If you’re a budding audio engineer, a singer-songwriter looking to record your own songs, or a producer looking for a good mobile option, a 2-channel USB interface is a great option. Since there are so many affordable options, I’ll be putting the MOTU M2 vs Scarlett 2i2 by Focusrite, head to head, to see which of these affordable USB interfaces is best.
- 0.1 Compare – MOTU M2 vs Scarlett 2i2
- 0.2 Contrast – MOTU M2 vs Scarlett 2i2
- 0.3 So, which interface should I buy?
- 1 Our pick is the MOTU M2.
- 2 USB Interface Buyers Guide
At around $200, the MOTU M2 and the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 are both good quality, affordable interfaces. I’ve used tons of cheaper interfaces, and the return on your investment is pretty subpar on the ~$100 options. If you’re looking for something with decent preamps, good sounding headphone and monitor outputs, and decent build quality, this is where I’d suggest you start your search.
Compare – MOTU M2 vs Scarlett 2i2
Let’s start with what these interfaces have in common. Firstly, they both have 2 inputs and outputs. Both interfaces have combo jacks, meaning you can plug an XLR (microphone cable) or an instrument cable (like an electric guitar or keyboard) into either input, and both interfaces provide phantom power, meaning you can use dynamic or condenser microphones.
They both have line outputs, allowing you to listen back to your recordings through your speakers. Both the MOTU M2 and the Scarlett 2i2 connect to your computer via USB, making them compatible with practically any modern computer (even the iPad Pro with a dongle). They also both support sample rates from 44.1 to 192kHz.
I find the build quality of both units to be similar, definitely robust enough for typical studio use. They’re both extremely portable, easily fitting into a backpack or road case.
Put simply, these are both affordable, simple to use interfaces that should work with almost any recording setup. If your computer supports USB C, or you have a USB C to USB A adapter, you won’t have any problems plugging them in, opening your recording software, and getting to work!
Contrast – MOTU M2 vs Scarlett 2i2
Here’s what we’re really here for: the differences.
The Scarlett has built in surge protection for inputs and outputs, protecting your hardware from phantom power mishaps. It also has a built in pad button, which reduces the gain of the preamp. This is useful for recording loud sources like a snare drum or electric guitar amp. The Scarlett 2i2 also has an “Air” preamp setting, which is useful for recording vocals.
The Motu M2 has bigger input meters, plus output meters, making it easier to see your gain levels at a glance. This makes it easy to know if your source or output are clipping! The MOTU also has RCA and TRS monitor outputs, while the Scarlett only has TRS monitor outputs. This isn’t a huge deal, since it’s easy to grab the right cables for either.
Overall, I’d have to say that the features category goes to the Scarlett 2i2, but only by a slim margin!
Sound quality and performance
The MOTU has a better noise floor, meaning you can record cleaner sounding recordings (especially useful if you plan on using a mic like the Shure SM7B. However, you may want a Cloudlifter to use quieter mics with either interface).
I slightly prefer the sound of the MOTU M2 preamps. I also am a fan of the MOTU headphone amp. This interface can really drive a mic well, and your monitoring headphones will sound great too.
The MOTU has slightly faster roundtrip latency (2.3ms vs 2.5). This is the time it takes for signal to pass through your interface, into your DAW, and back out to your interface again. Think of it like PING or lag in an online game. Too much latency and it will be impossible to play along with your song while recording. The Focusrite and MOTU both have acceptable latency. I’ve rarely had latency issues with my Scarlett 2i2, but the MOTU’s is slightly faster.
I’d give the MOTU M2 a victory in sound quality and performance!
Currently, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 has a 3 year warranty, while the MOTU’s is 2 years. Both of these are fairly durable units, and I doubt you’ll even need to use your warranty.
So, which interface should I buy?
If you’re torn between the two interfaces, I don’t blame you. While they do have some differences, at the end of the day, they’re a fairly similar product offering.
The MOTU M2 focuses a little more on audio quality, while the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 has a bit more functionality. The Focusrite’s Air setting and built in pad are what I’d consider “nice to have” features. However, at the end of the day, I find that sound quality is the most important factor when picking a piece of studio gear. For that reason…
Our pick is the MOTU M2.
The M2 is a great sounding unit, especially for the price, and the quality headphone amp and big meters push it over the edge for me.
Does that mean you should sell your Focusrite and grab the M2 right away? No. They’re both solid choices, and you can make great records with either one. If you’ve already got a Focusrite Scarlett, I wouldn’t suggest selling it to switch to the M2. You’d be better off keeping it for now, and then saving up for a bigger upgrade down the road.
USB Interface Buyers Guide
When selecting an interface, there are several key factors to look into. There are lots of options for USB interfaces, so let’s break down the key elements of what makes an interface right for you!
How many inputs and outputs do you need? If you’re planning on recording vocals and an acoustic guitar, a 2 channel interface like the Scarlett 2i2 or MOTU M2 should suffice. If you’re looking to record drums or a full band, you’ll need to look for an interface with more inputs!
You’ll also want to make sure that the interface you buy is compatible with the computer you use for recording! The 2i2 and M2 both connect via USB-C, so if you’re using one of the newer MacBooks, it will connect out of the box.
The interface you buy should be compatible with your sound quality needs. If you’re looking to open a professional recording studio, working with commercial clients, you may need to spring for a higher quality interface with better preamps. However, if you’re running a home studio, recording a podcast, or recording voiceovers for YouTube, either of these options will be a great choice. There have been tons of awesome recordings made with the Scarlett 2i2 and MOTU M2.
Portability and build quality
If you’re looking to travel with a mobile recording setup, you want to make sure you’ve got a portable and durable interface. Both of these interfaces can stand up to typical use and maybe a drop or two. These 2 channel interfaces are small enough to keep in a backpack, and they are bus powered, meaning they get their power via the USB device they’re connected to, so you don’t need extra power supplies.
If you consider these important factors, finding an interface that suits your needs isn’t too tricky!
If you’ve picked an interface, and you’re looking to upgrade your mixing headphones, check out this article next! If you’re looking for studio monitors, check out the Yamaha HS5 here!