Scarlett 2i2 vs. Motu M2: Which is better?

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Verdict: Both the Motu M2 and Scarlett 2i2 offer good audio quality for their price ranges, with the Motu M2 having slightly better-sounding preamps, lower latency, and more headroom.

In this blog post, we’ll be comparing these two popular audio interfaces under $300 and discussing their features, pros, and cons to help you make an informed decision.

So let’s dive in and see which one comes out on top.

Features & Specs Comparison

FeatureFocusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3th gen)MOTU M2
Mic preamps22
Max sample rate192 kHz192 kHz
Bit depth24-bit24-bit
Dynamic range116 dB120 dB
Phantom powerYes, globalYes, per channel
Instrument inputs22
Line inputs22
Monitor outputs22
Headphone outputs11
Direct monitoringYesYes
LoopbackYesYes
Software bundlePro Tools, Ableton Live Lite, pluginsPerformer Lite, Ableton Live Lite, loops/samples
Form factorDesktopDesktop
ConnectivityUSB-CUSB-C
Bus poweredYesYes

Key Differences

  • The MOTU M2 has a slightly better-rated dynamic range (120 dB vs 116 dB) and offers individual 48V phantom power per channel rather than global.
  • The Scarlett 2i2 includes more bundled software like Pro Tools, while the M2 includes some additional loops and samples.
  • The M2 has bigger input meters plus output metering on its LCD screen, while the 2i2 relies on LED halos around the gain knobs.
  • The 2i2 has some additional features like Air mode, pad switch, and loopback.
  • The 2i2 comes with a lower price point.

Latency Comparison

The Motu M2 has a significantly lower round trip latency of just 7.6ms at 96kHz with a 32 sample buffer size. This allows for near zero-latency monitoring while recording.

Even at comparable settings of 48kHz and 128 buffer size, the M2 still achieves a lower latency of 8-10 ms versus the Scarlett 2i2’s 18-20ms.

The M2 can achieve such low latency monitoring due to its ESS Sabre32 Ultra DAC, without compromising on audio quality.

For real-time monitoring while recording, the lower latency of the M2 provides a more natural feel compared to the Scarlett 2i2. The Scarlett’s higher latency may be noticeable or distracting for some users.

So if low-latency monitoring is a priority, the Motu M2 is the superior choice over the Scarlett 2i2. Its class-leading latency performance makes it ideal for live monitoring use cases.

Sound Quality

Looking at the technical specifications, the MOTU M2 edges out the 2i2 with its pro-grade ESS Sabre32 Ultra DAC, allowing an impressive 120 dB dynamic range compared to 116 dB on the Scarlett (3th gen). This gives the M2 more headroom for capturing subtle details in recordings without distortion.

However, both interfaces far exceed the capabilities of human hearing in terms of dynamic range and noise floor. In real-world use, most listeners would be hard-pressed to hear a significant difference between the two. The clarity, depth, and transparency on both units is excellent.

Where the M2 deserves credit is in its cutting-edge converter technology, which measures objectively better on test benches. But the Scarlett 2i2’s high-quality Cirrus Logic converters still hold their own, delivering crisp and pristine recordings.

For most home studio owners and podcasters, the marginal differences between these pro-level interfaces won’t have much practical impact. Both the Scarlett and MOTU deliver professional 24-bit sound quality and low-latency monitoring well-suited for any application.

The M2 takes the win for best-in-class measurements, but at this tier the real deciding factors are features, workflow, and cost-effectiveness. Users can rest assured knowing both units provide exceptional, noise-free sound for all your audio interface needs.

Verdict

Both the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and MOTU M2 are excellent USB audio interfaces that will serve home studio owners well. There is no universally superior option – each has strengths that make them better suited for certain use cases.

The MOTU M2 justifies its higher price through best-in-class latency performance, more connectivity, and superior technical audio measurements. For situations demanding low latency, like live playing or monitoring, the M2 is the superior pick.

However, the Scarlett 2i2 punches above its weight with quality Cirrus Logic converters and a proven track record of reliability. At around $150, it’s also gentler on the wallet. For basic home recording, the 2i2 gets the job done admirably.

Drivers and compatibility slightly favor the Scarlett on Windows, but both work well on macOS. Build quality is robust on both units.

There is no wrong choice here. The M2 brings cutting-edge performance for demanding users, while the 2i2 offers great value for money. Based on individual needs and budget, you can feel confident with either interface as a high-quality production tool

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