For many years, Focusrite has been a byword for studio-quality audio interfaces. The brand’s Scarlett range of interfaces has probably been responsible for more bedroom studio hits than any other piece of kit on the market.
The iconic Scarlett range has been given a major makeover and significant internal upgrade with the launch of the Scarlett 4th Gen, which includes the Solo, 2i2, 4i4, Solo Studio, and 2i2 Studio. The new range has better specs than the previous generation and important new features such as Auto Gain, Clip Safe. The Air mode has also been re-engineered for a better sound.
Kicking off the new range is the Scarlett Solo, which is aimed at singer-songwriters working from a home studio. The Solo has one microphone preamp, a Hi-Z instrument/line input and a redesigned headphone amp. The new device aims to offer studio-quality sound in a compact device that’s ideal for home use or recording on-the-go. Solo also has a re-engineered Air mode with Presence and an all-new Harmonic Drive. The new Air mode is designed to breathe life into vocals and acoustic instruments.
The next step up in the range is the new Scarlett 2i2, which I’ve had a chance to test before its public launch. The Scarlett 2i2 features two remote-controlled mic preamps and a couple of Hi-Z instrument/line inputs for guitars, keyboards and grooveboxes. The classic 2-in/2-out interface produces professional studio-quality sound in a highly portable package.
With powerful new features like Clip Safe, Auto Gain and the redesigned Air mode, the Scarlett 2i2 makes setting gain levels easy. Perhaps one of the most significant improvements, in my opinion, is the total redesign of the preamps. With the previous generation 2i2, hard-to-drive mics like the Shure SM7B or RØDE PodCaster Pro required the gain dial needed to be turned almost up to the limit. The new preamps now offer more headroom and a lower noise floor. The difference from the previous generation is outstanding and worth upgrading for alone,
Other changes with the Scarlett 2i2 include moving the XLR inputs to the back of the device while adding separate TRS instrument inputs to the front. The space freed up by the relocation of the XLR inputs leaves room for six buttons on the front, including Phantom Power, Auto Gain function, Safe Clipping and the redesigned Air mode. There’s more space and airiness with the new Air mode, adding more definition in the upper frequencies on voiceovers and solo instruments.
For the multi-instrumentalist, Focusrite’s new Scarlett 4i4 provides two remote-controlled mic preamps, switchable line or Hi-Z instrument inputs, two fixed line inputs, plus four balanced outputs for recording mics, guitars, synths and more. MIDI I/O makes it a cinch to bring in synths and grooveboxes to sync with recording sessions. The 4i4 is a significant step up in professional studio quality for talented musicians who want to use more instruments simultaneously. The 4i4 also has all the new features like Clip Safe, Auto Gain and the re-engineered Air mode.
For those who want a studio solution in a single box, Focusrite has also launched the Scarlett Solo Studio and Scarlett 2i2 Studio, which include either a Solo or 2i2 interface, CM25 MkIII studio condenser mic and closed-back SH-450 headphones. These kits have everything required to record studio-quality vocals and instruments right out of the box.
Focusrite says it has completely re-engineered the audio circuitry in all the interfaces for the complete Scarlett range, including professional-grade converters for improved sonic performance. The entire Scarlett 4th Gen range uses converters from Focusrite’s flagship RedNet range to deliver a 120dB dynamic range. The 2i2 and 4i4 now have remote-controlled preamps, which can be set using the new Focusrite Control 2 software. Add an impressive 69dB of gain and the new interfaces can drive even the fussiest and most difficult mics.
Another major upgrade is the newly designed headphone amp that can now drive even the highest-impedance headphones with more volume and clarity. All the new models also have independent controls for headphones and monitors.
With the introduction of Auto Gain, users don’t need to worry about setting accurate gain levels. The Auto Gain can select the ideal recording level by playing or singing for ten seconds. To ensure the recording session stays on track, the new Clip Safe feature monitors recording levels up to 96,000 times per second and automatically adjusts the gain to prevent clipping. The main advantage is that the artist can play and sing away without worrying about holding back or toning things down.
The re-engineered Air mode has been redesigned to take any sound’s unique character and elevate it to the front of the mix. The upshot is more standout vocals or instrument tracks. Air mode includes the original all-analog Presence mode, plus it now has a new DSP-based Harmonic Drive mode for console-like richness.
The new Scarlett interfaces include premium Neutrik connectors, more spacious knob placement, plus endless gain knobs on 2i2 and 4i4. Focusrite has kept Scarlett’s rich red casing color, plus the front panel has a new black finish and soft touch knobs. Dynamic Gain Halos are now easy to see for setting levels.
Loopback is another feature available on the Scarlett range that can route the computer audio to DAWs by using Scarlett’s virtual inputs. It can also mix Scarlett inputs and computer audio for sampling from other software, streaming and recording.
Focusrite’s Easy Start tool has been developed to guide new users through setup, getting them ready to record using the bundled Ableton Live Lite recording software. There is also a three-month trial of Pro Tools Artist recording software. To help users get the best results for recording, mixing and mastering, the Hitmaker Expansion software bundle provides a suite of studio plugins from big names like Softube, Native Instruments, Antares and many more.
Also included are five free masters from Landr that can be used anytime, plus a two-month subscription to Landr Studio, offering unlimited music distribution on streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music and TikTok.
Verdict: The new Scarlett 4th Gen range of interfaces is a step-change improvement in audio quality and usability. This upgrade isn’t an upgrade for the sake of it. What you are getting with the new generation is even better mic preamps with a welcome 69dB of gain. You also have Auto Gain, Clip Safe, a re-engineered Air mode and the separation of XLR and TRS inputs. The headphone amp has been beefed up considerably and can drive demanding headphones with low noise levels even when turned up high. Overall, this new generation of the world’s favorite affordable audio interfaces is well worth the upgrade. If you love your Scarlett 3rd Gen interface, you’ll love the 4th Gen. Highly recommended.
Pricing and availability: The Scarlett 4th Gen range is on sale now at the following prices:
- Scarlett 4th Gen Solo: $139.99 / £139.99 / €130.24.
- Scarlett 4th Gen 2i2: $199.99 / £199.99 / €184.87.
- Scarlett 4th Gen 4i4: $279.99 / £274.99 / €285.71.
- Scarlett 4th Gen Solo: $249.99 / £239.99 / €235.29.
- Scarlett 4th Gen Studio 2i2 Studio: $299.99 / £2789.99 / €285.71.
More info: www.focusrite.com
- Dynamic range: 120dB.
- Converters: Same as flagship RedNet range.
- Preamps: Remote-controlled preamps with 69dB of gain.
- Re-engineered Air mode with Presence, and all-new Harmonic Drive.
- Auto Gain: Yes.
- Clip Safe: Yes.
- Headphone amp: Custom-designed.
- Redesigned Dynamic Gain Halos with output metering.