The Focusrite iTrack Solo is a small audio interface that works with Windows, Mac and iPad, featuring one mic input and one guitar input. The iTrack Solo costs about $150 which is reasonable. And, the sonic results are more than adequate for doing podcast/radio tracking. I really like the sound of this thing. It is a bit tricky to setup on PC but it does work for Windows users.
What’s it for?
It’s not a necessity, but having a computer audio interface to do tracking/voicing directly into an editor is pretty awesome for work-flow. As long as your computer fan doesn’t sound like a jet-engine, then you can use something like the product I am reviewing today — the iTrack Solo — to record with, directly into your editor.
Producers, like Roman Mars (of 99% Invisible Fame), swear by doing narration directly into the computer. The main reason is that the voicing sounds like a more natural reaction to the content. It’s also easier to make corrections and do re-takes until it sounds right–without having to record and transfer files each time.
What’s in the box
- Focusrite iTrack Solo interface
- USB A-B cable
- Device link cable (connects iTrack Solo to iPad)
- Software activation card for Scarlett Plug-In Suite and Ableton Live Lite (Note that you must download the software; there is no installation CD inside the box)
What we like
- Multi-platform (Mac, PC , iPad) (Windows 7 and 8)
- Direct monitor switch to self monitor mic during recording
- Nice sounding mic-preamp
- Simple but useful level indicators
- USB Powered (nice – no wall wort)
- 24bit/48K recording depth
- Included software includes a good compressor and reverb.
What we don’t like
- Tricky setup in Windows involves adjusting a few system and software settings to make it work properly with Hindenburg, iTunes, and Audition.
- Drivers could be better (Windows): for example, when I turned on my computer after ‘sleep mode’ I had to unplug and re-plug the unit to get it to work.
- NO LINE-IN (too bad, would be nice to have)
How does it sound?
It sounds good – both for playback and recording. Recording with a typical budget home studio mic, the Audio Technica 2020, produced a lovely natural sound that is accurate without being harsh. It’s a sound that Focusrite is famous for.
I was surprised at how far I had to crank the gain to get my levels with the AT2020, so I didn’t think the little Solo would have enough juice to use a dynamic mic, like a Shure SM57, without introducing unwanted hiss. But, the SM57 actually sounded useable cranked up and close-mic’d:
However, with cheaper interfaces like the Solo I’d recommend sticking with a condenser mic, like the AT2020 so you’ll have enough headroom.
Real World Test: Skype Interview
One of the things I absolutely need is to be able to record Skype interviews properly. A good Skype setup should be be able to:
- Use a good mic and headphones with Skype
- Monitor my own voice for p-pops etc. at the same time
- Record my voice to a studio quality separate track outside Skype
- Record the Skype audio (for mixing with above later)
I was able to check off the above list using the iTrack Solo and Hindenburg. I ran Skype and Hindenburg at the same time. Hindenburg recorded my voice in studio quality, and I recorded the Skype conversation using Amalto free call recorder. I was surprised and pleased – everything worked as it should. And, the direct monitor feature meant I could monitor my own voice in addition to the person I was interviewing.
Sound: 8/10, Features 5/10, Look&Feel 8/10, Build 7/10, Value 6/10
This is a simple, single-person piece of kit. It’s called iTrack Solo for a reason. If you want to record multiple mics at once, this is not for you. Most of the time, though, when you’re editing down a piece and narrating that’s all you need.
It only takes one mic, it has no line-in, and not a lot of fancy features. But, it’s only $150 and for tracking a piece at home quickly into the computer, or doing Skype interviews, it does a fine job. For my work-flow, that’s all I’ll be using an interface for. For in-person interviews and etc, I’d be using my recorder, anyway.
The Solo is small and sits attractively by the computer and makes your music playback sound good, too. Even though it technically has less features and less ‘value’ I might buy one of these for myself. Just wish it was a little less flaky in Windows.
Note that Focusrite also makes the Scarlett 2i2 which is the same price but has 2 mic inputs. It’s an older model and doesn’t work with iPad, but could be a good option if you think you’ll need the extra input.
Review by: Sean Rasmussen