Focusrite Scarlett Too Quiet? 4 Quick Fixes

The Focusrite Scarlett is a popular and punchy audio interface that works great for music production – but what if yours is too quiet and you’re struggling to hear the sound?

Well, you’re in the right place! In this article, we’ll jump into 4 quick fixes for your Focusrite Scarlett volume issues, getting your music production back on track.


Check your Microphone Placement When Recording an Acoustic Guitar or Amp

Are you experiencing low-volume issues with your Focusrite 2i2 while recording your acoustic guitar and amp?

Incorrect microphone placement may be the cause of your problem!

Let’s dive into some troubleshooting tips to get your mic placement set up right, hopefully sorting out those volume issues along the way.

Types of Microphones

It’s important to take note of what kind of microphone you’re using, as this significantly changes the way in which you record.

When it comes to recording, two common types you’ll often come across are dynamic microphones and condenser microphones.

Dynamic Microphones

  • Dynamic microphones are rugged and versatile, making them great for live performances and recording loud sound sources.
  • They can handle high sound pressure levels (SPL) without distorting and are less sensitive to ambient noise.
  • Dynamic mics are commonly used for vocals, drums, and guitar amplifiers.

Condenser Microphones

  • On the other hand, condenser microphones are more sensitive and accurate, making them ideal for capturing delicate and nuanced sound sources.
  • They require phantom power (usually 48V) to operate and have a wider frequency response compared to dynamic mics.
  • Condenser mics are commonly used in studio settings for recording vocals and acoustic instruments and capturing detailed sound in controlled environments.

Mic Placement

Now that we know what the different types of microphones are used for when recording let’s get into how to set them up for an acoustic guitar.

Dynamic Microphones

  1. In the case of dynamic microphones, such as the popular Shure SM57, it’s generally recommended to position the microphone slightly off-axis from the soundhole.
  2. Placing the mic directly in front of the soundhole may result in a boomy or overpowering low-end sound.
  3. By moving the mic away from the soundhole, you can achieve a more balanced and natural representation of the guitar’s sound.
  4. Experimenting with different positions, such as angling the mic towards the guitar’s body or placing it closer to the neck or bridge, can yield different tonal characteristics.
  5. It’s essential to listen closely and find the “sweet spot” that captures the desired sound for your acoustic guitar.

Condenser Microphones

  1. For condenser microphones, like the Audio-Technica AT2020, a similar approach can be applied.
  2. However, due to the condenser mic’s increased sensitivity and wider frequency response, it’s even more important to find the optimal placement.
  3. Placing the mic too close to the soundhole may result in excessive low-frequency pickup and potential boominess.
  4. Instead, consider positioning the microphone further away from the soundhole, aiming towards the 12th fret or around the bridge area.
  5. This can help capture more of the guitar’s natural resonance and tonal balance.
  6. Experimenting with different distances, angles, and placements will allow you to fine-tune the microphone position to achieve the desired acoustic guitar sound.

Correctly Adjust your Gain

Gain staging and adjustment is a fundamental part of using your Focusrite Scarlett.

Let’s jump into how to get the best volumes out of your Scarlett in the recording process:

Let’s start with using a condenser microphone.

  1. Firstly, it requires phantom power to operate. The Focusrite Scarlett provides 48V phantom power that needs to be engaged to power the microphone.
  2. Ensure that the phantom power switch is turned on before proceeding.
  3. Next, you can adjust the gain knob on your Scarlett to set the input level for your microphone.
  4. The gain control determines how much amplification is applied to the incoming signal.
  5. Start by setting the gain knob to its minimum position to avoid any sudden loud signals that may cause clipping or distortion.
  6. With the gain set low, gradually increase the gain knob while monitoring the input levels.

Keep an eye on the level meters on your Scarlett or your music software to ensure the signal is strong enough without clipping.

What is clipping, you ask?

Clipping occurs when the input level exceeds the maximum capacity of the audio interface, resulting in distorted and unpleasant sound.

As you increase the gain, listen carefully to the recorded sound and make adjustments accordingly. If the signal seems too quiet or lacks sufficient volume, continue increasing the gain.

Most condenser microphones have relatively low self-noise, allowing for higher gain settings without introducing noticeable background noise.

Be Careful With Gain

It’s important to exercise caution when pushing the gain higher, as it’s possible to damage your device. Pay attention to any signs of distortion or clipping in the recorded sound.

If you notice distortion or the signal starts to “clip” (indicated by the level meters hitting the red zone), reduce the gain slightly to maintain a clean and undistorted recording.

Finding the right gain setting is a balance between capturing a strong, clear signal and avoiding unwanted distortion.

It may take some trial and error to determine the optimal gain level for your specific recording setup, microphone, and playing style.

Remember to test and adjust the gain settings while playing or recording at your intended volume level to get the best out of your vocal or instrument.

Check Your Cables and Connections

Another common culprit for low-volume issues with your Focusrite Scarlett interface is the quality and integrity of your microphone connections and cables.

Poorly connected or damaged cables can significantly impact the volume and overall sound quality of your recordings.

Here are some steps to help you address any potential microphone connection and cable issues:

Inspect the Microphone Cable

Start by examining the microphone cable for any visible signs of damage, such as cuts, frayed wires, or loose connections. A damaged cable can cause signal loss or interference, leading to reduced volume levels.

If you notice any issues, consider replacing the cable with a high-quality one suitable for your microphone.

Check the Cable Connections

Ensure that the microphone cable is securely plugged into both the microphone and the Focusrite Scarlett interface.

Sometimes, a loose connection can result in a weak or intermittent signal, leading to low volume or dropouts.

Gently wiggle the cable at both ends while monitoring the volume to see if there are any fluctuations or improvements. If necessary, unplug and reconnect the cable firmly to establish a stable connection.

Try a Different Cable

If you suspect that the cable might be the culprit but can’t visibly detect any damage, it’s worth trying a different cable to rule out any cable-related issues.

Borrow a cable from a friend or colleague, or consider purchasing a new one to see if it improves the volume levels.

Opt for a high-quality cable with good shielding to minimize the risk of interference.

Test with a Different Microphone

If you have access to another microphone, try connecting it to the Focusrite Scarlett interface to see if the low-volume issue persists.

This step helps determine whether the problem lies with the microphone or the interface. If the volume improves with a different microphone, it suggests that your original microphone might require further troubleshooting or adjustment.

Use Compressors!

Dynamic microphones produce lower output levels compared to condenser microphones, but even condensers should be recorded at low volumes!

With this in mind, let’s move on to how to use compressors to get the desired volumes when recording.

So what exactly is a compressor in musical terms?

  • A compressor is an audio processing tool that helps control the dynamic range of an audio signal.
  • It works by automatically reducing the volume of louder parts of the signal and increasing the volume of softer parts, resulting in a more balanced and controlled sound.
  • By applying compression, you can effectively increase the perceived loudness of your recordings without introducing distortion or clipping.

When using a compressor with your Scarlett interface, it’s important to understand some key concepts:

Threshold: The threshold determines at what level the compressor starts to work. Set the threshold so that it engages when the volume reaches a level where you want to control the dynamics.

Ratio: The ratio determines the amount of gain reduction applied to the signal once it exceeds the threshold. A higher ratio, such as 4:1 or 6:1, will result in more aggressive compression.

Attack and Release: These settings control how quickly the compressor responds to changes in volume. Adjust the attack time to determine how fast the compressor starts reducing the gain, and set the release time to control how quickly it stops reducing the gain.

Makeup Gain: After applying compression, you may notice a decrease in overall volume. Use the makeup gain control to bring the level back up to match the desired volume.

When using compression for vocals or any other instrument, it’s important to strike a balance.

Applying too much compression can squash the dynamics and result in a lifeless sound, while too little compression may not have a significant impact on volume control.

Experiment with different compression settings, listen carefully and make adjustments accordingly.

It’s also worth mentioning that learning about compression techniques and understanding how to use them effectively can greatly enhance your recordings.

Take the time to research and explore various compression settings, attack and release times, and different compressor plugins or hardware units to find the optimal configuration for your specific needs.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to volume levels in the music recording and production world, it’s important to note that louder is not always better.

Always try to keep enough ‘headroom’ when recording to ensure that your audio is clean and clear, allowing for better results when moving on to the mixing and mastering processes.

Headroom refers to the amount of available space between the highest peak level of an audio signal and the maximum level that a system can handle without distortion or clipping.

It’s basically the “breathing room” in the audio signal.

Now that you have a better understanding of how to correctly record and manipulate audio with your Focusrite Scarlett, you can get back to doing what’s most important, making music 🙂


How high should I set the gain control on my interface?