Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Review | 2021 Buyers Guide

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Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First

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  • Price
  • Preamps are excellent
  • Direct monitoring capability
  • CPU use is light


  • No MIDI
  • A limited number of preamps (2)
  • Only powered through USB

In this Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 review you are going to learn why both beginner and professional producers swear by this audio interface, plus why this is one of our favorite audio interfaces for 2021.

Armed with a well-known reputation for delivering well-built, high-performance audio interfaces, and preamps that are affordable, this model 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 interfaces. This collection, known as Scarlett, uses a sturdy build with a funky aesthetic.

The back panel is well equipped with ports, both USB 2.0 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.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First

Focusrite Scarlett vs Clarett: What’s the Difference?

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 its activated when you see the cherry red indicator.

Monitoring is easy as well with the direct monitoring button that helps send input signals to double monitors. The 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.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First

Features and Benefits

Industry-standard with interfaces of this size uses USB as the bus system, and this means there is no external power source. A high-quality LED light indicates the connectivity of the USB.

One of the most intuitive dials available in the build is the gain, which helps in selecting the right levels for each input. This system 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.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First

This model shines when you begin to look at the pres. This 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 sound quality.

This model 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 the software, but you also get a copy of Ableton Live 8 DAW. With the 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 ales it easy to record vocals, guitars, or any instrument. These will be able to be used easily in combination with your DAW and do so with the highest level of performance. This combination makes it perfect for any of your audio projects.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First

The monitoring is top-notch as well and allows for round-trip latency as low as 2.74ms. This monitoring system 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 10.10 higher.


  • 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 this product that elevates 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 price tag.

This model does suffer from a few design flaws that can be detrimental to your 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 oy the alternatives I chose 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 solely powered via USB. If none of these issues 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 I have taken a look at several other options and choose 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.

Universal Audio Arrow Thunderbolt Review

Universal Audio Arrow Thunderbolt 3 Audio Interface,Gray

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  • Bus-powered
  • Clean user interface
  • Direct monitoring
  • Great plug-ins
  • Comprehensive software


  • Limited DSP
  • Only runs on Thunderbolt 3

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 to your need.

It is 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, we have been talking about this piece is powered via a Thunderbolt cable, and that means that 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 I 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.


  • 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

Behringer U-Phoria UMC202HD Review


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  • 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

Maybe you are looking for a MIDI, and the lack of one in the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a problem for you. This unit from Behringer is an audio/MIDI interface and offers the same level of sound quality as our main subject.

On top of that, this unit is built to last and is a compact piece of hardware. It is easy to use and is so lightweight it 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. Though, just like with the alternative above, there is one major flaw, and that is the limited functionality.

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 Review

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 Two-Channel Audio Interface

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  • Lightweight and compact design
  • Nice design
  • Five-part input metering


  • Controls don’t scale

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 where 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 I see when I look 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 my mind, and that is this USB audio interface’s inability to scale the controls.


  • 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 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 will be taking an in-depth look at one option available to you … the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. But before we get into the review, I want to go over a few key features that you should look at when purchasing an audio interface.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First
  • Two of the best performing mic preamps the Scarlett range has ever seen, now with switchable air Mode to give your recordings a brighter and more open sound. Two high-headroom instrument inputs to plug in your guitar or bass. Two balanced line inputs, suitable for connecting line-level sources.
  • High-performance converters enable you to record and mix at up to 24-bit/ 192kHz.
  • Quick start tool to get up and running easier than ever.
  • Includes Pro Tools | First Focusrite Creative Pack, Ableton Live Lite, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, Focusrite’s Red Plug-in Suite, 3-month Splice subscription, and your choice of one free XLN Addictive Keys virtual instrument, all available via download upon purchase and registration
  • LIMITED TIME OFFER: FREE Acustica Audio Cream2 upon registration and download.

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.

Here are the ones I use to determine what I will be adding to my studio.

Audio Interface Complete Buyers Guide


What type of work will you be doing? How large of projects will you be taking on? These are all questions you should start with 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 that 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 producers that are with large multi-tracks songs or dialogue editing.

USB is probably the most versatile as it is compatible with almost all computers and DAWs. Fore Wire offers a little more security and speed of transfer. So, understanding the needs of your projects are crucial to choosing the right connection.

Jacks and Ports

Once again, this consideration has to do with how big projects and just what you plan to do in your studio. I highly suggest you look for 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 a 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 monitoring mixes that are relatively low latency.

Audio Quality

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.

Best Budget Audio Interface



In the end, when you look at this audio interface, you get what you expect from the well thought 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. This is a great choice and deserves consideration as an enhancement to your studio.

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a high-quality, well-built audio interface that lives up to the reputation built by this fantastic company. With all of the amazing features, your studio will be engaged with the addition of this interface.


About the author

Daniel Douglas

Daniel Douglas

After becoming obsessed with the beats that were the soundtrack to his youth, Daniel became a student of hip hop, digging for vinyl records, looking for the perfect break. Before he got his hands on an MPC sampler, he would mash these records, beats, and breaks into mixtapes and live DJ sets.