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Review: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB2 audio interface

The Scarlett 2i2 caught my attention right away. Compact, striking appearance and simple layout. I have recommended the interface to dozens of people.
While I appreciate the extra i/o my TC Impact Twin provides, its just too big and bulky for a mobile interface. At a third of the size of the Impact, and less than half the cost, the 2i2 jumped to the top of my gear wish list, and made the purchase last week.

This will be a fairly quick review, sort of a ‘first impressions’ look at the interface as I’ve only had it for a few days, but I don’t want to put off writing something about it.


  • 2 balanced inputs – front panel combo jacks – mic/line/instrument
  • 2 balanced outputs with monitor level control – rear panel TRS
  • headphone output with volume control
  • +10 to +55dB Gain range for preamps
  • Halo signal and overload metering on inputs
  • phantom power button
  • switchable line/input for each input
  • Direct Monitor switch
  • USB2
  • 96kHz max sample rate
  • Red anodized aluminum unibody case
  • includes:
    • USB cable
    • Scarlett plugin suite (EQ, Compressor, Gate, Reverb)

Appearance and construction

The 2i2 is definitely eye catching with the red anodyzed aluminum case. The feel is very solid, it’s not heavy but has just enough weight to it to not feel like a toy. The halo metering around the gain knobs  is very cool, space saving and effective. The large monitor knob is nice but plastic, as with the headphone knob and the switches. The gain knobs are rubberized and feel better. Not a big deal though.

Sound Quality

The Scarlett has a very clean, detailed sound, and with plenty of gain. Usually interface preamps at this price point are very weak or noisy, that’s not the case here at all. I haven’t tested scientifically but with my usual podcasting mic direct into the 2i2, there’s much less noise. Hmm, maybe my usual (and expensive) preamp is broken.

With the instrument inputs we come to the first potential problem. With my Telecaster it’s pretty easy to clip the preamp, not clipping constantly but too much for passive pickups. With higher output guitars this would be even more of an issue, possibly being completely unusable with active guitars. Switching the mode to line in indeed drops the gain but also the impedance and really changes the tonality and response for the worse.

The solution to this problem would be to use a separate DI with a pad and go into the mic preamp.

Headphone output adds no noticeable noise and is more than loud enough to cause discomfort or pain.


I haven’t had any problems with it yet on OSX Lion. The day I got it I was playing guitar through it at 32 sample buffer for a couple hours without any clicks or dropouts. I saw some complaints on Amazon about driver issues but those were from users on XP, likely with old computers too.

Scarlett plugin suite

For some reason I couldn’t get the VST versions to work in Reaper. I could see them in the folder but they weren’t found. I tried the AU versions fairly quickly and can’t say they’re going to be much use to anyone. They look really nice, of course they do, White Tie did the GUIs. But in my opinion they don’t offer anything special or really any better than what comes with most DAWs. I will probably uninstall them.


For $150 I was expecting to be disappointed with the sound. This one far exceeds the quality of other compact interfaces in the price range, or double, like the original Presonus Audiobox or Mbox 2 or any compact M-Audio interface. A few episodes ago on the podcast, the topic was audio interfaces and this was one of my recommendations. Having made the investment I still stand by that, it’s excellent. It’s really just the gain range of the Hi-Z inputs that I can complain about, though it feels silly to complain about having TOO MUCH gain on a preamp.

Score 9/10


  1. Frank Nitsch
    Frank Nitsch March 30, 2012

    Hi Jon,

    the Scarlett got my attention after you mentioned it on the HRS podcast recently. The severity of the issue with the instrument input surely depends on the individual usage pattern. I would want to use it and what you describe would be sort of a showstopper for me. 🙁

    I have experienced something similar with an active DI box I bought for my passive instruments. Active ones should be fine on the line input most times, right? But for passive pickups I wanted to make sure to have a high impedance input (1 MOhms). But then I found out that the signal at the DI box output was too hot for my audio interface’s mic input. Using the 20 dB pad on the DI box? Better not! Why? Well, my manual says that the input impedance is 1 MOhms without the pad, but drops to 47 kOhms with the pad engaged. As far as I know many DI boxes behave like that. I decided to stay away from the pad switch, but either connect such hot DI signals right to a line input of my interface (since it is an active DI box, there’s no problem with the line level input impedance) or to use some sort of attenuation AFTER the DI box. I built an XLR cable with built-in voltage divider (-10 dB). This does the job and I don’t need to worry about low input impedance for my passive instruments. Does that make sense?

    Thanx for the quick review and take care


    • Jon
      Jon March 30, 2012

      Hi Frank
      Yes, that makes sense. a pad after the DI would probably not the change the impedance in such a detrimental way. Less tone suck. I don’t think it’s a matter of just turning the level down on the guitar either.

      My telecaster clips the Hi-Z in on this one while I need to turn my Profire 2626 up to 12oclock for about the same level.

      • Frank Nitsch
        Frank Nitsch March 30, 2012

        Hi Jon,

        I try to avoid turning down the volume knob on my guitars for recording. I like to avoid any influence on the signal – even the volume pot. If I was in a situation, where only a very slight amount of volume reduction on the instrument would help (and I had no better choice), I would do it. But the more you turn down the volume, the weaker the sound will be in my opinion.
        If the difference between the Profire and the Scarlett is that huge I would call it a design flaw. My pickup outputs vary from medium to hot I would say. I’m pretty sure to encounter the same problem as you did. My attenuator cable wouldn’t even help. Looks like you are again more flexible by using dedicated components for each job (like an active DI box as DI instrument input)… Do you have any experience with different active DI boxes? In reviews and tests I’ve often seen that it might not be worth it to spend $150 for them.

        Take care

        Frank (also using Reaper and being a big fan of it…)

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