Probably the most popular interfaces ever made, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and Solo interfaces have gone through 3 iterations over the years.
Whether you’re looking for an upgrade, or buying a new interface, we’ll try to explain all the differences between the 3 generations of Scarlett interfaces as best we can.
Scarlett Solo 1st Gen vs 2nd Gen vs 3rd Gen
|1st Gen||2nd Gen||3rd Gen|
|Max Sample Rate||92 kHz||192kHz||192kHz|
|Max Pre-Amp Gain||46 dB||50 dB||56dB|
|Max Output Level (0dBFS)||15.5 dBu||10 dBu on Bus Power|
16 dBu on Mains power
|Inputs||1 XLR Input with Phantom Power, 1 TRS Line or Instrument Input||1 XLR Input with Phantom Power, 1 TRS Line or Instrument Input||1 XLR Input with Phantom Power and Air, 1 TRS Line or Instrument Input|
|Separate Headphone Volume||❌||✅||❌|
|USB connector||USB 2.0 Type B||USB 2.0 Type B||USB 2.0 Type C|
|Power||Bus-power only||Bus-power and Mains Power||Bus-Power Only|
|Bundled Software||Ableton Live Lite, Scarlett Plug-in Suite, Red 2, Red 3 Plugin suite, Softube Time and Tone bundle, Novation Bass Station,1GB of Loopmasters samples||Ableton Live Lite, Pro Tools First, Eleven lite, Eleven MK2 Amp sim, 11 stompbox effects, Red 2 , Red 3 Plugin suite, Softube Time and Tone bundle.||Ableton Live Lite, Scarlett Plug-in Suite, Red 2, Red 3 Plugin suite, Softube Time and Tone bundle, Focusrite Creative Pack, XLN Audio Addictive Keys, 3-month Splice Sounds subscription.|
What Is The Difference Between 1st Gen, 2nd Gen, & 3rd Gen?
From Aesthetics, to under-the-hood tech and drivers, there have been tons and tons of improvements on the Focusrite Scarlett line of interfaces. Let’s look into the differences of these interfaces, a little more closely.
With each new generation of the Focusrite Scarlett range of interfaces, they get better and better hardware both on the outside and under-the-hood.
The pre-amps that Focusrite are so well-known for, have improved alongside their line of interfaces.
With 3rd gen Pre-amps and converters being unmistakably higher quality and better sounding, than 1st gen and 2nd gen pre-amps, if sound quality is your main concern, go for the 3rd gen.
Sample rate’s have also been increased over the generations, with the 1st gen Scarlett Solo at 92 kHz, which gets bumped up to 192 kHz with the 2nd gen and 3rd gen interfaces.
The Interface drivers have also been improved, leading to lower and lower latency with each new generation, especially between 1st gen and 2nd gen.
There is some backwards compatibility between older models and newer software, but it’s a bit limited and only works to an extent.
Lastly, all specs have been upgraded over the different generations of Focusrite Scarlett interfaces.
From Input Dynamic Range, to output levels and so-on, nearly all quantifiable differences of these interfaces have been in one way or other, improved.
Inputs and Outputs
While there are no differences in number of outputs between models over the years, the actual input and output hardware has been upgraded.
All your Inputs have nicer sounding pre-amps, and with 2nd gen 2i2 and solo interfaces, the Instrument and TRS inputs are balanced, so they produce little-to-no noise.
Lastly, on the 3rd gen Scarlett 2i2 and Solo interfaces, your XLR input has an “Air” setting, which adds a nice edge to your vocals and provides some nice high-end detail.
While all 3 are perfectly capable interfaces, some features make the quality of use that much better.
First of all, boot-time:
The difference between the time it takes to boot up your interface is quite noticeable between the 3 generations.
Especially present in 1st gen interfaces, a long boot up time can be annoying in some situations.
Also, 1st gen interfaces had an issue with their TRS input jacks, where using a guitar with active pickups would completely red-line your audio no matter what settings you use. This has been fixed with the 2nd gen and 3rd gen interfaces
Lastly, 1st gen Focusrite Scarlett Solo interfaces were entirely bus-powered, which in turn means lower dynamic range and output levels across all inputs and outputs.
3rd gen and 2nd gen 2i2 and Solo interfaces can be operated both from bus-power and using a mains power supply, which means this problem can be averted.
Every Generation of Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, Solo and other audio interfaces, have come with a plethora of free software to use as soon as you open the box.
While most of the free offerings you get have remained the same, Focusrite add more and more stuff, with each new generation of interfaces.
- Focusrite Scarlett 1st gen interfaces – include an authorization code for Ableton Live Lite, as well as the Scarlett Plug-in Suite, Red 2 and Red 3 Plugins, Softube Time and Tone bundle, Novation Bass Station and 1GB of Loopmasters samples
- Focusrite Scarlett 2nd gen interfaces – come with Ableton Live Lite, Pro Tools First, Eleven lite, Eleven MK2 Amp sim, and 12 other stompbox effects, as well as Red 2 and 3 Plugins and Softube’s Time and Tone bundle.
- Focusrite Scarlett 3rd gen interfaces – come with the same things as the previous 2 generations, as well as the Focusrite Creative Pack, XLN Audio Addictive Keys, as well as 3-months of a Splice Sounds subscription.
In terms of bundled software, 3rd Gen interfaces have a clear-cut upper hand.
If it’s your first interface, you might not have a DAW yet, so these are always helpful, but less so for more experienced producers.
The addition of XLN Audio’s Addictive Keys and 3 months of Splice Sounds, have even further improved the free software package. Addictive Keys alone starting at a higher price, than the interface itself, is a literal steal.
The look and feel of the interface is probably the one thing, that is quite apparent & been improved. While 1st gen and 2nd gen interfaces looked quite similar, the 3rd gen reworks it with a fresh new look.
From 1st gen to 2nd gen, the aesthetic changes are minimal.
Your large monitor knob has a dial line on it now, and the input gain knobs dial lines are now red. In addition to this, you get a headphone level dial from the 2nd gen onwards.
Lastly, 0 and 10 markers have been added in the 2nd Gen Solo interface for your input gain levels.
When it comes to 3rd Gen Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and Solo interfaces, the look is familiar, yet, entirely new and much sleeker than before.
All of your knobs are now squared off in a metallic black color, with a white line as the pointer. The color level indicators around the input gain knobs are also now worked into the face-plate, which makes them look 100 times better than before.
Everything about the 3rd Gen aesthetics scream quality, while previous generations weren’t as aesthetically cohesive.
If aesthetics is a big consideration for you, get the 3rd gen Solo interface.
Bonus: Focusrite Plugin Collective
A bonus to everyone who owns a Focusrite interface and has activated their product online, is their awesome plugin collective.
This gives you free plugins every few months, and there are some great ones too!
They’ve partnered with a lot of big plugin developers, to be able to bring you the best they can. From iZotope, Accusonus and Eventide, to Flux and Audio Thing, there are quite a few interesting names on the list.
The time that you can redeem these plugins is limited, and you’ll have to keep on top of it, to make the most out of your Focusrite interface. You can also subscribe to a mailing list, which will let you know whenever you can claim new free stuff.
Some previous Free releases on Plugin Collective include Positive Grid, Devastor 2, Reason Lite, Black Rooster Audio and others.
If you already own a 1st gen or 2nd Gen Scarlett 2i2 or Solo interface, and are thinking of upgrading, the 3rd Gen interfaces are a really good option.
With an improved look and feel as well as a noticeably better sound quality, and tons of other upgrades and additions, if you like the Solo format, consider upgrading to Gen 3.
That being said, if you have an older Scarlett model, they are still super usable and awesome little interfaces. Alternatively, if you do decide to upgrade, look into the 4i4 and 8i8 interfaces, which have way more inputs and outputs to use.
Having more than a single TRS input can be quite the god-send, but if you just use your Solo to record one guitar, that’s all you need, in which case, go for gen 3.
No matter if you’re recording guitars, vocals, or just need a headphone amp, an interface is always a useful purchase.
Whether you’re upgrading or looking for your first ever interface, the Focusrite Scarlett line is perfect for you. If you’re just buying a new interface, 3rd Gen Solo and 2i2 interfaces are really awesome, but if you’re on a real budget, buying a used 1st gen or 2nd gen will not be disappointing.
Hopefully we’ve covered the main differences between the 3 generations of Scarlett interfaces well enough for you to make an educated decision on your next audio interface.