Before I started looking into studio equipment, I had never heard of Focusrite. Obviously that shows how niche their market is. However, being a specialty manufacturer, they are extremely good at what they do. Here’s a rundown of the Focusrite Scarlett Solo ($100 on Amazon).
Priced at $100, this little box is a pretty good bargain for what you get. It is priced similarly to its more feature-rich companions, the Focusrite 2i2 ($150) and the Focusrite 18i8 ($350).
1 XLR input w/ gain knob (lights up green when registering, lights up orange/red when clipping)
1 TRS input w/ gain knob (same lighting scenario as XLR input)
1 Quarter-inch headphone output
1 USB type B input
1 Stereo output (L/R RCA-type)
Direct Monitoring switch
This little box comes with a USB type B connector, and that’s all you really get in the box. The Solo gives you the ability to record input from one XLR microphone (the box has phantom power built in, togglable by the press of a button) as well as a quarter-inch TRS input like you find on an electric guitar. You can also monitor the input directly with headphones and/or monitor speakers, a feature that can be turned off if you are already monitoring through your software. The line/inst switch dictates which input you’re directly monitoring. This box is a pretty nifty solution to the problem that many home-studio beginners have: How do I record from my studio quality microphone directly to my computer?
In practice, this box has served me pretty well for the past 7 months. Plug it in, download the drivers, maybe reboot your computer, and you’re done. Once you register your model on their site, you have access to a version of Pro Tools and a host of other cool downloads like 2GB of Loopmasters samples. An incredible feature of this box is that you can shrink your latency in a program like FL Studio down to nearly 1 millisecond. This makes recording while listening to a track with headphones extremely easy, no more external metronomes or weird tricks to get your input to line up with your track.
With that quarter-inch TRS connector, I can plug in my little electric keyboard to record an actual piano melody that doesn’t sound like it was created fully electronically. You could also plug in a guitar and mess around with whatever software effects you want, like Hardcore for FL Studio to record a distorted guitar riff right into your project.
The Focusrite Scarlett Solo is a really good bargain for any budding music producer. It is not super versatile in the sense that you can only really have 2 inputs plugged in at once, and you don’t have the option of recording from 2 different XLR microphones at the same time. For that functionality, you could buy the 2i2 for just 50 bucks more, or splurge for the 18i8 if you want tons of input options.
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