Focusrite Scarlett Studio
The Scarlett Studio is a digital recording package that is neither particularly new or indeed specifically a mobile DJ-oriented product, so why the review in Pro Mobile? Well, as you may know, we’ve recently launched the Pro Mobile Podcast – a monthly audio programme in which I carry out an interview with someone different from the mobile DJ industry for each episode. When looking into the equipment required for recording the Podcast I carried out quite a bit of research and decided that the Scarlett Studio kit was the perfect solution. Now, having spent the last few months getting to grips with it, I not only stand by my choice but feel that it may also prove useful for our mobile DJ readers.
Before I dive into explaining what is included with the Scarlett Studio package and extolling the virtues of its various parts, I feel there may be two questions on readers’ minds. Firstly, what would I use it for and, secondly, why this option out of the many USB-based recording systems out there on the market?
So first thing’s first: why would a mobile DJ need a professional-quality recording kit? My first thought was for recording ‘sound bites’ to play over special songs at events. Imagine playing audio of the bride and groom at a wedding telling each other what they love about one another while dancing together for the first time as husband and wife. Or how about a daughter surprising her Dad with a personal message mixed into their Father/Daughter dance. Many DJs are doing such things to help make their clients’ events that bit more special, but to do it right a good quality audio recording is essential.
The more obvious use of the kit is the purpose for which I first found it, recording radio programmes or podcasts. I know that many mobile DJs – myself included – have at least had an interest in, if not some experience of, radio broadcasting. These days, thanks to the internet, setting up - or contributing to – an online radio station is easy, as is hosting a podcast. How about considering setting up your own podcast to share your experience of running successful events as a form of marketing to new and prospective clients? It could be a great – and fun – way of asserting yourself as an expert in your particular niche or geographical area.
The uses of a decent recording setup really are varied and I think it’s something worth adding to any pro DJ’s equipment inventory, but why the Scarlett Studio in particular? Well, having assessed the wide variety of options on the market I feel that it offers the right combination of features, quality and price for all of the uses that I’ve mentioned. It’s not the cheapest solution – but the lowest cost option is rarely a good way to go – and it’s certainly not the most expensive – as you can imagine, professional studio mics alone can have price tags in the thousands. However, it offers professional features, great recording quality and robust construction all for a price within the reach of most mobile DJs.
So now that I’ve explained my reasoning for a review of a recording kit and my choice of the Scarlett Studio package in particular, let’s look at what’s included. Basically, inside the box, you’ll find everything you need to get up and running recording good quality audio. There’s the Scarlett 2i2 – a two input / two output USB audio interface – along with a USB cable for connecting it to your computer (the interface is compatible with both PC and Mac). Then there’s the CM25 condenser microphone, supplied with an XLR cable and stand adaptor. Finally, there’s a pair of HP60 monitoring headphones complete with a gold-plated ¼” jack adaptor for its 3.5mm plug.
As is becoming common, there is no CD with the drivers and other bundled software, this is all accessed by digital download after first registering your Scarlett Studio on the Focusrite website. The software package includes the LE version of the widely used professional music production and recording software Cubase as well as the Focusrite Scarlett suite of effects and processing plug-ins, including Softube and Red 2 + 3 plug-ins. The package also includes a Novation Bass Station software synth and collection of Loopmasters samples and drum loops. Of course, for the purposes that mobile DJs are likely to use their Scarlett Studio setup, these won’t be needed, but they can be fun to experiment with if you have any inclination to venture into making your own music.
The User Guide is also not provided in the box, but available as a tree-saving digital PDF download, however, I found setting up and using the Scartlett Studio package so easy and straight-forward that the manual wasn’t really required. It is worth noting that the Cubase LE download is a fairly substantial 2.6GB for windows (2.4 for Mac OS) so you’ll either need a very fast internet connection or to set aside a few hours waiting for the download.
Of course, you don’t have to use the provided software, the hardware can be used with any recording application. While I was waiting for Cubase LE to download I tried out the Scarlett Studio kit with the freely available Audacity software that I already had installed on my laptop. Having set up the device driver, which involved a small download and quick installation process, I found the Scarlett 2i2 interface available to select both as an Input and Output device as soon as I opened Audacity and it worked like a charm straight away with no further setup required.
The full reviewed can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 77, Pages 68 - 71.