Focusrite ISA ONE
Single-channel microphone preamplifier
Our take on the Focusrite ISA ONE by Crutchfield's James Ralston
Make your recordings shine
The Focusrite ISA ONE equips you with flexible tools for capturing the best possible sound when you're tracking lead vocals, acoustic instruments, electrics guitars, and more. Its rugged, portable design exudes "classic," right down to the VU meter and retro blue and yellow color scheme. And "classic" it is, through and through: it uses the same transformer-based design as the preamps found in Focusrite's legendary, high-end Forté mixing console. Only 10 of those consoles were ever built (for some of the finest recording studios in the world), but the ISA ONE lets you "grab a channel" from that board for a surprisingly modest price, offering superb, pro-quality sound and tons of tweakability.
Front-panel buttons and control knobs are logically laid out, clearly marked, and intuitive to use. A pair of dials dedicated to input gain let you set the correct range and then tweak the signal to perfection. A 4-position switch lets you match the preamp's input impedance to your specific microphone — or play around with creative "mismatching" to tailor the mic's response to the sound you're after. There are also handy front-panel push-button controls for phantom power, phase, headphone output level, and more.
Front-panel controls are logically laid out and easy to use.
Record vocals and instrument tracks simultaneously
The ISA ONE lets you connect just one mic at a time, but line inputs and a built-in independent DI (direct insertion) interface add an extra dimension of versatility. Let's say you're tracking a new tune by a local folk songstress. She can plug her guitar into the front-panel instrument input to record it along with her vocal. The DI interface has its own impedance and gain settings, easily accessed by front-panel controls. "Main" and "DI" XLR outputs let you route both signals independently to your mixer or computer audio interface. When it's time to spice up that tune with some electric guitar overdubs, you can mike your guitar cabinet while simultaneously capturing the direct instrument signal, for more options when you're mixing.
With sound quality so good, you'll want to use the ISA ONE for all your studio projects. Thanks to its solidly built chassis and integrated carry handle, you can move it around anywhere in your recording space to get the job done.
- classic Focusrite ISA series transformer-based microphone preamp delivers exceptional detail
- independent DI (direct insertion) channel for recording guitars, basses, and other instruments
- rugged, portable metal chassis
- flexible input gain settings via stepped range selection dial and separate 20 dB trim dial
- 4-position mic input impedance selector
- backlit VU meter and peak LED meters
- switchable +48V phantom power for XLR mic input
- 75 Hz high-pass filter lets you roll off low frequencies
- phase inverter switch
- optional stereo 24-bit/192kHz analog-to-digital converter available from Focusrite
- removable power cord
- balanced XLR mic input
- balanced XLR and 1/4" TRS line input jacks
- unbalanced 1/4" TS instrument input
- left and right "Cue Mix" 1/4" TRS inputs for routing external stereo sources to the headphone output
- balanced XLR main and DI outputs
- 1/4" TS "Amp" output for routing instrument signal back to an amplifier
- 1/4" TRS headphone output and dedicated gain control
- 1/4" TRS insert send and return jacks for looping in additional processing
- frequency response (mic): 10-125,000 Hz (-0.5dB @ 10Hz/-3dB @ 125kHz)
- 8-11/16"W x 4-1/8"H x 11-7/16"D
- weight: 8.6 lbs.
- warranty: 1 year
- Our 60-day money-back guarantee
What's in the Box:
- ISA One preamplifier
- 70" AC power cord (3-prong IEC)
- User Guide
- Online Registration/Can't Get Started card
- Products Guide
- Environmental Declaration
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Overview: The Focusrite ISA One is a high-quality preamplifer for recording microphone, line-level, or instrument-level sources. The ISA One is based on the Focusrite Heritage sound that dates back to the company's founding in the mid-1980s. This portable device is housed in an all-metal enclosure with a handy carrying handle on the top.
Transformer Based: The ISA One is equipped with a Lundahl LL1538 input transformer, which is based on the original ISA110 preamp. This input transformer provides a unique character to the sound.
Input Connections: Microphones and line-level sources are connected on the rear panel, while instruments are plugged into the front panel. The microphone input has an XLR connector, and the line-level input has separate XLR and 1/4" TRS connectors. The instrument input features two 1/4" jacks: an unbalanced (TS) input marked "DI" for connecting the instrument and another labeled "AMP" to send the signal back to an amplifier. An external input connector (1/4" TRS), marked "EXT", allows an external mono signal to be connected for monitoring or converting to digital format. Separate "Send" and "Return" 1/4-inch TRS jacks let you transmit and receive the main mic/line/instrument input for additional signal processing.
Output Connections: The ISA One has separate XLR outputs for main mic/line/inst input and the DI input. You can connect an external stereo signal to the left and right "Cue Mix" 1/4-inch TRS jacks to provide a monitor mix for a recording artist. On the front panel, a 1/4-inch TRS jack is provided for headphones. The headphone output is variable, and can be connected to the cue mix, when active, by pressing the Cue Mix button.
Level Meters: The ISA One offers several metering options to allow you to view the levels of any of the inputs. A traditional moving-coil VU meter gives you an average level reading for the main input signal. Two vertical LED meters show the peak level of the same signal on the left meter and either an instrument connected to the DI input or the signal received at the External input on the right meter. The VU meter and the left LED meter have two modes: default mode (metering the main input signal) and Post Insert mode (metering the signal received at the insert return, when the insert is active). Both the VU meter and the LED meters can be calibrated using the two corresponding dials on the rear panel.
Input Gain Controls: The front panel has three rotary controls for setting the input gain:
- Stepped Gain Control: When the Mic Input is selected, you can vary the gain from 0dB to +60dB in 10dB steps. The gain range is split between two gain modes: 0dB to +30dB and +30 to +60dB (with the 30-60 switch "on"). When the Line Input is selected, you have access to gain settings ranging from -20dB to +10dB. The 30-60 switch is inactive.
- Trim: An additional 20dB of gain can be applied to the Mic or Line Input signal using the smooth rotation Trim knob. The additional 20dB of gain is useful for recording sources with very low output dynamic and ribbon microphones, and when adjusting the gain during recording. The fine tuning action of the trim control makes it much easier to apply small amounts of gain adjustment, compared to the 10dB-stepped gain knob.
- Instrument Input Gain: When the instrument input is selected, gain is applied to the input signal using the separate Instrument Gain dial. This smooth rotary control allows +10dB to +40dB of gain range. The trim control is inactive when the instrument input is active.
Phantom Power: A single 2-way switch provides +48V of phantom power when using condenser microphones that require it. Phantom power is provided to the rear panel XLR microphone connector. You should refer to the microphone's user manual to determine if phantom power is needed. Possible damage can occur when phantom power is applied to some microphones, such as ribbon microphones.
Phase: When recording with multiple microphones, placement of the mics may cause phase issues. The Phase button on the ISA One inverts the phase of the selected input, and may correct phase problems. It can also correct phase problems caused by wiring polarity errors.
High Pass Filter: You can engage a high-pass filter in the audio path to remove any unwanted bass caused by proximity effect or rumble. The filter is fixed at 75Hz with an 18dB per octave slope.
Input Impedance: The Input Impedance or Z In Switch lets you choose from four transformer preamp input impedance values: Low (600Ω), ISA 110 (1400Ω), Med (2400Ω) and High (6800Ω). Switching the input impedance can have an effect on level and frequency response. A separate Instrument Input Impedance (Instrument Z In) toggles between High (1MΩ) and Low (300Ω) impedance settings for the Instrument input.
Digital Option: An optional digital output board is available from Focusrite that can be retrofitted into the ISA One. This ADC circuit board allows you to convert analog signals into various digital formats, including AES, S/PDIF, and ADAT. Output resolutions of 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, and 192 kHz are available through this optional circuit. LED indicators are provided on the front panel for digital operations.
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