The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is one of the brand’s most affordable interfaces – how does it stack up against its big brothers?
At the point that Focusrite entered the audio interface market, it was already one of the most prestigious names in pro audio. Founded by Rupert Neve in 1985, the brand quickly became one of the most desirable names for studios to have in their racks of outboard.
Before it produced its own interfaces, it had also played a major role in the development of the Mbox. Though it seemed to be a newcomer to the marketplace, when the Saffire range launched, it already had considerable experience of this rapidly growing area of music tech.
Since then, Focusrite has become one of the biggest and most respected producers of audio interfaces whilst maintaining its reputation for premium audio quality.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, which has now been updated to the Scarlett 2i2 Second Generation (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface is one of the most inexpensive interfaces the brand has ever made. Does this compact, 2-input and two output unit uphold the prestige associated with this UK manufacturer?
Chunky, solid construction
The first thing that hits you about the 2i2 upon getting it out of the box is the quality of its construction. Typically, at this price, you might expect a chassis made at least partially of plastic. That is not the case here, however. The unit is made with an aluminium unibody outer, with only the front and back panel made of plastic.
Aside from looking very nice, this makes the Scarlett 2i2 a very solid unit. It’s clear that it has been designed with transportation in a laptop bag in mind. This is reflected elsewhere, with knobs and sockets all firmly seated.
Pristine audio and performance
Set-up on the test machine was straightforward and painless. A speedy download of the latest driver from the Focusrite site, and running the EXE file guides the user through the process. Once installed, a green LED on the front panel indicates the drivers are correctly installed.
Previous Focusrite interfaces have been praised for their audio quality, so how does this one fare? The Focusrite 2i2 is staggeringly good, to be quite honest. Transients are defined, upper and mid frequencies are open and detailed, whilst low frequencies have weight without any muddiness.
Bringing the buffer size down gave excellent performance, too, with sub-10ms latency times achieved with ease.
At this price, this is a huge achievement.
Superb microphone preamps
The 2i2 features the famously good preamps of previous interfaces, too. How do they sound here? Well, famously good. Transparency, detail, and huge dynamic range characterise these pre-amps, and to have two of them on this unit is pretty amazing.
The gain controls on these feature halo LEDs. These glow green when a signal passes through them, and red when the signal causes the input to clip- a very neat touch. There are several other neat design touches, too. The monitor control is nice and big, and the Kensington lock attachment is likely to be a big hit with schools and DJs.
The audio interface marketplace is incredibly crowded, so to stand apart from its peers, an interface really has to be a bit special. The Scarlett 2i2 really does stand apart, however, with superb construction, design, but more importantly, excellent audio quality and performance, this really is a staggeringly good unit at this price point.
Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.