Best Audio Interface for a Home Studio | Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd gen)

best audio interface for a home studio

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Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen)

8.8

Sound Quality

9.0/10

Build Quality

9.0/10

Performance

8.0/10

Features

9.0/10

Connectivity

9.0/10

High-performance 24-bit/192 kHz converters, super-low roundtrip latency and an exclusive software bundle… What more could you ask for? The Focusrite Scarlett-2i2 (3rd gen) is the best audio interface for a home studio. It’s currently the best-selling audio interface on the market, but that hasn’t stopped Focusrite from making it even better. They’ve been making award-winning pre-amplifiers for over 25 years, so you’re in good hands. My first audio interface was actually a Focusrite Sapphire 6 (it’s now discontinued).

The Scarlett range has been Focusrite’s entry-level option since 2011, but the 3rd generation takes it to the next level. You’ll be benefiting from TWO enhanced microphone pre-amplifiers that feature an “air circuit”. Previously, this was only available on Focusrite’s higher-end ISA pre-amplifiers. But that’s not all… The 3rd generation has a few more “tricks up its sleeve”, so we’ll be getting into that in just a moment. If you’re looking for an affordable audio interface that could potentially provide you with everything you need… You’ve found it.

The best audio interface for a home studio just got an upgrade

If you’ve owned a previous version of the Scarlett 2i2, you’ll immediately notice that this one is smaller. Another feature I picked up on rather quickly was the “upgrade” to a USB-C type port.

best audio interface for a home studio

However, the Scarlett 2i2 is still operating under the USB 2.0 protocol.

In other words, the USB-C type port does NOT provide additional speed.

One of the major improvements on the Scarlett 2i2 is the integration of the “air circuit”. So, what does it sound like?

It’s a pretty subtle effect, but you’ll notice a “boost” of clarity in the high-register.

Another new feature of the 3rd generation Scarlett-2i2 is the ability to alternate from “mono” to “stereo” direct monitoring.

This one is actually pretty useful if you’re using stereo recording techniques, BUT…

Other than that, performance is identical to the previous generation. The pre-amplifiers got a slight upgrade, but it’s nothing spectacular.

Here’s are the upgrades at a glance…

  • Smaller enclosure
  • USB-C type port
  • “Air circuit”
  • “Mono” to “stereo” direct monitoring
  • Enhanced microphone pre-amplifiers

In other words, if you were debating upgrading to this model from a 2nd generation… I would personally look for something else. However, if you’re shopping for your first audio interface, I wouldn’t look any further.

Is the Scarlett 2i2 (3rd gen) the lowest latency audio interface?

If we’re looking at audio interfaces in this price range, then YES. The Scarlett 2i2 actually possesses the lowest roundtrip latency.

audio 3673105 1920

At 192 kHz sample rate and at 64 samples I/O buffer, I was able to obtain a roundtrip latency of 5.9 ms. That’s impressive!

This means that you’ll be able to run quite a few plug-ins before you start running into latency issues.

And no, this has NOTHING to do with the USB-C type port. The Scarlett series has always been performing this way.

Surprisingly, at 48 kHz sample rate and at 64 samples I/O buffer, I got slightly slower speeds at 7.9 ms roundtrip latency.

I believe this is because the unit was actually designed to process audio at 24-bit/192 kHz resolutions.

Either way, you’re getting A LOT of value with Focusrite. I haven’t found another audio interface that can compete with this one.

How quiet is Focusrite’s most affordable audio interface?

I was surprised by the Scarlett 2i2’s “noise floor”. The pre-amplifiers were very quiet producing only -128 dBu of “self-noise”.

This means that you can record at much lower levels and not have to worry about “signal-to-noise-ratio”.

The Scarlett 2i2 also provides PLENTY of headroom, 106 dBA to be exact. This means LOTS of flexibility when it comes to dynamic range.

There’s also word going around that the headphone amplifier has been upgraded. This means that you’ll get a cleaner and louder signal while mixing with headphones.

Mixing with monitors? No problem.

The Scarlett 2i2 3rd generation features TWO balanced 1/4″ outputs for your studio monitors. Make sure you use TRS cables.

So basically, you’ve got yourself a “virtually” noiseless interface at an unbeatable price. Technology really has come a long way…

What kind of software is included with the Scarlett 2i2 (3rd gen)?

Focusrite includes a pretty significant bundle of software with your Scarlett 2i2. You’ll get access to Ableton Live Lite and Pro Tools | First, so if you haven’t got a digital audio workstation… You’ve got TWO of them now.

You’ll also acquire THREE effect plug-ins from Softube (reverb, delay & distortion) and an EQ/compressor from Focusrite.

Strangely enough, you’ll also get to select ONE of three keyboard instrument plug-ins from XLN Audio, BUT…

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the bundle of software the Scarlett 2i2 comes with since I personally don’t use ANY of it.

I was much more satisfied with my Zoom H4n Pro which came with Cubase LE 9.5/Wavelab LE 9.5 (these are complete versions).

Ableton Live Lite and Pro Tools | First can be quite restricting, so if you’re using an Apple computerGarageBand will be a much better option.

However, the ONE thing I like about the included software is the 3-month subscription to Splice Sounds. Check it out for yourself!

Although bundled software can be quite useful for beginners, it’s never anything spectacular. Almost every piece of hardware I’ve ever bought came with Ableton Live Lite and Pro Tools | First, so you’re not missing out.

Focus on the hardware, not on the software.

Is the Scarlett 2i2 (3rd gen) right for you?

Focusrite has maintained a reputation for delivering quality instruments for years now. The Scarlett 2i2 is proof that this company is continuously striving to improve its products.

If you’re just getting started, this audio interface will certainly help you build some momentum.

Pros

  • High-resolution converters (24-bit/192 kHz)
  • Low-noise pre-amplifiers (-128 dBu)
  • Plenty of headroom (106 dBa)
  • “Mono”/”Stereo” direct monitoring
  • “Air circuit”

Cons

  • There’s no MIDI in/out
  • The LED ring is not precise
  • Software Bundle (except Splice)

The Scarlett 2i2 (3rd gen) is the best audio interface for your home studio

If you were thinking of upgrading to a 3rd generation Scarlett 2i2 from a 2nd generation, I would think again. However, if you haven’t had the pleasure of owning one of these, I couldn’t recommend anything else in this price range.

The value for your money is unbeatable.

Sure, the bundled software is nothing spectacular, but you’ll still have SOMETHING to start with if you’ve got nothing else.

You’ll be able to create professional sounding tracks with the large “headroom” and low “self-noise” which is usually something you’d pay WAY more for.

The Scarlett 2i2 is truly a deluxe audio interface at an incredibly affordable price. The roundtrip latency is phenomenal!

If you’re thinking of using this as your first audio interface, look no further!

The best audio interface for a home studio…

You can even consider this bundle. It includes everything you need to get started from scratch…

What are your thoughts on the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2? Let us know in the comments and feel free to share this product review on your social networks if you’ve found it helpful!

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