Sun. Dec 10th, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 4 is a high-quality audio interface with improved converters and useful features like auto-gain, making it a great pick for solo artists or content creators.
  • The interface has a solid build quality with a familiar red design, and the front panel controls are easy to use for adjusting input levels, enabling phantom power, and engaging Air modes.
  • However, the lack of MIDI ports and limited monitor mixing options may be drawbacks for musicians using electronic instruments or working with other people. Consider other options like the Universal Audio Volt 2 before deciding.

While its roots may lie in the storied Neve brand, Focusrite has been better known for its solid, affordable audio interfaces for years. The company has revamped its popular Scarlett line, and the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 4 seems to be the perfect option for the solo artist or aspiring podcaster.

The look has changed slightly from the previous generation, but it’s the newer features that make the interface more interesting. In addition to the quality preamps and ease of use Focusrite interfaces are known for, the newer model has improved analog to digital converters and auto-gain to make getting the perfect recording even easier.

While Focusrite has been a major contender in the entry-level audio interface game for years, other companies have entered the fray as well. Does the new and improved 2i2 stand up to offerings from Universal Audio and others? While the answer is complicated, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is still one of the best audio interfaces for solo artists or content creators.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

The fourth-generation Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 adds high-quality converters and easy to use features like auto-gain to an already-useful interface. If you don’t need the extra features some other interfaces provide, the sonics make this a great pick.


Audio Interface


PC, Mac

Phone Output

XLR and 1/4-inch stereo inputs, stereo 1/4-inch outputs


  • Better sounding than ever
  • Auto-gain and Clip Safe make recording easy
  • Front panel controls are useful
  • Powerful, good-sounding headphone amplifier
  • Competitors are catching up quickly

  • No MIDI connectivity
  • More for musicians than podcasters and content creators

Design and Build Quality

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 4 front knobs powered off
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek

For years now, Focusrite has built its brand around the color red, from its flagship Red and RedNet brands aimed at high-end studio use to its most affordable lines. As the name and photos imply, this hasn’t changed for the Scarlett 2i2 Gen 4.

While I haven’t used previous 2i2 models, I’ve owned and used the Scarlett Solo, as well as the company’s slightly higher-end Clarett 4Pre and Claret 8Pre interfaces. You’ll find more plastic used on the Scarlett 2i2, but the overall feel of the interface is still solid and sturdy.

One thing you may not be used to coming from other interfaces is the new endless rotary encoder knobs for the two mic/line inputs. Previously, these were standard knobs, but thanks to Focusrite’s new Auto-Gain feature, it makes sense that the response of these knobs is now controlled by the software, rather than restrained by hardware restrictions.

Simple Connectivity For Your Home Studio

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 4 back panel
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek

If you’re used to Focusrite’s older Scarlett 2i2 models, the front panel of the newer model may look strange. While previous models had a combination XLR/1/4-inch TRS jack on the front, now it’s simply a pair of TRS connectors. Don’t worry, there is still a pair of XLR inputs, but they’re now located on the back. These join the stereo output pair of 1/4-inch TRS jacks that you’ll find on every Scarlett 2i2 model.

The decision to move from a two-jack to a four-jack design seems puzzling at first, but it allowed Focusrite to place more controls on the front of the unit. Compared to adjusting some of these parameters in software, the newer model is much easier to tweak on the fly than older models. Instead of switching between line or instrument modes via software like some older Focusrite models, this is all easily adjustable via the front.

One odd decision is the lack of MIDI ports on the back of the interface. These may not matter for podcasters or other content creators, but the lack of these connectors makes using electronic instruments more complicated than it has to be. Keeping the combination jacks on the front would have made plenty of room for MIDI connectors on the back, as you’ll find on competitors like the Universal Audio Volt 2.

Recording With the Scarlet 2i2 Gen 4

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 4 plugged into laptop
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek

One of the major upgrades in this generation of Focusrite’s Scarlett interface is the converters, which convert analog signals to digital as well as the other way around. While the converters were never bad, this new generation of interfaces uses converters based on Focusrite’s studio-grade RedNet audio interfaces.

These converters operate up to 24-bit / 96kHz and deliver up to 120dB of dynamic range. This is certainly more than enough resolution for the artist working from home, and easily enough for those using the interface for streaming, podcasting, or other content creation.

Unlike even some pricier Focusrite interfaces, the vast majority of the controls are available on the front panel. You can adjust gain levels per input, as well as enable phantom power, direct monitoring, and engage the Air modes on either channel, all without reliving into the software.

Unlike the previous line of Scarlett interfaces, the fourth generation includes two Air modes. The first is similar to Focusrite’s earlier Air modes: it enables a slight bump in higher frequencies to add presence to sources like vocals. The second Air mode works similarly but adds some harmonic saturation, similar to the “vintage” emulation modes on some other interfaces, like the Universal Audio Volt 2.

The fourth-generation Scarlett interfaces also include Auto-Gain, a feature that automatically adjusts input levels to optimal levels for recording. Similarly, the new Clip Safe feature will automatically turn down inputs to avoid distorting your audio signal.

Playback and Monitoring

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 4 front panel
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek

The playback section of the Scarlett 2i2 is fairly simple. There is no complex routing here, just a pair of speaker outputs and a headphone jack on the front. The speaker outputs use 1/4-inch connectors, ideal for studio monitors, but you can convert to RCA or even stripped wire if necessary. Just remember this is a passive interface, so you’ll need an amplifier or powered speakers.

The built-in headphone amp deserves a shout-out. I’ve come to expect this from my Focusrite Clarett 8Pre, but it’s refreshing to see a more budget-priced audio interface capable of easily powering the Sennheiser HD650 headphones. Not only was there plenty of volume on tap, but the bass and especially high-frequency response seemed better than I would have expected.

Thanks to the front panel button, you can enable direct monitoring, which passes your input signal directly through to your headphones or speakers. On the other hand, trying to adjust any other aspect of the monitor mix is an exercise in frustration.

Bundled Software: Everything You Need to Make Music

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 4 powered on
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek

Unlike the Focusrite Vocaster One, the Scarlett 2i2 comes with a suite of software that makes it clear the company is aiming this at musicians, producers, and anyone interested in making music. The company includes Ableton Live Lite—an introductory version of the popular digital audio workstation (DAW)—and a bundle of music software it calls the Hitmaker Expansion.

Much of the included software focuses on vocals, perfect for the musician or producer who is just getting started. The expansion includes Antares Auto-Tune Access, an easy-to-use vocal tuner that isn’t included with any other interface. You also get Focusrite’s Red 2 & 3 Plug-in Suite. These may seem like a fairly basic compressor and equalizer, but I’ve used both of them over the years, and like them enough that I still turn to each of them despite having other, much pricier options available.

If you’re a producer or a one-person band, the other inclusions are perfect for you. Native Instruments’ Massive software synth is included, and while it’s slightly long in the tooth these days, Massive has been used on countless hits. This is backed up by XLN Audio’s Addictive Keys and Addictive Drums, which offer all you need to fill out your productions.

Should You Buy the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2?

Focusrite’s Scarlett line has never sounded bad, even if you compare the products to more expensive Focusrite products. This model continues that trend with impressive sound, regardless of price. Compared to previous models, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 4 seems less suited to podcasts, but this is likely because Focusrite has a dedicated podcasting line in its Vocaster series.

While the fourth-generation Scarlett 2i2 is a marked improvement and a great interface overall, it’s not without issues. The lack of MIDI support makes this a tough recommendation for anyone using synthesizers, drum machines, or other instruments that require tight synchronization to sound their best. The monitor mixing options are effectively nonexistent as well, which makes working with more than one person more difficult.

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 keeps everything that makes it a great audio interface, and the company doesn’t seem to be slowing down. That said, there’s plenty of competition out there, like the Universal Audio Volt 2, so be sure to consider your use case and explore your options before deciding on the right interface for you.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

The fourth-generation Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 adds high-quality converters and easy to use features like auto-gain to an already-useful interface. If you don’t need the extra features some other interfaces provide, the sonics make this a great pick.

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By John P.

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