The Unbiased Expert Review of Focusrite Scarlett Solo (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools

The Scarlett Solo is a studio quality interface that is straightforward and compact. It is perfect for singer-songwriters and guitar players who are in search of an easy method of making studio quality recordings at home.

The Scarlett Solo can be taken anywhere. You can immediately begin recording by USB connection and plugging in a guitar and a mic. It is both compact and versatile. Singer-songwriters can use the two-in/two-out wherever and whenever they want to produce studio-quality audio.

Immerse yourself in sound as you connect home speakers, studio monitors, or headphones, and turn up the volume. The Scarlett Solo 2nd Generation Interface and Pro Tools are available through Amazon.

What is included in the bundle?

The second generation Focusrite Scarlett Solo features a two-in/two-out USB 2.0 audio interface. It has a 24-bit/192kHz recording, a redesigned input section, and lower latency than the previous model.

Also included in the bundle are 2GB of Loopmasters samples and sounds, Novation Bass Station AU plug-in synthesizer and VST. The purchase consists of a free XLN Addictive Key license. Red Plug-In Suite, Softube, and Time and Tone Bundle. The Ableton Live Lite and USB cables are also part of the package. There are also USB bus power, a headphone outlet, two line outputs, one instrument input and a Scarlett mic preamp.

Addictive Keys supports all major plug-in formats. It can be used with the Pro Tools application. Addictive Keys also works as a standalone device that requires no host music software. It makes loading an instrument easy. You find an inspiring preset and begin to play.

For one low price, all the accessories needed for ultimate interface performance are included in the bundle. You get more for your money with the audio interface bundle.

What improvements were made on the Scarlett Solo 2nd generation interface?

The second generation model looks much like the original. It is what is on the inside that has been improved. The new generation Scarlett is enhanced in every way. It is packed full of upgrades.

The interface now operates at sample rates up to 96 kHz. Download and streaming markets have an increased interest in high-resolution audio provisions for their customers. Focusrite is ahead of the game with the 96 kHz masters available.

Like all other Scarlett interfaces, it has class-leading digital conversion and sound quality. The second generation is better, fast, and easier than the original. It is the easiest Focusrite way to start recording.

There are a number of product design improvements. A red metal chassis and metal gain controls are apparent new improvements. There are a number of product design improvements hidden by the chassis. The input channels have evolved. A completely redesigned instrument input handles hot guitar pickups.

The latest mic preamp features a gain structure that is evener. It helps accurately set the levels. A redesigned instrument input has increased headroom to handle guitar pickups that are seriously hot.

Across both the inputs and outputs, analog circuitry protection is provided. It guards the interface against power surges. Because a power supply is not needed, the portable, compact interface can be taken anywhere. A single USB cable connects and powers the Scarlett Solo.

The Alliance between Avid and Focusrite resulted in the Scarlett Solo 2nd Generation being shipped with Avid Pro Tools First. The combined products have been named the Focusrite Creative Pack. It is an exclusive package that offers a free version of the Pro Tools software. The Pro Tool First, plug-ins, and Ableton Live are included.

12 additional plug-ins include the Eleven Lite for guitar and emulations and Tape Echo that are used for bringing classic analog delays to the mix. The exclusive Pro Tools that come with the interface have software and effects needed to start recording.

Focusrite improves performance by using multi-layer boards that have ground planes between the layers. The design and implementation of the analog circuit are of more importance in many ways than the digital.

For best results, particular expertise and care are needed. The sample rates used by Focusrite interfaces are above the standard. Higher sample rates translate to lower latency. With low latency, favorite plug-ins can be monitored while recording.

The joint commitment of Focusrite and Avid ensures the best possible experience for consumers. The first step of the alliance involved testing every Scarlett Solo 2nd generation interface and the Pro Tools.

12 additional plug-ins include the Eleven Lite for guitar and emulations and Tape Echo that are used for bringing classic analog delays to the mix. The exclusive Pro Tools that come with the interface have software and effects needed to start recording.

The Red Plug-In Suite includes VST, audio units, and AAX. It delivers modules based on Red 2 and 3 EQ and compressor software. The Tone Pack and Softube that are included allow further sonic exploration within a chosen DAW.

What are the operating requirements?

The Scarlett Solo 2nd Generation interface is bus powered. It is PC and Mac compatible. The interface works across all major DAWs. The system requirements are El Capitan, Mac OS X Yosemite or Windows 8.1, 7, or 10. A driver is required for use with a PC. The interface is class compliant on a Mac.

The Scarlett Solo is a portable USB 2.0 digital audio interface. Phantom power is a feature of the Scarlett Solo microphone preamp. It has a dedicated instrument/line input. Signals are monitored through a rear-mount or an independent ¼-inch output.

What are the functions of the components?

The sound of the Scarlett Solo USB audio interface is just what you want it to be. Vocals and guitars can be recorded on independent channels or simultaneously that allow them to be mixed separately.

Latency means the time required for a signal to travel through a digital system. Low latency is a Focusrite goal. The in/out latency speed times are as low as 2.74 ms when testing the fastest Focusrite USB performance at 96 kHz on OS 10.11 / Mac Pro having a buffer size of 3.2 and Logic Pro X.

The most common latency concern is round-trip latency. Round-trip latency is the time required for the signal to enter the interface, the computer, the DAW software, and back to the monitor via the interface again.

In the past, round-trip latency took so long that is was impossible to monitor overdubs. The delay could cause music to be off. Zero latency monitoring had to be used. Listening through the DAW could not be done.

When the DAW plug-ins can’t be used, particular outboard DSP is needed, or merely listening to the input is done. The conversion design and innovative driver of the Scarlett Solo offer round-trip latency of 2.74 ms when measured at 96 kHz having 32 samples on Logic Pro X run on Mac Pro OS 10.11.

High sample rates lower latency. Another benefit of high sample rates is the filters, regarding frequency, are further away from the actual audio. They are smoother and gentler, and not as likely to cause problems. The result is a sound quality improvement.

The exact value is subject to the DAW choice, the host computer, and the settings. It is now possible to work entirely within the DAW for playback and overdubs using favorite virtual instruments and plug-ins.

They can be listened to as they are recorded. The outboard DSP is not needed because a computer is powerful enough to handle all the desired plug-ins. Special mixes are not required for overdubbing. Overdubs can be done through the DAW in mix mode.

Time and effort are saved. A more enveloping sound is produced. At the same time, ‘comfort reverb’ on vocals and other effects are enjoyed in the best possible environment for performance.

Focusrite has been manufacturing digital audio converters for nearly as long as they have been making preamps. Mic preamps that have super-low latency allow recording and monitoring using software effects in real time. The super-low latency makes for positive real-time performance.

The second generation Scarlett makes it possible for the full standard sample rates range, from those used on CDs and DVDs to high-resolution audio. With increased interest in quality high-resolution streaming and downloads, mixing track sampling makes sense.

Most music computers have the capabilities to handle the extra load. Going up to 192 kHz is an option. The heart of computer audio interface is the conversion of digital to analog and vice versa.

Digital audio was made possible more than 60 years ago by researchers such as Claude Shannon and Harry Nyquist who developed the central digital sampling theorem. The new technology had some significant problems.

Bit by bit the discovery of dither, clock signals that are stable and clean, and jitter influence improved digital audio quality issues. Today, many factors that affect digital audio quality are understood.

The factors that were once significant issues are no longer problematic. No secret method of production makes a conversion system. For the most part, solutions developed by manufacturers do not make a conversion system better than another.

It is the design considerations that make the Scarlett Solo stand out above the rest. A well-designed conversion system balances competing factors such as distortion, frequency response, dynamic range and floor noise.

The goal of Focusrite is to balance these factors for the best sound possible. Lowering noise that is below the level of reasonable input signal a dB or so could distort the sound. The 96 kHz is an excellent balance to the higher sample rates.

It noticeably reduces latency and optimized performance. Even though the converters do not operate on the edge of the range, the filters work beyond the audio band. The specifications found on the Scarlett Solo are what is produced when the product is used in a real session.

Some manufacturers give figures taken from chipset data. A manufacturer cannot cut corners when designing a converter. There must be careful component selection, and well-designed board layout and construction.

The mistake made by some manufacturers is placing the converter chips in the center of the board and the analog circuitry on one side and digital support on the other. Keeping them apart minimizes fast real-time digital spikes going into the analog side, and the noise floor is degraded.

Professionals recommend Scarlett interfaces.

There are no better experts to weigh in on Scarlett interfaces that those who produce professional recordings. Artists can choose an interface to match his or her needs. They are flexible and can be configured any way needed to incorporate the interface to improve the quality of their work.

Alexis Taylor used a Scarlett interface when he made a record called the White Barbarians. He was essentially the whole band for the product that was sent to the label. Taylor expected to be asked to record the song with another band. The label felt the sound was good enough to publish as it was.

Simon Manhart is a record producer who says when choosing a piece of equipment for a recording studio, the sound quality is the first and foremost factor needed. The design of equipment is significant.

The workflow should be smooth when using it. Workflow means nothing unless the quality of the equipment produces the sound of a certain standard. The Scarlett interfaces guarantee that standard.

Lee Pomeroy plays bass guitar with the band Take That. He says he needs equipment that sounds great right off the bat. Pomeroy is not a technical person. If he can plug into sound that is great right away, he will keep the equipment. Focusrite equipment always delivers. He is happy with the results.

Record producer, John Mitchell points out the quality of the Focusrite interface preamps are second to none. The signal to noise ratio is always perfect. The compact design makes a laptop, and a Scarlett interfaces the ideal marriage for recording a record. Mark Hill, an Ivor Novello Award winner, has used Focusrite products for about 20 years.

When you’re building your home recording studio (Digital Audio Workstation, or DAW), you’ll need some equipment. Thanks to modern technological advancements and innovations, the cost of most of this equipment is quite affordable, even for the struggling artist. An interface is absolutely essential to connect your microphones, guitar amps, keyboards, and other instruments to your computer so recording can take place. The Focusrite Scarlett Solo is one of the best USB audio interfaces you’ll find, and the price is right for almost every budget.

There are plenty of reasons the Focusrite Scarlett Solo is the perfect USB audio interface for a home recording studio, but being able to record right out of the box, take it anywhere, and its simplicity of use are some of the best features. Oh, and the price is stupendous.

You can connect home speakers, studio monitors, or even headphones to capture the true mix in real time, and you can connect just about any instrument or microphone through this interface to any modern computer system.

What Do You Get with Your Bundle?

The Focusrite Scarlett Solo, second generation, comes with two in and two out ports. Yes, that may sound limited for those who will be recording multiple tracks at once, but most home studio artists just starting out will most likely be recording one at a time. Also, many beginners will be relying on drum machines or looping tracks for percussion, so there’s no need to mic of a full kit with seven or more microphones.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo gives you just enough to whet your proverbial whistle and that also adds another benefit: simplicity.

I can’t tell you how many novice studio recording enthusiasts I’ve seen become overwhelmed trying to make sense of multiple inputs and mixing tracks. Step inside a serious professional recording studio, into the mixing console room, and take a look at the sliders, dials, knobs, switches, buttons, lights, and more. It can be instantly overwhelming.

And, unfortunately, that’s what happens too often to many new recording enthusiasts. The Focusrite Scarlett Solo keeps it simple, providing you exactly what you’ll need to get started. Remember, if you are going to record a full kit, you can pool together some funds and bring it to a professional studio, then return home to do the rest, if you want.

This bundle also include 2GB (gigabytes) of Loopmasters samples and sounds. You see? You won’t need a drummer to start your new recording career! You’ll also get to enjoy Novation Bass Station AU plug-in synthesizer and VST sound banks. You’ll also have access to a free XLN Addictive Key license, which you’ll likely spend quite a bit of time exploring and getting excited about.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo also provides Red Plug-In Suite, Softube, and Time and Tone Bundle. USB cables and Ableton Live are also part of the package. Not only that, but you get to enjoy USB bus power (don’t worry about this just yet … its benefit may become clear as you delve into actual recording), a headphone outlet, two line outputs, and an instrument input. A Scarlett mic preamp also comes built-in, which can be beneficial for condenser mics.

What Makes the 2nd Generation Better?

Most of the time it seems as though we can become disenfranchised by so many slick marketing slogans and taglines, like ‘new and improved’ or ‘X gen’ products. With the Focusrite Scarlett Solo, though, it does offer some key improvements.

First of all, this interface is a 24-bit/192kHz device. Since the human ear cannot even differentiate sound discrepancies at 24-bit, it basically means you’ll be recording crisp, clear sound. Whatever you play, whatever your equipment or voice produces, that’s exactly what your recording software will capture; there will be no breakdown in the quality of the sound signal.

The look of the second generation is pretty much the same as the first, but it now operates at sample rates up to 96 kHz. High resolution is critical to a great recording and when you have an interface that will maximize quality, you can take full advantage of download and streaming sounds and other banks. Mastering at 96 kHz is simply superior to its counterparts that don’t attain that level.

Speed is also improved. Yes, speed masters when it comes to a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Let’s say you’re recording a vocal track. The condenser mic’s diaphragm is changing the sound wave into a digital signal. Next, that digital signal is carried along the microphone cable to the interface.

If the interface doesn’t offer the fastest speeds, then the quality of the recording can and often will suffer.

The mic preamp has also been improved, and you now get a smoother, more even control of the gain settings for this preamp. The instrument input has been upgraded to now handle hotter signals, such as those coming from guitar pickups that are rated ‘hot.’ What this means is the interface can handle these ‘hotter’ pickups without leading to distortion and you’ll be able to control and make adjustments at the recording software level to maximize quality of the track.

Internal Protections

Most of us probably think very little of power surges and how they could completely destroy computers, interfaces, and other electronic devices. We take things a bit too ‘for granted’ in today’s modern climate, but a lightning strike, brown out, or power outage (even for just a few seconds) has the potential to cause ‘spikes’ in the electrical currents that can damage sensitive electronic components. Focusrite Scarlett Solo has an improved internal shields along the inputs and outputs as well as analog circuitry. They protects it better against mild power spikes.

Selling Points

There are many selling points about the Focusrite Scarlett Solo that I’ve already discussed in some detail, but one that is touted often these days is that Pro Tools First comes included with Focusrite Scarlett Solo 2nd Generation. Yes, Pro Tools is the leader in the industry for home recording software and something I recommend to everyone, but their ‘First’ edition is already free for download directly from their site. Still, it’s a bonus as part of this package.

What we should focus on, though, is that Avid (creator or Pro Tools) has so much confidence in the Focusrite Scarlett Solo that it has partnered with it. It basically means when you open the box and plug it into your computer, you’re just about ready to record.

Lower Latency

No, this isn’t a downside. This is an upside, and an improvement. Faster sample rates that are permitted by the Focusrite Scarlett Solo mean lower latency, and that basically means you’ll be able to do more in real time with various plug-ins, but of course that is also going to be dependent on the computer system you’re using.

Let’s say your main recording computer is a solid desktop with 8GB RAM and an i5 quad-core processor. You’ve got plenty of internal memory and processing speeds to handle the workload. Now, with lower latency, the plug-in effects you add directly to the track while recording will be able to be monitored in real-time.

For new home studio aficionados, that’s a lot of fancy terminology to say, simply, you can do more in the middle of your recordings with lower latency. Many other comparably priced interfaces can’t compete with Focusrite on this level.

To help you better understand latency, think about this: if your signal requires 0.01 ms to go from your voice to the mic and down the cable, then 0.5 s to be transitioned through the interface, another 0.1 ms through the recording software and plug-in effects, and then another 0.5 s through the interface and your headphones and monitors, you won’t notice the 0.11 millisecond differential caused by the mic or software, but than full second delay caused by the interface is going to affect your ability to tweak and adjust in real-time.

Lower latency equals better quality mixing, recording, and control.

Let’s Talk About Minimal System Requirements

Every software package and any device you plug into your computer will have minimum system requirements. The Focusrite Scarlett Solo is bus powered and PC and Mac compatible. It will work with all major DAWs, including Pro Tools.

The interface is class compliant with Mac, and you’ll need at least El Capitan or Mac OS X Yosemite. If you’re running Windows, you’ll need 7, 8.1, 0r 10 and you’ll need a driver when running on Windows.

Portability and Phantom Power

One of the strengths of the Focusrite Scarlett Solo 2nd Gen is its portability. You’ll find numerous interfaces in professional studios that are affixed to racks. They’re not portable in a regular sense.

The Focusrite Scarlett Solo is. That means if you want to head over to your guitarist’s house to do some recording, simply grab your laptop, interface, and a few cables and you’re ready to go. If you want to capture the incredible sounds of a thunderstorm rolling in, that’s a piece of cake thanks to the portability of this interface.

Most condenser microphones will require phantom power to operate. Some will come with their own external phantom power source (48v DC), but with the Focusrite Scarlett Solo, there’s no need for anything extra. Simply plug in that condenser mic through the appropriate XLR input and you’re ready to go.

Getting the Most Out of Your Focusrite Scarlett Solo 2nd Gen

Having all the best equipment is one thing; learning to use them and maximizing them is another. If you want to get the most of out your new Focusrite Scarlett Solo 2nd Gen, then be sure to take a few moments to read through the user guide. It’ll provide a basic overview of the features, controls, and options.

Next, make sure you are hooking it up to a computer with enough speed, otherwise it’ll get bogged down, run slow, or even crash. Nothing’s more frustrating than getting deep into a tough track and having the system completely freeze.

Also, having a quality interface like the Focusrite Scarlett Solo connected to an older, slow computer system would be like throwing a Honda 1.5L engine into a Ferrari chassis. It’ll look great, but the performance is going to be sorely lacking.

Are There Any Downsides to the Focusrite Scarlett Solo 2nd Gen?

Yes, it is limited due to the inputs. If you’re planning on recording multiple tracks, multiple instruments, or live drums, for example, you won’t be able to do it with the Focusrite Scarlett Solo 2nd Gen (at least not with only one).

This interface is most ideal for new home studio recording setups or those who seek portability and will only (or mostly) be recording one instrument at a time (stereo or mono).

This is truly one of the best interfaces on the market and numerous professional recording enthusiasts have at least one as part of their digital audio workstation.