Avid Fast Track Duo Review
Avid’s Fast Track Duo is a 2×2 studio-grade USB audio interface that offers everything a musician needs to create high-quality recordings. Packaged with Pro Tools Express — a basic version of the industry standard recording software — as well as an iLok USB dongle and iOS connectivity, the Fast Track Duo is a portable, affordable interface perfect for those looking to learn the ins and outs of Pro Tools.
The Fast Track Duo retails for $299, which is a great bargain considering everything that you get with the purchase. A standard six-foot USB connection is included, along with a three-foot iPad Device Link connection, an iLok and the Pro Tools Express software, which is essentially everything you need to get started. You can even capture music ideas directly to an iPad using any iOS app whenever creativity strikes — the only downside is that the Fast Track Duo only comes with a 30-pin connection, so iPad 4 and iPad mini users will have to buy a Lightning adapter.
Once the Pro Tools Express software is downloaded and activated on the included iLok, users will have access to a wide assortment of professional mixing plugins and virtual instruments. Everything you need to polish up a mix, from EQs and compressors to delays, reverbs and plenty of other effects are here, and it’s easy to create professional-sounding tracks with the included Boom, Structure FREE and XPand! 2 virtual instruments. Keyboards, synths, orchestral, and drum sample libraries are just some of the sounds that are included. Guitarists will definitely enjoy the fact that the Fast Track Duo comes with the great-sounding Eleven Free amp simulator and InTune digital tuner. Unfortunately, the Fast Track Duo does not have any digital I/O — there are no S/PDIF or MIDI connections, so users that want to use the virtual instruments will need to buy a USB keyboard controller such as IK Multimedia’s iRig KEYS or program the notes by hand in the Pro Tools MIDI editor.
The Fast Track Duo has two microphone/ instrument combo inputs on the front, as well as two line inputs on the back, which are activated via a switch. The combo inputs on the front are a great design idea, saving space and allowing quick access to get ideas recorded as quickly as possible. The Fast Track Duo can record two instruments or two microphones at the same time — a guitarist/ singer can record both parts at once, and a live performance can be captured in stereo with two mics. If you’re using a condenser microphone, the Duo offers 48 volts of phantom power to both front inputs simultaneously with the push of a button. A Direct Monitor mode is included for zero latency monitoring, along with a headphone output and two line outputs for connecting speakers. The headphone and main monitor outputs each have their own volume control, which is nice.
Inside of Pro Tools Express, users can record up to sixteen stereo tracks at 24-bit/ 48 khz resolution. Pro Tools remains one of the finest programs for audio editing, with its fantastic Elastic Audio and Elastic Pitch functionality allowing users to easily manipulate audio with time-stretching and pitch correction to polish tracks to a mirror sheen. While Pro Tools Express is a perfectly capable recording and editing software, users who outgrow the limitations of this basic version can crossgrade to the full version of Pro Tools and save $200 off of the standard MSRP. Any files that are recorded with the Pro Tools Express software are able to be opened by the full version.
The Fast Track Duo unit itself is very solid, with a nice weight to it and a metal chassis, with plastic front and rear panels. The metal chassis helps to keep interference noise at bay, and Avid has designed the Duo to withstand a good amount of abuse. The reinforced design ensures that the constant plugging in and unplugging of instruments does not put stress directly on the unit, as is the case with many other audio interfaces where the inputs are soldered directly to the printed circuit board. With the Fast Track units, the input connections are mounted on a durable metal plate.
Avid’s Fast Track Duo lives up to its name — the unit is simply plug-and-play, once you’ve downloaded the driver and Pro Tools Express software. The massive sample libraries and wealth of audio mixing and editing tools available in Pro Tools Express, combined with high-quality build of the Fast Track Duo create an enticing, affordable package. Overall, this unit is an easy recommendation for anyone looking to get started in the world of audio creation.