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Focusrite Scarlett Solo (Gen2) Review

Updated on December 5, 2017
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John is a fervent writer, avid gamer, and guitar lover. He earns his sandwiches fixing automatic transmissions.

The market for inexpensive audio interfaces, particularly those aimed at home creatives on a tight budget, is a vibrant one full of options. Whether you’re recording music, creating podcasts, running your own voice over business from home, or narrating your latest audiobook, a decent audio interface that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg is not hard to find.

For this article, however, we’re going to focus on one particular audio interface. The Focusrite Scarlett Solo. This review will be focusing specifically on the generation 2 model of the Solo, as that’s the one I own!

The Focusrite Scarlett Solo is a durable, portable audio interface.
The Focusrite Scarlett Solo is a durable, portable audio interface.

About the Focusrite Scarlett Range

As the name might suggest, the Focusrite Scarlett Solo is an audio interface with a single user in mind. If you’re looking to start a round table podcast, or record a four piece band, you could use this interface, but it’s really not what it was designed for.

In the wider range of Focusrite Scarlett products, the Solo occupies the entry-level slot, being the least expensive option with the least amount of features, so if this interface sounds like something you could use, but doesn’t quite do everything you need it to, there’s a good chance another interface in the Scarlett range will meet your needs.

The Focusrite Scarlett Range

Focusrite Scarlett Solo Design

The Scarlett Solo is an attractive piece of hardware with subtle design and a striking red and black colour scheme. Nothing about the look of the Solo screams out for attention, but the understated good looks will draw the eye of anyone who a appreciates clean, simple design.

The form factor itself is a basic rectangular design, with the bulk of the outer casing being made from a red anodised metal (possibly aluminium, though I haven’t checked). This is probably the main factor contributing to the durable feel of the product. I wouldn’t recommend throwing it against a wall, but it definitely feels as though it would take more than an accidental fall from a desk to cause an issue.

The controls are all on the front panel of the device, as is fairly standard for this kind of audio interface. They are easy to use and, again, feel sturdy and well made. The volume dial in particular is a large, satisfying, chunky affair. The only visual aids the Solo offers come in the form of a pair of lights around the two gain control knobs.

Overall, the Solo is a sleek, well designed, well crafted piece of hardware that would be great for a compact home studio setup or a portable rig.

But enough about the look and feel, what about the features?

All of the controls for the Solo are on the front panel.
All of the controls for the Solo are on the front panel.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo Features

The Focusrite Scarlett Solo features two inputs with which to connect your audio equipment. The first of these is a balanced XLR connection with +48v phantom power available at the press of a button. The other input is a regular 1/4 inch jack. Obviously there is no phantom power capability on this input, but you can switch between line input and instrument mode.

It seems clear that, when Focusrite imagined what kind of use this interface would get, they imagined a mic’d up musician with a single instrument, such as a guitar or keyboard.

You can connect a microphone to the second input, however it would need to be a mic that doesn’t require power in order to be heard. It’s not an ideal setup for multiple voice recording, such as in a podcast setup, but it can definitely be useful in situations like mic’ing an amp or acoustic guitar, where at least one mic doesn’t need to be a full fat condenser mic.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB Audio Interface Explained

Each input comes with its own gain control, which in turn comes with its own simple monitor in the form of a light around said gain knob. The light illuminates when a signal is passing through its respective input, and if the audio is too loud, the light will turn red. Obviously this is no substitute for a good VU meter, but in such a compact package this is a stylish and simple way to get that vital information across quickly.

Sticking with topic of monitoring, there are two ways in which you can monitor audio coming out of the Scarlett Solo. The first is through the headphone jack on the front. It is a 1/4" jack, so make sure you have headphones that will work with this kind of connection, or get an adapter for your existing headphones if not. The other way in which you can monitor your audio is via the RCA outputs on the back of the device. This is ideal for connecting to professional monitoring speakers, but can work just as well with other setups. If you have the right cables.

The final monitoring feature we have is the option to directly monitor your inputs through Solo itself, rather than through your computer. This has the advantage of being completely lag-free, however, as you’d expect with “direct monitoring”, there is no facility to process this audio.

The Solo connects to your computer via USB, providing 96Khz/24-bit audio.
The Solo connects to your computer via USB, providing 96Khz/24-bit audio.

The Scarlett Solo connects to your computer via the USB port on the back of the device. One particularly appealing factor for those looking for portability is that this interface does not require an external power source; it runs entirely from its USB connection. No additional cables, no power brick, just the Solo, a USB cable, and whatever you want to connect it to.

Moving on to the audio part of this audio interface, the Solo sports 96Khz/24-bit conversion, which is more than enough for just about anybody who is looking at a device like this. And probably most who aren’t. Both inputs can be recorded simultaneously, either as separate mono inputs or one stereo input. Similarly, there are two output channels.

For more in depth specifications, you can find the full spec sheet on the Focusrite website.

Focusrite Scarlette Solo Performance

The all-important question, of course, is how does the Focusrite Scarlett Solo perform? I have owned mine for nearly a year at the time of writing this article, and I have put it through quite a bit of use, both recording music and spoken word audio. In that time I have never encountered a problem with the Solo. To my mind, the reliability of the interface is proven.

The audio itself is crystal clear, and the Solo does not colour the sound in any noticeable way. That being said, full disclosure here, I am not a music professional, so take my opinions on matters like sound colouring with a grain of salt.. The latency is minimal, sometimes completely unnoticeable. On many occasion I have connected my electric guitar directly into the Solo and comfortably used amp simulation software without any issue.

Recording a Song with the Focusrite Scarlett Solo

So the question remains, is the Focusrite Scarlett Solo a worthwhile purchase? Well, as with any purchase, you need to weigh up your needs. If you’re planning to record a drum kit, this audio interface won’t be up to snuff. But if you’ve looked at those needs and the Scarlett Solo meets them, then this interface is definitely worth purchasing. It’s inexpensive, high quality, and it looks and sounds great.

© 2017 John Bullock

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