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This article was originally published in issue #31
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Back in issue 25 I reviewed the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface, and said, “the 2i2 is small and light and red. And simple!”
Well, the Scarlett Solo is smaller, lighter, just as red. And simpler! There does come a point past which there doesn’t seem to be much point in reducing size for the sake of it, and whilst the Solo is certainly a bit smaller (it’s about 35mm narrower) it’s honestly not really much more portable in practical terms. A quick read through the spec sheet shows very similar (but slightly different in a few areas) numbers, so what is the point?
A quick online search suggests a possible answer; the 2i2 isn’t exactly expensive but the Solo appears to have a street-price about 20% lower, which gives very entry level access to the Scarlett range - and that’s a good thing.
What the Solo gives you is a single channel Scarlett microphone pre-amp and a line/instrument channel. The mic input has a front panel XLR socket, a button for phantom power and a dedicated gain control with Focusrite’s really neat multi-colour halo level indicator around it. The instrument/line channel has a TRS balanced jack socket, instrument/line switch and a matching gain knob/halo indicator set-up. Add a monitor level knob and single headphone socket, with a switch for Direct Monitor (switches the input directly to the output so you can hear it without latency for recording) and that’s the front taken care of. Flip the unit around and the back’s even simpler - just a USB connector (no power socket) a pair of RCA phono outputs, and a security socket. Those unbalanced outputs may put a few people off, but in practice I had no issues and a pair of phono leads is easier to fold into a bag than a pair of balanced XLR or TRS leads.
The unit couldn’t be much easier to use, connect to computer, plug in a source or two, make noise, turn-up gain - if the halo goes red on the loud bits, turn it down until it doesn’t - and record. You get a license for Ableton Live Lite and the Scarlett plug-in suite along with a bunch of Loopmaster samples and Novation’s Bass Station plug-in, so you can literally begin recording by adding a microphone and a couple of leads (oh, and a computer).
The feature set on the Solo is basic, but you get the Scarlett preamp which gives a lot of quality at a surprisingly low price, 24 bit/96kHz converters, metal case and dead simple operation. It’s great for basic recording (bear in mind that you can’t record stereo with this configuration); if you need more, well the range extends in logical steps up to the eight analogue input (plus digital and MIDI) 18i20.
Effectively, then what we have here is budget-friendly interface with Scarlett quality - just make sure the IO meets your needs!