Choosing between Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 vs 6i6 can be confusing because they are now available in a similar price range. Well, the 2i4 is still a bit more affordable than the 6i6, but the difference is not that much. So, which audio interface should you spend your money for? Read the comparison between the two models below for the answer!
What we will discuss in this article include:
- The build quality of each audio interface here
- The available inputs and outputs on each model
- The powering options on Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 vs 6i6
- The comparison of their performance and sound quality
- What software programs that are included with each model
- Which audio interface that is generally more recommended for you
Design & Build Quality
Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 definitely looks like the part. Just like the other models in the series, it is encased in an anodized aluminum chassis with a red finish. It is surprisingly lightweight at about 2 lbs, yet it feels very solid and robust. It is also compact enough to get into your bag for travelling and field recording. The rugged construction ensures that it will withstand all the elements.
Meanwhile, the control knobs are made from good quality plastic. They work smoothly and effectively, though they don’t feel as great as the metallic chassis. The switches are also plastic, which unfortunately doesn’t feel satisfying. On the bottom side, you can find rubber feet that will prevent scratches on the unit as well as on your desk’s surface.
Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 looks similar with a red anodized aluminum body. In terms of appearance, this device is really attractive. In terms of build quality, it is tough and robust. Unfortunately, just like the 2i4, the control knobs and switches on the 6i6 are also made of plastic. While they are functional, they lack the premium feel that the metallic body offers.
The 6i6 is slightly bigger and heavier. It is not as portable as the 2i4, but still fairly compact and lightweight. Another notable difference is the on/off switch on the back panel.
Inputs & Outputs
Of course, the primary difference between Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 vs 6i6 is their inputs and outputs. However, seeing the numbers on their names won’t give you the right idea about their connectivity. So, let’s see what ports that they actually have.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 is described as a 2-in/4-out USB audio interface. It features two Focusrite pre-amps with dedicated switches for changing between line and instrument levels. Each input also has a pad button for taking a high-gain source, quite useful when you want to record guitars. The gain knobs have light indicators that will turn orange when nearing clipping and red when reaching clipping.
This model also has switchable 48V phantom power, hence allowing you to provide power for most mics. On the rear, there are two balanced TRS outputs and four unbalanced RCA outputs. There is also a pair of MIDI I/O ports. However, for monitoring, there is only one headphone output. The device connects to most Windows and Mac computers via the USB 2.0 port, which also doubles for power.
If you are interested in Focusrite Scarlett 2i4, you need to carefully consider whether having two inputs is enough or not. If you need to record two guitars or instruments, you won’t have enough inputs for mics or turntables.
Focusrite Scarlett 6i6, on the other hand, is a 6-in/6-out USB audio interface. However, there are only two pre-amps on the front, which do have different modes for XLR, line, and instrument levels along with switchable 48V phantom power. Like the 2i4, the 6i6 also has light indicators on the gain knobs to warn you about clipping. Yet it doesn’t have physical controls for changing line/instrument levels and for switching the pad. Instead, those settings are accessed through the software.
On the rear, you can find two TRS line-level inputs, a pair of S/PDIF I/O, and a pair of MIDI I/O. The rear panel also has four 1/4″ line outputs. For monitoring, there are two headphone outputs – this is the most affordable model that has two headphone outputs in the series. It is equipped with a USB 2.0 port for the computer connection.
Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 is generally more versatile because it has more inputs options. If you often need to take multiple inputs from mics, guitars, and instruments, this is the model that you should choose. The two inputs on the front can be used exclusively for mics, while guitars are connected through the rear inputs.
The next difference between Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 vs 6i6 is the powering method. In general, the 6i6 is more recommended than the 2i4 because its powering method is more reliable.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 is bus-powered via the USB connection. At first, this may seem like a cool feature – you won’t need to find a power outlet, as the computer connection alone is sufficient. Unfortunately, the bus power is not really reliable. One potential issue is that the bus power doesn’t have enough power for the pre-amps. Then, the unit itself is prone to crashing.
Many users say that the 2i4 is prone to crashing when you wake up the computer from sleep or hibernation. It sometimes also crashes randomly in playback and idle times. When a crash occurs, the device may power off suddenly, remain on without sound, experience heavy distortion, or lose playback volume. To overcome this problem, you need to restart the computer.
Focusrite Scarlett 6i6, on the other hand, uses a dedicated 12VDC power supply in order to operate. So, the USB port is used exclusively for the computer connection. This may make it less practical for field recording, but on the good side the computer connection seems to be more reliable. Furthermore, the power supply provides adequate power for the pre-amps and phantom power properly.
Performance-wise, both Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 vs 6i6 are impressive. They both offer zero-latency monitoring through their headphone outputs. They both also have clean sound with virtually zero noise.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i4, according to the manufacturer, will allow you to get zero-latency monitoring. In use, the headphone output does provide precise and accurate sound without any delay or lag. The pre-amps have clean, warm sound without any noticeable noise.
Of course, these pre-amps can’t compete against the high-end models, but their performance is already more than good enough for most amateur projects – impressive, even, if we consider the price of the unit. The second generation offers 24-bit resolution with a maximum sample rate of 192kHz. The MIDI ports also work well with good sound.
Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 also has impressive performance. The pre-amps are similar to the ones on its siblings. They provide clear, transparent, and modern sound. They are very accurate and reliable. The unit also has great gain power which is useful for beefing up low-power sources. Guitars and other instruments are captured with solid, uncolored sound.
The second generation also has 24-bit resolution and supports sample rates of up to 192kHz. The outputs provide very detailed sound. Some people even say that the detail is a little bit too much, but this is a good thing. You will be able to monitor at low levels without missing anything.
Finally, the last difference between Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 and Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 is the included software. The 2i4 does come with some nice programs, but the Scarlett Mix Control software is only given to the 6i6 model and up.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 gives you authorization codes for Ableton Live Lite, a starter version of the Ableton Live DAW, which already includes the core sounds and presets, full AU and VST, as well as the ability to use up to eight audio tracks. Users of Ableton Live Lite can upgrade to Ableton Live at a reduced price.
This model also comes with the Scarlett plug-in suite, which offers a wide range of EQ, gating, compression, and reverb options. The plug-ins have excellent quality, suitable for even professional applications. Additionally, you get the Softube Time and Tone Bundle and 2GB of Loopmasters samples.
Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 comes with similar offerings. It gives you Ableton Live Lite with the option to upgrade to Ableton Live at a reduced price, as well as the Scarlett plug-in suite which provides 64-bit plug-ins in the AAX/AU and VST formats. You also get the Softube Time and Tone Bundle and 2GB of Loopmasters samples.
What sets the 6i6 apart from the 2i4 is the Scarlett Mix Control software. You need it for switching the line/instrument levels and the pad, but that’s not the only purpose. This software also allows direct monitoring with zero latency and input/output routing. These capabilities are useful because they reduce the tasks that your primary DAW needs to do.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 vs 6i6
All in all, both are good audio interfaces, but Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 is the better one of the two and hence is more recommended. It has more inputs, so it is more versatile. It can handle multiple mics and guitars just fine. Additionally, it runs on a power supply, which is more reliable than bus power. The included Scarlett Mix Control is useful for tackling some tasks that are normally handled by the primary DAW.