If all you need is a simple audio interface with two inputs for a mic and a guitar, Focusrite Scarlett Solo vs PreSonus AudioBox are some great options that you can put into consideration. These audio interface units come with only the basic necessities, without a crapload of advanced features that you hardly ever use. So, which one is better?
Continue reading below to learn further about:
- The design and build quality of each model
- What inputs and outputs that are available on each model
- The comparison of their features and capabilities
- The performance of Focusrite Scarlett Solo vs PreSonus AudioBox
- Which USB audio interface that’s generally more recommended
Focusrite Scarlett Solo: Design and Build
In the audio equipment and recording industry, Focusrite is a well-known name. The company has produced some of the most loved gear, and their Scarlett audio interface series is notably popular due to offering a wide range of options for various needs and purposes (see also: Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 Vs 6i6). Focusrite Scarlett Solo is the simpler solution for those who only need the basic features and connectivity.
After you open the box, you will be greeted by the beautiful red box – a color that has become the salience of the Scarlett series. The design is really conventional, representing the very standard layout of an audio interface. You can find all the inputs on the front panel, whereas the outputs are on the rear panel.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo is fitted in a machined aluminum chassis which is lightweight yet incredibly durable. It is more than just durable enough for home use. It is definitely able to withstand road abuse. There is just one quirk that you need to keep in mind: the knobs and switches are plastic. So, while the chassis is tough enough to withstand impacts, you don’t want to expose the knobs and switches to heavy blows.
Nevertheless, the overall size of the unit is very compact. As the effect, Focusrite Scarlett Solo is highly portable. You can easily fit it inside your bag when you are on the go. By the way, this audio interface is USB-powered, so you won’t need to carry a power adapter and struggle to find a power outlet. Simply connect the unit to a computer, and you are ready to work.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo: Features and Connectivity
Focusrite Scarlett Solo offers a great value for the money, mainly because of the impressive features and the very affordable price. As mentioned above, this is pretty much a basic audio interface – but it is really serious with its specs. This model stands out from the competition with its high-quality hardware.
Both Focusrite Scarlett Solo vs PreSonus AudioBox are 2-in/2-out audio interface units. Each of them possesses two analogue inputs (one for mic and the other for instrument) and two analogue outputs (L and R).
Former generations had some issues with hot pickups, but this is no longer the case with the latest Focusrite Scarlett Solo. It comes with an excellent microphone pre-amp and a completely new instrument line package. Both the XLR input and the instrument line input are on the front, accompanied with dedicated gain level knobs. Both of the knobs are surrounded by light indicators which will tell you when clipping occurs.
At the right side of the front panel, there is a headphone output with a direct monitoring switch and a monitor volume knob. Meanwhile, on the rear panel, there is the USB port for connecting to a computer while at the same time supplying power for the unit. There is also a pair of RCA line outputs.
We have said that Focusrite Scarlett Solo doesn’t come with extra features, but it actually still includes some software that can be useful, especially for beginners. You get Ableton Live Lite, so you can start working right away if you don’t have a DAW yet. You also get Focusrite Plug-ins, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, Avid Pro Tools, XLN Audio Addictive Keys, and three months of Splice Sounds subscription.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo: Performance
Setting up a studio with a tight budget can be quite challenging, but Focusrite Scarlett Solo can give you some peace of mind. This audio interface is really impressive in terms of performance. The mic pre-amp is incredibly clean and accurate, so you can get good sound consistently without having to tweak around. It also has phantom power, so using a condenser mic won’t be an issue.
Likewise, the instrument line input also has good sound quality. It doesn’t add any warmth or color to the sound. It is simply clean and accurate. Focusrite Scarlett Solo has a 24-bit resolution and a maximum sample rate of 192kHz.
The direct monitoring via the headphone output is useful and effective for finding flaws right during the recording. The USB connection surprisingly has very low latency, hence allowing you to work with precision and convenience.
PreSonus AudioBox: Design and Build
PreSonus is also a big name in this industry. The company has great products for both the budget market and the high-end market. Of course, PreSonus AudioBox USB 2×2 is one of their budget options, designed for people who only need basic connections with reliable performance.
One notable difference between Focusrite Scarlett Solo vs PreSonus AudioBox is the quality of the knobs and switches. Just like Focusrite Scarlett Solo, PreSonus AudioBox features a rugged and durable aluminum chassis. However, instead of plastic, the knobs and switches are also made of metal, so they are just as solid as the chassis. It becomes even more impressive when we consider the fact that not many models in this price range come with metal knobs and switches.
Still, in terms of overall appearance, PreSonus AudioBox is not as attractive as Focusrite Scarlett Solo. The front panel is blue, the sides are silver, and the top is black. Nevertheless, PreSonus AudioBox is indeed compact and space-friendly. It is also lightweight and easy to carry around. The unit is USB-powered, so it won’t need any wall plug or power adapter in order to operate.
PreSonus AudioBox: Features and Connectivity
In terms of connectivity, PreSonus AudioBox may have an advantage over Focusrite Scarlett Solo. In addition to having two combo inputs which accept XLR as well as 1/4″ TRS plugs, PreSonus AudioBox also features MIDI I/O ports.
The two combo inputs on the front are equipped with Class A mic pre-amps. You can activate the 48V phantom power in order to drive condenser mics. There are dedicated gain/trim controls for both inputs, along with light indicators to warn about clipping. However, it is advised to avoid plugging line-level sources to PreSonus AudioBox because this can result in a distorted sound or even damage to the internal parts.
There is a mixer knob which will allow you to select between direct monitoring and playback through the headphone output. Turning this knob to the left will allow you to monitor the input signal with zero latency. Turning it to the right will make the headphone output focus on the playback stream. Keeping it at the middle position will allow you to hear both the input signal and the playback stream in equal balance.
There are separate volume knobs for the headphone output and the main outputs. The main outputs on the rear are 1/4″ TRS stereo ports. On the rear panel, you can find the MIDI I/O ports. Not many models in this price range come with MIDI I/O ports. This is quite a valuable feature that will allow you to work with a wider range of equipment.
PreSonus AudioBox comes with the Studio One 3 Artist DAW software. It is a pretty good choice to get started. Of course, PreSonus AudioBox is compatible with most of the common recording apps and DAWs, so you can use your own software if you want. You can also get more than 6GB of plug-ins and sound samples after registering your product.
PreSonus AudioBox: Performance
In terms of performance, Focusrite Scarlett Solo vs PreSonus AudioBox are quite comparable. Sure, PreSonus AudioBox only supports recording at a 24-bit resolution and a sample rate of either 44.1kHz or 48kHz. However, the sound quality is still very good.
When tested with a wide range of mics and guitars, PreSonus AudioBox consistently reproduces clean and fairly accurate sound. The pre-amps do not add any color. There is a slight noise, but the level is really low and won’t be an issue.
Working with electric guitars can be a bit tricky, though. Even after turning the gain knob all the way down, an electric guitar can still cause frequent clipping. You also need to adjust the volume control on the guitar and the EQ on your DAW in order to record such a high-output guitar.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo vs PreSonus AudioBox
In general, Focusrite Scarlett Solo is more recommended. The overall performance is better. In addition to being able to record at higher sample rates, Focusrite Scarlett Solo seems to have cleaner sound. This audio interface also comes with great software.