Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Review: The Best Selling USB Audio Interface

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a USB audio interface, used and loved by complete beginners and industry veterans alike

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Review

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Review: At-a-glance

  • The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a USB audio interface
  • You can use it to plug one or two XLR mics and run them into your computer
  • It's ideal for recording solo or locally co-hosted conversations
  • It can be paired with an online call recording tool to capture remote conversations, too
  • You can pick one up brand new for about $160/£150
  • Read on to get the full lowdown with pictures and sound samples
  • Oh, and we use some affiliate links in this post, and may earn a small commission should you decide to buy through them!

In this Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 review I'll be talking through why it's one of my favourite pieces of podcasting kit – and why you might want one yourself.

It's what's known as an audio interface. But what does that actually mean, and why would you use one?

Let's start there, before delving into the 2i2 itself.

What is an Audio Interface, & Why Might a Podcaster Need One?

focusrite scarlett 2i2

An audio interface is a piece of hardware, which can be used to give you greater control over your recording setup. This one – the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 – plugs in to your computer or laptop via the USB port, and allows you to record with two separate microphones. 

This might be a good option for you if you:

  • Want to improve your audio quality
  • Want to record locally with a co-host
  • Want to record professional sounding interviews or podcasts on location

I've been using one of these handy little interfaces for about eight years now.

On top of the great audio quality you can get by recording through one of these, one of its most endearing qualities is that you’ll find it in the audio arsenal of experienced professionals and complete beginners alike.

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How Does it Work, and What Else Will I Need?

Podcasting with a USB mic is a great way to get your show off the ground, but after a while, you might start to think about striving for a more ‘studio quality’ setup. This is where a move towards buying an interface like the Scarlett 2i2 is worth considering.

In order to use the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 you will need:

  • An XLR cable, or two if you have a co-host or are conducting interviews.
  • An XLR microphone, or two if you have a co-host or are conducting interviews.

An XLR cable (or microphone cable) is the standard type of cable you’ll see used by musicians and other live performers. This simply connects at one end into your 2i2, and at the other end into your microphone.

As good as the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is, your choice of XLR cable and microphone will still play a big role in your overall audio quality, and though it isn’t necessary to fork out big money for these, be wary of the very cheap options.

See our best podcast microphones roundup if you're in the market for a quality mic to partner with your 2i2.

Scarlett 2i2 back

What Does it Cost?

As I mentioned earlier, it’s rare for a microphone, audio interface, or mixer to be an excellent choice for both the podcasting veteran and novice.

At roughly $160/£150 the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 certainly isn’t unaffordable though. It's a good choice for someone who is looking to improve their setup and give them greater control and options in how they record their podcast.

Buy the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 today

How Does the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Sound?

Sound samples recorded with Rode Procaster, Shure SM58, and Samson Q2U mics. No post-processing has been applied.

Simple Setup

If you’ve ever plugged in a USB device before then you'll be able to set up the 2i2, and have it ready to record in less than a minute.

It’s a very small, simplistic looking model, free from the barrage of knobs and faders that can make mixers look intimidating to beginners and novices.

Audacity

To get set up, connect the Scarlett 2i2 to your computer or laptop via the USB cable provided, then connect your microphone (or microphones) to the interface using your XLR cable(s). 

Next, you’ll want to set your recording software up. If you're using Audacity to record, simply click the Input dropdown menu (see screenshot) and select Scarlett 2i2 USB.

Similarly, if you want to use the 2i2 for your online conversations, you'd just select it as your input and output in your call recording app of choice.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2: Portability

The small, light nature of the Scarlett 2i2 means that you can basically pack a mobile studio into an average-sized shoulder bag. For example, you might be attending an event or a conference where you wanted to do some interviews, or you may even want to record a podcast episode there and then.

You could easily pack the Focusrite along with a laptop, headphones, USB cable, 2 XLR cables, and 2 microphones and still have room in your bag to spare.

Are There Any Negatives?

As you can probably tell, I’m a huge fan of this piece of equipment, and really struggle to find any fault with it. But, any gear review would be incomplete without at least considering a couple of possible cautions and limitations.

For each microphone, you have a gain dial to control the input volume level you're recording at. One thing to watch is that if you’re only recording with one mic, be sure to turn the other gain dial all the way down. Even though nothing is connected to that port, having the gain up on that one can still bring your background noise up, and give your recording more of a background hiss.

And although I predominantly use my 2i2 with dynamic mics like the Shure SM58, this can also result in some hiss underneath the vocals.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Review: Sum-Up

Pros

  • Can improve your audio quality
  • Gives you flexibility
  • Freedom to upgrade mics further down the line
  • Can record on location with co-host or interviewee
  • Affordable
  • Simple to set up
  • Light and portable

Cons

Should I Buy a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2?

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is, in my opinion, an excellent little piece of kit for podcasting. But do you need one?

If you're already happy enough with the sound and workflow of your existing recording setup, then probably not. Just stick with it, and keep doing what you're doing.

But if you're looking to upgrade from a USB mic setup to using XLR mics (and still record into your computer) then the 2i2 is one of the best options on the market.

There are other quality USB audio interfaces out there however, check up the roundup I've linked to there if you'd still like to shop around.

Need More Help Choosing Podcasting Equipment?

If you need some more tailored advice for your own setup, or want help with any other aspect of podcasting, then be sure to check out The Podcast Host Academy. That's where we run our weekly live Q&A sessions, and you'll have access to all of our video courses, tutorials, ebooks, and other downloadable resources!

14 thoughts on “Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Review: The Best Selling USB Audio Interface

  1. Hi,
    Great post, I’ve been thinking about purchasing one of these but with 8 out as I’d like to go around and interview people in a specific sport that I’m interested in. I thought I’d try it with headphones with mic just like the barbell shrugged guys. They do a great job and it’s a slick podcast.
    I guess buying one of these, 3 sets of headphones with mics and audacity on my Mac I’d be good to go?? I’m struggling to find someone who can give me advice but your article has cleared this up it seems. Love it when someone speaks my language.
    I was going to use wordpress for my website, and the podlove plugin along with Auphonic…I’m sure for one man band this will help with editing and production of the finished podcast.
    What’s your thoughts on my proposed set up??

    Thanks

    Lee

  2. Would I be able to host a podcast with a live production using the 2i2? We want to incorporate sounds via Soundbyte as you suggested on your Best Mixers article but I can’t tell if it’s possible on the 2i2?

    Thanks for all the helpful info!
    Travis

  3. Hi Matthew. How would you compare this to the Zoom H4n? I’m looking for one compact but pro set-up for home studio podcasting solo and with a co-host and location interviews. Very much enjoy your website. Thank you.

    1. Cheers Philip. The H4n is great and means you need less gear to take with you when you record. You can also use it as a preamp into your computer too, just like the 2i2. It sounds like you might get more use out the Zoom for what you’re looking for.

  4. Thanks for the article. It seems like the 2i2 is the winning interface. I have a Yamaha MG166CX mixer and a couple of 58s. There’s no USB output. Is there an advantage to plug in me & my cohost in the same location, then connect to the Focusrite, into my Mac? I can also run music through another channel.. a) does this sound rights? b) where do we put the Skype? c) is there alternative to Skype, or does it universally give the best sound. Thanks. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Oh, one more thing. I have a website for my music business with a blog. I was thinking of using WordPress for the hosting & putting it into my blog. Thoughts?

  5. As far as the gain goes, do you have a set or specific area you leave it at? I own a 2i2 and I usually leave my gain about halfway and my co hosts needs to be fluctuated, currently using SM58’s. Thanks!

  6. Hi there,
    I have a 2i2 with my new Rode PROcaster. I didn’t realise i had to leave no 2 gain turned all the way down. that’s why it’s hissing!!!
    I can’t get quite enough oompph out of it though. am thinking of buying the cloud flare or the dbs286s to boost it. do you have any recommendations for this?

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