Alesis IO2 Express vs Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

If you are really sure that you only need two channels to tackle your projects, Alesis IO2 Express vs Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 are popular audio interfaces that may attract your interest. Below, you can read the detailed discussion about how these two models compare against each other to find out which one that will suit your needs and purpose well.

In this article, you can find further information about:

  • The size, weight, and build quality of each audio interface
  • The available inputs and outputs on both models
  • Which model that comes with better software
  • Which model that has lower latency and better sound
  • Whether you should go with Alesis IO2 Express or Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 for the best value and performance

Alesis IO2 Express: Design

Alesis IO2 Express is a two-channel audio interface with a compact, lightweight body and dedicated MIDI I/O ports. It can capture sounds in 24-bit/48kHz and send the signals to your computer via a USB connection, which also serves to provide bus power for the device. See also: Lexicon Alpha Vs Focusrite 2i2

If we put Alesis IO2 Express vs Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 side by side, we will see that the differences in their dimensions are very marginal. Alesis IO2 Express measures 6.1 inches x 4.9 inches, with a thickness of 2.0 inches. Alesis IO2 Express is a little bit lighter at 0.85 lbs.

Regarding the build quality, people are often surprised by the durable aluminum housing. The connectors and dials are very sturdy; they feel more robust than most other models in this price range and even some other models that cost more. Alesis IO2 Express almost feels like a true professional kit.

The combination of the compact design and the rugged construction makes Alesis IO2 Express a very viable choice for portable recording. You can bring this unit along as you travel without worrying about the abuse that it may face while on the road. That said, it is also a decent desktop unit that won’t take much space.

Alesis IO2 Express: Features

On the top panel, you can find two combo inputs that can be switched between mic and line. Interestingly, each channel also has a dedicated guitar-level input and a 1/4-inch insert jack for adding effects. Each channel is equipped with a gain knob and a four-segment meter for showing the signal level and warning about clipping.

Still on the top panel, you can find a switch for enabling or disabling 48V phantom power globally. In addition, there is a headphone output for monitoring, complete with a mix control, a volume control, and a mono/stereo switch. There is also a master level control for adjusting the main outputs’ volume. Meanwhile, the rear panel holds two line-level outputs, a pair of MIDI I/O connectors, and the USB port.

Alesis IO2 Express vs Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 are similar that they draw power from their USB ports. However, if you often work with guitars and effects, the dedicated inputs on Alesis IO2 Express can be really nice to have.

Alesis IO2 Express comes with the Cubase LE software. It is pretty good for a beginner. Cubase LE is the compact version of the popular Cubase Pro DAW, and uses the same core technologies with easy-to-use tools for all genres. Only the feature set is streamlined. Yet, it includes pretty much everything that you need to start working, and comes in a neat package.

Cubase LE is a bit limited, but people who are just starting out will find the features and capabilities sufficient. There are 16 VST slots for your plug-ins, and you can put up to 48 audio tracks in a single project.

Alesis IO2 Express: Performance

Alesis IO2 Express is class-compliant. As the effect, it is plug-and-play on most platforms. However, in order to get the best performance, you need to download the ASIO4All drivers provided in the company’s official website. The initial latency is about 11ms, but after using the drivers, the latency goes down to about 6ms, which is really good.

When choosing between Alesis IO2 Express vs Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, sample rate is something that you may want to consider. Alesis IO2 Express supports a maximum sample rate of 48kHz. This is the basic standard for recording, and it has optimum compatibility with video codecs and CD formats. However, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 does support higher sample rates which can offer increased sound quality and plug-in performance.

In use, the operation is simple and smooth. The only minor problem is that the meters of the input signals are not very accurate. As the effect, you will want to use the software to monitor the input signals. The sounds from the inputs are generally accurate and detailed, but there seems to be a very slight layer of noise on it. Fortunately, the noise is not noticeable in the mix.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2: Design

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is also a two-channel audio interface that comes with a compact body. It is also available at a reasonable price point. However, don’t get mistaken; despite being an entry-level model, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 already offers recording in 24-bit/192kHz, and the build quality is very impressive.

The distinctive feature of Focusrite Scarlett models appearance-wise is the red hard-anodized aluminum chassis. It looks really beautiful, and it is also very tough. The robust build ensures that the audio interface can withstand usage abuse without complaining. The switches and knobs on Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 are plastic, and hence don’t feel as luxurious, but this is understandable because of the affordable nature of the unit – not to mention that the switches and knobs still feel solid and precise.

Well, if we compare the dimensions of Alesis IO2 Express vs Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, there isn’t much to say. Both are very compact, lightweight, and portable. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 measures 6.8 inches x 4.5 inches, with a weight of about 1.38 pounds. This audio interface is easy to bring along wherever you go.

As a bus-powered unit, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 won’t need a dedicated power outlet. It draws power from the USB computer connection. The front panel features halo-shaped light indicators around the gain knobs, which further enhance the overall appearance of the unit. The indicators will light green if the signals are good, or red if clipping happens. They make the monitoring very intuitive.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2: Features

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is equipped with two combo inputs for XLR or 1/4-inch TRS jacks. Each input has its own mic preamp. The inputs also have mic/instrument switches, but you won’t find dedicated guitar inputs or effects inserts. Nevertheless, there is a globally switchable 48V phantom power, which is needed if you want to work with condenser mics.

For monitoring, there is a headphone output that is accompanied with a gray button for enabling the direct monitoring. There are also knobs for mix control and volume control. Meanwhile, the rear panel is very simple with just two stereo line outs and the USB port. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 lacks MIDI I/O, and this can be a problem for some people.

The software bundle is rich. Two very nice things that you will get are Ableton Live Lite and the Scarlett plug-in suite. You will also get 2GB of Loopmasters samples, the Softube Time and Tone Bundle, and one free XLN Addictive Keys virtual instrument.

Although Ableton Live Lite is basically a starter version of Ableton Live which comes with just the basic features, it is already very good for beginners. It already comes with full VST and AU support. It allows you to add up to eight audio tracks. And with the Ableton Live Lite provided by Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, you will get the option to upgrade to Ableton Live at a discounted rate.

The Scarlett plug-in suite also deserves some attention. It provides various EQ, compression, reverb, and gating plug-ins that sound really good. The plug-ins also have parameters that are easy to tweak.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2: Performance

The overall performance of Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is very satisfying and reliable. Perhaps the most impressive thing regarding the performance is the very low latency. It is consistent around 6ms without requiring any driver download. You won’t hear any lag or delay.

However, if you really want to work with zero latency, you can just enable the direct monitoring function. It will route the audio signals from the inputs directly to the headphone and main outputs. This will give you the most accurate real-time sounds from the sources.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 has 24-bit resolution and supports a maximum sample rate of 192kHz. So, this should be your choice if you want to master audio tracks at high sample rates. Using a high sample rate can improve the sound quality and allow some plug-ins to perform better.

The preamps of Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 are really great. The sounds come out with very good detail, clarity, and accuracy. The preamps don’t add any color to the sounds, and they do have decent gain levels.

Alesis IO2 Express vs Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

- Two-channel computer audio recording interface, comes complete with a copy of Steinberg Cubase LE digtal audio workstation (DAW) software.
- Record up to 24-bit, 48 kHz audio into virtually any software
- High-quality A/D and D/A converters, discrete-design preamps, 48V phantom power
- Inputs for microphones, line-level sources, and instruments including guitars
- Two natural-sounding Scarlett mic preamps with plenty of even gain; two instrument inputs, 1/4-inch balanced jack outputs to connect professional studio monitors; one headphone output with gain control
- Class-leading conversion and sample rates up to 192kHz / 24 bit; super-low roundtrip latency for using your plug-ins in real time without the need for DSP
- LIMITED TIME OFFER: FREE Venomode DeeQ, Maximal 2, and Pivot, plug-ins upon registration and download.
- Includes Pro Tools | First Focusrite Creative Pack and Ableton Live Lite, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, Focusrite’s Red Plug-in Suite, 2GB of Loopmasters samples, Choice of one free XLN Addictive Keys virtual instrument, all available via download upon purchase and registration


In general, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is more recommended. It has better overall performance, and it supports higher sample rates of up to 192kHz. The sound quality is very good. However, if you really need dedicated guitar inputs, effects inserts, or MIDI ports, Alesis IO2 Express is the way to go.

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