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Focusrite Scarlett Solo

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).

1. Price

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).

2. Features

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

Volume Knob

Line/Inst 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?

3. Functionality

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.

Conclusion

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.

Consider buying it with my affiliate link to support my website and career!

Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Headphones

Let’s start with the basics. Everybody knows that Sennheiser makes good quality headphones, right? It’s basically common knowledge. The great thing about Sennheiser is their price points. These headphones (Sennheiser HD280PRO Headphone (new model)) are only about 100 US dollars.

Compared to other offerings, the HD 280 Pro headphones are a pretty good deal. I’ve had my pair for about 7 months now, and here is my take on them. They come with a 3.5mm connector that can be adapted to the quarter-inch size with an included threaded adapter, so it’s nice and snug.

 

1. Comfort

Comfort is probably one of the best aspects of these headphones. I can wear them for hours at a time without noticing any sort of pain or discomfort. These headphones are so comfortable primarily because they’re pretty lightweight. They only have 2 small synthetic leather pads in the headband rather than a full-length pad, but in all honesty I can’t notice a real difference between headphones with a big pad and these ones.

2. Sound Quality

Obviously, sound quality is extremely important when it comes to studio-quality monitoring headphones. These headphones have an amazingly flat frequency response, I find myself noticing things in music that I never noticed before. These headphones are meant for listening to your own tracks and honing in the sound, so it isn’t too surprising that they sound so good. The bass is excellent and the mids and highs come in clean and crisp. The noise attenuation (that is, how much outside noise is cancelled out) is absolutely incredible considering that these aren’t active noise cancelling headphones. I find myself listening to music at a much lower volume than usual because it isolates the sound so well.

3. Looks

Let’s be honest, these headphones aren’t exactly designed for style. They’re made mostly of black plastic and synthetic leather, with a couple of subdued Sennhesier branding on either ear cup, as well as “Sennheiser” written on the headband.

4. Pricing & Conclusion

In this day and age, you’d be hard press to find a better pair of studio monitoring headphones for the money ($100).

The only downside to these headphones is potentially their durability. Don’t go throwing these down a flight of stairs. I handled mine a little too roughly, and now a buzzing sound comes through the right earcup during bass-heavy parts. Still, I give these headphones a 9 out of 10. Consider buying them through my affiliate link if you want to support my website and career! (link)