Digital Recording Arts

Focusrite iTrack Solo Review

Tony Stanhope January 4, 2013 Equipment Reviews, Hardware No Comments
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The most compact member of the Focusrite interface family comes in a package suitable for recording on any system from a professional studio workstation to a home PC/Mac, all the way down to the newest iOS devices from Mac, including the iPad, iPad Mini, and the latest iPhones. This versatility means you get to record your way while maintaining the Focusrite converters found in their larger systems. Home recording artists will find the iTrack Solo to have a small enough imprint, that recording on their bed with an iPad is completely comfortable. In a more professional application, the iTrack Solo provides traveling audio engineers with an inexpensive travel interface capable of functioning on small location recordings including vocal sessions and singer/songwriter demos.

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For a box not much larger than an index card, and weighing less than a pound, Focusrite has found a way to include every major feature needed in a recording interface and then some. With two inputs, you’re easily able to record a microphone and instrument at the same time. Powered completely by a USB 2.0 port, users have the option of connecting the included USB cable to their computer for power, or connecting to a power supply (included) for iOS recording. The USB port provides enough power to support the interfaces two inputs, phantom power, headphone output, and a surprising amount of gain from a hub-powered device through the unit’s unbalanced RCA outputs. As if these features didn’t completely fill the box, the iTrack Solo has a large monitor volume knob and a “Direct Monitor” switch to allow for nearly zero-latency recording by letting you listen to the inputs before they hit your DAW.

 

How Does It Sound

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The quality of Focusrite converters are second to none in the pro-sumer audio market. Providing clean Analog-to-Digital conversion is essential to capturing the truest sound in any environment, and Focusrite’s hardware does just that. No coloration is added to sounds passing through the iTrack Solo, which also makes headphone mixing a breeze with this device. For a full studio setup, you’ll want to check that your monitors can support the unbalanced RCA outputs, which several major brands do. The iTrack Solo provides the cleanest sound for under $200 that you can utilize on your iOS device and home computer.

Added Value

If you didn’t think you got enough bang for your buck before, the iTrack Solo has some software downloads up its sleeves to make your purchase even more worth it. The first notable piece of software is your’s to keep with the unit, Focusrite’s Scarlett bundle comes included. A $100 value of it’s own, the Scarlett bundle is a great way to introduce home studios and DIY musicians to third-party plug-ins. Within the bundle, you get 4 separate plug-ins: a compressor, EQ, gate, and reverb. Each have small features that will allow you to color your sound in a few ways, so they’re definitely worth trying out!

The second piece of software is a “lite” version of something being used frequently these days, both for electronic music and live instrument recording: Ableton Live 8. Ableton Live Lite 8 functions very similar to the full version, allowing for audio and MIDI recording. It also boasts more than 20 audio effects and virtual instruments, a feature usually reduced to a handful in other light DAWs. Finally, the software even allows the use of VST and AU plug-ins, meaning you can purchase as many third-party plug-ins as you’d like, and use them in the included DAW.

What I’d Like To See

Just a few minor touches would make this interface outshine all other iOS devices. Since Ableton is heavily used as an “electronic production” DAW, the iTrack Solo would benefit from some sort of MIDI input. Similarly, there is no way to record a stereo track using only the interface & 2 signals (though it could be achieved by using an external preamp for channel 2. Luckily this feature can be found in Focusrite’s nearly identical Scarlett 2i2 interface, but without the iOS connectivity. Finally, I’d like to see a bit longer stock cable for connecting to the iPad, but to meet Apple’s quality standards the short cable makes sense. Focusrite also makes it easy to find an extension through their site, and they are extremely inexpensive. Any of these features would be great for the functionality of the iTrack Solo, but would likely require a larger casing and sacrifice portability.

Overall, the iTrack Solo is an extremely affordable interface that sounds as good as it looks. With plenty of features for the musician on the go, and software to give them a new way to work, this interface is worth every penny. To check out more on the iTrack Solo, visit Focusrite’s Product Page.

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