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Scarlett Solo vs 2i2 – Which Is Best? We Put Both To The Test

So you're in a toss-up between the Scarlett Solo vs 2i2, and can't decide which one suits your music-making process the most. Well, we've had both the Scarlett Solo and the 2i2 & extensively used them for the last 7 years of our producing journey.

I personally bought my solo and 2i2 7 years ago when I started music production and they're both still going strong.

(recently sold my 2i2 as we're going traveling round the world – more on that soon)

Both are fantastic audio interfaces, but in this vs article, we're going to give you the low-down on both, so that, by the end of this article, you'll have a solid decision and understanding of what will suit you the most.

Scarlett Solo vs 2i2 – Which Is Best? (TL;DR Verdict)

The Scarlett 2i2 is better than the solo. You get more inputs, and a separate knob for headphone, and studio monitor volumes. The recording quality and the sound quality are the exact same, but the Solo is cheaper, due to the lower amount of inputs. If you're serious about audio production, you'll want the 2i2.

The solo is more portable than the 2i2, but only by a fraction. You can fit both into a normal-sized rucksack and they will take up barely any space.

Really the only benefit the solo has is that it's more portable. The solo is 14.35 x 9.58 x 4.34 cm whereas the 2i2 is 17.5 x 9.88 x 4.75 cm. As you can see it's a really tiny difference and size doesn't matter too much here.

The price is also a $30 difference between the solo and 2i2. The extra $30 is 100% worth the extra XLR and jack inputs, along with the improved pre-amps.

BUT… if you are traveling and you need to fit weight requirements or make extra space in your bag, the Solo will undeniably help you in this situation.

What Is The Sound Quality Difference on The Scarlett Solo vs 2i2?

Differences At A Glance

TypeUSB Bus PoweredInputsOutputsMonitor Level ControlHeadphone Level ControlMax Sample RateMax Pre-Amp GainMax Output LevelMax Input Level
Scarlett 2i22 (XLR, TRS hybrid port),
Phantom power
2 TRS, LR for monitors,
1 Headphone Jack
192kHz56db15.5dbu22 dbu
Scarlett Solo1 (XLR, TRS hybrid port),
Phantom power
2 TRS, LR for monitors,
1 Headphone Jack
192kHz56db15.5dbu22 dbu

Sample Rates, Loudness & Frequency Response

Scarlett offers the same technical specs across both the Solo and the 2i2. The sample rates go all the way up to 192kHz on both devices, and the maximum output levels are identical too. Additionally, both Scarletts offer the same technical specs for recording instruments, microphones, and listening.

There are differences between 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation editions of the audio interfaces. So, if you're considering getting an older version – this is something to beware of.

However, if you're getting a 3rd generation, Scarlett, when it comes to the Solo vs the 2i2 – you're not going to notice a difference in the sound quality at all. We certainly couldn't… and we've used both interfaces in studio environments, with fully acoustically treated conditions.

Impedance

This is important for those of you that have different ohm-rated headphones. Scarlett's smaller range generally has an extremely low impedance meaning that you won't be able to get the most juice out of headphones that have higher impedance ratings.

If you have a pair of headphones over 80-ohm impedance, then the Scarlett 2i2 or Solo, do not have the power to give you the highest volumes possible in the headphones. To combat this, you may want to purchase headphones where you can supply enough power to get the volume response you want. Or, alternatively, you can purchase a headphone amplifier.

You don't need a headphone amplifier for many cases (even with 80-ohm impedance headphones), and you can just crank the headphone output up. When you're mixing, you shouldn't really be listening very loud anyway.

Source???

We used a set of Beyerdynamic DT770 Pros in our home studio, and they are the 80-ohm version. They are much quieter than our previous pair of headphones, but we just crank the volume a little higher on the Focusrite audio interfaces.

beyerdynamic DT770 Pro headphones
Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro headphones

What About Recording Quality?

Pre-Amps – Are There Any Differences?

Both the 2i2 and the Solo have the same, great-quality Focusrite Scarlett pre-amps that you'll find on many of their products. And, with the 3rd generation interfaces, they've become even better, including new “air” buttons that add a beautiful presence to both instruments and vocals.

The pre-amps are pretty solid, but they won't beat getting a 3rd party mic pre-amp to amp up your favorite microphone. However, for audio interface pre-amps, they sound fantastic and do the job.

The only difference between the Solo and the 2i2 is that the 2i2 has 2 pre-amps, where the Solo only has 1 pre-amp.

Power Supply

scarlett solo USB bus powered
Scarlett Solo USB C Input

Both are USB bus-powered audio interfaces and run using a USB connection (3rd gen uses USB C).

This is great for traveling around because you don't have to find any extra power sockets to run the interface. However, using the USB bus power, will hog your computer's USB slot power and potentially turn off other gear you have plugged in to run it.

We have a USB splitter and run into major issues all the time with both interfaces. If you want to run the interface, an external HDD, and USB MIDI controller, you can expect something to break or not work due to lack of power.

Neither of the interfaces has the option for wall socket power, which is a huge shame, because on the 2nd generation Scarletts, they had wall socket power and bus-powered audio.

This means you could just plug your Scarlett into the wall if it was hogging too much power, giving you the power needed for an external HDD and MIDI keyboard (a common producer setup).

The power supply won't affect the sound – it will just turn off if it doesn't have enough power – meaning you might have to resort to using your built-in audio shudders.

Latency

focusrite scarlett 2i2 audio interface

Because they are both bus-powered audio interfaces, you'll get some latency using the Scarlett interfaces. This is where analog interfaces reign supreme because no digital processing needs to be done in order for the audio to pass through.

In simple terms, when audio goes through a Scarlett, it must be processed digitally, meaning there's a slight delay.

However, with new technology, Scarlett interfaces have such a small delay it's pretty much unnoticeable. If you're playing a guitar, piano, or some other kind of instrument (depending on your processing power), you shouldn't have a problem.

If your processing power is low, then this can cause some issues.

On an older Mac, we used to have a common issue where the vocals would sound out of time when monitoring them in our DAW software. Most of the time, this is easily fixed by changing the sample rate of your project. However, on more than one occasion, the sample rate didn't fix this.

This is something to be aware of when buying a Scarlett. If your computer is new and has good processing power you'll be fine.

It can also be avoided by freezing tracks and making sure that your computer doesn't have a heavy load on it. Just something to be mindful of. Not a dealbreaker, because you can get around it.

Gain Control & Metering

Both the 2i2 and the Solo have additional gain controls you can use for your instrument or mic inputs. These are a big downfall on both devices. For the low cost, they're generally fine, and you really do get what you pay for, but the metering isn't amazing and the controls are very fiddly.

Multiple times we've had issues trying to get the correct gain levels when recording vocals using the 2i2 or Solo. A little push-up can make the gain go red really quickly, and a little push-down can make the gain far too low.

Our main gripe with this control is that it's too fiddly. It takes a lot of concentration to get the right level, and when you do, it's one of those situations where you think “ok… freeze! don't touch it, or it will break again!”

If you're recording a lot of instruments, the gain control is important and it's trash on the Scarlett (as much as I love them).

When compared to something like the Audient ID4, the Scarlett range is really bad at gain control and metering.

However, when you compare it to UAD's audio interface, the gain controls are pretty similar, and it's quite difficult to find good gain controls on a unit at this price, with the same amount of inputs as the Scarlett.

Phantom Power Support

Both the Scarlett Solo and the 2i2 have phantom power support. This is great for those of you using condenser mics. Condenser mics are great because you can get some fairly cheap mics that sound pretty amazing for the price (STC20 is around $80 on eBay and great as a starter mic).

sontronics stc 20 pack
Our Sontronics STC20 Condenser Microphone

USB mics just don't live up to the same level as Condensers, and using a Dynamic mic for recording vocals is just unheard of. This is why it's great to have phantom power on both devices – especially the Solo!

How Many Inputs Do I Get On Each?

You get a total of one input on the Solo and 2 inputs on the 2i2 (hence the name). This comes at a cost of $30 extra, with a slight increase in the size of the unit. We would personally go for the 2i2, and don't really see much use for the Solo when compared.

The 2i2 has a total of 4 inputs (if you're counting the TRS inputs), however, you can only use either an XLR or a TRS in one port at one time. That means you could either have 2 XLRs hooked up, or 2 TRS' hooked up, or a combination of the two.

You additionally get a headphone jack output on the two interfaces. However, on the Solo, you don't get an individual control for monitoring and headphone output levels, they are both controlled by one big knob.

Build Quality – Scarlett Solo vs 2i2

The build quality of both is stunning. Each unit has a beautiful red, metallic finish that glistens and they both feel extremely rugged.

We can certainly attest to dropping our Scarlett during house moves, letting it tumble down the stairs, and even spilling drinks on it – the thing did not break and still works 7 years later!

If you're wondering about the build quality, both are fantastic. The only thing is the cheap gain knobs, and the switch to clicky buttons on the newer models, rather than spongey buttons make it feel a little cheap.

Other than that, it's an incredibly well-built unit.

Are Either Good In Recording Studios?

Not really. Neither has the capacity to record more than 2 instruments, meaning you're very limited to what you can do. If you're a bedroom producer or DJ – these units are perfectly suited to you. They will link up to monitors, and provide headphone output control and inputs for guitar, vocals etc. However, if you're trying to record a band – you really want to go for something a lot more expensive, with a lot more ports.

How Does The Scarlett Compare To Other Audio Interfaces In The Price Range?

Compared to other interfaces in the price range, such as the MOTU, Audient ID4, and PreSonus Studio 26c – the Scarlett interfaces both perform better at recording, with much better built-in pre-amps than most of the competition.

However, the metering, when compared to the MOTU, ID4, and Studio 24c is nowhere near as good.

With the MOTU, for instance, you have an LCD screen that shows you your gain db levels. With the ID4 and 26c, you get separate lights that tell you whether your signal is peaking or not.

motu m2 audio interface
Motu M2 LCD gain metering

The Scarlett offers a LED light ring around the gain knob, which is awful at gauging the gain of a signal, and to make matters even worse, the knobs are also incredibly fiddly.

If you're recording a few instruments like vocals or guitar for your bedroom production sessions – the Scarlett has the best pre-amps and hardware to get you the best results, right out of the box. However, if you want finer detailed metering, we would avoid it.

Additionally, it's important to note that the MOTU has DC-coupled outputs (which is a big thing if you're into hardware synths).

If you're a synth gearhead, DC-coupled outputs allow you to be able to plug your hardware in and send, gate, note, or MIDI signals directly from your synths, to your interface. This is something that is exclusive to the MOTU M2 in this price range – and if that's important to you – you should strongly consider the MOTU range over the Scarlett range in this budget bracket.

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