For any recording artist or producer starting out, one of the toughest decisions is how exactly to capture live sound. The built-in microphone on your phone, tablet, or laptop simply won’t do – especially when recording something like guitar or synthesizer. Luckily, Focusrite has launched the iTrack Solo: a simple, no-frills audio interface designed to work with iPad as well as Windows and Mac. This two-channel interface has everything you need to get started making recordings, either with a microphone, an instrument, or both.
Inputs on the iTrack Solo come in two flavors: XLR on the left, and ¼-inch on the right. The XLR input even includes the option for phantom power, which definitely adds to its recording versatility and lets you know it’s not just a toy. Each channel has adjustable gain and a ring indicator light which lets you know whether you’re getting a signal, and whether you’re clipping. Aesthetically, these ring lights are a masterpiece and one of my favorite features of the interface. The iTrack Solo has multiple options for audio output, including a ¼-inch stereo headphone output with adjustable levels on the front and RCA on the back.
As its standout feature, the iTrack Solo features an audio connection to iPads allowing for two-way communication and audio processing within the iPad. (Note: The supplied cable is meant to be compatible with all generations of iPad except for the most recent iPad which features the Lightning Connector. It may be possible to communicate with new iPads using an adapter, but I have not tried this myself.) This allows the iTrack Solo to be used with any audio recording and processing app on the iPad, such as GarageBand. This is a neat feature to have, and indeed it works quite well – but multi-tracking may be an issue. GarageBand, for example, only allows recording of one track at a time, meaning you’ll have to run through at least two takes to record that new acoustic ballad or synth-pop track running through your head. There are other multi-tracking apps available for the iPad, but beware: you might have to drop a little more cash to find one that works for you.
The fact that the iTrack Solo is designed to work with iPad gives the overall impression of portability. On the contrary, when using the iTrack Solo with iPad, you must power the iTrack from a different, more powerful source, like a wall or a computer; so really you’re no more portable than you would be if you were using your laptop. In fact, since the iTrack can be powered entirely by a laptop, you are in fact MORE portable if you opt for laptop recording over the iPad – and why wouldn’t you? Even if you don’t have a laptop, just a desktop and an iPad, you’re just as tied down either way; wouldn’t you want the enhanced recording and processing power of a full computer? I understand the appeal of products with the “Made for iPad” logo on the box – but in this case, by far the more practical choice is just to skip the iPad altogether and plug up to your Mac or PC.
When paired with a laptop, the iTrack Solo is – no surprise here – a great audio interface. The build quality is impressive and highly professional, the signal/clip lights are helpful and mesmerizing, and the sound quality is pretty great! Even though there are only two inputs, you’re still way better off than using your computer’s built-in microphone, and two is probably going to be enough for most at-home recording projects anyway. With the iTrack Solo, Focusrite launches a very solid product that is a sure buy for anyone looking to add excellent recording capabilities to their production setup.