Scarlett Solo Vs 2i2

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Focusrite have been providing the recording world with affordable, top-quality audio interfaces for years now.

Their upmarket products are used in countless professional studios. They may have even been used to record some of your favorite albums.

But today, I’m going to be talking about their flagship Scarlett series of revolutionary USB interfaces that have helped new recording artists and producers transform their bedrooms into versatile and functional studio spaces.

You’ve made a wise decision narrowing your search down to the Scarlett series Solo Gen3 and the 2i2 Gen 3.

In this article, I’m going to be discussing what makes them different and whether it’s worth forking out the extra $50 dollars for the 2i2.

The Solo vs 2i2

The Showdown

Power Supply

If you're anything like me, you’re always short on plugs. You’ve got your amplifiers, your studio monitors, your effects power supply, and your mixers taking up all the mains sockets.

Well, it’ll please you to know that both of these shiny red boxes are bus-powered audio interfaces. This means that they draw their power from your computer via USB connection.

Bus-powered interfaces are incredibly convenient and portable, but inferior in some ways to mains powered devices.

USB ports have a limited power supply so the interfaces have to limit their performance specifications slightly.

This normally has a negative effect on the headphone output and the mic current capabilities. That said, if you’re just starting out, you shouldn’t worry too much about this.

Phantom Power

Both devices have phantom power so you’ll be able to use condenser mics and any other bit of gear that has its own electrical system and no power supply.

Outputs

You have three outputs a piece here.

Backplate

Both interfaces have a USB port and the same two ¼ inch stereo outputs making them compatible with most studio monitors. 

Headphone Jacks

The 2i2 has the Solo beat in this category as it has a single headphone jack with a dedicated volume control.

The Solo has the headphone jack, but no dedicated control. This simply means that your headphone volume is defined by your monitor volume.

It’s not really a problem; it just means you’ll have to fix volume levels as you switch from cans to monitor.

Preamps

The Solo and the 2i2 have the same great preamps. The original design has been updated with the patented Focusrite Air system.

This adds an optional brightness to their warm and dynamic sound profile and gives them tonal qualities reminiscent of excellent analog preamps.

The big difference here is that the 2i2 has two preamps and Solo only has one.

This means that both inputs on the Solo are sculpted by a single preamp, so you won’t get as much definition between your inputs as you do with the 2i2.

Recording Quality

I enjoyed the really impressive high res 24-bit, 192 kHz recording potential of both of these interfaces.

Recording through both via a single input, you’ll find they’re alike in quality, making your decision even harder.

Inputs

This and the second preamp is the biggest difference between the two interfaces and largely accounts for the separate price tags.

The solo has one microphone input and one instrument level input. Both the 2i2 inputs can receive mic level signals, balanced line level signals, or instrument level signals.

This makes the 2i2 way more versatile and opens up a lot of doors to neat recording options.

Controls

Both interfaces have an ‘air’ button on their front panel that initiates the boosted high-end function in their preamps.

The only difference being the 2i2 has an extra button to cater for its extra preamp. They also both have the lovely large monitor dial, and the button to trigger the phantom power supply. 

Next comes a slight difference in design. They both have a direct monitoring button, but the 2i2 has the option of listening in mono or stereo as you may be using both inputs simultaneously.

Each line on these interfaces has a dedicated gain control with a really cool perimeter light that turns green if the levels are good and red if you’re clipping.

With the 2i2 your inputs also have a dedicated line level switching button so you can easily set it for recording directly into the interface or via a microphone.

Latency

Both the Solo and the 2i2 are super low-latency interfaces; however, the 2i2 is seen to have fractional less latency than the Solo.

The 2i2 is commonly included on lists of the lowest latency audio interfaces, alongside some of the most expensive options on the market.

The Solo and the 2i2 have direct monitoring that allows you to hear a performance straight through your headphones with an almost imperceptible delay, so although the 2i2 is technically better, you can’t go wrong here.

Low latency is especially important if you plan to use lots of tracks on the same song. If there’s a latency problem your tracks aren’t going to line up.

You can manually shift things around using your DAW but you might not be able to get the tracks to fit perfectly on top of one another.

Included Software

These Focusrite audio interfaces come with the same software bundle, so don’t worry about missing out on anything when you choose between them.

You can expect Ableton Live Lite, which is a great program to get yourself acquainted with the basics of recording software.

You’ll also get a custom Focusrite Pro Tools starter pack if you prefer their format. Installation will also be the exact same process.

Cost

Ultimately I think the price tags on these audio interfaces are very fair. You can expect to find the Solo for around $100.

The 2i2 will set you back roughly an extra $50. The quality you get with the Solo I’d say is unmatched at that cost; however, you’d expect to pay a much higher price for the extra features you get with the 2i2.

A second preamp, a dedicated headphone volume control, slightly lower latency, and two triple-function line inputs seem like they should cost a lot more than the $50 difference.

System Requirements

Both the solo and the 2i2 have the exact same system requirements, so as long as you have mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite, OS X 10.11 El Capitan, or Windows 7 or above, you’ll have no problem powering the interface and running the Scarlett software.

Build Quality

This isn’t really a vs category because they both have the same construction as for as externals go. I simply can’t fault the build quality of these interfaces.

They have the pretty rugged folded aluminum casings stained in that gorgeous signature scarlet red.

They both feel pretty secure and have a nice weight to them. The front and back panels are made of plastic, but it definitely doesn’t look cheap or tacky.

The buttons all have a really nice tactility to them and none of the dials feel loose or poorly assembled. All the ports seem to take cables securely as well so there’s no chance of any sudden record-destroying disconnects.

Portability

The 2i2 is a little larger and slightly heavier than the Solo, as you’d expect, but that’s not to say it isn’t a highly portable device.

You could fit either of these little red recording rascals in your backpack fully boxed and padded, with plenty of room for cables and snacks leftover.

If you’re looking for something as compact and lightweight as possible, and you won’t necessarily need the 2i2 extras, you’re best off going for the Solo.

Verdict

They’re very similar audio interfaces. They have slightly different features but the core quality and performance is pretty much identical.

Bearing this in mind, due to the extra functionality, I think the 2i2 is the better audio interface. But would I choose it over the Solo? At the minute...probably not.

At this point in time, I’m making all my music on my own on one instrument and a bunch of effects. My situation isn’t likely to change any time soon either, so I’d have no reason to fork out for the 2i2.

Which One is Right for You?

Deciding between these two interfaces is really difficult because there is hardly any noticeable difference in quality.

The differences are to do with their functionality. It’d be easy to decide if you knew how you liked to work and had developed your own processes and techniques. You’d simply ask yourself if the 2i2’s extra functions facilitate those processes.

But, as it’s likely you’re taking your first steps into the world of home recording, you don’t really have established practices. You don’t yet know what you want or how you like to work.

I really do think that the extra features you get with the 2i2 are well worth that slightly steeper price tag.

That said, just because it’s a good deal, doesn’t mean you should definitely choose it over the Solo.

If a good deal is the only deciding factor, what’s to stop you thinking the same thing about the 4i4, then the 816. Before you know it you’ll be adding the most expensive interface available to your cart. 

The truth is, a top of the line interface simply isn’t all that essential to creating some really good music. Both of these machines give you all the rudimentary features you’ll need to start your recording career in style.

Verdict

These are very similar audio interfaces. They have slightly different features but the core quality and performance is pretty much identical.

Bearing this in mind, due to the extra functionality, I think the 2i2 is the better audio interface. But would I choose it over the Solo? At the minute...probably not.

At this point in time, I’m making all my music on my own on one instrument and a bunch of effects. My situation isn’t likely to change any time soon either, so I’d have no reason to fork out for the 2i2.

Which One is Right for You?

Deciding between these two interfaces is really difficult because there is hardly any noticeable difference in quality. The differences are to do with their functionality.

It’d be easy to decide if you knew how you liked to work and had developed your own processes and techniques. You’d simply ask yourself if the 2i2’s extra functions facilitate those processes.

But, as it’s likely you’re taking your first steps into the world of home recording, you don’t really have established practices. You don’t yet know what you want or how you like to work.

I really do think that the extra features you get with the 2i2 are well worth that slightly steeper price tag. That said, just because it’s a good deal, doesn’t mean you should definitely choose it over the Solo.

If a good deal is the only deciding factor, what’s to stop you thinking the same thing about the 4i4, then the 816. Before you know it you’ll be adding the most expensive interface available to your cart. 

The truth is, a top of the line interface simply isn’t all that essential to creating some really good music. Both of these machines give you all the rudimentary features you’ll need to start your recording career in style.

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