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Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen review

With pro-quality sound and easy setup, this is a great choice for new and experienced recording enthusiasts alike

Best guitar audio interfaces: Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 3rd Gen
(Image: © Focusrite)

Guitar World Verdict

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.

Pros

  • +

    Upgraded mic preamps provide expanded headroom.

  • +

    Lower noise and improved clarity and detail.

  • +

    Air feature enhances high-end detail.

  • +

    Works well with vocals.

Cons

    With more than 50 companies offering some form of USB audio interfaces, it can be confusing indeed when deciding which one is right for you. 

    Yes, the quality of today’s digital home recording products is greatly improved from their analog counterparts of yesteryear, but not all digital products are created equal. 

    What makes the difference between a lifelike, dynamic recording and a flat, lackluster one is often down to the quality of components like A/D and D/A converters, preamps and filters.

    It's usually a good idea to choose an interface from a company with an excellent track record in pro audio products – that high-end expertise is in every product they make. 

    For more than three decades, Focusrite has done just that, and this is partly why their Scarlett 2i2 is one of the most popular 2-in/2-out USB audio interfaces on the market today.

    Features

    The 3rd generation Scarlett 2i2 offers upgraded preamps, a new Air mode to enhance high-end detail, a USB-C port that minimizes latency to undetectable levels, increased headroom and much more besides. 

    Scarlett 2i2’s Air feature captures detail, ambience and a real sense of space that I previously was only able to achieve by renting tens of thousands of dollars' worth of preamps and outboard gear

    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, the Scarlett 2i2 has 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 plus ¼-inch TRS left and right line outputs. 

    An impressive selection of supporting software is bundled with the interface, including Avid Pro Tools | First, Ableton Live Lite, Focusrite Red plug-in suite and more.

    Performance

    Set up is easy thanks to Focusrite’s quick start tool – it automatically provides popup prompts, taking users to a webpage for customized installation. 

    Scarlett’s specs are impressive. But they don't tell the whole story when it comes to the quality of this interface's sound.

    Pro-quality vocals can be a recording challenge in most of our home studio setups, but the Scarlett 2i2’s Air feature captures detail, ambience and a real sense of space that I previously was only able to achieve by renting tens of thousands of dollars' worth of preamps and outboard gear.

    Even my inexpensive Rode condenser mic sounded as though it had received a significant upgrade. With its Air feature, the Scarlett's incredible detail and clarity plus the unit’s incredibly low latency, it all makes for geniune high-end performance for an entry-level price.

    Spec

    STREET PRICE: $159.99 / £133
    TYPE: USB Audio interface
    KEY FEATURES: 2x2 simultaneous I/O w/ 2 preamps, Air feature, low-latency USB-C, 24-bit/192kHz AD-DA converters, Halo meters, phantom power, headphones out
    BUNDLED SOFTWARE: Ableton Live Lite, Pro Tools | First, Focusrite Creative Pack, Three-month Splice Sounds subscription, XLN Audio Addictive Keys Focusrite Red Plug-in Suite, Softube Time & Tone Bundle, Membership of the Focusrite Plug-In Collective 
    CONTACT: Focusrite (opens in new tab)

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    Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.