If you have any experience with recording at home, then you know that choosing the best audio interface is an important decision to make. You’re probably gonna also want to be on the lookout for the best audio interfaces with phantom power as picking from among those will add a ton of versatility to the type of recording you’re able to do. If you don’t know why having phantom power really matters, no big deal, keep reading and you’ll understand why.
Maybe you are starting a podcast or want to share your acoustic sessions on YouTube. Either way, you want recording studio quality…without a recording studio. And without breaking the bank. The options available, not to mention the intimidating jargon, can be overwhelming. The good news is that you don’t have to be an expert in the industry to get started. Allow me to break down the basics for you.
Getting the Best Audio Interface Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated
Most audio interface models on the market are pretty compact anywhere between one and three pounds. They are user-friendly, simple to set up and come with exactly what you need without confusing you with options and controls. Of course, if you’re looking for something even more concise, the Apogee ONE-MAC is roughly the size of a TV remote and comes with a built-in microphone. Although it costs twice as much as the other interfaces I will mention here; compact convenience comes at a price.
But even with the others, like the Focusrite Scarlett Solo and the Steinberg UR12, you can expect durable metal casing and simple design. They make it easy for you to throw all of your required equipment (interface, laptop, headphones, mic, and XLR cables) into your laptop bag for a studio on-the-go.
These systems are USB powered which means no power cords or outlets needed. It receives power through the connection to your computer. Most do not come with the XLR cables though, so you’ll need to purchase those separately.
Phantom Power Lets You a Use Condenser Microphone
Speaking of power, the majority of these products, including the PreSonus Audiobox iOne, Steinberg U12, and the Focusrite Scarlett Solo all come equipped with 48V phantom power to work most condenser mics, like the Samsung C01. This basically means that your microphone will get its power through the mic cable and won’t need any batteries or external power.
The 2nd generation Focusrite Scarlett Solo (my personal favorite, if you couldn’t tell) has everything you need for a simple setup—one crystal clear mic preamp, one instrument input ready to receive the hottest pickups, and an RCA stereo output which allows you to connect to speakers or headphones—complete with gain control (which adjusts your input signal). For more options, Focusrite has a whole spread of Scarlett products to accommodate your needs and budget. The Solo is just the baby of the family.
But let’s talk about what matters most—digital sound quality. At 192kHz/24-bit conversion, the Focusrite Scarlett Solo is going to give you the sound you want, exactly how you want it. Whether you’re playing soft or loud, this interface will reliably record and playback the crisp low-noise, low-distortion sound you’re looking for—no buzzing, no static.
And they really couldn’t have made it easier to record quality sound. The halo lights around each dial will light red when you’re clipping–which is sound distortion, usually because you’re too close or too loud. Once you back-up and ease up the gain, the lights will turn green, telling you you’re good to go.
Perform and record with confidence. The recently upgraded 2nd generation Scarlett Solo has super-low latency which allows you to monitor your sound in real-time without delay or lag in the monitor. With the award-winning Focusrite preamp, you can look forward to capturing that Focusrite professional quality, for a price you can startup with.
Do I Need to Buy Software to Use the Interface?
As for software, a purchase of any the products on the Scarlett line comes fully loaded with the programs you need to get started. It includes Pro Tools—First Focusrite Creative Pack, Ableton Live Lite, and Softune’s Time and Tone bundle just to name a few. As part of this amazing bundle, you’ll get the 16-track version of the DAW with 12 additional plug-ins and 2GB of Loopmasters samples.
Assuming your system is updated, the Scarlett Solo is compatible with both Mac and PC. When I brought mine home and plugged into my 2013 Macbook Pro, it was literally plug-n-play. However, if you need something for iPad/iOS, the PreSonus Audiobox iOne 2×2 is a good option as well.
What Do Other People Say About the Scarlett Solo?
Most users agree Focusrite Scarlett Solo (2nd generation) is the way to go. If you won’t listen to me, then maybe the 60% of reviewers who gave it five stars will convince you. One reviewer even claimed it “would be great for podcasters, solo recording, or as I do, just as a high-quality audio interface for general use” (Jason N). And it does seem like most reviewers are using the interface for varying purposes proving its versatility.
Amazon reviewers seem to love its quality and durability too. Many of the reviewers rave about its “high-quality equipment” (Keyser Reveal) and praise Focusrite’s good reputation when it comes to sturdy construction. “The unit itself is very well built and has some heft to it. The casing is red anodized aluminum and feels very solid and not hollow. All of the knobs and switches are equally solid. The knobs especially, feel great when adjusting. There’s no roughness in their rotation and they have a decent amount of resistance so you can make very fine adjustments without fear of overdoing it” (MoogleMan).
Are there any drawbacks?
So, you’re probably asking yourself…what are the cons? Well, depending on the size of the model you need, you’re looking at downfalls of some sort, though not many. The Scarlett Solo will give you just one mic preamp, but if you need more than one, an upgrade to the 2i2 will be a better choice. It’s only about $50 more, so it’s not a huge jump price-wise.
The Focusrite Scarlett Solo includes all of the essentials you need to set up shop just about anywhere. It’s sleek, durable, and the most handsome product on the line. At around a hundred bucks, the Solo will definitely get you started, and once you get acquainted with the equipment and software, you have plenty of room to grow.