You don’t NEED a preamp with the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. The preamps that it comes with are perfectly adequate. However, you may want one. Preamps can provide a specific sound, a higher quality at higher input gains, pleasant saturation, and even other effects. However, you cannot connect a preamp directly to a computer.
Preamps And Audio Interfaces
Preamps and audio interfaces are often mentioned in the same conversation.
It cannot be obvious to determine which piece of equipment does what and, even more importantly, which one you need.
This article will discuss what a preamp is, what an audio interface is, whether you need or want one, and the differences between these two pieces of gear.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. This article can be applied to most audio interfaces.
Is The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 A Preamp?
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is an audio interface. It is part of the Focusrite Scarlett USB audio interface range, which includes the Scarlett Solo and Scarlett 2i4.
This audio interface, along with most other interfaces, allows you to plug in a microphone or an instrument to your computer and to connect output devices such as speakers or headphones.
An audio interface also provides a higher quality soundcard than the one included with your computer or iPad Pro if you’re connecting to that.
Does The Scarlett 2i2 Have A Preamp?
The whole Focusrite Scarlett range has preamps. The Scarlett 2i2 has two preamps, whereas other models have less or more, such as the Focusrite Scarlett Solo, which has only one preamp.
The microphone preamp quality improves with each generation of the Focusrite Scarlett product line (with the current being the 3rd generation). There is even an extra feature on the 3rd generation interfaces called “air,” an analog circuit in the preamp to add a little pleasant high-end presence to the audio signal.
Do You Need A Preamp With The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2?
Not at all. The preamp in the Scarlett 2i2 is perfectly adequate. The preamp is used to amplify the input signal into the audio interface.
The preamps built into an audio interface are typically clean. They don’t add any character or effects. They are just used to amplify the signal.
The Benefits of Using a Preamp with Your Scarlett 2i2
Using a preamp with a Scarlett 2i2, or any audio interface for that matter, has a few advantages over using just the preamps in the audio interface:
- A better quality recording at higher gain volumes.
- Adds a specific character to the sound.
- You can increase the input gain to achieve some pleasant saturation.
- Some preamps come with effects such as compression and EQ that you can apply to the recording as it’s being recorded.
Preamp Vs. Audio Interface – What Are The Main Differences?
A preamp will amplify a microphone signal and other low-level audio signals. It has an audio input and audio output.
Sometimes the preamp will include effects like EQ and compression. Some preamps are clean in sound, and others can saturate the signal.
An audio interface allows you to record into a computer and hear the output from your DAW. They typically will have preamps built into them, but they will be very clean sounding and not a specific character.
Now that you know the difference between an audio interface and an external preamp, you should check out our article on which audio interfaces professional studios use.
Do You Need A Mic Preamp?
The mic level is too low to get a good-quality recording. The clean preamps in a Focusrite Scarlett audio interface will do this.
Of course, the higher the audio interface’s quality, the better the preamp. For example, the Universal Audio interfaces have exceptional preamps.
However, you may want a microphone preamp that does more than amplify the audio signal. Some preamps, especially those that are analog or emulating a classic standalone preamp, have a particular sonic character. This is a common reason that certain producers use certain preamps.
Some preamps have an EQ section, where you can shape the audio frequencies as it’s being recorded so that the audio signal captured in your DAW is already treated with EQ. The same applies to a compressor on a preamp and saturation if the preamp has these abilities.
There is also the option of a tube preamp, which will have a nice analog saturation effect when the gain knob is turned up.
A great example of the benefits of using a preamp is recording vocals. It is a great luxury to shape a sound out of the computer and make it much more manageable in the box. Even if it’s just a little compression, it makes mixing it so much easier.
Certain preamps will also have the option to deliver phantom power to a microphone. A condenser mic and a ribbon mic will need phantom power to work.
Most audio interfaces can provide phantom power. However, you may need a preamp to deliver that phantom power if you have one without this option. If not, you’re limiting your choice of microphone.
However, suppose you’re looking for an excellent vocal microphone that doesn’t require phantom power. In that case, I couldn’t recommend the Shure SM7B higher. I use this on all of my vocals and couldn’t be happier. It’s also used on 90% of the podcasts that I watch.
Can You Use A Mixer As A Preamp?
You can. However, I wouldn’t recommend it. Unless you have a mixer with excellent preamps or ones you like the sound of, there is no need. Also, buying a mixer for this purpose differs from how I would go. Instead, I would invest in an audio interface with great preamps or buy an external one.
How To Hook Connect An Audio Interface To A Preamp – Step-By-Step Guide
Adding a preamp to your audio setup can seem daunting, but we have you covered. If you’re ready to include your external preamp in your audio equipment signal chain for a specific sound quality, then here is how you connect it to your audio interface.
The first thing to do is to plug your microphone into the input port of the preamp using an XLR cable. We want the preamp to be before the audio interface in the signal chain.
Now we must connect the preamp’s output to the audio interface’s input. This will be an XLR or a TRS cable, depending on your preamp.
Finally, providing your audio interface is plugged in, and your DAW is running, select the input of your audio interface that has the output of the preamp connected to it on your DAW. Now you can record using the preamp into the interface, which is then converted to the computer.
Not recording through a microphone? Maybe you want to record guitar? In that case, please read our article on whether an audio interface is required to record a guitar.
Is Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 A DAC?
Yes, it is. If you’re unfamiliar with this term, a DAC is a digital-to-analog converter. It also acts as an analog-to-digital converter.
This means it will convert the analog signal you are putting into the audio interface, for example, a guitar, and convert it to a digital signal for the computer. It also will convert the digital signal from your computer into an analog signal to be played through an output device, such as headphones or studio monitors.
Which One Should You Get, The Scarlett 2i2 Or The Scarlett Solo?
This depends on your needs. The Scarlett Solo has only one preamp, whereas the Scarlett 2i2 has two. The Scarlett Solo does have another input for instruments, such as an electric guitar, otherwise known as a line input.
But, if you need an interface that will allow you to plug in two microphones, two instruments, or one of each, then the Scarlett 2i2 is the best option. If you only need one mic input and one instrument input, then the Scarlett Solo is for you.
At What Point In Your Journey Should You Purchase An Audio Interface?
It’s never too early to get an audio interface. Even if you get one of the cheap Behringer audio interfaces, such as the Behringer U-Phoria UM2. An interface provides:
– An external soundcard.
– A way to record through its input/inputs.
– A clean way to hear your music through its outputs.
It will make your recording and general music-making so much easier. For the amount of money that it costs, it is one of the first things to buy for making music.
How Do You Record Your Acoustic And Vocals At The Same Time Using Focusrite Scarlett 2i2?
The Scarlett 2i2 has two preamps, so you can use two microphones to record your acoustic guitar and vocals. The ideal scenario would be to use a large diaphragm condenser microphone on the acoustic guitar and for the vocals to be recorded by a microphone like the Shure SM7B.
Do I Even Need An Audio Interface?
It depends on what you are looking to do. If you’re interested in starting a podcast, maybe using a USB microphone is best for you.
If you want to record music, mix music, play guitar through your computer, or anything else in the music world, then I recommend an audio interface.
Do You Need More Than One Headphone Output?
That ultimately depends on your situation. If you’re recording yourself or working alone in whatever field of music production you choose, then one headphone output is absolutely fine.
Having enough headphone outputs for each person is ideal if you record other artists or work with others. That way, you’re not swapping headphones around, and everyone can hear what they need to.
For the question of this article, the answer is no. You do not need a preamp with the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. The built-in preamps are perfectly capable of doing what you need.
However, a preamp would be required if you want a specific sound or the ability to affect the audio before it’s in the computer.
Now that you’ve seen the utility of an external preamp, maybe you want to focus on the audio interface. Check out our article on whether an audio interface improves sound quality.