When it comes to audio interfaces, Focusrite is, without a doubt, one of the most popular brands out there. Two of their most popular audio interfaces are the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and the Scarlett 4i4.
For someone looking to purchase one of these, it can be quite confusing to choose because the Scarlett 2i2 and 4i4 look quite identical but with some differences. So in this article, I’ll help you decide whether you should buy the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 or go for the Scarlett 4i4 based on your needs.
But first, let’s take a look at the specification and the different features both interfaces offer.
|Attribute||Focusrite Scarlett 2i2||Focusrite Scarlett 4i4|
|Line Input||2 (XLR/TRS)||2 (XLR/TRS/Mic/Hi-Z) 2 TRS|
|Line Output||2 TRS||4 TRS|
|Headphone Output||1 Stereo||1 Stereo|
|MIDI||No||Yes ( MIDI I/O)|
|Sample Rate||192 kHz/24-Bit||192 kHz/24-Bit|
|Direct Monitor Switch||Yes||Yes ( Focusrite Control App)|
|Control App||No||Yes (Focusrite Control App)|
|Power||USB Bus Power||USB Bus Power|
|Connection Type||USB 2.0 Type-C||USB 2.0 Type-C|
|Dimension||(6.89 x 3.89 x 1.87)”||(7.28 x 4.71 x 1.87)”|
Similarities Between the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 & 4i4
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and the 4i4 have the same number of microphone preamps inside them. They come equipped with two microphone preamps inside them.
The type of preamps found in these audio interfaces is the award-winning Focusrite mic preamps that have now been incorporated with the Focusrite Air mode feature.
And if you’ve been doing your research, you probably know that Focusrite Scarlett preamps are one of the most transparent-sounding preamps on audio interfaces. Many hit songs have been recorded with this preamp
The fact that both of these audio interfaces have two preamps inside them means that with any of these audio interfaces, you can directly record up to two microphones.
In addition to having the same preamps, both audio interfaces can record up to 192 kHz sample rate at 24-bit depth. The sound they deliver has better Sonics and is delivered at lower latency as well.
Also, both of these audio interfaces come equipped with only one built-in headphone amplifier. So on both the 4i4 and 2i2, you can connect only one headphone to the unit itself.
In addition, both audio interfaces are bus-powered as well. Thus, you do not need to connect them to an external power source before they can function.
So, in summary
- Both Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and 4i4 have two built-in preamps. This means you can connect up to two microphones on both audio interfaces
- They both have one headphone jack.
- Both can record up to 192kHz sample rate at 24-bit depth.
- They are both bus powered
And that is where their similarities end. Now let’s take a look at all of the things that separate Scarlett 4i4 and 2i2. And then I’ll follow that with tips on how to choose which one to purchase.
Difference Between Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 & 4i4
The main difference between these two audio interfaces from Focusrite Scarlett is the number of line inputs and outputs they come with.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 comes equipped with only two input channels and two line outputs. The two inputs on the 2i2 accept mic, line, and instrument level inputs. This means you can plug in a microphone, guitar, keyboard, or synthesizer in these two inputs.
On the other hand, the Focusrite Scarlett has four input channels. Two of the four inputs are on the front panel and these are XLR ¼” combo inputs. And these inputs also accept mic, line, and instrument level inputs.
The two remaining input channels on the Scarlett 4i4 are line inputs. These inputs don’t have a preamp built into them. And they are designed to accept only line-level signals.
This means you can’t plug a microphone or a guitar directly into them. But you can plug in a keyboard, synthesizer, mixer, or hardware effects into them. And I’ll show you how to make the most use of these inputs later in the article.
In summary, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 has two input channels. And the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 has four input channels.
When it comes to outputs, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 has two outputs and both are line outputs. You can run these two line outputs separately as mono tracks. This way, you can get two separate mixes.
Or you can run them as a pair to get stereo output. Usually, these outputs are connected to a studio monitor.
The Focusrite Scarlett 4i4, on the other hand, has four line outputs. Similarly, you can run them separately to get 4 individual mono mixes or as two stereo mixes. Or you can use two of the outputs as a stereo pair for your studio monitors and then run the remaining two as separate mono mixes.
The 4i4 definitely gives you more options and flexibility on the number of outputs you can get.
Focusrite Control Software Application
The Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 comes with a user-friendly Focusrite control software that makes it possible for users to control and make changes to the interface. This software expands the capability of the Scarlett 4i4 significantly above the Scarlett 2i2.
With this app, you can record your computer’s system audio while at the same time recording audio from a microphone or anything plugged into the interface’s input.
This is a feature you need if you plan to record skype or zoom meetings, make reaction videos or make instructional videos like music production tutorials and more. This feature is known as loopback, and I talked about some of the best audio interfaces with the loopback feature in this article. Feel free to check it out.
The Focusrite control interface allows the Scarlett 4i4 to be controlled remotely from your smart device, PC, or Mac.
With this app, you can control options such as output levels, hardware input levels, panning, and many more. It also enables users to change clock sources as well as set the recording and routing parameters of the audio interface.
The Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 also adds the ability to make virtual audio routes on your computer which can be used to record online meetings like Skype or Zoom directly.
This software helps to make your music creation and recording experience using Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 audio interface great.
Unfortunately, the software that comes with Scarlett 2i2 is not as user-friendly. Thus, the Scarlett 2i2 does not offer the same level of user control and flexibility that the Scarlett 4i4 offers its users.
Apart from the fact that the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 has more line inputs and outputs than the Scarlett 2i2, it also comes equipped with another port that is not found in the Scarlett 2i2.
This port is a 5-pin MIDI port. Thus, the Scarlett 4i4 audio interface offers its users a MIDI input and output.
Having an audio interface that is engineered to have a MIDI port is ideal if you have plans of using MIDI controllers that use 5-pin DIN cables for connectivity.
This isn’t such a deal breaker though. That’s because most MIDI controllers available today have USB connectivity. So you can connect them directly to your computer without using an audio interface. But it’s a nice-to-have port on the Scarlett 4i4.
Which One Should You Buy? Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 or 4i4?
Should you buy the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 or spend a little more to get the 4i4? Here are some scenarios to help you decide which one to go for. Ultimately, it depends on what you need an audio interface for.
If you’re a songwriter and you usually write songs by yourself while playing an acoustic guitar or piano, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 will be enough for you.
You can plug in your microphone in one input and your acoustic guitar or piano in the other input channel and record your ideas. The same thing applies when you’re a vocalist that records mostly by yourself.
If you’re planning to start a two-person podcast, the Scarlett 2i2 will be enough for you. You can plug two microphones into the two input channels on the 2i2 and start recording.
Also, if you’re a music producer that uses software instruments and effect plugins, like most producers, and you record vocals every now and then, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is the best for you. You wouldn’t need the extra inputs and outputs on the Scarlett 4i4 for anything.
Now here are the scenarios where I’d recommend you buy the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4.
If you’re a music producer that has hardware instruments such as keyboards, synthesizers, or outboard effects like compressors, EQs, and more, then I highly recommend you purchase the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4.
Even if you don’t have them yet and you plan to buy some outboard gears in the near future, you should definitely get the Scarlett 4i4.
Why do I say so?
With the two line inputs at the back panel of the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4, you can plug in your keyboard or synthesizer. And you don’t need to connect or disconnect it anytime you need or don’t need to record it.
This way, you will have the two inputs on the front panel free and readily available for microphones or guitars.
If you have multiple keyboards, synths, drum machines, or hardware effects processors, you can purchase an inexpensive analog mixer such as the Mackie ProFXv3 12-Channel Mixer (I own one of these)
You can then plug in all of your keyboards, synths, guitars, and all outboard gears into the mixer’s inputs. After that, you connect the main stereo output of the mixer to the audio interface’s two line inputs.
Also, the four outputs on the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 will give you more flexibility when it comes to audio routing.
For instance, outputs 1 and 2 can be used as stereo output for your studio monitors. And then you can send audio from your DAW into your outboard effects processors using outputs 3 and 4. You can also output 3 and 4 for separate headphone mixes.
Another reason why you may want to consider picking up the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 is its loopback feature. With the Focusrite Control Software, you can record your computer’s system audio.
This makes it ideal if you plan to make YouTube tutorials or reaction videos in the future.
Essentially, the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 is a better option than the Scarlett 2i2 if you’d like to expand your home recording or studio setup in the future.
The Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 and 2i2 are among the best audio interfaces in their price range. And both have their use cases. I hope this article helps you choose which one you need for your audio setup.