The Focusrite Scarlett Solo is a compact, affordable, USB audio interface and pre-amp. It takes inputs from one XLR cable and one 6.3mm jack, and feeds them into your computer via a USB cable. It’s an interesting piece of kit that seems to straddle the markets for portable and starter audio interfaces.
What is a Pre-amp for?
A pre amp is a vital piece of kit that takes audio inputs at a higher quality than you would normally expect from your PC’s onboard soundcard. In this case the pre-amp also comes with gain and monitoring controls. This lets you fine tune your levels as you serenade the mic or strum away on the guitar. If you’re looking to start using an XLR condenser microphone then you need a pre-amp to send power to it.
Who’s it for?
The Scarlett Solo is aimed at those on a budget or on the move. I found myself in the latter position when grabbing a new condenser microphone. At £94 (or less is you shop around and catch a deal) it’s a really competitively priced piece of hardware. If you need an extra mic input then you’ll have to shell out around £40 more for the Solo’s bigger brother, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (reviewed here).
How Does it Sound?
Better. It sounds far better than my work laptop’s bog-standard onboard sound card. The clarity, depth, and accuracy of the sound is immediately noticeable. Grab yourself some good headphones and a nice mic, and you’ll be impressed with the leap in fidelity you’ve just made. Whilst the climb to audio ‘perfection’ is an expensive and incremental one, you can make a solid step up with the introduction of a good interface like the Scarlett Solo.
Day to Day Use
As a podcast editor and voice over artist, I have found myself using the interface to both listen to and record audio on. On a personal and totally subjective note, I would have gladly paid the price for the Scarlett Solo just have access to a nice volume knob. The tactile and premium feel is one of the nice features on this interface that lets you know you have more control and connection to your audio.
When it comes to the bread and butter of the Scarlett solo, the device works simply and easily enough to let you ‘set and forget’ when you’re recording. An LED ring around the gain control lets you know if you are peaking (red), about to (orange), or lower (green). Monitoring the inputs through headphones is easy, just flip the switch to ‘monitor’ and manage the playback volume with the volume control knob. There is no perceptible lag between your inputs and the feedback on headphones.
Conclusion: The Focusrite Scarlett Solo
This is not an interface for setting up multiple microphones and outputs. Where it excels is in being small, simple, and unobtrusive. One cable in, one cable out, and a few controls to manage in between. If you want an interface to take out and about with you, or to complete your solo recording setup, then the Scarlett Solo is a safe bet that balances cost, construction, and convenience.
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