Recently, Focusrite announced the availability of the 4th Generation of their popular Scarlett interfaces, including the 2i2, Solo (and their corresponding studio packages), and the 4i4. Let's take a look at what this next generation brings to the table and if now is a good time to upgrade.
The 4th Generation preamps have been boosted up to 69dB of available gain range, and up to 120dB of dynamic range. That means that you can power a gain hungry microphone, like Shure's SM7b, straight from the interface without the need of an extra gain attenuator. The additional dynamic range means that you will be able to capture more of every performance without clipping or distortion. This puts the Scarlett range in line with many mid-level interfaces, at entry level costs.
At the heart of every interface is the ability to convert analog signals to digital (a/d) and digital signals to analog (d/a), and to do so as cleanly as possible. With this generation, Focusrite has utilized their powerful professional grade RedNet converters and put them into this generation of Scarlett. The combination of the upgraded preamps, with these professional converters, results in incredible audio performance. Whether you are recording or listening to music, you will hear the difference with these converters.
One of the changes with this generation is that Focusrite has gone away from the 1/4" / XLR combo jack on the front of their Solo and 2i2 interfaces, opting instead for separate XLR inputs on the back of each unit, and 1/4" inputs on the front faceplate. This change helps with cable management and makes it easier to keep your microphones connected while plugging an instrument into the front of the unit.
Auto Gain and Clip Safe
With the new Auto Gain and Clip Safe features, Focusrite has taken the guess work out of setting up your levels so that you can focus on creating. With Auto Gain, you plug your microphone or instrument in, push in the Auto Gain button, play or record for 10 seconds, and the interface will set the level that you need to record perfectly every time. Worried about still getting the wrong level? With Clip Safe enabled, the interface is checking your level 96,000 times a second, and will automatically adjust the level if it detects clipping - so that you can get the perfect take, every time.
One other notable feature is the inclusion of Loopback with all of the 4th Generation Scarlett interfaces. With Loopback, you can record computer audio directly into a DAW. This is a vital feature for podcasting, game streaming, or playing along with a backing track.
For this generation, Focusrite has improved upon their Air feature to really help your vocal take stand out. Two notable improvements are the all-analogue presence section, and the DSP-based harmonic drive section. The presence session introduces a filter circuit that delivers the same sonic character as the original Focusrite recording console. While the harmonic drive section adds rich harmonics to recordings.
The 4th Generation Scarlett's have an all new look that can best be described as functional minimalism. The knobs are easy to access, and the only items that protrude from the interface body. The face is flat and clearly marked with the various buttons, which aren't too obnoxious. The newly improved dynamic gain halos not only give you a color indicator, but they also no function as true meters, so you can visually see where your level is at before you may start clipping. The new look is aesthetically pleasing and will be a welcome addition to any desktop.
At this point in time, Focusrite has only announced upgrades for their Solo, 2i2, and 4i4 interfaces, leaving out any of their larger interfaces, including the 18i20. We can speculate that they will be releasing additional interfaces in the future, but no announcements have been provided at this time.
Putting it all Together
It's clear that with this generation of Scarlett interfaces, Focusrite is pulling out all the stops to create an affordable top notch interface that will inspire musicians, content creators, and podcasters for years to come. From the improved specifications, added functionality, and removing the barrier to entry for many, the Scarlett 4th Gen is a solid choice for just about anybody. If you are looking for your first interface, or looking to upgrade your existing Scarlett, the 4th Gen is definitely worth considering.