If you’re shopping for your first audio interface, you’ve probably already heard of the Focusrite Scarlett. There are three options if your budget is below $200 – Focusrite Scarlett Solo, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, and Focusrite Scarlett 2i4. In this post, I’m going to help you decide which of the Focusrite Scarlett interfaces is right for you.
In 2015, I bought my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface. I wasn’t sure the Focusrite Scarlett Solo would be enough for what I wanted to record, but I nearly bought the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4. Looking back, I couldn’t be happier about the decision I made. In fact, I think the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is the best choice for most people, and this post will explain why.
If you want to see the full list of interfaces, microphones, stands, and accessories that I recommend if you’re first getting started in recording, check out the Audio University post on about the 6 Home Studio Essentials (for Beginners on a Budget).
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 vs Focusrite Scarlett Solo
I’ve seen several videos recommending the Focusrite Scarlett Solo for singer-songwriters who will be recording their voice and their guitar. The Focusrite Scarlett Solo allows you to record one microphone and one instrument, such as an electric-acoustic guitar.
Although this might seem like the perfect fit for how you plan to use it now, down the road you might regret limiting yourself to using only one microphone preamp.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 gives you the option to do everything you could do with the Focusrite Scarlett Solo, but having that extra microphone preamp will allow you to record two microphones simultaneously, which opens the door to many more uses.
With two microphone preamps, you’ll be able to record your voice and an acoustic instrument, record a podcast with you and a guest, or make stereo recordings.
I think this makes the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 the perfect choice for recording artists who need a way to record voice and guitar. To see and hear the process of recording acoustic guitar with the Scarlett 2i2, check out this Audio University post.
Whereas you might quickly outgrow the Focusrite Scarlett Solo, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 will allow you to grow and experiment with different recording techniques.
To better understand the importance of an additional microphone preamp, read this post I wrote about microphone level and line level. It’s really important to understand this concept before choosing which interface is right for you.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 vs Focusrite Scarlett 4i4
The Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 still only offers two microphone preamps, even though it gives you the option to have two additional line inputs and line outputs.
The additional line inputs won’t allow you to record microphones directly, but instead allow you to connect devices like drum machines, mixers, and outboard effects, such as EQ and compressors.
You’ll likely be using the EQ, compressors, and other effects built into DAW within your computer. Plus, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 inputs already allow you to take in line level signals, if needed.
If you will be using outboard effects processors for mixing or making measurements, you’ll definitely want to go with the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4. This is one of the only exceptions.
Another reason that you might want the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 is if you will need to use 5-Pin DIN MIDI cables to connect a MIDI keyboard. If you plan to use a MIDI keyboard that connects via USB, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 will be sufficient.
The Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 does also add the ability to make virtual audio routes within your computer. This could be used to record a Zoom or Skype call directly. However, I wrote this post about recording calls that will show you how to record video calls without this feature.
Recommendations: Which Focusrite Scarlett Is Right for You?
If money is a concern, I don’t think the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 is worth it for most people, unless you need the ability to mix using outboard signal processors or use MIDI devices that connect via 5-pin DIN cables. Save the extra cash and go with the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.
That said, if you’re considering the Focusrite Scarlett Solo, I think you’ll be much happier in the long run going with the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. Years down the road, you’ll be glad you made that extra investment. The ability to record two microphones at once is crucial for recording multiple instruments or voices.
If you buy any of these interfaces using the links in this post, I’ll receive a small commission from Amazon at no additional cost to you. I don’t receive any incentives from Focusrite for making these recommendations. I truly believe the Scarlett interfaces are the best option in their price range.
When you’re ready to learn how to get your Focusrite Scarlett interface set up, make sure to check out my Audio Interface Quick Start Guide.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Focusrite Scarlett 4i4
|Inputs||1 – XLR Mic Input|
1 – TS Line/Hi-Z Input
|2 – XLR/TRS Mic/Line/Hi-Z Input||2 – XLR/TRS Mic/Line/Hi-Z Input|
2 – TRS Line Input
|Outputs||2 – TRS Output|
1 – Stereo Headphone Output
|2 – TRS Output|
1 – Stereo Headphone Output
|4 – TRS Output|
1 – Stereo Headphone Output
|MIDI||N/A||N/A||1 – DIN 5-Pin Input|
1 – DIN 5-Pin Output
|Max Sample Rate / Bit Depth||192 kHz / 24-Bit||192 kHz / 24-Bit||192 kHz / 24-Bit|
|Direct Monitor Switch||Yes||Yes||Yes (Focusrite Control App)|
|-10 dB Pad||No||No||Yes|
|Focusrite Control App||No||No||Yes|
|Power Requirements||USB Bus Power||USB Bus Power||USB Bus Power|
|Connection Type||USB Type-C (USB 2.0)||USB Type-C (USB 2.0)||USB Type-C (USB 2.0)|
|Dimensions||5.65 x 3.77 x 1.71″ / 14.35 x 9.58 x 4.34 cm||6.89 x 3.89 x 1.87″ / 17.5 x 9.88 x 4.75 cm||7.28 x 4.71 x 1.87″ / 18.49 x 11.96 x 4.75 cm|