For just about everybody, the influence of the digital world in music has opened new horizons. And things that once could not even be conceived have now become possible. But something was missing.
Thankfully, the missing pieces were filled in by some very knowledgeable people. And now, we find the missing link to be a standard for home audio recording, the Digital Audio Interface.
So, let’s look at one of the leading interfaces on the market in our in-depth Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio 3rd Gen Review…
How did we get here?
DAWs were on the drawing board many years ago, but there was a problem. Computer processing power was nowhere near powerful enough. It took ten years before the Sound Tools recorder was released working with a Mac. A few years later came Cubase from Steinberg, and it began to look feasible.
The idea, of course, was to create a recording studio that could be used anywhere, even at home. Cubase was good. But only to a certain degree. Fine for recording via MIDI with plenty of sounds you could use. But you couldn’t record a guitar or a bass or vocals. That required something extra. Not quite there yet. Enter the audio interface.
Analog to digital…
Converting your analog signal into a digital one provided a format the new systems could understand. Now you could record your bass or guitar. Lay down a vocal. The home recording studio became a reality. And the big studios weren’t slow in picking up on it either.
Today they are everywhere. But amongst the best audio interfaces available, one name sticks out, and that name is Focusrite. They have been at the cutting edge for years. But who are they?
The name of Rupert Neve is legendary in the recording world. And it was this British engineer that set up Focusrite in 1985 in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire in the UK. It was the same Rupert Neve who designed the consoles and then built them for Sir George Martin. He was another gentleman who knew a thing or two about recording.
They have six different companies that all manufacture audio equipment at a high-level. But it is the Focusrite brand that is probably the best known.
If you have worked in a recording studio in the last twenty years, you may well have used their equipment. You may even not have been aware you were. Quite often, it just sits in the background processing what you are doing.
Available to all…
Through Focusrite, the Neve magic is now there for us all. He may have retired long ago, but his legacy lives on. And it lives on at a price we can all afford.
They make a range of interfaces that aren’t just for the home user. But what we are looking at here is more than just an audio interface. It is a package that includes far more. Just what exactly? Let’s find out in our Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio 3rd Gen Review…
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio 3rd Gen – Overview
If you want to set up your first home studio or maybe upgrade what you have, this is a great package. The Focusrite 2i2 Studio gives you an all-in-one third-generation solution. And more importantly, it is an easy to use system that requires a very small learning curve to get started.
Included in the package is the renowned Focusrite 2i2 audio interface. Add on a condenser microphone with a ten-foot XLR microphone cable and a clip for the mic stand. But also include some closed-back headphones and free software, and you are ready to make some music.
It doesn’t matter whether you record at home or like to take your recording apparatus with you. This is a package that is compact and easy enough to use that it ranks among the best travel audio interfaces around. So, let’s take a look at what is on offer piece by piece.
Given that it is possible that users will want to carry it with them, it needs a good quality build. It certainly has that. The chassis is all-metal, finished in that well-known Focusrite red with its black fascia. The edges of the chassis have rounded edges, which gives it a relaxed look.
It measures 3.89 by 6.89 by 1.87 inches and weighs less than one pound. In our experience, when using this interface, that might be our only concern. And yes, this is being rather picky. But given it is not very heavy, it does have a tendency to move around with a microphone or guitar cable connected.
Nevertheless, its lightweight construction does score points in other areas, so we aren’t going to complain.
On the inside…
Focusrite are known for the quality of their preamps. This interface has two improved low noise models. They both offer a good level of headroom. They have switchable phantom power for condenser microphones.
There is also a selectable Air circuit option on each channel. This adds extra brightness and clarity, a great asset for recording vocals. This system is based on the legendary Focusrite ISA preamp.
It has a 24-bit rate and 192kHz sample rate, so the quality produced is high. More on that later.
If what you want is a great audio interface that is easy to use, then you are in the right place. They don’t come much easier than The Scarlett 2i2. All switches and controls are neatly laid out, well-labeled, and very visible.
The only connection you need is with your computer via a USB cable. That’s it. No complicated wiring is required. Furthermore, because of this simple, single connection point on the Focusrite, it is often labeled as the best USB audio interface you can buy.
On the front…
On the front of the unit, there are two ¼ inch XLR combo inputs. They each have switches so that you can choose your input source. This might be guitar or bass. It could also be output from a stereo mixer or a live feed from a drum machine.
Both inputs have switches for Air control and their own gain knobs. On the front of the unit, there is also a ¼ inch socket for the headphones and a monitor level control. And, of course, the phantom power button.
One aspect of this machine that we particularly like is the illuminated ‘halo’ around the gain controls on both channels. These provided an instant evaluation of what is happening with volume levels.
On the rear…
Again very simplistic in its design. There are two balanced TRS outputs and a USB connection. This is 2.0 Type-C. We feel we haven’t got to go into too much detail regarding this interface. It is already widely-known what it is capable of. As a standalone piece of equipment for a home studio, you will be unlikely to find anything better.
As part of a package at such a competitive price, it excels. But as we say, it is a part of a package. Let’s move now and see what else is included…
Microphone and Cable
Now we wouldn’t say that Focusrite makes the very best microphones for capturing studio-quality sound. But we do know that they have selected the CM25 Mk 2 mic specifically to work with this package.
That means it is going to produce an acceptable performance. It is unlikely that Focusrite is going to destroy their reputation by including a poor quality mic.
This is a condenser mic that has a good performance level for both vocals and acoustic instruments. You could call it a good basic all-rounder.
A small diaphragm…
It has a 20mm diaphragm electret capsule. That size diaphragm would fall below the average size of a larger diaphragm of about 22mm. So not much in it. This is placed inside the mic with a perforated baffle. The output is balanced electronically, which means it has no transformer.
This has a unidirectional cardioid polar pattern. That is great for vocals and eliminating unwanted sounds outside of the target source. It is, therefore, perfect for single vocal recording. It has a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz and a signal to noise ratio of 74dB.
For home studio use, this mic will let you achieve a decent level of recording. It won’t perform like AKG or the top Sennheisers, but then you aren’t paying that sort of money. For a mic as part of a home studio package, it is good value.
Most studio-quality microphones don’t come with a cable, but one is provided as part of this package. The XLR cable has a range of about ten feet. It also comes with a mic clip.
Once again, not the very best headphones you could buy for studio work. But they are great value for what you get. They are a closed-back design that keeps all the external sound excluded allowing you to concentrate on the music. They are well padded both over the ears and around the headband. So, they are going to be quite comfortable for long sessions.
The only problem with closed-back headphones is that they can get a little hot after a while. Having said that for studio work they have some big advantages.
Good studio performance…
As we already said, they are very good at blocking out unwanted noise. This is an important feature if and when you get to the mixing stage.
Closed-back phones tend to give you a better bass response. Although in some cases, this could be viewed as negative as the flatter the sound, the better when working in the studio.
Let us go back to the Bit and Sample rate, and you cannot help but be impressed with the performance of this interface. Producing CD quality or Hi-Fi resolutions guarantees a great performance. It unlocks the door in many ways to great recording results.
The signals will be captured and then reproduced using the 24-bit /192 kHz AD/DA converters with great accuracy and detail. A big advantage over most of the competition at this price point. Another reason it is one of the best audio interfaces for the money.
The Air setting…
This is taken from the first ISA mic preamp that Focusrite used on their high-level kit. The ISA preamps have graced top-level studios around the world. It is exceptional in its qualities. Well, it was designed by Rupert Neve, so what do you expect?
It gives just a little bit of brightness to vocal recordings. You might say it opens up the vocals. That can be a big benefit for most vocal recordings, but it really does depend on who is doing the singing. It has a switch on each channel to turn it off and on whatever you need.
When you are recording, being able to hear what you are doing is rather important. The built-in direct monitoring system lets you listen. Additionally, it lets you listen in either mono or stereo without latency.
Focusrite interfaces have always been known for their easy to use approach to recording. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio 3rd Gen is no different. We have already mentioned the gain meters with their multi-colored halos. They make it easy to set up the correct levels.
One of the big advantages of the design of this equipment is that there are no complicated controls. Nor are there any menus that, more often than not, slow you down. As a result, this is one of the best audio interfaces for beginners you will find.
As we have seen, there are ¼ inch TRS outputs on the back of the interface. These will give you a connection to balanced, active studio monitors without hum. For a more critical approach to listening, you can use the headphones connected to the socket on the front.
There are separate controls provided that allow you to adjust either headphones or monitors independently. It really couldn’t be very much easier.
There are plenty of software additions that come with this package. These include Pro Tools – First Focusrite Creative Pack that includes 12 powerful plugins. Ableton Live Lite and Softube Time and Tone are also included, along with the Focusrite Red Plug-in Suite.
Upon purchase, you will receive a three-month subscription to Splice and a choice of one XLN virtual instrument. And to ensure you can open the box and get started right away, there are USB-C, and USB-A cables included.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio 3rd Gen Review – Pros and Cons
- Well-built and compact interface.
- Two improved Focusrite preamps.
- Includes Air circuits and controls.
- 24-bit rate and 192kHz sample rate.
- Easy to use controls with ‘halo’ illuminated gain meters.
- A Focusrite CM25 Mk 2 mic and XLR cable included.
- Well-padded and comfortable HP60 MkIII closed-back headphones.
- Plenty of free software.
- It is a lightweight interface and can move around a bit with a guitar plugged in.
Looking for Something Else?
Setting up a home studio all your own has never been easier. And we have all your needs covered in our in-depth reviews of the Best Microphones Recording Electric Guitar, the Best Vocal Mics, the Best Studio Monitor Speakers, the Best Audio Mixers, and the Best USB Audio Interfaces you can buy in 2021.
Also, don’t forget to check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Studio Headphones For Home Recording, the Best Audio Interface, the Best Studio Monitor Stands, the Best Microphone Stands, and the Best Microphone Preamp currently for sale.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio 3rd Gen Review – Final Thoughts
This is an exceptional package by any standards. Not just for the quality of what is included. But also for the price point.
We would normally recommend any equipment manufactured by Focusrite. But the value for money on this package goes a lot further than just a recommendation. If you are looking to set up a recording facility at home, then this is an excellent opportunity to get some quality equipment at a great price.
Until next, may the music always make you merry.