British pro-audio manufacturer Focusrite has announced U.S. availability of its iTrack Solo audio recording interface for the iPad. Featuring studio-quality guitar and microphone inputs, the palm-sized device is claimed to be "the perfect companion for any singer/songwriter wanting to take their demos to the next level – with audio quality that's so good, they can be used in the final mix."

The 1.75 x 6 x 4-inch (45 x 150 x 100-mm), 1-pound (500-g) iTrack Solo features the same professional proprietary microphone pre-amp that's found in the company's flagship Liquid Saffire 56 interface. The total harmonic distortion (THD) is less than 0.002 percent and the equivalent input noise is less than -120 dB (measured at minimum gain, -1 dBFS input with 22 Hz/22 kHz bandpass filter), which equates to low-distortion, low-noise vocal recording. The frequency response is 20 Hz to 20 kHz (±0.2 dB), gain range is 10 to 55 dB and the max input level is -3 dBu.

To the right of the XLR mic input on the front panel of the silver "soft-touch" aluminum unibody chassis is a gain knob that's surrounded by a circle of light called a halo. This indicates optimum recording levels, glowing green when the signal is good (-24 dBFS) and turning a menacing red if it's too loud, as a warning that there's a danger of clipping. Underneath that sits a 48V phantom power switch which caters for the use of studio microphones.

In the middle of the unit there's a 6.4-mm unbalanced instrument input offering the same frequency response, gain range and max input level as the mic pre, but with 0.003 percent THD (measured with -1 dBFS input and 22 Hz/22 kHz bandpass filter) and -87 dBu noise measured with a 22 Hz/22 kHz bandpass filter. This input also benefits from a gain control knob and halo level indicator.

Moving over to the right again, users can plug in headphones and slide the direct monitoring button to the on position to hear exactly what's being recorded, avoiding any possible latency issues which may be experienced when using the iPad's audio-out jack for monitoring.

The iTrack Solo is connected to an iPad via the Device Link port to the rear. The unit works with iPad, iPad2 and 3rd generation iPad, but can also be used with a Mac or PC via USB. It will need to be powered by a wall outlet when used with an iPad, but if used with a Mac or PC, the computer should provide enough power via the USB 2.0 cable only. Focusrite has also included left/right unbalanced RCA Phono monitor outputs for connection to speaker systems.

The unit has built-in AD/DA conversion circuitry with a dynamic range of 105 dB for top-quality output, and supports sample rates of 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96 kHz for Mac and PC, and 44.1 and 48 kHz for the iPad.

The iTrack Solo benefits from plug-and-play compatibility with a host of music creation apps, including GarageBand and Auria, and is being bundled with Ableton Live Lite 8 professional music making software for Mac/PC, Novation Bass Station, 1 GB of royalty-free Loopmasters samples and the Focusrite Scarlett plug-in suite.

Focusrite has given the hi-fidelity microphone/instrument recording interface for the iPad a suggested retail price of US$199.95, which should pan out to around $160 at street level.

Product page: iTrack Solo

The following video demonstration offers some indication of the kind of quality you can expect from the device.

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