Cross-platform compatible; striking one-button design; multiple inputs
Breakout cable a bit unwieldy; separate app needed to select inputs
$679 (at time of review)
Focusrite’s Forte is a stylish audio interface that lets you connect microphones and instruments to your computer for recording and performing music.
Rather than connecting the instruments directly to ports on the device, Forte uses a breakout cable with four connectors (two for .25in instrument cables and two for XLR microphones) on one end and a connector that plugs into the Forte. The many-headed cable setup can be a bit unwieldy, especially since you can only record from two of the four inputs at a time. Having four connectors can be convenient, however, allowing you to keep your instruments and microphones plugged in, even when not in use.
Forte has one big button that you can rotate or push to navigate the onboard OLED menus or to control certain features of your digital audio workstation (DAW).
I got stuck the first couple of times using Forte, not realising that the Forte Control software is necessary to set up the inputs you’re using to record. The one-button simplicity that Forte is going for is undermined by not being able to control the behaviour from the device itself.
While the software is feature-packed, most other interfaces I’ve dealt with, such as the PreSonus Firestudio Mobile or the Avid MBox mini, don’t require a separate app to configure the recording ports.
Once I figured out the Forte Control software (thanks, User Manual!), I came to appreciate the app. You use the Forte Control software to choose whether you’re using the Mic, Line or Instrument for input one and input two. The Forte Control app lets you set the sample rate (up to 24-bit 192 KHz), preamp gain, pad, high pass and phase reversal. The software also gives you two mixes, one for the speakers and one for headphones. You can use this to set the mix of the dry input from the guitar with the processed signal received back from your DAW.
I used Forte to record vocals, guitar and bass, and was happy with the results. I used different interfaces in the same project and found Forte to be very similar to the PreSonus FireStudio in being able to admirably capture my performances, with the resulting tracks free of unwanted distortion.
If you need a high quality instrument interface that works with both Macs and Windows computers, the Forte by Focusrite takes a little getting used to, but it offers great sound quality and a striking design.
by James Galbraith, Macworld