Transcript: Scarlett 2i4 Video Review


Posted to YouTube Feb 18th, 2014

Hello friends!  David here again by popular demand I've been able to get a 2i4 for today's review.

I have heard the cries from the multitudes, the voices of faithful basic home recording studio fans around the world.

So crack open a cold one, sit back, and enjoy this look at the Scarlett 2i4 audio interface from Focusrite.

Inside the Box

Focusrite keeps it real simple with this package.

In addition to the unit itself, we have a 3 foot USB cable, some instructions on getting started, and finally a card with info on how to register your product and download drivers and software.

The included software in this package is Ableton Live Lite 9 and there's also the Scarlett plug-in suite and Novation Bass Station included.

Gone are the days of including a physical CD in the packaging and all I can say is... it's about time!

It's just really one more thing to lose track of isn't it?

Everything is very nicely laid out online at www.focusright.com which is really where you should go to get the drivers even if the CD was included.

What do you do if you don't have Internet access?  How are you even watching this review?!?

Don't throw me off... I'm trying to do something here!

First Impression

Just like the 2i2 this unit has the signature Scarlett aluminum casing which looks fantastic.

It's also very lightweight and slim so this would be a good one to pack up and travel with if you choose.

There are 2 preeamps one for each channel.  

They are combo jacks that can accept either a quarter inch instrument or XLR plug.

If you do plug in an XLR cable it'll automatically configure itself for a mic level signal.

This selector switch toggles between line and instrument level.

Instrument level, for example, might be from a passive guitar pickup such as most electric guitars.

Line level is a much stronger signal and could be from active pickups or a powered device such as a digital synthesizer. 

In fact, the signal could be so strong as to overdrive the preamps even with the gain set all the way down.

If this is the case then you'll be glad to know this unit has an attenuator pad.


Yes this control will knock down the signal strength by 10 dB, or in other words, to about an eighth of the original incoming signal, but don't expect the perceived loudness to drop 8 times because our ears perceive loudness on the same logarithmic scale that decibels use.

But all that really matters is that it knocks down the signal enough to be used efficiently by your preamps.

Getting back to it, the gain controls are here for each input and just like before are very nice and smooth.

They also have the added bonus of this halo signal indicator and these are the same as on the 2i2 and just like before they come in lovely shades of red and green that I can't see because of my colorblindness, but they are an innovative take on the clipping indicator.

Moving across the front panel we have 48V Phantom power.

Now some people have been quite vocal about their dislike of my jokes regarding Phantom power.  And to you I say this...

Don't take it out on the when YOU'RE the one scared of ghosts.

I won't be held responsible if you're unit contains 100% real phantoms.

Take it up with Focusrite's quality control department.  Leave me out of it.

For the rest of you know that this control toggles your power supply needed for a condensing microphone and also this control will send power to both channels at once.

The pads and Phantom power illuminate when they're active so you can tell when they're engaged.

The direct monitor dial here allows you to control what you hear in your monitors.

All the way to the left and the signal comes unprocessed directly from your inputs with no latency, while all the way to the right the signal comes processed from your computer.

This processing may involve software-based effects such as compressors, EQ, and reverb but also at the cost of time that it takes to get through your system.

For some reason they've chosen a different knob on these final controls which isn't as smooth but I wish these were the same because the others are really nice.

The bigger one is the main output level which controls the main left and right output level on the back of the unit, which I'll show you in a moment.

This selector here allows you to choose how you want to monitor your inputs.

Stereo Mode will send input one the left channel and input two to the right channel.

Mono Mode with a mono input, such as a microphone or a single guitar, will appear equally in both left and right channels.

Finally, the headphone level controls the output of this guy here and the source selector between one and two, which are the main outputs, and three and four, which are additional outputs, that can have tracks routed to them via software. 

You can select which ones you want to monitor with the headphones with that control.

Plugging in the headphones does not disable the main outs, but because the headphones and mains have their own independent levels you can turn off whichever one you aren't using by dialing it all the way down to zero.

That does it for the front now it's time to check out the backside.

Going from left to right this USB connection is the power supply and data link to your computer.

MIDI in and out ports are for your keyboard, drum machine, or other MIDI device.

Line outputs - there's 2 left right pairs of outputs that are unbalanced RCA jacks these can be used for a variety of things including, for those of you DJs out there, your external mixer.

The quarter inch main outs go to your studio monitors.

Remember that at this point of the signal chain this is an analog audio signal and does not provide any power so your monitors will need to be powered by an amp or have a built-in active power supply.

I prefer the second one because it's much simpler and is impossible to screw up.

Software Demo

Ok so let's have a look at the included software which is Ableton Live Lite 9 and the first thing I wanted to point out was this panel here off to the side has some really great tutorials that step you through how to get started and I can say that with confidence because this is how I did the project that I'm about to show you.

I don't have a whole lot of experience with this myself but these instructions are really clear and the nice thing is that because it's nested here on the side you can go over here and do it without having to flip back and forth between multiple windows so that's really useful.

I'm going to switch views to my project and this basically shows the tracks that I've created.

You can see I started here at the top with the drums and moved to the guitar which is split into two halves.

One is miked directly and the other one is plugged directly into the interface so I use a microphone for this and this goes directly in with no DI box put on the instrument mode on the preamp.

So I have my two options here I can go one or two so with one performance I was able to get 2 very different sounds that I was able to later use the level adjustment here and the pan adjustment here.

So you can do a lot once you have the raw material it's very easy to tweak it a little bit.

And then finally moving down, the vocals here and then the harmonies here you can see that I still have this track enabled which is why can see my voice here on the level meter.

Getting started is really simple, the instructions are nice but it doesn't really matter if it's tough to get configured so you see I went preferences and all I want to do is just verify, and this is already set up because I've been using it, but that's all you really have to check and everything else is good on the default so let's see what I was able to do here.

::Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes by Paul Simon::

So that is a little Paul Simons it's one of my favorites.

I don't get a whole lot of opportunities anymore to actually do much recording so this was kind of fun for me to put this together but what I want to show people is that you don't need anything else than what's included in the box and the instructions that they provide.

And for those of you who are looking to get into the DJ side of things this is called the Arrangement View but there's another part of Ableton which is the Session View so if you're into that kind of stuff like the DJing and creating that kind of music this is a really good tool.

Now I'll be honest I don't really know much about that, but once again there are some great walk-throughs so you can get in here and they'll step you through it and so that's a quick look at the Live Lite 9.

Now let's wrap up the review.

The Verdict

The Scarlett 2i4 just like its smaller cousin the 2i2 is a great little unit at a great price for a beginner.

The latency on my system was 35 ms using the Focusrite drivers and 11 ms with ASIO4ALL drivers.

I didn't use any effects in my demo so it didn't really matter to me but if you are using these effects in real-time versus applying them after your recording, which is what I tend to do, then you will require more resources from your computer.

At a certain point this will cause errors clicks and dropouts at which point you'll need to increase your buffer size.

This means higher latency and is a natural part of digital recording so don't panic.

There are ways around it, and I'm gonna try to do a video specifically about latency, but the point is that there are controls available, and this unit has them, that allow you to manage that trade-off because each user system is unique as is each users acceptable threshold for their recording system.

The preamps on this unit have a good amount of pop and are clear and quiet.

And I feel like I'm always asked about this and my answer is always the same.

This unit sounds great.  They all sound great.

You know which ones sound terrible?  The ones that aren't for sale -> because they wouldn't sell -> because they sound terrible.

So don't expect miracles from $200 gear but also be confident that there's not one special one that sounds better than the others.

They're all very good and this one is no exception.

The inputs and outputs are all clearly labeled and can be seen very easily without any problems and a lot of the indicators light up or have other status lights so you can monitor your signals on the unit itself.

So... what is the verdict?

This unit improves upon some of the shortcomings that I had found with the 2i2 but with an added cost.

Some of these updates won't matter depending on how you choose to use this unit but the combination of Ableton Live, the inclusion of MIDI, and the added outputs make this a great option if DJing is part of your wish list then you're gonna want to give this a serious look.

And just one more thing on Live the more I use it the more I like it.

Even though it's really different than most of the recording software I've used it really has a clean look and is a very powerful tool.

The included version does have limitations on the number of tracks you can have in your project, or your set list, and also includes the most basic effects but it's enough to get your feet wet so you can decide if you want to make a bigger investment in an upgrade.

And that wraps up another review.  Please subscribe to the channel and check me out on Facebook and of course at basic-home-recording-studio.com if you have any requests send them my way via Facebook that's the best way to get a hold of me.

My name is David in as always thank you for watching.

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