Note that this review is for the original Scarlett 2i2. The second generation model released in 2016 appears to address the issues with latency and guitars distorting that the older 2i2 had.
Summary: Good deal at $100. So-so at $150.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
While both the Behringer UCA202 and Lexicon Alpha are usable audio interfaces, the UCA202 (Burr Brown PCM2902 chip) has a quite loud digital noise, the Alpha still has that digital noise and really high (17.5ms or higher) latency.
That in mind, as soon as I saw the Focusrite 2i2 for only $100 on a limited time sale, I immediately snatched one.
Compared the the UCA202 and Lexicon Alpha, the 2i2 sounds much nicer. Its noise level is quite low, and more importantly, unlike the under $100 interfaces, the noise is a far more pleasant and tolerable white noise instead of an irritating digital whine. Its noise, if you will, is more analog and musical.
The chip in the 2i2 is a Cirrus Logic CS4272.
There are reports out there that the Focusrite has unusually high latency. It is true that the Focusrite USB interfaces have a bit of a delay — especially when running at 44.1khz. After lowering the latency on my 2i2 in the ASIO control panel to its lowest possible value, here is the latency I get, according to RTL utility:
- 44.1 11.124ms (10.955ms using ASIO4ALL)
- 88.2 8.204ms (6.869ms using ASIO4ALL)
- 96k 7.788ms (7.132ms using ASIO4ALL)
2016 note: The second generation update to the 2i2 and other Scarlett interfaces appear to have less latency.
Since I run a line-level signal through the 2i2, I have not had a chance to evaluate the preamps. The general consensus is that they sound pretty good, especially when the unit is on sale for $100, with some people who really like their sound and others who do not.
The only tangible complaint is that the 2i2 doesn’t have an input pad; which means that guitar players with loud pickups who want to use this interface should invest $10-$30 on a direct box.
2016 note: The second generation update to the 2i2 is supposed to address this issue with recording guitars.
This interface has two mic/line inputs, two 1/4" TRS balanced line outputs, a headphone output, and a USB port. Nicely enough, it is powered over USB, which means one less wall wart to deal with.
At $100, this is a very good interface. At $150, its usual price, there is a lot of competition: The M-Audio M-Track Plus II, and the Steinberg UR22, to name just two. If the moderate latency and the issue with not having pads on the inputs are not dealbreakers, it is still an interface worth having for $150.
2016 note: The second generation update to the 2i2, also priced at $150, is supposed to address these issues, adds a power surge protector, and should have a louder headphone output to boot. All Scarlett models have been updated. The older Scarletts say “Focusrite” on the top in black; the new ones have “Focusrite” in white lettering. They initially did not have Windows 7 32-bit support, but it was later added.
2017 note: I have replaced my 2i2 with a Behringer UMC204HD.