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  • Writer's pictureCj Bertram

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 vs. PreSonus AudioBox USB 96: Which Home Recording Interface is Right for You

When it comes to home recording, having the right audio interface can make all the difference. Two popular options on the market are the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface and the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96. But which one is better for home recording?


Both audio interfaces offer similar features, such as two XLR/TRS combo inputs, MIDI input/output, and USB connectivity. The Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) has a slightly higher price point, but it also offers some additional features like Air mode and a higher sample rate. On the other hand, the AudioBox USB 96 is more budget-friendly and comes with the added bonus of Studio One Artist software.


In this article, we will compare and contrast the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface and the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 to help you decide which one is the best fit for your home recording needs. We will take a closer look at their features, performance, and overall value. So, whether you're a beginner or an experienced home recording enthusiast, read on to find out which audio interface is right for you.


Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 vs. PreSonus AudioBox USB 96

Build Quality and Design


When it comes to home recording, the build quality and design of an audio interface are important factors to consider. In this section, we will compare the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) and PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 in terms of their weight, dimensions, and overall build quality.


Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen)

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen)

The Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) has a sleek and compact design, making it easy to transport and set up. It weighs only 1.3 pounds and measures 7.68 x 2.56 x 4.21 inches, making it one of the lightest and smallest audio interfaces on the market. Despite its lightweight design, the Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) is built to last, with a sturdy metal chassis that can withstand the rigors of home recording.


PreSonus AudioBox USB 96

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96

The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is slightly larger and heavier than the Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen), weighing in at 2.6 pounds and measuring 7.5 x 5.5 x 1.75 inches. It has a more traditional boxy design, with a plastic chassis that feels less sturdy than the Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen). However, the AudioBox USB 96 is still well-built and durable enough to withstand regular use.


Comparison


In terms of weight and dimensions, the Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) has a clear advantage over the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96. Its lightweight and compact design make it easy to transport and set up, while its sturdy metal chassis ensures long-lasting durability. The AudioBox USB 96 is larger and heavier, but still well-built and durable enough for home recording use.


Overall, both the Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) and the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 are well-designed and built to last. However, if portability and durability are top priorities, the Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) is the clear winner.

Connectivity and Compatibility


When it comes to home recording, having a reliable and compatible audio interface is crucial. In this section, we will compare the connectivity and compatibility of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) and the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96.


Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen)


The Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) is a USB-C audio interface that offers two XLR/1/4" combo inputs and two 1/4" outputs. It also features MIDI I/O, a headphone output, and a direct monitor switch. The USB-C connectivity provides a fast and stable connection to your computer, and it is compatible with both Mac and Windows operating systems.


The Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) also works seamlessly with iPad Pro, making it a great option for mobile recording. It is compatible with any iOS device that has a Lightning port and supports Core Audio.


PreSonus AudioBox USB 96


The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is a USB-B audio interface that offers two XLR/1/4" combo inputs and two 1/4" outputs. It also features MIDI I/O, a headphone output, and a direct monitor switch. The USB-B connectivity provides a stable connection to your computer, and it is compatible with both Mac and Windows operating systems.


Unfortunately, the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is not compatible with iPad Pro. It is only compatible with Windows and Mac operating systems.


Comparison


When it comes to connectivity and compatibility, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) has the upper hand. Its USB-C connectivity provides a faster and more stable connection to your computer, and it is compatible with both Mac and Windows operating systems. Additionally, the Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) is compatible with iPad Pro, making it a great option for mobile recording.


On the other hand, the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 only offers USB-B connectivity, which may not be as fast or stable as USB-C. It is also not compatible with iPad Pro, limiting its versatility as a mobile recording option.


Overall, if you are looking for an audio interface that offers fast and stable connectivity and is compatible with a wide range of devices, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) is the better choice.

Preamps and Inputs


When it comes to home recording, having quality preamps and inputs is crucial. In this section, we will compare the preamps and inputs of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) and the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96.


Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen)


The Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) features two high-quality preamps with a gain range of up to 56dB. This makes it easy to get a clean, clear signal from your microphones or instruments. The instrument inputs are also designed to handle high-level signals, making it perfect for recording guitars and basses.


In addition, the Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) has two XLR inputs with phantom power, allowing you to use condenser microphones without the need for an external power source. The line inputs are also balanced, ensuring a noise-free signal.


PreSonus AudioBox USB 96


The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 also features two high-quality preamps, but with a slightly lower gain range of up to 50dB. The instrument inputs are designed to handle both high and low-level signals, making it versatile for recording any instrument.


The AudioBox USB 96 also has two XLR inputs with phantom power, allowing you to use condenser microphones. However, the line inputs are unbalanced, which may result in noise and interference.


Conclusion


In terms of preamps and inputs, both the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) and the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 are great options for home recording. The Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) has a slightly higher gain range and balanced line inputs, while the AudioBox USB 96 is more versatile in terms of instrument input level. Ultimately, the choice between the two will depend on your specific recording needs.

Monitoring and Outputs


When it comes to monitoring and outputs, both the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) and the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 offer similar features, but there are some differences worth noting.


Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen)


The Scarlett 2i2 comes with two headphone outputs, which is great for recording sessions with multiple people. The headphone outputs also have individual volume controls, allowing for precise adjustments. Additionally, the 2i2 has two line outputs, which can be used to connect to studio monitors or external effects processors. The monitor outputs on the 2i2 are stereo quarter-inch jacks, which can also double as XLR inputs for microphones.


One of the standout features of the Scarlett 2i2 is the "Direct Monitoring" option, which allows for zero-latency monitoring. This means that you can hear your input signals directly through the headphone and monitor outputs, without any delay. This is especially useful when recording vocals or live instruments, as it allows the performer to hear themselves in real-time.


PreSonus AudioBox USB 96


The AudioBox USB 96 also comes with two headphone outputs, but they share the same volume control. This means that adjustments to one headphone output will affect the other. The AudioBox has two line outputs as well, but they are RCA jacks instead of quarter-inch jacks. The monitor outputs on the AudioBox are also RCA jacks.


One advantage of the AudioBox is that it has a physical knob for adjusting the signal level going to the headphones. This can be useful for quickly adjusting the volume during a recording session. However, the AudioBox does not have a "Direct Monitoring" option, so there may be some latency when monitoring input signals.


Overall, both the Scarlett 2i2 and the AudioBox USB 96 offer solid monitoring and output options. The Scarlett 2i2's individual headphone volume controls and "Direct Monitoring" option give it a slight edge in this category. However, the AudioBox's headphone volume knob may be a useful feature for some users.

Sound Quality and Sample Rates


When it comes to recording, sound quality is of the utmost importance. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) and the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 are two popular choices for home recording, but how do they compare in terms of sound quality and sample rates?


Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen)


The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) boasts professional sound quality with high-performance 24-bit/192kHz converters that give recordings stunning clarity. The Scarlett 2i2 also features an "Air" mode that enhances high-end detail and captures a real sense of space. This feature was previously only achievable by renting expensive equipment, making the Scarlett 2i2 a great value for home recording.


In terms of sample rates, the Scarlett 2i2 can handle up to 192kHz, which is considered a high-end sample rate. The device also features a low-latency USB-C connection, which minimizes any delay between the input and output signals.


PreSonus AudioBox USB 96


The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 also offers professional sound quality with high-quality 24-bit/96kHz converters. While not quite as high as the Scarlett 2i2's sample rate, the AudioBox USB 96 still delivers excellent sound quality for home recording.


One potential downside of the AudioBox USB 96 is that it does not have an "Air" mode like the Scarlett 2i2. This means that it may not capture the same level of detail and ambience as the Scarlett 2i2.


In terms of signal level, the AudioBox USB 96 has a maximum input level of +4dBu, which is considered a professional-level signal. This means that it can handle high-output microphones without distortion.


Conclusion


Both the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) and the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 offer excellent sound quality for home recording. However, the Scarlett 2i2's higher sample rate and "Air" mode may give it a slight edge in terms of capturing detail and ambience. Additionally, the Scarlett 2i2's low-latency USB-C connection makes it a great choice for recording with minimal delay.

Included Software and Bundles


When it comes to choosing an audio interface for home recording, the included software and bundles can be a significant factor in the decision-making process. In this section, we'll take a closer look at what comes with the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) and the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96.


Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen)


The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) comes with a comprehensive software bundle that includes everything you need to get started with recording and producing music. One of the highlights of the bundle is the 3-month subscription to Avid Pro Tools | First, which is a powerful and intuitive digital audio workstation (DAW) used by professionals all over the world.


In addition to Pro Tools | First, the bundle also includes Ableton Live Lite, which is another popular DAW that's known for its live performance capabilities. This is a great option for those who want to experiment with loop-based production or perform music live.


Other software included in the bundle are the Focusrite Red Plug-In Suite, which includes several plugins modeled after classic analog hardware from the legendary console maker Solid State Logic (SSL). The bundle also includes XLN Audio Addictive Keys, which is a virtual instrument that includes several high-quality piano sounds, and a Splice Sounds subscription, which gives you access to a vast library of samples and loops.


PreSonus AudioBox USB 96


The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 comes with a more modest software bundle, but it still includes some useful tools for home recording. The bundle includes the Studio One Artist DAW, which is a powerful and intuitive software that's designed for recording, producing, and mixing music.


In addition to Studio One Artist, the bundle also includes the Studio Magic Plug-in Suite, which includes several plugins from companies like Eventide, Lexicon, and Arturia. These plugins are useful for adding effects and processing to your recordings.


Conclusion


When it comes to included software and bundles, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) comes out ahead with its comprehensive bundle that includes several powerful tools for recording and producing music. However, the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 still includes some useful software that can be a great starting point for home recording. Ultimately, the choice between the two will depend on your specific needs and preferences.

Final Summation


After comparing the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface and the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96, we can confidently say that both are great options for home recording.


For beginners, the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is a great choice due to its affordable price point and user-friendly interface. It also comes with a free recording software, making it an all-in-one package for those just starting out in home recording.


However, for professionals or those looking for a more versatile option, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface is the better choice. With its high-quality preamps and converters, it provides superior sound quality and low-latency performance. It also has more input and output options, making it suitable for a wider range of recording needs.


Both interfaces are suitable for singers, producers, artists, and podcasters, and can be used with a USB mic for even greater flexibility. Ultimately, the choice between the two will depend on your specific needs and budget.


Whether you choose the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 or the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface, you can be confident that you are getting a reliable and high-performing device for your home recording needs.













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