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Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 3 Review

When people would talk about the “Music Industry,” you got a sense of how hard it was to get your music recorded and on the airwaves.

Notice how we said, “was.”

That is because the “Industry” isn’t what it once was. Record labels, producers, sound engineers, and even session musicians are more decentralized and independent than any other time in the history of recording.

Times have changed…

Advancements in digital recording equipment, ever-increasing internet speeds, and proliferation of online hosting platforms is reshaping the ‘Business.’ We have to wonder if people like Tommy Mattola, Jerry Heller, and Rick Rubin would find success in the music industry of today.

One of the biggest influencers in the modern music scene is the USB Digital Audio Interface. There are many different types on the market, ranging in the number of channels, size, price, and performance.

The 3rd-generation Scarlett 2i2 USB is one of the most popular audio interfaces currently available. It is great for musicians just starting out, as well as for seasoned professionals. And not only musicians. Podcasters, gamers, streamers, and video-makers can all reap the benefits.

So, what is this thing all about? Let’s find out in our in-depth Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 3 Review…

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 3
Our rating:4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)

The Build

As with most USB Digital Audio Interfaces, the 3rd-Gen Scarlett 2i2 is sturdy and compact, as well as lightweight. It measures 6.89 x 1.87 x 3.89 inches and weighs just about one pound. Therefore, you should have no problem finding a place for it in your home studio.

At the core of the DAC are two third-generation mic preamps from Focusrite, one for each of the two channels. For both instruments and mics, they deliver a frequency range of 20Hz – 20,000Hz. Along with a dynamic range of +/- 111dB.

Quality conversion…

Additionally, this little unit comes with high-performance Analog to Digital (AD) and Digital to Analog (DA) converters. These converters operate at 24-bit/192kHz, which will give you accurate and detailed sound capture. Likewise, they can support 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz sample rates.

A nice feature is the AIR Setting that allows you to reproduce the sound of the original and legendary Focusrite ISA mic preamp. As a result, you get a more open and brighter sound on acoustic and vocal recordings.

Furthermore, each channel has an independent Air Setting button. This means you can use the Air effect on your vocal input while the instrument channel can run the 3rd-Gen preamp. Basically, you are getting an extra preamp with this feature.

The Controls


The Scarlett 2i2 is very easy to use. All the control knobs and buttons are clearly labeled and feel well-constructed.

Each channel has a gain control knob, AIR button, and INST button. We just mentioned the AIR setting; the INST button selects either an instrument or line/XLR input. When you select an instrument, the INST button lights up red. Plus, this button works to automatically adjust the gain and input impedance based on your selection.

Direct monitoring…

There is a big control knob for the monitoring level. Additionally, there is a direct monitoring switch that lets you choose either OFF, MONO, or STEREO for the input routing.

Selecting MONO will route both channels equally to the headphones or speakers. Choosing STEREO will send input 1 to the right speaker and input 2 to the left speaker. Setting it to OFF means monitoring the input sources will work via your DAW.

Lastly, there is a volume level control knob for the headphones.

The Connections


Both of the front panel inputs are “combo” sockets. In other words, each channel has an XLR male connector and a quarter-inch input jack. Likewise, the headphones output port uses a quarter-inch jack.

On the back panel, we find two output ports for speakers. These are 3-pole TRS quarter-inch sockets that are electronically balanced between right and left channels. You can connect powered speakers or passive speakers. However, you will need a separate amplifier if you use passive speakers.

Finally, there is the USB 2.0 port on the back panel. This is a USB-C type of connection. As a result, you will likely need to go through a driver installation process. Most USB audio interfaces on the market require specific software and drivers to be downloaded and installed.

Power for condenser mics…

The Scarlett 2i2 Gen 3 is compatible with both Windows and iOS. Plus, the USB connection gives you the option for 48V Phantom power without the need for an external power source.

The one area where we found a little shortcoming is the MIDI inputs. There aren’t any. And we can’t figure out why Focusrite did not include MIDI ports on this USB audio interface. Without the ability to hook up a MIDI synth, a whole sector of music-makers are excluded. But, for most, the lack of MIDI connections won’t be a deal-breaker.

Extras


As with other audio interfaces out there, the Scarlett 2i2 Gen 3 comes with lots of extras. You get the software for two high-quality digital audio workstations in Ableton Live Lite and Pro Tools First Focusrite Creative Pack.

In addition to DAW software, you will get a free 3-month subscription to Splice Sounds when you open a Splice account. This offers you loads of royalty-free loops, sounds, on-shots, and presets to add to your musical creations.

Last but not least, there is a two-year warranty, along with customer support and membership to Focusrite’s Plug-in Collective.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 3 Review Pros and Cons

Pros

  • High-performance 24-bit/192kHz AD-DA converters.
  • Two high-headroom instrument inputs.
  • Two balanced XLR inputs.
  • AIR option for original ISA preamp.
  • Phantom Power 48V.
  • Durable and compact.
  • Includes Pro Tools First Focusrite Creative Pack and Ableton Live Lite.

Cons

  • No MIDI connections.
  • USB-C connection requires driver installation.

Looking for Something Else?

Recording at home has never been easier. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Audio Interface, the Best USB Audio Interfaces, the Best Multitrack Recorder, the Best Studio Headphones For Home Recording, and the Best Studio Monitor Speakers you can buy in 2021.

Also, take a look at our reviews of the Best Headphones for Mixing and Mastering, the Best USB DACs Under $100, the Best Audio Mixers, and the Best Microphone Preamp currently on the market.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 3 Review – Final Thoughts

For any musicians who want a quick and simple way to record, a USB interface is a must in this day and age. And there are not many interfaces better than the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 3. Especially in terms of ease-of-use, high-quality sound capture, and reliability.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 3


Nowadays, musicians need to be as self-sufficient as possible. Anyone hoping to “make it in the biz” will be well-served with a digital audio interface like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 3.

Until next time, may the music make you merry.

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About Corey Hoffman

Corey is a multi-instrumentalist who has played in numerous bands over the years, some good, some not so good. He has also written countless songs and recorded five albums in professional studios across America. Today he is a hobby musician but still loves the guitar after over 15 years of playing.

He considers his writing as a way to share what he has learned over the decades with younger generations ad always can't wait to get his hands on the latest gear.

He lives just outside New York with his wife Barbara and their two German Shepherds, Ziggy and Iggy.

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