Focusrite Scarlett Solo 4th Gen makes life easy for singer-songwriters

The entry-level Scarlett Solo has long offered a ridiculously affordable means for solo artists to record their own material, and the 4th Gen release is not bucking that trend

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Focusrite Scarlett Solo 4th Gen

Focusrite Scarlett Solo 4th Gen. Image: Focusrite

Review Overview

Our rating


Our verdict

Perfect combo of inputs for singer-songwriters
No distraction, easy-to-use modus operandi
Re-engineered Air mode more flexible and useable than previously
Improved Gain Halo lighting on gain control knobs
Good value all-in-one recording solution

No Air mode on line/instrument input
Volume level of direct monitoring signals can’t be adjusted

Sometimes simple is best. Just ask Lewis Capaldi. No, we aren’t suggesting Lewis is simple, but that the singer-with-a-guitar pathway he follows pares away all of the layers of production complexity to leave nothing but the purest, simplest expression of the original musical idea. There are many would-be Lewises strumming and singing away in home studios across the land, and for years they have been well-served by Focusrite’s Scarlett Solo, an audio interface that perfectly meets the needs of the singer-songwriters, podcasters and streamers.

READ MORE: Focusrite’s Scarlett 4i4 is designed for the new generation of recording artists

With Focusrite recently launching the fourth generation of its Scarlett interfaces, we’ve been in a Rush to give the new Scarlett Solo a Tough test to ensure its improvements aren’t Pointless.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo 4th Gen
Focusrite Scarlett Solo 4th Gen. Image: Focusrite

Guitar and vocals

What makes the Scarlett Solo such a strong match for singer-songwriters is its arrangement of two input channels, with one 6.35mm jack input for line/instrument signals and one XLR input for mics. Obviously, this is ideal for recording guitar and vocal mic at the same time, but is also useful for recording DI’d guitar and mic’d guitar amp simultaneously, not to mention many other solo recording tasks. The recording of stereo signals is a problem, of course, but you can work around this with a DI box.

The mic input, which has been relocated to the rear panel since the 3rd Gen model, feeds into a new preamp that features a redesigned Air mode. The Air mode on the 3rd Gen units introduced a presence peak in the upper mid and high frequencies, useful as a pre-treatment on vocals and other sources that carry a lot of detail in the higher registers. In the 4th Gen preamps, the presence peak has been modified to be useful across a wider range of sources, although its usefulness will depend on what you are recording.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo 4th Gen
Focusrite Scarlett Solo 4th Gen. Image: Focusrite

A new second Air mode engages a subtle harmonic overdrive that adds fizz and… well… air to the top end. This can sound brilliant alongside the presence peak, giving a very pro-sounding sheen to sounds. However, we think it would be even more useful if there was a third option consisting of just the harmonic drive.


The line/instrument input, which remains on the front panel, doesn’t have an Air mode. This is unfortunate because it would be seriously effective on a DI’d acoustic guitar which, let’s face it, is what most people will be connecting to that input. Also, as we found with the new Scarlett 4i4, the harmonic drive can serve as a brilliant front-end when feeding an electric guitar to a plugin amp simulator – again, a DI box would solve this by letting connect a guitar signal via the Air-enabled mic input.

You can configure the inputs directly on the front panel, which keeps things nice and easy to use. Your workflow is made even easier by the improved Gain Halo lighting that surrounds the gain knobs. These act as circular level meters that show the input signal level, giving surprisingly detailed visual feedback despite their small size.

At present, the Focusrite Control 2 software does very little with the Solo – it has a pair of input level meters and duplicates the hardware’s front panel buttons. Notable in its absence is an output mixer for balancing the direct monitoring levels of the two inputs with the internal DAW output bus – direct monitoring is either enabled or disabled. This shortcoming is intentional to a degree, as it suits the interface’s easy-to-use ethos. Nevertheless, Focusrite recognises that some users will want more control over monitoring levels and are exploring possible updates to Focusrite Control 2 that would make this possible.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo 4th Gen
Focusrite Scarlett Solo 4th Gen. Image: Focusrite

All in one

Accompanying the Scarlett Solo hardware is a suite of music production software that contains everything needed to get a new studio up and running.

On the DAW front, there’s a three-month subscription to Pro Tools Artist and Avid Complete Plugin Bundle, along with a 25 per cent reduction on a subsequent annual license, and of course, there’s the ever-present Ableton Live Lite. On top of this, there’s Focusrite’s Hitmaker Expansion pack that includes big-name instruments and effects such as Native Instruments Massive, Softube Marshall Silver Jubilee 2555, and Focusrite’s own Red 2 & 3 plugin suite.

The 4th Gen makeover of the Scarlett range has had less of an impact on Solo than it has had on its larger siblings, but this is just a reflection of the interface’s elegant simplicity – once Focusrite fitted the new preamp and converters, there wasn’t much left to change. As a result, the price has gone up slightly but it’s excellent value for money. Yes, you may need to add a DI box to get the most out of it, but it allows you to do an awful lot of music-making for very little initial outlay.

Key Features

  • Price: £139.99 / €130.24 / $139.99 (USD) / $199.09 (AUD)
  • USB audio interface
  • 1x line/instrument input
  • 1x mic input with Air and phantom power
  • 2x line output
  • Headphone output
  • High performance converters taken from flagship Focusrite RedNet interface
  • Direct monitoring

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