Well, a month ago I dropped my PreSonus Audiobox USB and the main stereo output stopped working due to a broken knob. I was some kind of obligated to order a new sound card because I cannot use Ableton and run my projects properly without one. So I had two options, the first one was to order another Audiobox, the second one was to get a new, better, interface, in the same price range. So I basically chose to get a better interface, as I experienced some serious problems with PreSonus’ ASIO drivers.
After lots of hours spent on Googling “best USB audio interface under €200″, I finally ordered a Focurite Scarlett 2i4 from Thomann. I received it three days after, nothing to say about Thomann’s service quality, fast and professional as usual. This sound card looks great, entirely made of red metal and grey resistant plastic. It has two hybrid XLR/Jack inputs on the front panel, followed by gain knobs, headphones/monitor volume control knobs, a stereo/mono switch (depending of your setup), Phantom switch (to enable or disable 48V power on every input), pad switch to use your inputs with a guitar or anything that requires a -10dB level and finally a stereo 6.35 Jack headphones output. On the rear panel, we can find the standard setup for a classic USB audio interface, a main stereo (2x 6.35 mono jacks, left and right) monitoring output as well as two unbalanced RCA stereo outputs and a set of Midi in and out connectors.
This hardware is quite big and heavy compared to my PreSonus which used to fit in my laptop bag, now I’m sort of obligated to carry it separately when I have to move on. But that’s not a big con, as I usually don’t bring it outside my home-studio. Finally, there is something that I really love on this sound card, the input’s gain knobs are “illuminated” with a sort of color ring, which is green if the level is good and switches to orange or red if it is too loud. That’s a great way to quickly monitor if your input signals are saturated, this is certainly the feature that I like most with this hardware!
This sound card is great, fast and supports my heavy Ableton projects without any trouble, ASIO drivers works perfectly once downloaded and installed. As a bonus, Focusrite allows you to freely download a set of VST plug-ins and miscellaneous softwares which are usually paid, as Novation Bass-Station and Ableton Live 8 Lite. Compared to my “old” PreSonus Audiobox USB, I must admit that this is another world, PreSonus doesn’t give any extra software in their packaging. The only con I can notice with this interface is that Focusrite doesn’t deliver any sticker with their hardware, what a shame. 😀
Well, to summarize this post, this sound card from Focusrite is an excellent piece of hardware, in that price range it’ll be hard to find a better interface. I got mine for €180 at Thomann but you can certainly order it cheaper if you manage to get a discount or if you order it on another website. So if you’re looking for the perfect USB audio interface under €200, go ahead. 😉