With the recent release of kernel 6.8 overflowing with Focusrite Gen 4 driver goodness, I figured it’s the perfect time to test the latest Gen 4 Solo on Linux. This little critter boasts some new features compared to its predecessor, but also omits some functionalities found in other Gen 4 models.


OVERVIEW

On the front, we’ve got the usual suspects: twin gain knobs, buttons for phantom power, Air mode, instrument and direct monitoring, level control, and, new for Gen 4, a dedicated headphone volume knob—something that’s been painfully absent on Gen 1-3 models.

You also get the usual holes: a quarter-inch line input and another for your headphones. But unlike its Gen 3 counterpart, the XLR microphone jack has moved to the back, joining the party with the two line outputs, USB 2.0 Type-C connector, and a Kensington Security Slot – that seems to have been placed directly above the USB connector out of pure spite.


DRIVERS

Driver installation? Pfffft! Just plug it in and you’re good to go. Welcome to Linux 🙂


FIRMWARE

Another cool feature of the Gen 4 is its ability to update firmware directly from Linux using the Scarlett2 Firmware Management utility. While I generally recommend a “not broke, don’t fix” approach to firmware updates, the option is available if needed.


SETUP UTILITY

And now it’s time for the cool part, the ALSA Scarlett GUI. Think of it as an open-source version of Focusrite Control 2. It allows you to reset the device, control routing, mix sources, and monitor levels.

But if you plan on using it, make sure you have kernel 6.7+. Older kernels will need the backported modules located here.


SOUND SERVERS

The Focusrite Scarlett Solo Gen 4 tackles Pulseaudio, PipeWire, and even the final boss of Linux audio, Jack, with no configuration needed.


ROUND-TRIP LATENCY

While many kinds of audio latency metrics exist, one useful and well-understood metric is round-trip latency; the time it takes for an audio signal to enter the input of a device, get processed, and exit the output.

Measurements were taken with jack_iodelay.


TESTBENCH

CPUAMD Ryzen 5 5600G
RAMCorsair Vengeance LPX 16GB
MotherboardMSI B550-A PRO
GPUNA
SSDSilicon Power 256GB NVMe
PSU:EVGA 600 B1
Firewire:Syba SY-PEX30016
Network:Intel i350-T4
OS:Debian 12 (Bookworm)
Kernel:6.8 RT
Desktop:XFCE 4

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Connectivity: USB 2.0 Type-C
  • Simultaneous I/O: 2 x 2
  • Preamps: 1 x mic, 1 x instrument 
  • Maximum Gain: 57 dB
  • Phantom Power: Yes
  • A/D Resolution: Up to 24-bit/192kHz
  • Analogue Inputs: 1 x XLR (mic), 1 x 1/4″ (line)
  • Analogue Outputs: 2 x 1/4″ TRS
  • Headphones: 1 x 1/4″
  • MIDI Input/Output: NA
  • Bus Powered: Yes
  • Power Supply: NA

VERDICT

So what do we think of our little red block of rainbow blinkyness? For those who already own one and are looking for a little confirmation bias, it’s fine. If you need a low-cost interface, it will get the job done, but you might consider saving a few bucks and picking up the Gen 3 model.

That’s because there’s not much gen-fourthyness in the Solo Gen 4. It uses the older preamp design, limiting it to 53db of gain compared to 69db found in other Gen 4 interfaces. It also lacks clip safe and auto gain functionality.

This isn’t an accident, nay! It’s a classic sales technique. You see the base model with all its limitations, then notice the next model up is overflowing with gen-fourthyness, and your brain tells you it’s only $60 more, so why not get that one?

But on the positive side, it does have a goth logo, a dedicated headphone volume control, and Linux drivers along with a user-friendly setup utility.


Focusrite Scarlett Solo Gen 4

8 out of 10
$139

For those who already own one and are looking for a little confirmation bias, it’s fine. If you need a low-cost interface, it will get the job done, but you might consider saving a few bucks and picking up the Gen 3 model.

Installability
7 out of 10
Performance
8 out of 10
Build Quality
9 out of 10
Price
7.8 out of 10

Pros

Not a fingerprint magnet

Inexpensive

Headphone volume control

Cons

Last gen preamps

No hardware MIDI

Lacks clip safe and auto gain

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Have questions about your Linux setup? Ask in the forums.

VennStone

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