I myself was searching for reviews of this USB interface before buying it. I had little success. Most of the articles about the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 were bold copies of the specification found on Focusrite’s site.
In Sweden, the Scarlett 2i4 was released in late October 2012. At the same time, there were quite a few reviews of the older Scarlett 2i2. I got that model a couple of weeks prior to the Scarlett 2i4, and I was quite satisfied with the sound and build quality of the Scarlett 2i2. But I felt somewhat deceived when the Scarlett 2i4 was announced with its four RCA outputs and MIDI I/O – features that I really missed on the predecessor.
The newer Scarlett 2i4 is, more or less, an expanded or developed version of the Scarlett 2i2, I believe built from the same blueprint, though Focusrite has added some great new features.
Looking stupid, sounding great
The Scarlett series still looks pretty stupid with its strong red color, large control knob and unibody chassis (read: design “inspired” from Clavia Nord keyboards, large silver knob taken from Apogee’s line, altogether merged with any Apple aluminum device).
Nevertheless, you can’t overlook the most important thing, the sound, this little box brings, at least not at this price point. In its class, the sound is straight up excellent.
Whilst there are many parameters in a signal chain, it’s hard to isolate and identify a specific part or device as being the weak link. Therefore I just state my setup and connections.
Perhaps you should know that the Scarlett 2i4 USB 2.0 is paired with my MacBook Pro (15-inch Retina, 2.6 GHz i7 with 16 GB RAM) running the latest edition of OS X.
Anyway, I’ve connected the I/O of the Scarlett 2i4 to different gear: the balanced TRS go to monitor speakers, Yamaha HS 50M, and the headphones output (TRS) to some top notch headphones, Sennheiser HD 25-1 II. Briefly, I’ve also tested the two pairs of RCA phono to a NAD C 320BEE stereo amplifier. All of these outputs sounded damn crisp.
I’m sure your already familiar with Focusrite’s award-winning preamps. To tell you the truth, I haven’t really used ‘em, they’re barely tested. But they, ehum, work: I’ve recorded my phantom powered voice with a condenser shotgun microphone (RØDE NTG2). It sounded clean. I also plugged in my trashy guitar, a creamy Fender Squier Bullet Stratocaster, and it sounded, well, trashy.
I’ve also tried out the MIDI I/O without any headache, I’ve controlled my old Roland Juno-106 flawlessly.
Who is it for?
So what useful things could I write about this piece of equipment then? And who should get the gadget?
Because I haven’t used all features I can’t really tell you about the promised excellency of the preamps. The company itself describes the product as a “perfect audio interface for musicians and digital DJs”. But of course Focusrite says so, duh. For the time being, for what it’s worth, we have to believe this. The only thing I know, is that it works in my limited habitat, I have yet to do a field test.
I am, first and foremost, an electronic musician. Right now, mostly into dubstep and such. I work natively in 96 KHz, 24-bit in Propellerhead Reason 6.5, sometime as a standalone program and sometimes I’m running a host like Apple Logic Pro 9. So what I can say, is that the Scarlett 2i4 is a good choice for the bedroom producer or for the small home studio.
The interface works as expected – without any hassle. (Even if bedroom producers usually are particularly skilled in solving technical issues.) It might as well be for the singer-songwriter whom are technically illiterate and want an acoustic guitar to sound like an acoustic guitar.
Some users have reported a little latency, although I haven’t had any problem with it.
I had a couple of USB interfaces before: the Line 6 POD Studio UX2 and way back in the days, the M-Audio Audiophile USB. These worked alright, especially the POD Farm software to the POD Studio UX2, but I must say that the Scarlett 2i4 sounds even tighter.
So far I had no problem with the Scarlett 2i4, quite the opposite, everything I tried has worked like a charm.