Focusrite Scarlett Sound Distorting? 3 Solutions

The Focusrite Scarlett is a powerful range of audio interfaces that comes at an attractive price, but unfortunately, some users have had the issue of their sound distortion.

Luckily, if you’re facing this annoying problem, you’re in the right place.

In this article, I’ll dive into 3 solutions for your distorting sound, getting you back to what’s most important – making music!

Focusrite Scarlett audio interface on tabletop, connected to Macbook pro laptop

Make Sure That the Focusrite Scarlett is Working Correctly

The first step is to ensure that your Focusrite Scarlett is performing at its best. Makes sense, right?

If your sound is distorting on your Scarlett, it can really get in the way of your music production, so let’s jump into some troubleshooting tips to make sure your interface is all good!

Check connections

First things first – let’s take a look at that Focusrite Scarlett interface.

Ensure that all the connections between the interface and your computer are secure and properly plugged in. This refers to any USB, thunderbolt, or alternative cable.

Sometimes, loose connections can lead to audio distortion. Give each cable a gentle wiggle to confirm they are firmly in place.

Also, try to switch out cables that you might believe to be problematic. Better safe than sorry when it comes to faulty cables!

Verify Gain Levels

Alright, so what is the gain level on a Focusrite Scarlett?

The gain level determines how much the incoming audio signal is amplified (or made louder), and can be adjusted using the gain knobs on the interface.

Higher gain makes the audio louder, while lower gain makes it quieter.

Now it’s time to take a look at the gain levels on your audio interface. Most Scarlett models have physical controls for input gain on the front panel.

Here are some steps to best deal with your gain:

  • Start with lower gain settings to be safe.
  • Gradually increase the gain until you reach the desired volume without distortion.
  • Keep an eye on the input meters in your recording software.
  • Ensure that the signal stays within a healthy range.

Experiment and listen carefully to find the best gain level for your specific audio source.

Also check out my article, Focusrite Scarlett Too Quiet? 4 Quick Fixes

Check Software Settings

The next step is to ensure that your Focusrite software settings are working correctly.

This involves taking a look at your Focusrite Control software or any other control panel specific to your Scarlett model.

Ensure that the settings are configured correctly for your needs, paying attention to any input gain adjustments, sample rates, and buffer sizes to avoid potential distortion issues.

It’s also worth noting that reading through your Focusrite Scarlett instruction manual is always a good idea to get all the info you need to best use your device and its software.

Update Firmware/Drivers

Up-to-date drivers are crucial when it comes to using any musical hardware and software!

Here’s how to make sure your Focusrite drivers are updated and ready to go:

  1. Visit the Focusrite website.
  2. Check for available firmware or driver updates specifically for your Scarlett audio interface. (This is very important!)
  3. Download the latest versions of the firmware or drivers.
  4. Follow the provided instructions for installing the updates.
  5. Installing updated firmware or drivers can address compatibility issues and enhance performance.

Remember to always follow the instructions provided by Focusrite during the updating process to ensure a smooth and successful update of your Scarlett audio interface.

Test on a Different Computer/DAW

This is a simple but often overlooked solution, as it can be difficult to find different computers or music programs when you don’t have the resources.

So, if possible, try connecting your Scarlett interface to a different computer and use a different Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software.

This helps determine if the issue is specific to your computer or DAW. If the distortion persists on a different setup, it suggests a potential issue with the audio interface itself.

If you don’t have a spare computer or alternate music software, try borrowing from a friend 🙂

Reset or Reinstall Software

This is also a common and often very effective method for getting a quick fix for music software or gear!

If you suspect that the software associated with your Scarlett interface is causing the distortion, consider resetting the software to its default settings or reinstalling it.

This process can resolve any potential software glitches or conflicts that may be contributing to the audio distortion.

Check your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) Settings

A Digital Audio Workstation is the music software you use to record and produce music. Popular DAWs include Ableton Live, Logic Pro X, and FL Studio.

If you’re experiencing distorted sound when using your Focusrite Scarlett interface, there’s a possibility your DAW may be at fault.

So, the first thing we need to check is your DAW audio settings!

  • Open your DAW software and navigate to the audio settings or preferences section. Look for options related to sample rate and buffer size.
  • Ensure that these settings are configured correctly for your audio interface and project requirements.
  • The sample rate represents the number of audio samples per second, while the buffer size determines the amount of audio data processed at once.

Let’s get into the details of your Sample Rate and Buffer Size, and how to adjust them.

Sample Rate

We always want to make the best quality music we can right? Here’s where the sample rate comes in.
Make sure that the sample rate setting in your DAW matches the sample rate supported by your audio interface. Mismatched sample rates can lead to audio distortion.

The typical sample rates are 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz, but your interface may support higher rates.

Again, it’s a good idea to check out the user manual of your Scarlett interface to determine the optimal sample rate to use.

Buffer Size

Now that we’ve gotten Sample Rate out the way, let’s move on to how to utilize your Buffer Size to get the best out of your system.

Buffer size and computer strain: A very low buffer size can overwhelm your computer’s processing power, leading to frustrating issues like distortion.

Finding the sweet spot: Adjusting the buffer size is a delicate balance between audio latency and performance. Experiment with larger buffer sizes to reduce strain on your system and minimize audio distortion.

Latency vs. performance

Higher buffer sizes may introduce a slight delay (latency) between when you play a note and when you hear it.

However, this trade-off can significantly improve performance and reduce audio distortion. Here we have to find the perfect balance between latency and performance.

Tailoring to your needs

Each recording is unique, so finding the optimal compromise for your specific needs is essential. Consider factors like the complexity of your project, the power of your computer, and your tolerance for latency.

It’s about customizing the buffer size to suit your workflow.

Here are some more troubleshooting steps to try out to get rid of that pesky audio distortion:

Update your DAW: Just like with your Focusrite, software updates also apply to your DAW! Check for software updates on the official website of your DAW. New versions often fix bugs and improve performance, reducing audio distortion.

Download and install the latest update and follow the instructions carefully.

Disable Unnecessary Plugins: Running too many plug-ins simultaneously strains your computer’s processing power and can cause audio distortion.

This is especially true for third-party VST plug-ins, which can be the worst of the lot when it comes to being power-hungry and problematic.

Disable or bypass non-essential plugins for your current session to reduce processing load and minimize distortion.

A good way to disable plug-ins while still maintaining your desired sound is to “Freeze” and “Flatten” tracks with the resource-hungry plug-ins or bounce those tracks out to audio and put them back in the project.

Check System Requirements: Ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements specified by your DAW. Inadequate system resources or outdated hardware may significantly contribute to audio distortion.

Refer to the online user manual or website of your DAW for recommended system specifications.

Please also read our article with solutions for Focusrite Scarlett disconnecting. 

Check for Faulty Headphones, Speakers, and Cables

Wear and tear on audio equipment can never be overlooked, as this is so often the cause of frustrating issues that can arise over time.

If you’re still experiencing audio distortion when using your Focusrite Scarlett, it’s time to put those hands to work and start checking your hardware!

Headphones/Speakers: Let’s start with your headphones and speakers!

Faulty or low-quality headphones or speakers can introduce distortion into the audio signal, so let’s jump into some troubleshooting tips to get help you get to the bottom of your sound issues.

Check Audio Output Devices: First off, try to connect different headphones or speakers to your Scarlett interface to identify if the distortion persists. This helps determine if the issue lies with the original audio devices.

Test With Alternate Devices: If distortion disappears with alternate headphones or speakers, consider replacing or repairing the original ones for restored audio quality.

Inspect Connections: The next step is to check for secure and proper connections of headphones or speakers to the Scarlett interface. Loose or faulty connections can contribute to audio distortion. Check cables, jacks, and connections.

Consider Impedance: Next, make sure that your headphone or speaker impedance is within the compatible range specified by the Scarlett interface. Mismatched impedance can result in distortion or insufficient volume.

Check Power Supply: If you’re using powered speakers, make sure that they’re receiving adequate power. Insufficient power supply can cause distortion.

Test in Different Environments: Try headphones or speakers in a different environment or with a different audio source to determine if distortion is specific to the Scarlett interface or caused by external factors like electrical interference or environmental conditions.

Every musician has run into some kind of problem with a jack or XLR cable in their time. It’s, unfortunately just one of those things in the music biz.

Faulty or damaged cables and jacks can introduce interference and affect the audio quality when using your Focusrite Scarlett, so it’s always a good idea to have a good look!

Check that all your cables and connectors between your Scarlett interface and your headphones or speakers are secure and in good knick. Make sure to clean the connectors!

It’s also a good idea to try using different cables or connectors to see if the distortion changes or disappears.

On that note, it’s also a good idea to buy new cables if yours are getting a little long in the tooth!

RELATED: Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 Headphone Problem? Explained & Solved

I hope these solutions help you get back to your music-making successfully – thanks for reading 🙂


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