How much better does a $10,000 audio interface really sound than a $100 Focusrite Scarlett Solo?

At some point in our journey into music production, most of us will have wondered whether expensive gear is really worth the price tag. Is that Telefunken U-47 really necessary, when Platinum-selling albums have been recorded with a lowly SM57? Should you shell out for a Prophet-5, or a Juno-6, when the Arturia V Collection software emulations sound so damn good?

This is the question asked and answered by audio engineer and content creator Streaky in his latest video, which stacks up a $100 audio interface, the Focusrite Scarlett Solo, against a $10,000 counterpart, the Lavry Quintessence. 

The Lavry is a rackmount digital to analog converter that is likely to be found sitting in the racks of a professional studio, often used as part of a signal chain that comprises other (similarly expensive) equipment. The Focusrite, on the other hand, is the kind of gear amateur producers might chuck on a desk next to their laptop for a quick and easy recording set-up. One might reasonably expect, then, that the Lavry would blow the Focusrite out of the water. 

Streaky tests the difference in audio output between the two bits of kit, A/Bing a synth-pop mix for his viewers so they can hear any immediate contrast between the two versions. The project files have been made available for download, too, as it's not easy to accurately hear the difference between the mixes in the YouTube video's compressed audio.

Streaky's conclusion is that the Lavry delivers more weight in the low end, along with some sub bass content that the Focusrite lacks. The Lavry also brings some depth of field to the highs and mids, while the Focusrite sounds somewhat flat and uninspiring. Most of the viewers in the comments seem to agree, too, praising the Lavry's "separation, width and transient detail". 

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The difference, though, is perhaps not as pronounced as we'd expect. Is that level of improvement really worth $9,900? Ultimately, the answer to that will be a subjective one. Streaky's view is a balanced one: this kind of expensive gear isn't at all necessary when you're starting out, but if you're operating at a professional level, and attempting to bring an extra dimension to your work that budget equipment sometimes lacks, premium kit can undoubtedly be worth the price. 

Personally, if you're on the hunt for an audio interface but aren't quite ready to part with five figures, we'd recommend that you split the difference and go for something in between the two.

Subscribe to Streaky's YouTube channel.

Matt Mullen
Tech Editor

I'm the Tech Editor for MusicRadar, working across everything from artist interviews to product news to tech tutorials. I love electronic music and I'm endlessly fascinated by the tools we use to make it. When I'm not behind my laptop keyboard, you'll find me behind a MIDI keyboard, carefully crafting the beginnings of another project that I'll ultimately abandon to the creative graveyard that is my overstuffed hard drive.

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