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Can Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 be used as a sound card?

post #1 of 64
Thread Starter 



just ordered a pair of KRK rokit 6 G2 monitors....... I'm just a music listener and I do not plan to record any music... What I expect is a very great high quality audio possible from these speakers..... I recently learnt that balanced audio inputs/outputs are much better that unbalanced audio inputs/outputs. So, I wanna buy a soundcard or a dac which has balanced audio outputs...


I came across Asus Xonar essence One DAC which has balanced outputs.... Also, read many positive reviews abt this DAC....


I also came across many positive reviews about Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.....


Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is just less than half the price of essence one dac....


The question is can Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 be used as a sound card (that is, play audio from the computer through USB) or

is it only a USB recording and not USB playback interface...?????


Please help......confused_face_2.gif


post #2 of 64

To make it short and sweet: Yes, it can. However, I have no idea of the SQ of its balanced-out since I don't use them.


Audio Interface is mostly just a fancy name for soundcard with extra features for recording.

post #3 of 64
Thread Starter 

Thank you very much ClieOS.......


But, how would the sound output quality of Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 compare to that of Asus Xonar essence One.......? frown.gif

Comparing the prices, I guess Xonar essence one should have incredibly higher quality audio output than the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2...... Is that true?????

Edited by reachpattabi - 4/14/13 at 1:28am
post #4 of 64

As I have said, I never listen to the balanced output of the 2i2 before (don't have any balanced gears) and can't tell you anything about it.

post #5 of 64

You can regard the Focusrite 2i2 the same as any other peripheral on your computer. It's just connected via an external rather than an internal cable. 


Balanced does not by itself sound any better than unbalanced connections. What it does is reject interference. It is meant for studio and live applications where there are potentially long cable runs and unpredictable, potential sources of aggravation. It is also significantly louder for a given input but I doubt lack of total system gain is a problem in your case? No harm in using balanced although in your position I'd test the difference between balanced and unbalanced and if there was an audible difference then seek out and if possible eliminate the source of interference.


As regards technical specs. Of both units the ASUS comes in ahead of the Focusrite. Not by much though and since these test figures are subject to different interpretations and Focusrite has a reputation for hard marking itself and ASUS is a bit cavalier then which is 'better' is a moot point. Anyway the differences are almost certainly below the level at which the human auditory system is able to detect. At least without going deaf in the process.


I'd get a Focusrite myself. The company specialises in pro-am audio and as such is a perfect match for the KKRs. My advice though is to spend a little bit more and get the 2i4. You don't think you need 2 independent stereo channels out right now but i guarantee you will wonder how you managed without once you have the option.

post #6 of 64
Thread Starter 

Thank you soooooo much RonaldDumsfeld...... Your explanation has made things almost very very clear to me.......


just one doubt to be cleared......


Since you mentioned that there's gonna be only very very minor (probably inaudible) differences between balanced and unbalanced connections in my case as I'm only gonna use my rokit monitors only for PC music listening and not recording, I have one question to ask....


Can I go for Asus Xonar essence STX PCI Express sound card instead of Asus Xonar essence One DAC, as the essence STX version is less than half the price of Xonar essence one version?


B'Coz, the only advantage I see in Xonar essence one DAC is that it has got balanced audio output whereas Xonar essence STX has got only unbalanced audio out. Both have got similar SNR's


If there's not gonna be any audible difference in the audio quality between Xonar essence STX and Xonar essence One, then I could pick Xonar essence STX over Xonar essence One......


Please let me know your suggestions.....

post #7 of 64

Dunno really. I haven't owned a PCI type sound card in ages.


In principle it'll work fine but there are a couple of issues to consider.


You will need to budget for a separate gain control because the KKRs each have an independent one and it's on the back of the units. Fostex sell a decent version for about $30. Or you could restrict yourself to software only control but that's inconvienient. TRS or XLR plugs tend to last longer and be more reliable than minijack or phono. An audio interface is portable. On board audio outs on most PCs are fairly decent these days but the inputs are not so good. So if you ever plan on doing any recording or using a decent microphone the Fucusrite will be loads better.


Like I said. In your position I'd plump for a 2i4 without hesitation but it's your money so you takes your choice.

post #8 of 64

In short yes definitely.  I recently purchased an Asus Xonar Essence ST to feed to my Sennheiser HD380 PROs. I use my computer for everything from listening to music through ITunes, Pandora, and GooglePlay music, I play PC games like BF3, Tomb Raider, Skyrim, Diablo 3, and also play blurays quite often. First let me share my setup as everyone's is different.


Custom PC: I5 3570K, MSI GTX 580 GPU, H77M MOBO, Rosewill Thor V2 case, Rosewill Tachyon PSU, Asus BD, 4 HDDS including SSD for OS (win 7 64), Gskill Ripjaws 8 GB CAS.7-8-8-24

Desktop Speakers: Bose Companion 2 (nothing special)

Headphones: Sennheiser HD555 and Sennheiser HD 380 PRO

Audio Interface: Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 (previously used Asus Xonar Essence ST for my audio needs)


Every Single Game, Movie, and music that I have heard with my through my HD 380 PROs sound so much more lively, realistic, detailed. It reminds me of years back when I had my power amp and preamp separate's powering my B&W 705's. It was musical bliss. In the last year I've become a father and moved back to my home town, and in the process sold all of my gear (talk about regrets). After giving custom built computers a try I finally got to the point were I wanted audiophile quality back.

I read reviews on different sound cards and amps and finally decided on the Asus ST. Got it installed plugged my headphones in. Wow what a difference compared to onboard audio. But being an audiophile I decided to try an audio interface (preamp). The amount of detail that the Focusrite oozes so easily is astonishing to me. It's about the same price as the Asus ST but it on another level. I now find myself actually enjoying and getting drawn into the music again, and watching movies is a totally new experience! Audio should get you completely enthralled into whatever your listening to or watching. Somewhere down the road I forgot about that. I'm glad I found my way back. Even my wife was impressed and could tell an immediate difference (That's always a good thing).


I highly recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 2i_ and the Sennheiser HD380 PRO headphones. I am confident you will be hardpressed to find a better combo for the price of both the units. The HD380s are one of the best headphones I've heard at anywhere near this price point.

post #9 of 64

The other handy thing about an external unit like the Focusrite is you easily move it from your desktop to a laptop, plug and pray is handy :D

post #10 of 64

Yeah portability is always a good thing. When I found the headphones I wanted the only place that sold them in my area was Guitar Center so I headed down there. I ended up walking out with the Focusrite too. I've listened to a lot of gear for home audio both 2 channel and surround sound; and am very surpised at out how high of quality you get for the money with PC audio gear. I never expected I would be buying gear from Guitar Center, never really crossed my mind. I've always gone to audiophile shops in the seattle area.

Edited by legion1capone - 10/12/13 at 7:17am
post #11 of 64

Originally Posted by RonaldDumsfeld View Post


On board audio outs on most PCs are fairly decent these days but the inputs are not so good.


If you are referring to the Xonar ST/STX, those actually have fairly good recording quality (better than the line input specs of the Focusrite), but rather limited functionality. That is, there is only an unbalanced input with a fixed gain (2 Vrms maximum voltage) and relatively low input impedance (~4.3 kΩ), and no real microphone preamplifier. That limits the recording applications in which the cards can be used without requiring external hardware.

post #12 of 64

I use the focusrite solely for my listening needs not recording. But good info, thank you!

post #13 of 64

I use the Focusrite 2i2 interface and Rokit 8 G3 powered monitors. The detail and separation on well recorded lossless files is astounding...to me anyway. The only thing I think might have better DAC with balanced outs is the Xonar One but I haven't tried it..yet lol.

post #14 of 64

RMAA tests:

Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 - http://borisgermanov.blogspot.com/2014/03/focusrite-scarlett-2i4-rmaa-test-report.html

ASUS Xonar Essence STX - http://www.ixbt.com/multimedia/asus/stx/loop48.htm

ASUS Xonar Essence One - http://www.ixbt.com/multimedia/asus-one.shtml#11

Edited by boris_mikhaylov - 3/6/14 at 2:07am
post #15 of 64

Thank you Boris for the tests. Its difficult for me to compare them as they are in different formats and i don't have the technical knowledge to do it properly.


Can you give us digest of your findings? A subjective opinion on the quality of sound will also be great!

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