The Scarlett 2i2 is one of the most popular entry-level audio interfaces of all time. And with as many people that use it, it may be an insult to call it "entry-level". But the Motu M2 makes a strong case for why it belongs in the conversation!
In this article, we’ll give you a complete rundown on how these two units compare. From sound quality and latency to build quality and looks, we cover it all. Let's get into it!
The Scarlett 2i2 may be the gold standard of audio interfaces. Used by countless professional and amateur musicians, the 2i2 is reliable, time-tested, and built to last. Focusrite has now released the 3rd Generation Scarlett 2i2, which gives you even better performance.
The biggest things the 2i2 has going for it are:
For the price, there isn't a lot to criticize the 2i2 on. If you need a basic audio interface for a small home studio, then you can't go wrong with the Scarlett 2i2. But, the Motu M2 is pretty darn good itself. Here's the overview of the M2.
The Motu M2 has a lot going for it. It offers a great dynamic range, ultra-low latency, and superb sound quality. Motu claims they use the same converter technology used in audio interfaces costing thousands. And based on using this unit, we believe them!
The other thing the M2 has going for it is its beautiful color LCD metering display. No other audio interface really has this at under $200. So that's a huge pro. The biggest things the M2 has going for it are:
Now that we've given you the rundown on these two audio interfaces, let's get into the details!
The front of these units contain a lot of the same buttons and input lines. Both units offer 2Combo XLR-1/4" TRS Balanced/Unbalanced Mic/Line/Hi-Z Inputs.
Both units offer a 1/4" TRS headphone jack for audio output.
The M2, however, provides a midi in/out plus two RCA TS Unbalanced Line Outputs. You can see the difference when looking at the back of the units.
The number of times you'll probably make use of the midi or RCA outputs will probably be low. But it is nice to have just in case!
We've done some tests and seen some tests comparing these two models head to head. And to be honest, we can't tell any significant difference specifically relating to the sound quality of these two units.
Bottom line is that both of these interfaces provide great sound quality. Clear and crisp. It's a big reason why these two units are so popular.
If I had to give an edge to one, I'd give it to the Focusrite 2i2 strictly due to its "Air" mode. This mode gives a touch of airiness, or high-end, to your recording. You may or may not find yourself using this mode, but regardless it's still nice to have and sounds great!
Latency should be one of the most important details to look for in an audio interface. If it takes more than a second for the audio to make it to your daw and back, then you'll face some serious frustration.
Latency makes it difficult to play or record because you can't hear what you're recording in real-time. It's like when you talk into your phone and can hear your own echo a second later! Super annoying..
Luckily both of these interfaces provide very low latency as well as a direct monitoring capability. When you use direct monitoring, your headphones receive a "direct" signal from your audio interface rather than going through your computer first. However, there are some drawbacks to recording like this and so the goal is that your interface will provide fast enough processing to not need direct monitoring.
Overall, we have to give the edge to the Motu M2. The M2 offers an ultra-low 2.5 ms Round Trip Latency (at 96 kHz with a 32 sample buffer). This is blazing fast for an audio interface in this class.
The 2i2 should be plenty fast to avoid any latency headaches, but we give the nod to Motu in this category.
Both the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and Motu M2 provide a 48V phantom power mode. If you are unfamiliar with phantom power, It's a term for the process of providing direct current to microphones with active circuitry that require electric power to operate. Many condenser microphones all contain active electronics and require phantom power.
If you're a singer who will be using your audio interface primarily for vocals, then phantom power will be useful to have regardless of whether you own a mic that requires phantom power currently. And not all audio interfaces in this price range offer this feature!
Both of these units look and feel sturdy. Built with a metal casing, these units have a nice weight to them. Some users think that the 2i2 feels a bit higher-quality. But to us, we have no problems with the build quality of either.
One very minor complaint with the M2 is their direct monitoring and phantom power buttons. They are barely outside of the frame of the unit. So when you push them you almost have to use your fingernail to make sure you're hitting the button. The buttons on the 2i2 have a great feel to them and are a bit more user-friendly.
But once again, this is a very minor complaint!
To us, the Motu M2 has a much sleeker look compared to the 2i2. I have never been a huge fan of the scarlet red color of the Focusrite. But some people love it. It's all opinion really!
The main reason we like the look of the M2 is due to its full-color LCD screen. The dynamic green, red, and yellow sound levels look really good when lit up. We are really impressed with the M2 providing such a cool feature for an audio interface in this price range!
A downside to note about the meter - it doesn't provide a level range grid. So you really just have to go off the color of the bar to know if your levels are too low or high. It would be nice if it provided a grid so you know exactly what number you are at.
Both these interfaces look good on a desk. They are also relatively small, so don't take up a lot of space.
Overall we have to give the nod for looks to the Motu M2. Job well done Motu!
Both of these audio interfaces come with some software freebies. With the Motu M2, you'll get Performer Lite (Motu's freebie DAW), Ableton Lite (A stripped down version of Ableton), and a few sample sound packs.
With the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, you'll get Ableton Lite, a free 3-month subscription to Avid Pro Tools, a free 3-month subscription to Splice Sounds, and a collection of software plugins for music production.
All in all, these freebies are heavily geared toward beginners that don't have a DAW or many audio plugins. If you are a beginner who will utilize these items, then Focusrite provides a bit more value in their freebie department. The plugins they offer are definitely usable, and Splice is a game-changer when it comes to music production. It also gives you the chance to test out Ableton and Pro Tools to potentially see if you like them before purchasing a full license.
At the end of the day, you can't go wrong with either of these audio interfaces. As long as you won't be needed more than two audio inputs, then these two products are top performers in their category. We prefer the Motu M2 due to its LCD screen and very low latency (slightly lower than the 2i2). But overall, the differences aren't huge.
In terms of figuring out which one you should choose, we say this:
If you can't decide, know that it's highly unlikely you'll be disappointed with either unit. So choose whichever one you think looks the coolest. Seriously! These products are so good that choosing based off looks should be a serious option.
Otherwise, go with whichever has the best price at the moment. These companies will periodically change the price due to seasonality or the release of a new generation. So if you can score one on sale or for a bit cheaper then make that your deciding factor!
We hope that this comparison guide has helped. If you have any feedback, comments, or tips that you’d like to share feel free to get in touch with us on social! @VoclioOfficial. Or drop us an email at email@example.com