Review: Focusrite Forte Audio Interface

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

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$749.99 list / $499.99 street price

Overview

The Focusrite Forte is a great-sounding, 2-in/4-out USB audio interface that’s ideal for songwriters who use either a Mac or a PC. With its clean sound and simple physical design, it is easy to transport, clean looking on the desktop, and functional. It’s easy to see why recording professionals are using the Forte for demos and mobile recording sessions. A top-quality piece of audio gear that can convert audio at up to 24-bit/192 kHz, the Forte can help you take your songwriting to the next level.

Professional songwriters, studio engineers and producers have long been fans of Focusrite gear that has been used to make hit recordings for decades. The company knows a thing or two about capturing good sound and it’s not surprising that their little USB offering follows the same high standards. If you are making demos or recording your songwriting sessions, the most important thing you need to know about the Forte is that it can be used with digital recording software to capture your voice and guitar or other accompaniment without coloration or distortion. That said, there are some things you’ll want to know about how it works to help you make a buying decision.

Design

At a glance, it’s obvious that a good deal of thought went into the physical design of the Forte. It features a sleek, solid aluminum enclosure, colorful OLED display, and an oversized multi-function knob. A small display on the unit shows individual track levels along with meters that turn green, yellow, and red indicating signal level. Below the display are four touch-sensitive mode buttons for selecting input level, speaker volume, headphone volume, and DAW mode for controlling a software transport. The multi-function knob has a smooth, solid feel and spins freely to adjust levels and make selections.

A single ¼-inch headphone jack is located conveniently on the front of the unit. At the back, you’ll find a power input, a USB 2.0 port, an input for the breakout cable (Focusrite calls it a loom cable), and a pair of TRS line outputs. Since these outputs are not part of the loom, you can keep the loom in a drawer when listening over speakers and keep the desktop clear of cables. The short loom sports a pair of XLR microphone inputs along with a pair of TRS line/instrument-level inputs, so you can connect two mics and two instruments at the same time and leave them connected. The four audio output channels can be connected to an amplifier and speakers, powered monitors, or a mixer for additional monitoring or headphone outputs.

Set-up and Performance

Setting up the Forte was easy, requiring me to register on the company site before downloading the necessary drivers and bundled software. Once software is installed, you can connect the Forte via USB. The bundled Forte Control software offers low-latency monitoring and level control from your PC and the Midnight Plug-in Suite provides Focusrite’s EQ and compressor software. Before you can start recording, you’ll want to select the Forte as the input and output device in your recording software and attach the loom connector for instrument and mic inputs.

As I expected, Focusrite preamps sounded warm and clean for my first quick recording of close-in voice and guitar tracks. Changing microphones, I was able to immediately hear the ‘personality’ of each microphone giving good indications that the Forte was not coloring the sound. The Forte’s preamps also sounded noticeably cleaner and had more presence than other USB interfaces I’ve used. The playback quality of full-range reference recordings was stellar through the Forte with tight and extended bass response.

I found the Forte’s DAW mode to be very useful, allowing the desktop unit to be used as a remote. Tapping on the multi-function button in DAW mode, you can use the singular button to start and stop recording and to shuttle forward or back in your tracks. While you still need a mouse and keyboard to select and arm tracks, the Forte is handy as a remote, especially if you are recording yourself.

The Focusrite Forte audio interface is a great choice for songwriters looking to produce high-quality demos or just get great sounding recordings of their work. It’s an affordable, professional interface that is well designed physically, simple to set-up and use, and engineered to help you record clean, professional sounding tracks.

 

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