Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 Buyers Guide Review (March 2021)
Focusrite Scarlett 2i4
- ✔ Includes Pro Tools
- ✔ Compatible with Mac OS X 10.10 and higher
- ✔ Two natural-sounding Scarlett mic preamps
- ✔ Class-leading conversion and sample rates
Focusrite continued their market dominance with the 2nd generation Scarlett series of audio interfaces, which included the immensely popular Scarlett 2i4. The company even say it is, “The best selling USB audio interface in the world”.
From the desktop 2i4 and Solo units to the rackmountable 18i20, with eight built-in mic preamps and ADAT digital expandability, there are Scarlett interfaces to suit most studios. In fact, they claim that since its launch in 2011, the 2i4 has become the best-selling USB audio interface in the world. Five years is a long time in music technology, however, and the company have now ‘refreshed’ their range of USB interfaces to reflect new developments and changing priorities.
With its Saffire range of interfaces remaining popular but now a well-established brand, it’s perhaps no surprise that a new, even more compact range has been released, by the name of Scarlett. Featuring bold styling, tank-like construction and, of course, the fabled preamps, the question is, does it offer enough to pique the interest and requirements of a new audio interface generation?
The Focusrite Scarlett is a range of audio interfaces that cover pretty much every scenario. But in the budget end the 2i4 gives a decent step up from the Native Instruments Audio 2. The 2i4, as with the Audio 2, has two pre-amped microphone inputs that can also support guitars or line level. There’s a direct monitoring switch and a nice big volume knob.eadphones and on the back, you get jack outputs and RCA phonos for different output options. You have pad switches on the inputs for some instant gain reduction. A balancing knob for monitoring and a headphone output where you can choose which outputs you are listening to. The LED monitoring is shown as a ring around the gain knobs which is quite nice, although less precise than the 5 segments on the Audio 2. The MIDI In/Out ports are very useful if you have external MIDI gear.
Welcome as all these hardware tweaks are, it’s Focusrite’s software engineers who have delivered the headline improvements in these second-generation Scarletts. However, the fruits of their work vary depending on which model you have. The smaller, bus-powered models, including the 2i4, have no control panel software of their own. On Mac OS, the Scarletts use Apple’s class-compliant driver, as do many other rival interfaces; but, interestingly, the company offer an optional utility which can reduce its operating audio delay.
All in all, this interface is exactly what you’d expect from Focsurite – a great-sounding, well-designed interface that packs plenty of flexibility into its slender frame. A lack of digital I/O may prove a stumbling block for some but for such a modest price, this interface deserves to sell by the truckload.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 2nd Gen continues the legacy of its predecessor with its high ratings and many recommendations. Commendations point to its sound quality as its best feature, while others point to its reliability as another strong point. Be it for condenser or dynamic mics, the 2i4 got a lot of kudos from satisfied users, which include singers, instrumentalists, podcasters, voice over actors and more. Its elegant appeal also got a lot of thumbs up, with many specifically referring to its distinct red color and halo lights.
The solid build, clear sound, and low latency make the 2nd gen 2i4 a good option for an inexpensive entry-level audio interface. Great for recording guitars and vocals, especially for beginners. The main downside with the 2i4 is the limited amount of inputs and outputs. Other similarly-priced brands like the Steinberg UR22MII and PreSonus AudioBox iTwo add MIDI in and outs and iPad support, but most MIDI equipment support USB anyway so it’s not a big advantage unless you have a specific desire for it.
It comes in a rugged red box with all the controls on the front rather than having some on the top like the Audio 2. You get a neat bundle of software including some exclusive plugins, Ableton Live Lite, and Pro Tools First. Being a consistent top selling audio interface for many years, the Scarlett 2i4 2nd Gen is easy to recommend. Especially for those who want good sound quality mixed with eye candies.