The Scarlett Focusrite 212 has seen a fair few upgrades since the original model came onto the market. Most notably, the inputs have been overhauled to accommodate for higher-impedance instruments with hotter pick-ups.
The Focusrite 212 now has two of the best performing preamps that the company makes. Each channel can be used for Microphones or line-level instruments because they come with hybrid XLR/TRS connectors.
They now come with an optional Air setting. A flick of a switch allows the new and improved preamp circuitry to reproduce the mic preamp effects of the original ISA model. It's modeled on the team's well-engineered ISA console transformers and gives users two unique input modes right off the bat.
When engaged, the Air switch lifts the harmonics, giving your signals a brighter treble. This switch is aptly named as recordings genuinely do sound airier. This makes for a great open-sounding preamp effect that compliments acoustic recordings before you've even begun to tailor your EQ in your DAW.
Each channel has an independent monitoring level dial. This means you can control the monitor in your headphones so that you can record simultaneously or separately. You also have better manipulation of the mix sent to monitor.
The Focusrite 212 comes with a Direct Monitor switch to monitor your inputs at the same time as listening to the playback. This lets you create latency-free over-dubs and allows you to hear the channel effects in real-time.
The circuitry is pretty sophisticated for a reasonably priced plug and play aluminum box. It features high-performance converters so you can record at a 24-bit/ 192kHz resolution. It also has improved wired analog protection circuitry to prevent power surges.
One of the best features of this product is the fool-proof layout, with its front-mounted inputs and the easy to navigate controls. This makes it a perfect all-in-one AI for beginners. Each dial has an intuitive halo indicator around the rim to give you a visual of your levels. They're green when they're at an acceptable recording volume input level. They turn red anytime the gain is too high, and the signal is clipping, which will cause distortion.
The Focusrite 212 also comes with an Easy Start tool, so it's now even easier to get going. Some less tech-savvy individuals have had a harder time in the past with the set-up, especially regarding the downloadable bonus content and where to place them in folders for instant use within their DAW.
The Focusrite 212 has simplified all this, so you can plug and play with a download time of around 20 minutes.
The whole product is bus-powered and has been changed to a USB C with lightening since the second-gen model. Some people have a gripe with this, as it means some individuals have to download a driver. But, for the majority, Focusrite is a piece of kit that works driver free.
To summarize, this is the third iteration of the already well-received Scarlett Audio 2i2, which is an excellent user-friendly audio interface for recording into your chosen DAW. It's very well-manufactured with a durable chassis, an easy-read front panel, and the company's scarlet coloring. It provides a super-low latency recording interface that lets you monitor in real-time with zero lag.
It sells with a range of software goodies, which are subject to change, but you generally get a good mix. This only adds extra value to your purchase. Currently, the software includes an exclusive Focusrite creative pack by Pro Tools, a copy of Ableton Live Lite, a bundle of Softube time, and tone plug-ins. On top of that, you get the company's RED plug-in suite, which gives you some great presets for recording a variety of instruments.
Each of its settings has plenty of adjustable parameters. There's also a compression plug-in, which is tailored to various track inputs. Purchasing also grants you membership to the Focusrite Plug-in Collective and, for a limited time, a 3-month Splice membership.
+ Plug and play studio-in-a-box.
+ Ideal for a starter home studio or mobile rig.
+ 2 high-headroom instrument/mic inputs
+ Now equipped with low-noise, low-distortion preamps.
+ Switchable Air mode.
+ Super-low latency allows for overdubbing and effects monitoring in real-time.
+ Independent monitoring.
+ Intuitive halo indicators with a green, amber, and red color system.
+ USB C for better efficiency.
+ Bundle of software downloads.
+ Affordably priced.
- Confusing for some to get all the downloads sorted and synced.
- May need a driver for the bus-power upgrade.
- The software it includes are only Lite DAW versions, so you'll still likely need a decent DAW of your own to be able to get creative with your audio production.
Why We Like It
The Scarlett Focusrite 212 is very well-made and affordably priced with a user-friendly layout. The upgrades take it into professional realms. This product works as a studio in a box and now features award-winning preamps to provide a zero-latency, versatile AI.
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