Transcript: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Video Review


Posted to YouTube June 11th, 2012

Hey what is up!  This is David from basic-home-recording-studio.com.

I hope you're enjoying the site.  If you came onto this video from somewhere else... welcome.

It makes no difference to me how you got here - I'm glad that you're here.

We're going to be talking of course, today about the Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface from Focusrite.

First Impression

Alright so jumping right into it here, the first thing you'll notice is that it is pretty small.

To give you an idea of the scale here's a CD.  That gives you an idea of the scale it also is mostly for me to have this really sweet reflection thing going on here.

That's enough.

But it's great.  It's portable, it's small, it's something you can fit in a laptop bag.

If you have to be exiled from your own apartment because your neighbors are sick and tired of your 2 a.m. recording sessions you can always take it to a friend's house, plug it in there and get their neighbors mad at them.

Or if you keep it at your place it's always great because it doesn't take up a whole lot of desk space.

But it's got a very slick, clean look overall.  The brushed aluminum is very cool - the color is very cool.  The controls feel really nice.  All the controls on the front here have some weight to them.

They don't have any wiggle over the full range of travel.  It's nice.  These guys down here I can't say the same for - they are a little bit flimsy, but that's a bit of a nit-pick I mean what are you gonna do?  You're going to have it in one position or the other. 

The ones that really matter are smooth and overall just a nice look.

So looking a little bit more closely at what we got going on in the front, you see we have 2 mic preamps here that take a combo input.  So what does that mean?

That means we can use either a XLR cable - that's for your direct box output or, primarily, your mic output.

Or the tried and true 1/4" instrument cable, in this case TS.  This will be from you keyboard.  This will be from your guitar FX pedal or your guitar directly.

This is great because you can have some flexibility on how you setup your inputs.

Obviously, if you had just one or the other you'd be a little bit more limited so it's nice to have that flexibility, and when you plug in the XLR input it automatically detects it and puts it in mic level signal mode so that you don't have to worry.

If you're using the 1/4" cable, you're going to have to select which signal strength you're going to be inputting.  

We'll talk about that a little more in a minute.

Moving on we have 48 volt phantom power here that is essential if you're going to be using a condenser mic.

I feel like phantom power is misunderstood sometimes... you know it's not an ACTUAL PHANTOM coming screaming out of the unit.  It's not a ghost or anything like that so you don't need to be scared of it.

It is simply to power the condenser microphone and as a result you're going to want to have this capability on any audio interface that you choose.

So I'm glad we could clear that up with some of you out there.

Moving across we'll finish it up here we have the output of the left and right main outputs control here with the "Monitor" label, and that controls - I'll show you in the back in a minute.

And then the headphones here, so that's the equivalent control for the headphone level.

You can switch this direct monitoring on and off, and I'll also talk about that in a minute.

So everything, I'm just pushing everything to the back and I'm going to keep you guys watching this whole review.

Some lights here on the front, we have the USB light and what that just basically means is that you're connected, it's powered on, it's ready to rock and roll.

And then, you can't see them right now because it's not turned on, but the lights here behind each gain control actually have some lights that light up behind them - behind the ring here you can see where I'm pointing.

They light up green for "signal present" and red for when the signal is clipping.  So quick side note - I am actually color blind to red and green, like 1 in 10 of you guys watching this right now.

So this feature isn't much use to me but luckily you can always use your recording software to also set your levels, which is what I recommend because in the end the software is the truth and if it thinks you're clipping... then you are.

It's kind of like your girlfriend.  Regardless of whether or not you're acutal IN trouble, if she THINKS you're in trouble, or you SHOULD be in trouble... you're in trouble.

Just keep that in mind, you can always use the software meter to adjust your levels for your inputs.

Or for those of you who can see colors, you know, just continue to enjoy that I guess.  So that wraps up the front let's spin this guy around and yeah there's not a whole lot going on back here.

We have USB 2.0 port right here, and then the line outputs left and right.  Those correspond to the control that I mentioned on the front side, the monitor control.  You could hook something else up here, but really this is for your studio monitors if you choose to have those.

Special Features

So that's pretty much it for the basic functionality, now let's talk a little bit about a few of the unique features.

One of them is this line / instrument level selector on the preamps.  I was playing with this a little bit.

The instrument level setting, actually, is pretty hot.

Hot as in a high signal level, not hot as in, "This is a SWEET feature!"

I mean don't get me wrong, I think it is a cool idea to give people the option to plug directly in with their instrument.

What I found is that it just really doesn't work out.  It ends up being, even on the lowest gain setting, it's still a pretty high signal level.

So what I recommend, is what I always recommend, not just for this interface but for any interface.  Get a direct box... these things cost like $30-$40 dollars.

It's something that you're gonna use 100 times, and you'll be glad you have it.  You don't have to buy one that costs $250.  

Here's the one I use.  You can see it's a little bit banged up.  You can see it's a little bit used up, but it works great.  There's not much going on in these things, they're real simple.

Regardless of the fact that this has the line level and instrument level selector I still recommend, as always, using the direct box.

The other big feature is this direct monitoring function.  You know, the same kind of thing - I mean it's alright.  

You can reduce the latency of your recording.  And what does that mean?

Latency is the time that it takes for the signal to do its round trip through your computer and back, through the headphones or your monitors so you can hear what it sounds like.

And this is really only a problem when you are trying to record with a guitar amp effect, a virtual amp, or maybe some reverb or something.

Because what you're going to do is you're going to hear yourself, the dry signal, and then a split second later you're going to hear the processed signal.

So you put it on this direct monitoring mode and you feel real good about yourself because now it goes straight through, but the problem is if you do have any of those effects... now you can't hear them.

So that's no good.  A lot of times that kind of really affects your performance.  You think you're going to have this sweet, overdrive, Marshall, combo, British crunch sound and it's not.

It's just your un-amplified, acoustic version of an unplugged electric guitar, and that's not really gonna do it.

It's a good idea, it's kind of nice I guess if you're doing something acoustic it could be cool.  Overall I think it's just one of those things... it's nice but are you going to use it?

I mean, I personally wouldn't, but it's available for you.

The Verdict

And that's pretty much it as far as the special features.

Obviously this is a real bare bones kind of device, but at the $150 price point I'm pretty impressed with it.

The included software is Ableton Live Lite version 8.  It's also pretty bare bones but if you're just getting started in this hobby it's an excellent way to get your feet wet. 

I went through the little tutorial on there and it's pretty easy to get setup.

Now, I have a lot of experience with my own recording software that I use, which is SONAR, but they're all about the same, the interface is pretty intuitive.

The tutorials are really good, and I was able to record something right away.

Keep that in mind, it's the full package.  You have everything you need here to get going.

$150 bucks - you're not going to do much better than that, and one thing I was pretty impressed with was the quality of the controls, and the overall package is pretty attractive.

In general, if you have any questions about the terms we've been using or audio interfaces in general, check out the website basic-home-recording-studio.com and get your questions answered there.

Send me a note, send me an email, send me a Facebook note, there's lots of different ways - if you have something that you really want to see reviewed, give me a shout and I'll make that happen.

Thanks for listening, otherwise it's just me talking to myself in my room, which is exactly what I'm doing right now...

But at least now YOU'RE hearing it now so it's a little bit better.

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