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Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 4th Gen review: The new budget king

For years, Focusrite has held its spot as the forerunner of budget-level audio interfaces. The Scarlett, in particular, has reigned supreme since it hit the shelves back in 2011.

Now, Focusrite is launching the fourth generation of the beloved interface, once again aiming to keep their place at the top of the heap. Let’s take a deeper look and see what it has to offer, as well as how it contrasts with its predecessors.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 4th Gen audio interface review
Image: Higher Hz

Final verdict on the Scarlett 2i2 4th Gen 5.0

The Scarlett 2i2 4th Gen offers a huge upgrade in performance, versatility, and workflow over its predecessor. The dynamic range is higher, gain range is wider, and new features such as Auto Gain and Clip Safe make it an incredibly powerful recording tool.

This is an easy interface to recommend to anybody, whether you’re a beginner or a pro.

What I like

  • High audio quality.
  • Wide dynamic range and gain range.
  • New features make setup easy and offer more versatility.
  • Amazing software bundle.
  • Great cost-to-value ratio.

What I don’t like

  • Nothing to note.
Buy Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 4th Gen at: SweetwaterAmazon

Why you should trust me

I’m a producer, audio engineer, and songwriter with over 10 years of experience in the music industry.

Brandon Schock, author and contributor at Higher Hz

I’ve worked with a diverse spectrum of gear over my decade spent in the field of audio production and engineering, both in the studio environments and on live productions.

Working with brands such as Neve, Focusrite, and Universal Audio has lent me nuanced insights into the practical application of audio equipment and what value it provides users ranging from novice to seasoned professional.

Contents

Use these jump links to navigate to the desired section of the review.

I/O and controls 5.0

The overall layout of the Scarlett 2i2 is largely the same at first glance. Starting on the front panel, from left to right, are two line level inputs each with their respective gain controls.

This is followed by an array of buttons, on the top is a select button, a 48 V button, and a line level button. Below these are switches to engage the preamps into Auto Gain, Clip Safe, and Air Mode (we’ll talk more on these later on).

Scarlett 2i2 4th Gen front panel
Image: Higher Hz

Wrapping up the front panel is a large rotary dial for your output signal, a direct monitoring switch, and a 1/4-inch headphone jack with its assigned volume control.

Both the gain controls as well as the output dial feature an LED ring around them to indicate your monitor levels.

Turning around to the rear panel are two additional XLR inputs, two 1/4-inch outputs, a USB-C port, a 5V DC port, and a K-slot.

Scarlett 2i2 4th Gen rear panel
Image: Higher Hz

I find that the overall design of this interface is a bit sleeker than its predecessor, and is just as easy to navigate. I think I would’ve preferred to see designated pads for each input, but considering the amount of new features I can understand why they chose to simplify.

I also like that they separated the XLR and line inputs, for more simultaneous I/O.

Preamps 5.0

Focusrite preamps have always been renowned for their reliably high quality, and the 2i2 4th Gen doesn’t disappoint. The preamps here are clean and transparent, and offer a wide gain range with a max input level of 16 dBu.

They can handle a huge variety of sound sources, whether it be soft acoustic strummings or a volatile vocal performance.

Recording quality 5.0

While much has stayed the same, the fourth generation of the Scarlett 2i2 showcases a number of huge enhancements in its overall performance compared to its predecessor, the 2i2 3rd Gen.

The frequency response is still 20 Hz 20 kHz, albeit a bit tighter in its reproduction, and Focusrite’s iconic Air Mode (a feature borrowed from Focusrite’s high-end ISA preamps) is still available. However, the new 2i2 offers a few new components to the mix.

Firstly, is Auto Gain, which allows the interface to automatically set the best input level for your recording. This is a great feature for beginners in need of assistance with proper gain staging.

Secondly, the 2i2 4th Gen features a new Clip Safe technology, which helps you avoid clipping (unwanted noise and distortion) in case you accidentally set your gain levels too high.

The Scarlett 2i2 4th Gen also provides two additional line inputs, allowing it to have 4×2 simultaneous I/O compared to the 3rd Gen’s 2×2.

Scarlett 2i2 4th Gen interface top view
Image: Higher Hz

As far as its performance is concerned, the 2i2 4th Gen provides both a higher dynamic range (116 dB opposed to the 3rd Gen’s 111dB) and a better gain range (69 dB opposed to the 3rd Gen’s 56 dB). These upgrades make the 2i2 4th Gen more versatile and better able to accommodate microphones that require more gain.

Overall, the audio quality is nothing short of exceptional. The Scarlett 2i2 4th Gen delivers an A/D resolution of 24-bit depth and sample rate of 192 kHz. The dynamic range is wide and the THD+N is super low, allowing for high fidelity and clarity in your recordings.

In use 5.0

The Scarlett 2i2 has always been a top contender for home studio setups, especially for beginners and intermediates. Its high performance along with its small footprint make it ideal for small scale artists and engineers looking for an affordable and reliable recording solution.

Mobile recording 5.0

It’s easy to recommend this interface for mobile recording due to its lightweight and compact design. Being bus-powered also makes it a super capable option for mobile recording.

Build quality 5.0

The Scarlett 2i2 4th Gen is incredibly durable, well-built, and very user-friendly. The overall layout of the design allows anybody to record with ease regardless of experience level.

Software bundle 5.0

When you purchase the 2i2 4th Gen, you’ll also gain access to a three-month Avid Pro Tools Artist subscription, Ableton Live Lite, and a free three-month Splice Sounds subscription.

You’ll also gain access to a number of plugins, including but not limited to Antares Auto-Tune, Softube Marshall Silver Jubilee 2555, Native Instruments Massive, and several more.

This is an amazing deal for the cost to value and will help you boost the quality of your recordings exponentially.

Compared to other audio interfaces

The new Scarlett 2i2, without a doubt, is going to be one of the go-to budget audio interfaces for the next few years. But here are a few interfaces to compare against it.

Scarlett 2i2 4th Gen vs 2i2 3rd Gen

If you’re looking to buy your first interface, I think that going for the 2i2 4th Gen over the 3rd Gen is a no-brainer. The updates to the interface’s design and performance make it far more versatile and capable than its predecessor.

That being said, if you’ve already owned the 3rd Gen and are looking to upgrade, the question is whether you want to trade-in to get something incrementally better, or if you find more value in buying something more substantial with more connectivity to expand your recording setup.

If you’ve found that the 2i2 3rd Gen offers you all you need, upgrading to the 4th Gen will obviously enhance your recording abilities, but it won’t be much of a step forward in terms of connectivity.

Scarlett 2i2 4th Gen vs Solid State Logic SSL 2

Both interfaces are stellar choices for anybody, but deciding which to go with will depend largely on your preferences in preamps. The Focusrite preamps are a bit “cleaner,” whereas the SSL 2 offers a more analog style of color.

Scarlett 2i2 4th Gen vs Universal Audio Volt 2

This comparison is more or less the same. The Volt 2 offers a more vintage sound and UAD-powered plugins, whereas the 2i2 is a bit more convenient and versatile. Both are great choices but it comes down to a matter of taste.

Who is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 4th Gen best suited for?

The Scarlett 2i2 4th Gen is a stellar option that virtually everybody can benefit from, whether you’re a novice just starting out, or a professional looking for a compact solution for mobile recording.

Buy Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 4th Gen at: SweetwaterAmazon

Video demo

You can also watch this video by my colleague Fabio, where he puts the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 4th Gen audio interface to the test.

Recent updates

  • Feb 29, 2024: Updated text for accuracy. Minor changes in structure.
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