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Review: Focusrite's Scarlett 212 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface is a great choice for new and experienced recording enthusiasts alike

(Image credit: Focusrite)

Considering that more than 50 companies offer USB audio interfaces, it can be very confusing to decide which one to buy. While the sound quality of today’s digital home recording products is significantly better than that of their analog counterparts from a few decades ago, all digital products are not created equal. 

The quality of components like A/D and D/A converters, preamps and filters can make the difference between a lifelike, dynamic recording and a flat, lackluster one. Usually it’s wise to select a product from a company with a long history of making pro audio products as a lot of their high-end expertise goes into every product they make. 

Focusrite have done just that for more than three decades, which is part of the reason why their Scarlett 2i2 is one of the most popular 2-in/2-out USB audio interfaces available today.

Features

Focusrite recently introduced the 3rd generation version of the Scarlett 2i2, which provides an upgraded preamp design, a new Air mode that enhances high-end detail, inputs and outputs with improved headroom, a USB-C port that minimizes latency to undetectable levels and much more. 

Scarlett 2i2 is a 2-in/2-out interface with a combo XLR/¼-inch input jack, preamp gain knob, line/instrument level switch and Air switch for each input, plus a 48-volt phantom power switch, monitor level knob, direct monitor mode switch (off/mono/stereo), ¼-inch TRS headphone jack with level control knob, USB-C port and ¼-inch TRS left and right line outputs. 

The interface also comes bundled with an impressive selection of supporting software, including Avid Pro Tools | First, Ableton Live Lite, Focusrite Red plug-in suite and more.

Performance

Setting up the Scarlett 2i2 with your computer recording system is incredibly easy thanks to Focusrite’s quick start tool, which automatically provides popup prompts and takes users to a webpage for customized installation. 

While Scarlett’s specs are quite impressive, even they don’t convey just how good this interface sounds. Recording pro-quality vocals can be particularly challenging in most home studios, but the Scarlett 2i2’s Air feature does an incredible job of capturing detail, ambience and a sense of space that I previously was only able to achieve by renting preamps and outboard gear worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Scarlett even made my inexpensive Rode condenser mic sound like it received a significant upgrade. Thanks to the Air feature, Scarlett’s overall detail and clarity and the unit’s incredibly low latency, it offers true high-end performance for an entry-level price.

STREET PRICE: $159.99
MANUFACTURER: Focusrite, focusrite.com

• Upgraded mic preamps provide expanded headroom, lower noise and improved clarity and detail.

• The new Air feature enhances high-end detail that is particularly effective for recording lifelike, dynamic vocals.

THE BOTTOM LINE: With its new upgrades and features, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a serious digital audio interface that provides impressive pro-quality sound and ease of use that make it a great choice for new and experienced recording enthusiasts alike.