Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen vs M-Audio Air: How To Choose

If you are looking for a compact and affordable USB audio interface for your home recording studio, you might have come across two popular options: the Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen and the M-Audio Air 192|4.

The Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen and the M-Audio Air are both compact and affordable USB audio interfaces that offer one mic input, one line/instrument input, two line outputs, 24-bit/192 kHz resolution, phantom power, direct monitoring, and bundled software.

Both of these devices are designed to provide high-quality sound and performance for singers, songwriters, podcasters, and other audio enthusiasts. But how do they compare and what are the main differences between them?

Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen vs M-Audio Air 192x4

A Quick Look

If you are looking for a simple and affordable interface that can add some warmth and brightness to your vocals and acoustic instruments, you might want to choose the Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen. The Air mode can help you achieve a more airy and open sound that cuts through the mix better. The gain halo indicators can also help you set the optimal gain level for your recordings and avoid distortion or noise.

If you are looking for a more versatile and flexible interface that can capture your sound source more accurately and faithfully, you might want to choose the M-Audio Air 192|4. The Crystal preamp can provide transparent and low-noise sound quality that can handle a wide range of input levels without introducing distortion or noise. The dedicated headphone output volume control is a big plus.

High Headroom
Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen

Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen

  • Mobile-ready, bus-powered, 2-in/2-out USB-C.
  • Record at up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution.
  • One XLR input with mic preamp, and one high headroom instrument input.
  • Two balanced 1/4″ TRS main outputs.
  • Switchable Air mode that gives recordings a brighter and more open sound.
  • Unique halo level indicators that show you the input level and signal clipping.
  • A direct monitor circuit that lets you monitor your input with low latency.
  • 48V Phantom power switch for condenser microphones.
Natural Sound
M-Audio Air 192x4 Audio Interface

M-Audio Air 192|4

  • Mobile-ready, bus-powered, 2-in/2-out USB-C.
  • Record at up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution.
  • Crystal preamp provides transparent and low-noise sound quality.
  • Zero-latency direct monitoring with a dedicated knob on the front panel.
  • Stacked LED’s make it easy to monitor levels.
  • Dedicated headphone output with separate volume control.

Common Features

  • One mic input and one line/instrument input: Both interfaces have one XLR mic input and one 1/4″ line/instrument input on the front panel. This means you can record vocals and guitar or keyboard at the same time, or connect a microphone to capture any sound source.
  • 24-bit/192 kHz resolution: Both interfaces support high-resolution audio recording and playback, which means you can capture every detail of your sound source and enjoy clear and crisp sound quality.
  • Phantom power: Both interfaces provide +48V phantom power to the mic input, which allows you to use condenser microphones that require external power. This is useful if you want to record vocals or acoustic instruments with a more detailed and accurate sound.
  • Direct monitoring: Both interfaces have a direct monitoring feature that lets you hear your input signal without any latency or delay caused by your computer. This is helpful if you want to record with headphones and avoid hearing any echo or lag in your performance.
  • USB Connectivity: Both interfaces connect to your computer via USB, ensuring compatibility with most modern systems.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen – Individual Features

Air mode: The Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen has a feature called Air mode. This emulates the sound of the original Focusrite ISA preamp, adding brightness and clarity to vocals and acoustic instruments. This can help you achieve a more airy and open sound that cuts through the mix better. Air mode is an analogue circuit, so there are no latency or timing issues to worry about and the sound produced is clean and clear of artifacts.

Balanced Outputs: With balanced TRS outputs, the interface ensures clean and noise-free audio signal transmission to your speakers or headphones.

Loopback Functionality: This feature enables you to capture computer audio alongside your microphone or instrument, making it convenient for podcasting and streaming.

Quick Start Tool: Focusrite provides a Quick Start tool that guides you through the setup process, making it easy for beginners to get started.

M-Audio Air 192×4 – Individual Features

Crystal preamp: The M-Audio Air has a feature called Crystal preamp that provides transparent and low-noise sound quality. The preamp has ultra-low distortion and high headroom, which means it can capture the natural tone and dynamics of your sound source without adding any coloration or artifacts. It can also handle a wide range of input levels without introducing distortion or noise. Crystal preamp is designed to provide a clean and clear sound that can be easily processed and mixed later.

Dedicated Headphone Output: The interface features a dedicated headphone output with independent volume

Zero-Latency Monitoring: The Air interface offers zero-latency monitoring, ensuring real-time audio playback without any delay, making it ideal for recording and overdubbing.

Price Comparison

The Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen and the M-Audio Air are both affordable audio interfaces that offer great value for money. However, there is a slight difference in their price, depending on where you buy them from. The Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen costs around $130, while the M-Audio Air costs $120.

Sound Quality

The sound quality of an audio interface depends on several factors, such as the quality of the preamps, converters, drivers, and software. Both the Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen and the M-Audio Air have high-quality components that ensure clear and transparent sound quality. However, there are some subtle differences in their sound character and tone.

The Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen has a slightly warmer and smoother sound that can add some color and richness to your recordings. The Air mode can also enhance the high frequencies and add some sparkle and presence to your vocals and acoustic instruments. The M-Audio Air 192|4 has a slightly cleaner and more neutral sound that can capture your sound source more accurately and faithfully.

Both interfaces have low noise and distortion levels, high dynamic range, and low latency performance. They also support high-resolution audio recording and playback up to 24-bit/192 kHz, which means you can capture every detail of your sound source and enjoy clear and crisp sound quality.

Compatibility

Both the Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen and the M-Audio Air are compatible with Windows and Mac computers, as well as iOS devices (with an adapter). They use USB protocol to connect to your computer or device, which means they are plug-and-play and do not require any external power supply. They also come with drivers and software that can help you set up and configure your interface easily.

Both interfaces are also compatible with most popular DAWs (digital audio workstations), such as Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, Cubase, FL Studio, Reaper, GarageBand, etc. They also come with their own DAWs (Ableton Live Lite for both interfaces), which can help you start recording right away.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen Pros

  • Air mode adds brightness and clarity to vocals and acoustic instruments.
  • Has a more precise frequency response and improved dynamic range.
  • Balanced TRS outputs, which eliminates noise and hum when connecting speakers with balanced inputs

Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen Cons

  • More expensive than M-Audio Air.
  • No dedicated headphone output control.
  • Air mode may not suit all types of vocals and guitars, and may introduce unwanted hiss.

M-Audio Air 192|4 Pros

  • Crystal preamp provides transparent and low-noise sound quality.
  • Has zero-latency direct monitoring with the Built-in DSP processor and dedicated knob.
  • Dedicated headphone output volume control.
  • Wide frequency response and very low noise preamps for capturing sound accurately without coloration or distortion.

M-Audio Air 192|4 Cons

  • No Air mode or similar feature to enhance the sound.
  • Less precise frequency response and lower dynamic range compared to the Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen.
  • Software bundle may require additional installation and registration, and may not be compatible with all operating systems or DAWs.

Which One Would You Choose?

Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen vs M-Audio Air: The Final Verdict

The Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen and the M-Audio Air are both excellent audio interfaces that can meet your home recording needs. They have similar features and performance, but also some distinctive features that make them unique and different from each other. Ultimately, the choice between them depends on your personal preference, budget, and recording situation.

If you want a simple and affordable interface that can add some warmth and brightness to your vocals and acoustic instruments, go for the Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen. If you want a more versatile and flexible interface that can capture your sound source more accurately and faithfully, go for the M-Audio Air.

Either way, you won’t regret choosing either of these interfaces, as they are both reliable, easy-to-use, and high-quality devices that can help you record amazing sound at home.

Focusrite Scarlet Solo 3rd gen vs M-Audio Air 192x4

Bundled Software

Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen

  • Ableton Live Lite (a lite version of a popular DAW).
  • Pro Tools First Focusrite Creative Pack (a lite version of another popular DAW with some plugins).
  • Three months of Splice Sounds subscription (a platform that offers royalty-free samples, loops, and presets).
  • Focusrite Red Plug-in Suite (a collection of EQ and compressor plugins).
  • Softube Time and Tone Bundle (a collection of reverb, delay, distortion, and modulation plugins).
  • XLN Audio Addictive Keys (a virtual piano plugin).
  • Focusrite Plug-in Collective (a program that offers free plugins every few months).

M-Audio Air 192|4

  • Ableton Live Lite (a powerful digital audio workstation for recording, editing, and producing music).
  • MPC Beats (a beat-making software that lets you create drum patterns, melodies, and songs using virtual instruments and samples).
  • Revalver (a guitar amp modeling software that simulates the sound of various amplifiers, cabinets, and effects).
  • AIR effect plugins (a collection of 20 audio effects that can be used to enhance your recordings, such as chorus, delay, reverb, distortion, and more).
  • AIR Virtual Instrument plugins (a collection of 6 virtual instruments that can be used to add realistic sounds to your songs, such as synth, strings, percussion, organ, and piano).
  • Pro Tools First M-Audio Edition (a simplified version of the industry-standard digital audio workstation for recording, editing, and mixing music).