Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen Review

In the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd gen review, we look at the third edition of the small audio interface. It seems to be recommended for beginners and mobile use due to its two inputs and outputs and its attractive price.

focusrite scarlett 2i2 3rd gen review

Focusrite has improved some details in the popular USB audio interfaces in the third generation and preamps the AIR function, which was previously reserved for the more expensive Clarett series. The compact dimensions and the quality and resolution of the audio interface make this the perfect companion for beginners. Also for everyone who is already using another model in the studio.

9.2Expert Score
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen Rating

Small, portable and impressive in terms of sound.

Good Points
  • Air function
  • Build quality
  • Direct monitoring
  • Very good pre-investor
  • Very good sound quality
Bad Points
  • No loopback

What is it?

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd gen is a USB audio interface that is designed to be very compact and mobile. It receives its power via the USB connection, which is connect the audio interface via USB-C. The manufacturer includes a cable from USB-C to USB-A (standard) in the scope of delivery. The audio interface is includes with two inputs and just as many outputs. 

You can use the inputs for feeding microphones, instruments (guitar/bass), or feeding players with line levels. It can switch a 48V phantom power for the two microphone inputs, on or off for both simultaneously.

This third-generation audio interface is includes a switchable Air mode per-channel. Which is reproduce the eponymous effect on Focusrite’s in-house ISA preamps.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen Review

USB audio interface two inputs (instrument/line) 2 outputs (balanced jack outputs) Converter with 24-bit and 192kHz resolution. Air mode is similar to ISA preamps USB connector Type-C USB-C to USB-A cable.

Finally, the scope of delivery also includes the music programs or effects Ableton Live Lite, Pro Tools First, Focusrite Red 2 & Red 3 Plugin Suite. Softube Time & Tone Bundle and a software instrument from XLN Audio Addictive Keys of your choice as a download via the manufacturer’s website.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen key features at a glance

  • 2-channel USB audio interface
  • 24 bit / up to 192 kHz
  • 1 or 2 Scarlett microphone preamps
  • +48 V phantom power
  • Switchable Air function
  • Two balanced line outputs
  • Stereo headphone output
  • USB Type-C connection
  • USB bus-powered
  • Plug-in bundle (VST/AU/AAX)

First Impression

Ah, how you can tell time has moved on. I connect the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd gen) to my iMac, and right away, Big Brother Google Chrome shows up. Apparently, my browser has recognized that I have connected a new audio interface and asked me to switch to the manufacturer’s site.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen front side

And also, the manufacturer knows which time has struck. Of course, he wants to have my email address for better support. At least he offers a grey link at the bottom of the page, where I can download the software.

What changes in the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd gen

Visually, very little has changed at first glance. The front remains black, and the case comes in the manufacturer’s typical red. The differences are in the details. The buttons are no longer illuminated, but the corresponding lettering is now decorated with LEDs.

The knobs have also been replaced with flat versions with ribbing, which looks more elegant. The knobs are all uniformly dark, and the knob for the headphones has a ribbing, which is missing from the two for the preamps.

Under the hood

There have also been changes under the hood. While the dynamic range of the second generation was 108 dB, the third generation makes it to a whopping 110 dB – promising less noise in the recordings. The value also accompanies the Total Harmonic Distortion (THD), which was almost halved and excellent level. 

And then it’s worth mentioning that the preamps deliver more power. They can now amplify incoming audio signals up to 56dB. That’s enough for most applications, but most importantly, it’s an improvement from the old value of +50dB.

Direct Monitoring

There has been an additional small change in Direct Monitoring. You can now switch it on and off and listen to it in mono or stereo. The three circles above the button provide visual feedback. Everything remains dark if the feature is turned off and you are monitoring via your DAW with latency. 

If you switch on Direct Monitoring, it first goes into a mono mode (one circle). Another press of the button switches monitoring to stereo, and the two stereo circuits light up. Another push turns Direct Monitoring off again.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Direct Monitoring

Air Function – new in Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd gen

All models of the new generation the manufacturer gave the new function Air, which had recently already found its way into the Clarett series. This function emulates a feature of the ISA series, where the high mids are slightly boosted. A sound characteristic that many find very pleasant is to give the recordings a little more “air.”

Enjoying the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd gen review? You can also read the Focusrite Scarlett Solo Gen 3 Review: Does it worth $115?

Sound of the Scarlett 2i2

According to the manufacturer, the preamps are supposed to be even better than in the predecessor. Unfortunately, I can’t test this comparison since I only have the current audio interface here. What I can say, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 comes with two excellent inputs that have virtually no noise. My recordings are very clean and detailed.

focusrite 2i2 3rd-gen app control

It’s only when I’m using near full gain that a slight hiss at around -60dB becomes visible to me. That is more than enough for any application. Also, the preamps handle instruments well, even if they are actively designed and provide a lot of output.

The Air feature is subtly audible but doesn’t work too obviously. I almost couldn’t make it out, and the boost was more audible. But never obtrusive.

Large Volume Control and Direct Monitoring

A large knob on the front panel adjusts the output volume, which is handy in a desktop studio with active monitor boxes and can eliminate the need for a separate monitor controller. A button lets you activate Direct Monitoring, which is the direct routing of the input signal to the outputs without latency delay by the DAW.

With the Scarlett 2i2, you also have the choice of whether the two inputs are distributed as a stereo signal on the left. And right in the stereo panorama or are mixed together to form a centered mono signal (which makes sense.

If you are recording vocals and an instrument, for example). The front panel is rounded off by the headphone output, with a separate volume control only on the Scarlett 2i2.

The rear ports are identical on both models. The USB-C port is located here, which also supplies the interface with power. The audio signal is picked up via two jack outputs and forwarded to an amplifier, mixer, or monitor speakers. 

Both input and output jacks are balanced, so noise can be prevented when using suitable cables. Measuring approximately 14 x 4 x 9 (the 2i2 model is slightly larger) and weighing less than a kilogram, the Scarletts will fit in any gig bag, making them well suited for live performance or jamming on the road.

Latency on the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd gen

Roundtrip latency on the new Focusrite 2i2 is 7ms – so in and out. This is an excellent value for an audio interface in this price range and will suit any beginner. I was able to work with it stably in both Cubase 10 and Reaper, without any clicks or other dropouts. 

As I said, for the price, this is a top performance. In comparison: With my Universal Audio Apollo Twin, I get a roundtrip of 4ms over Thunderbolt.

Easy installation

Under the hood, the dynamic range and signal-to-noise ratio have been improved, making the 3rd generation sound even a better than its predecessor. The new Quickstart process makes it easier for beginners and less tech-savvy musicians to get started. 

The interactive software guides you step-by-step through the proper setup of the interface. This even includes the installation of the high-quality software package with full plug-in versions of the in-house EQ Red2. And compressor Red3 and the equally sonically convincing Softube Time and Tone Bundle with reverb, multiband compressor, and saturation.

After successful installation, the interface performs stably and unobtrusively, just like the previous models.

Conclusion on the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd gen review

I can see why the manufacturer can pin the label “best-selling audio interface” on itself. For the price asked, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd gen) offers a lot of performance to make the beginner and advanced user happy. The sound quality of the preamps and converters is worth listening to, even beyond the price range. 

The inherent noise is barely audible. The headphone amplifier still delivers a decent level despite the power supply via USB and also sounds good. Since the first version, the light rings around the inputs have been a great feature, showing you immediately if you are starting the preamps too loud.

The only thing missing for perfection would have been a loopback function, which would have allowed you as a podcaster to record any combination of stereo recording from hardware or music software. However, this is reserved for the top models from this series. However, given the low price, I’m not afraid to give it an excellent rating in the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd gen review. Well done.

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