Focusrite iTrack Solo recording device review
UK based audio engineering company Focusrite has built up an enviable reputation for making high quality preamps over the past twenty five years. Now High Wycombe’s finest has turned its attention to providing iPad users with a similar level of recording finery. The iTrack Solo is a compact, lightweight device, adorned with a one-piece aluminium outer casing. So, not dissimilar to the iPad itself. The front panel has two inputs, one for an XLR microphone (with a 48V phantom power button should you need it), and the other a standard ¼” jack for guitars. Both channels have gain controls to adjust the signal strength, which also feature LED halos around them that change from green to orange or red depending on whether you’re coming in too hot or not. A large circular dial allows you to accurately alter the monitor levels from the ¼” headphone socket or the two phono outputs on the back, plus there is also a direct monitor switch that provides you to option to isolate the input signal.
The rear of the device reveals an equally perfunctory arrangement. Power for the iTrack comes from a USB 2.0 port that you plug either directly into a PC or the charging adaptor that you use for your iPad. This does mean that although the unit is small enough to throw in your gig bag, unless you're using a laptop (iTrack works with PCs or Macs) you'll still need to be by a plug socket to do any mobile recording.
See also iPad reviews
One blot on the design copybook is the bizarrely stiff, short and right-angled cable that you plug into the rear Device Link slot that connects the iTrack to your iPad. If you want the devices side by side on a flat surface then it's no problem, but positioning the iPad on a stand is all but impossible with the provided cable. It’s also worth noting that the cable is a 30-pin style, so if you have a newer iOS device then you’ll need one of Apple’s lightning adaptors.
The iTrack is a simple design, very much in keeping with Focusrite’s Scarlett series of interfaces, and one that is immediately understandable. Plug this in there, turn that up, and away you go. When connected to the iPad there’s no need for special apps or settings, as the unit is automatically detected. You just have to enable either the right or left channel in the settings (depending on what input you’re using) and ensure the monitoring in switched on. Audio quality is very good, as you’d expect from Focusrite, with vocals from a standard Shure SM58 microphone sounding full and clear. Guitars fare equally well; the input happily coping with either single coils or their rowdier humbucking cousins while avoiding the introduction of noise or compression. There’s no discernable latency as you record, and the monitoring output is comfortably loud even at half volume.
Essentially the iTrack Solo does the one thing you ask of any recording device, it simply gets out of the way and lets you make music without any fuss. Focusrite also includes a code for its Scarlett plug-in suite and Ableton Live Lite 8 in the box, which makes an already excellent package even better value for money.