag than a lot of options on the market, this 2×2 build is durable and brings with it a high level of sound quality.
This model is sweet to look at, and while that does nothing for the overall performance of the piece, it certainly doesn’t hurt the overall aesthetic of your home studio.
One of the best things we see when looking at this audio interface is the 5-part input monitoring. This allows for a different multicolor type that sets this model apart from the rest.
There is just one drawback in our mind, and that is this USB audio interface’s inability to scale the controls.
- Lightweight and compact design
- Nice design
- Five-part input metering
- Controls don’t scale
- Compatible with Mac and Windows
- High-quality graphics card
- Large free disk space
- x2 inputs
- x2 combination XLR/Jack inputs
- Stereo jack outputs
- VU Meter
- Zero-latency direct monitoring
- Large scale volume knob
- Input/host mix
- Hi-Res audio quality (24-bit @ 192kHz)
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Ultimate Buyers Guide
Having the right audio interface in your home studio is probably one of the most important things you can do. That means doing a little research and finding the right option for your work and projects. There are a lot of great choices out there, and it may seem like a daunting task to choose one.
In this review, we took an in-depth look at one of the best options available to you: The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.
But BEFORE YOU MAKE A PURCHASE, you should go over a few key features before purchasing an audio interface.
Improving your audio capability is a worthwhile investment, no matter what level of studio you have. Like with everything, there are factors to consider when looking for the right audio interface.
Using the features and factors below, you will be able to narrow down your choices to a few options that will be the best choices for you and your music needs.
Audio Interface Complete Buyers Guide
What type of work will you be doing? How large of projects will you be taking on?
These are some questions you should start asking when looking to purchase an audio interface.
Each answer to these questions will mean you need a different feature or focus when it comes to your interface. Once you have nailed that down, you’ll be able to narrow the field of choice down to only the ones that will be beneficial to your work.
You will be starting the process of choosing equipment with ideas of what you plan to do already in mind. This will allow you to consider what you will be recording and how many instruments and peripherals you will be using.
What wire or connection system are you planning to use? There are several options, and different interfaces will be compatible with varying systems of connectivity. You can choose between FireWire, USB, Thunderbolt, and many others.
Each of the systems has pluses and minuses. For instance, Thunderbolt will afford the user a fast data transfer rate. This will be great for a music producer with large multi-track songs or dialogue editing.
A USB port is probably the most versatile as it is compatible with almost all computers and DAWs. FireWire offers a little more security and speed of transfer. So, understanding the needs of your projects is crucial to choosing the right connection.
Jacks and Ports
Once again, this consideration has to do with how big the projects are and just what you plan to do in your studio. We highly suggest you look for audio interfaces that offer the most flexibility when it comes to ports and jacks for peripheral hardware and mics.
Looking for multiple ports or even customizable ports is a great idea. You will want to look for configurations that have a wide range of options. Looking for things like mic, instrument, headphones, and even MIDI ports will make versatility an advantage you can consider.
Are you all analog? Most people nowadays aren’t, so that means you may want to look for a MIDI I/O capability for the audio interface you choose to go with.
MIDI I/O helps move your digital information to and from a computer via MIDI hardware. The input/output is always just one way, and therefore you may want to have multiple MIDI ports.
Digital Signal Processing helps preserve the accuracy and reliability of your digital signals. It is used to clarify and standardize the levels of every digital signal.
DSP will come in handy if you want a little extra plug-in capability. It is also a great option if you want to monitor mixes that are relatively low latency.
Paying close attention to the tonal quality and overall sound quality of the interface outputs is one of the most important aspects to pay close attention to.
With the sound quality, you want to allow for multiple mixing while staying in the low latency field. It is also good to look for the right model for your volume needs and plug-in capability.
How much you have or are willing to spend is another consideration. For instance, if you are working on a tight budget, you may not want to go for a Thunderbolt interface as they tend to be quite expensive.
That is why understanding the budget you have to invest in the equipment for your studio is so very important. This will help narrow down the choices quickly.
READ MORE: Best Budget Audio Interface for Beginners
In the end, when you look at this audio interface, you get what you expect from the well-thought product of the Focusrite brand. You get a great-sounding interface that is well built with a design that is easy to use and set up. All of that leaves you with an interface that is flexible and lightweight. This helps with portability.
Though the lack of a MIDI I/O may be a problem for some, it is something that can be overlooked for a budget-friendly option. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a great choice for a first audio interface and deserves consideration as an enhancement to your music studio.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a high-quality, well-built digital audio interface that lives up to the reputation built by this fantastic company. With all of the amazing features, your home studio will be engaged with the addition of this interface.
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May 5, 2022 – updated article images
April 21, 2022 – minor content edits, internal links
May 12, 2021 – added table of contents, updated product images and buttons, updated affiliated links, fixed and updated article formatting and content, added new article images, updated links