When it comes to easy home recording solutions, a USB audio interface is one of the most painless routes to go. The market for bus-powered plug and play interfaces is pretty over-saturated because of how simplistic a solution they provide.
With such a large number of products so widely available, and each competitively priced, it can be tricky to find the right piece of kit for you. The entire Scarlett range from Focusrite is pretty admirable as USB interfaces go.
Their third-generation model has been upgraded to include all the latest improvements and developments since the company first began to tackle the market. It offers two separate channels and doesn't limit recording capabilities. You can record as many tracks as your digital audio workstation will allow one at a time.
Like the products that came before it, The Focusrite solo 3rd gen has a durable metal chassis. The compact size makes for a smaller home set-up, and the minimalist layout makes it foolproof to control.
The input channels include one XLR and one Hi Z TRS connection that allows you to plug in any microphone or electronic instrument.
It features the company's cutting-edge preamps. The resolution it captures is high, with 24-bit/192kHz analog to digital signal conversion for professional-quality recordings.
The first channel is used primarily for vocals, but can also be used to mic up an acoustic instrument or amp. The preamp can cope with a lot of input volume, so long as your mic is equipped for it. It features a panel with an illuminated Halo LED gain dial. The dial changes, from Green to Red, indicate a good level, helping you visualize whether or not you are going to distort.
The XLR input also has the company's new proprietary Air capabilities as well. The Air feature gives your vocals an open sound, tailoring the equalization focus to the higher frequencies, providing a nice tone for acoustic instrument capture. This is entirely optional and accessed via a button that has an LED indicator, so you know it is in-use.
Besides the Air button, the phantom power button also has a visual indicator when in use, supplying 48 volts of phantom powering, enabling you to use a condenser mic.
The secondary channel is for plugging in your ¼ inch jacks. It has a gain dial (that once again includes the Halo LED indicator system) and an instrument button. This gives it extra head-room, helping it to handle high-output instruments and hot pick-ups, switching from a regular line-in to a more guitar/bass focused channel.
Alongside the two channels, and their gain dials is a large monitor level dial and a front-mounted headphone output connection with a direct monitoring button. This lets you switch between monitoring via the left and right line-outs fed to your speakers and the headphones directly.
All monitoring is entirely lag-free. The unit is hugely low-latency, so you can build busy tracks in your DAW without a hitch, and listen to yourself sing over previously laid material.
As the Scarlett range is aimed for beginners, it also sells a variety of goodies that will broaden your recording horizons. The offers change periodically and can differ depending on the provider you buy from.
All Focusrite purchases come with access to the Focusrite Plug-in Collective, which brings a range of plug-ins from some of the industry's leading creators for download.
If you head over to Sweetwater, you can get your hands on Ableton Live Lite software, an exclusively developed creative pack from Pro Tools, the company's Red 2 & Red 3 Plug-in Suite, and your choice of Audio Addictive Keys virtual instruments. This is as well as the Softube Time & Tone Bundle, and a free 3-month Splice Sounds subscription.
For a simple and cost-efficient home set-up, the Focusrite solo is a viable route to go. With next to no investment, you can start learning all the tricks of the trade.
The Scarlett Solo 3rd gen is a no-fuss 2 in, 2 out plug and play interface with phantom powering. It also includes the company's exclusive Air feature for your XLR channel. This Audio Interface has excellent quality preamps, (catering for high-gain instruments), a professional audio resolution, and offers low-latency direct monitoring.
It's well-built, easy to set-up, and sells with a bundle of plug-ins and online resources that add value.
+ Bare-bones 2 x 2 AI.
+ XLR with phantom and Air feature.
+ Hi-Z instrument input.
+ HALO LED indicator system.
+ Direct low latency monitoring.
- Some of you may fancy more flexibility with the I/O.
Why We Like It
If you're starting in the world of home-recording, then you can't go wrong with a Scarlett AI from Focusrite. The company provides several units that get the job done. They've improved to a professional level over the last few years.
Their Solo series, as the name suggests, is aimed at solo performers who sing with an instrument. It offers professional-level resolutions, low-latency direct monitoring, and is foolproof to set-up.
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