Most musicians these days have embraced the world of digital audio. If you play instruments or produce music, then you’ve most likely heard of the term “Interface.” These interfaces are what connect us and our computers to the world of music production. A recording interface allows you to connect your instrument or microphone to a computer, and your computer to a set of speakers, converting analog audio signal to digital.
They can range in cost from just $50 all the way up to the cost of a used car. Music producers or musicians who want to record their songs will need one of these in order to start creating. But with hundred of options, which one do you get?
In this article, we will compare two of the most highly recommended budget options, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 vs Focusrite Scarlett Solo. First let’s break down each option, then we’ll take a look at what makes them different.
Table of Contents
Focusrite Scarlett Solo Overview
First up we have the Scarlett Solo. This is the most barebones Focusrite interface you can get on the market today, and it’s one of the most affordable interfaces in the home studio market. The reason being is because there are some key features missing, which we will get to later on. The Solo has one XLR (microphone) input and one 1/4inch (instrument) input, meaning you can record one mic and one instrument at a time.
The Solo is a solid pick for someone looking to get into recording, a solo podcaster who wants to start broadcasting, or someone who just wants to connect their computer to a pair of studio monitors!
Check out this video from Zane Smith to learn a bit more about the Solo:
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Overview
Next is the Scarlett 2i2. Costing a little bit more, this interface is the next step up in the Scarlett line. The 2i2 is one of the most popular interfaces of all time, and it was actually my first ever audio interface way back in 2009! It is very similar to the Solo, but with a few extra features that we’ll get into.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 vs Solo: Differences
The first major difference between the two pieces is that although they both have 2 inputs, they are not built the same. The solo has a standard XLR connector for input 1, and an instrument cable connector for input 2. That means you can only record one vocal and one instrument at a time.
The 2i2 has what’s called a Nuetrik combo jack, meaning you can record any combination of two microphones and instruments. The solo having this drawback is not practical for audio engineers, because many times, you may want to do record two microphones or two instruments at once. This cannot be done on the Solo.
Another notable difference is that the Solo has no dedicated headphone volume knob. The main volume knob affects both your main output and your headphone volume. This can be quite inconvenient when needing to record vocals or acoustic instruments in the same room, because you can’t easily mute the speakers while still playing sounds through the headphones. The only workaround for this would be to either unplug or shut off the monitors while needing to use the headphone output. Otherwise, you would need to purchase some sort of headphone amp or controller, which negates the savings of purchasing the Solo. The 2i2 however, has its own dedicated headphone volume knob, meaning you can control the volume of your speakers and headphones independently.
Lastly, with the Solo, only your one XLR input preamp will allow for the “air” mode which gives an EQ boost to the top end, allowing certain instruments and vocals to really shine. With the 2i2, both of your inputs get this option.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 vs Solo: Similarities
Firstly, the preamps within these devices are the same. That of which are some of the best quality for your buck. Focusrite has been long known for the high quality pre-amps and electronics. Both allow for direct monitoring, which can be useful for purposes of live performance. Both also have 48v capabilities, and have 1 headphone output and 2 main outputs which are primarily meant for monitoring. To connect digitally, they both use USB-C to connect to your computer. Lastly, both include a 3 year factory warranty. The build quality of both are quite similar, especially with the new Generation 3 models. They’re both built well enough to toss into a backpack while on the road with little to no worry of damage.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 vs Solo: Conclusion
Decisions Decisions: So, which one do you get? Well, its a bit of toss up depending on your needs. If you won’t be getting monitors, will only be using headphones, and plan to really record one instrument at a time, then the Solo would be a great option for you. Save those extra bucks and buy some accessories to go with it! This may be the simplest of needs for either a very young beginner musician/ songwriter, or someone who just needs something for super quick demos. It’s also useful for someone who just plans on using the Solo to connect their computer to a nice set of speakers.
However, if you have bigger plans for recording, go with the 2i2. The majority of us who do this music thing grow with it, and as you’ll quickly find with the Solo, its lack of features could end up holding you back. The future proofing that the 2i2 allows is really the smarter decision, and for only a few bucks more, why not go for it? Not only will you be thankful to have dedicated headphone volume, but in the case you come across the need to record two microphones, you’ll be thankful you own the 2i2.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the Scarlett 2i2, check out this post where we compare the 2i2 to the Motu M2 interface!