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This article was originally published in issue #35
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Got an iPhone? Want to record high quality sound for YouTube? Focusrite may just have come up with the perfect answer. Andi Picker checks it out.
The Focusrite iTrack Pocket has to be one of the simplest and most focused devices I’ve had for review. As the “traditional” music industry continues to crumble, the path to wherever we’re going as artists seems to be increasingly based upon “audition by YouTube”, and the video recording device that’s available to probably more people than any other is the phone in your pocket.
Not all that long ago, smart phone video quality was typically somewhere between OK and pretty decent - today the best is plenty good enough for most applications up to “broadcast quality”. Unfortunately, the audio that goes with that video can be a bit lacking - and I bet most of us have balanced our 'phone against a box or lamp only to have it slide-down or fall-over part-way through filming our masterpiece. Enter the iTrack Pocket; it’s made to work with iPhone 5 and 6 variants (I had to “borrow” one; my Windows ‘phone is gently weeping in the corner) and it serves as a cradle to hold your device, as well as offering an audio input providing a pair of built-in microphones and a ¼” guitar input. Used with the Impact app on your phone you can record video along with stereo audio from the mics (or dual mono, or mono audio plus the guitar input), apply post recording editing and effects including an amp sim (in case you were wondering what you could do with that ¼ inch input) and upload direct to YouTube. The case is plastic with a matt, slightly rubbery texture and weighs in at around 100g (you wouldn’t want to use it for a hammer but it’s nice to handle and seems to be well made for its intended purpose).
OK, let’s try it. Set up is easy, plug in the supplied Lightning connector, adjust the level dial on the left hand side and go. The iTrack holds your iPhone in a fixed position; it’s actually pretty good but you’ll need to position it carefully to get the aim of the video camera just right – I ended-up a couple of times wedging a magazine under the front or back edge of the iTrack Pocket to tilt it a bit. The video quality is purely down to your ‘phone – the iTrack has nothing to do with that at all. I was pleasantly surprised with the audio, the built-in mics certainly are not going to replace your vintage Neumann collection, but by the time you’ve loaded it all onto YouTube you may not notice much difference – which is my long-way-round way of saying that they’re surprisingly good. Conversion is 44.1/48k and 16-bit (the sample rate’s fine for me but I’d always like to see 24-bit conversion for anything that’s used to capture live sound). Likewise, the editing and effects won’t quite replace my desk-top applications for ease of use and quality, but they are capable of better results than the majority of YouTube videos seem to manage, and even the guitar amp sims are plenty usable for lesson or demo purposes. Bear in mind that your ‘phone is going to be powering the converters, so do keep an eye on your battery.
If all this sounds like faint praise, then perhaps it is, but I actually think the iTrack Pocket is a brilliant bit of kit. It’s small and light enough that you actually can carry it in a pocket, it does exactly what it says on the tin and does it well. I just wish it would work with my Windows Phone!
Overall? It's a device designed for a specific job and does it very well.