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Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 Review
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Review

Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 Review

by 2016/02/15
Overview
Price

$200

Product Name

Focusrite Scarlett 2i4

Positives

• Good feature set
• Competitively priced
• Fairly rugged construction
• Looks and sounds good

Negatives

• Technical issues were experienced by a number of users

Rating
Our Rating
User Rating
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Sound Quality
86%
70%
Appearance
95%
74%
Worth it?
70%
74%
Ease of Use
65%
76%
Hardware
80%
79%
Features
95%
76%
Bottom Line

Overall, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 is a competitively priced unit which offers a good feature set and quality construction. It also delivers with regard to sound quality. The unit does however present ongoing crashing issues for some users.

75%
Our Rating
75%
User Rating
8 ratings
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The Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 has been out for some time now, but the unit continues to appeal to consumers. The interface provides reasonable level of quality and features in an affordable package. It’s available for $200 US. This price range has a number of competitors, so let’s see how the 2i4 measures up.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 features

The 2i4 is 2 in/4 out USB audio interface, with two Focusrite mic/line/instrument preamplifiers. Each preamp can be switched from line to instrument level. There is a pad button on each for high gain sources. The pad is a very useful, particularly for those that wish to record guitars via DI. The feature was not included on the cheaper 2i2 model. The preamp gain knobs light up orange when close to clipping and red when clipping occurs. However in practice the indicator lights didn’t always accurately represent when clipping had occurred. The 2i4 has a 48V phantom power switch, while the interface itself is powered entirely via a USB 2.0 port. The rear panel has two balanced monitor outputs (TRS) and four unbalanced outputs (RCA Phono). It also has a MIDI I/O, which the 2i2 unit does not have. The interface is compatible with most common Windows and Mac operating systems.

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 has a red anodised aluminium chassis, which looks good and feels sturdy. The gain controls are constructed of hard plastic which seems very durable. The other dials and switches on the front panel are made of a different type of lighter plastic. The front panel knobs are not fully recessed. I think a hard knock could likely crack the lighter plastic knobs. That said, for the price you can’t expect premium quality components. Also, in 18 months of daily use and two interstate moves I haven’t managed to damage my 2i4 in any way. The unit is small and light enough to comfortably fit in a backpack for those that want portability.

The front panel of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4.

The front panel of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4.

Quality sound from 2i4

The 2i4’s preamps sound clean and I haven’t had any issues with noise. Obviously they won’t compete with real high-end preamps, but for the price, I’m quite happy with them. The recordings I’ve completed using the 2i4 have received positive feedback from both bandmates and listeners.

The rear panel of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4.

The rear panel of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4.

Some latency issues present

Focusrite state the Scarlett 2i4 is capable of zero-latency monitoring. While tracking guitars my collaborators and I did not notice any latency issues. However one (experienced) vocalist I worked with said the latency experienced through the headphone jack threw them off their vocal takes. A number of users have criticised the headphone amp on the 2i4 as underpowered. I use a pair of AKG K240 MKII headphones with my 2i4. I don’t have any complaints regarding the headphone amp, nor have the numerous musicians who have tracked using my set-up.

The packaged software products are not particularly useful. Ableton Live Lite has limited functionality, while the Focusrite Scarlett plug-in suite is nothing to write home about.

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 viewed from above.

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 viewed from above.

Ongoing crashing concerns

I’ve had ongoing issues with the 2i4 crashing. Naturally, my drivers and Windows installation are fully updated. A quick Google search indicates a number of other users experienced similar issues. The interface crashes upon the computer waking from hibernation, and also does so randomly, during playback or while sitting idle. The crashes produce a variety of curious results: power off, power on with no sound, tinny low volume playback or heavily distorted playback. It crashes several times a week. They  usually require the computer to be restarted. I haven’t had the interface crash in the middle of a take yet, but I suppose it’s only a matter of time. Since first experiencing the problem, I implemented some of the fixes proposed online. This fixed some of the crashing issues, but not all. Even if full fixes do exist, it’s still a black mark for the unit. It’s not unreasonable to want to buy an interface and have it function properly without having to trawl through forums to troubleshoot repeated crashes. That said, the majority of user reviews online do report positive experiences with the unit. This suggests the 2i4 only presents these issues on some set-ups.

You guessed, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4.

That’s right, it’s the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4.

Overall, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 provides good value for money. It has a good feature set for the price and fairly solid construction. It looks and sounds good. The crashing issues soured my experience with the unit however. If I had to buy a new interface in this price range, I would shop around and find something with a better reputation for reliability.

United States: Musician's Friend, Guitar Center
United Kingdom: Amazon
International: BH Photo & Video

Getting two sets of RCA outs, 5-pin MIDI connectors, two amazing mic preamps, and fully adjustable output controls for this price is amazing. It does everything I want it to and then some.


Works great, would recommend this to anyone with limited space and limited cash.


Easy to install, easy to use, amazing preamps, good software included. Perfect for a home studio and outdoors recordings. Build like a tank!


It does the job but it's kind of buggy. It does weird reset stuff all the time, clicks on and off.


        Specifications

      • 2 in / 4 out USB audio interface
      • 96 KHz, 24-bit conversion
      • 2 Focusrite microphone preamplifiers
      • Red anodised aluminium unibody chassis

Front panel

    • 2 line/mic/instrument combination inputs - high quality XLR/ ¼ “ TRS Jack Combo
    • 2 line/inst switches
    • 2 illuminating “PAD” buttons
    • 2 Gain knobs
    • 2 Gain halo signal indicators
    • 48V Phantom power switch
    • MIDI activity LED indicator
    • USB connection LED indicator
    • “DIRECT MONITOR” control
    • “STEREO/MONO” switch for direct monitor
    • Large monitor level dial (controls headphone and line level outputs)
    • Headphone output - ¼” TRS Jack
    • Headphone level knob
    • “HEADPHONE SOURCE” switch

Rear panel

    • 2 balanced monitor outputs – TRS (channels 1-2)
    • 4 unbalanced outputs – RCA Phono (channels 1-4)
    • MIDI IO
    • USB 2.0 Port
    • Kensington Lock slot

Included software

  • Ableton Live Lite 8
  • Focusrite Scarlett plug-in suite
  • Novation Bass Station
  • Loopmasters content
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About The Author
Stephen Charlton

Stephen Charlton is a musician, journalist and editor.

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Sound Quality
Appearance
Worth it?
Ease of Use
Hardware
Features