The Scarlett Focusrite is one of the most commonly recommended Audio Interfaces recommended for beginners doing music and/or other audio work. After owning it for a few months, this is my review.
* Acts as a sound card for the PC (can plug in headphones, but need a TRS adapter; the large headphone jack)
* Connects to PC/Laptop via USB (in the back)
* Also has ports to connect to speakers/studio monitors (in the back)
* Has an XLR input and pre-amp for a microphone.
* Has an input and pre-amp for an electric guitar
Build Quality / Presentation: It’s not flimsy at all. It’s hard, durable and doesn’t scratch easily. Aesthetically pleasing; looks as advertised. The small size makes it portable. One downside: I would’ve rather had the ports for the XLR and audio cables in the back (not the front) for cleaner cable management on the desk.
Sound Quality (for Listening): This is definitely a big step up from the audio chip integrated in most motherboards. Songs sound clean, clear and rich – as opposed to muddy. This is a big benefit of the purchase, but it’s probably not worth spending $100 on this just to use it as a sound card. I like the monitoring knob on the front to control listening volume more than the volume button on Windows.
Pre-Amp: I don’t play guitar, so I cannot comment on that aspect, but with either gain knob, going past ~80% introduces fuzzy white noise. Condenser mics should probably perform fine on this interface (it supplies 48 volts of Phantom Power for them). However, this interface is not ideal for Dynamic microphones. Dynamic mics can’t use Phantom Power, will be way too quiet at ~80% gain but having 90-100% gain will introduce that background noise. Dynamic mic users will have to pay for an extra mic pre-amp accessory to make this interface work but they should really just get an interface with a better pre-amp. Overall, the pre-amp is good enough for the price but not great.
This is a basic interface overall that has all of the basic features needed. Good for condenser mics and guitars. Bad for dynamic mics. For a beginner or someone on a tight budget, it is a very good deal.