Multi Track Recorder: Buying Guide

While producers and musicians continue to use digital audio workstations, computers and other recording equipment, there are some (singer/songwriters, touring bands) who still enjoy using a multi-track recorder. Here’s our shopping guide on the best multitrack recorders.

How to Choose the Best Multi Track Recorder?

We have discussed the most common method of recording music, including audio, and that is using your computer and an audio interface. This is what most setup comprises of, especially if you have a home based recording studio. But then that is not the only way to do it and a lot of professionals use another equipment which is known as the Multi Track Recorder (MTR).

  • Some multi-track recorders are designed for simplicity, giving you an easy way to record several channels of audio, which you can mix later in your DAW software.
  • Then there are the more advanced types that are more like self-contained recording studios…with built-in effects processing, flexible signal routing, and powerful editing features.

What is MTR & How Does it Help

It’s a stand-alone equipment with a built-in recorder and mixer which allows you to record all your tracks on it. And where do you store the tracks? Depending on the MTR you choose, you get various options to save the data such as on cassette, hard disk, minidisk, or smart media.

We all have got so used to using computers that over time we tend to ignore issues that we frequently get while using them. Computer crashes, things not working because of driver issues, computer slowing down because of insufficient RAM, are some of the common issues you would regularly face on a computer.

A Multi-Track Recorder solves that problem. It is a piece of hardware where all the things you need are integrated in one piece of equipment. You get real faders and knobs which makes it quite easy to use them, as opposed to using them on a software program using a mouse.

All these features make it quite portable; you can take it anywhere and set it up instantly. You also need fewer cables, which also mean you have lesser problems to deal with.

Useful Applications

Multitrack recorders are designed to record multi-channel audio, and can be used for creating demos, recording performances, or working without a computer (most users like it for this reason).

Useful features on a Multitrack recorder:

  • Record multiple tracks simultaneously
  • Built-in Audio interface
  • Serves as Control surface for all major DAW functions
  • Built-in microphones
  • Versatile inputs for musical instruments like guitars, mics, and line sources
  • DSP effects including guitar amp simulations
  • Tuner and metronome onboard
  • Supports SDHC cards, USB
  • Master track for final mix

Recommended Multi-Track Recorders

Here are some popular choices of digital multi-track Recorders.

Tascam DP-008EX Pocketstudio Digital Multi-Track Recorder (8-Track)

This 8-track multi-recorder (2 recording tracks and 8 playback tracks) is compact and affordable and allows quick USB data transfer. With 2 XLR-1/4″ inputs, onboard stereo microphones, you can use it to record your song ideas anywhere.

Although it has a couple of built-in microphones, they aren’t really studio quality, but you get two XLR inputs that allows you to attach your studio quality mics. Additional acoustic instruments can be connected via the two 1/4″ inputs.

This is a great buy if you’re looking for an affordable, but good quality 8-track digital recorder.
Buy on zZounds | Buy on Amazon

Zoom R16 Multi-Track SD Recorder Interface and Controller

The Zoom R16 is a portable digital 16-tracker, capable of recording and mixing eight simultaneous XLR inputs (without needing any computer). Features Onboard metronome, tuner, 135 effects, built-in stereo microphones, runs on six AA, uses SD card media, and comes bundled with Cubase LE 5.

You can even plug it into your favorite DAW as a USB interface and control surface, just plug in a USB cable and the R16 can be used as an 8-in/2-out USB audio interface and 9-fader control surface.

Use it as a songwriting scratchpad or portable demo studio to multitrack your band rehearsal or live show.
Buy on zZounds | Zoom R16 Multi-Track Recorder

Any Limitations of Multi-Track Recorders?

It depends on the model you choose. The basic model will give only the features mentioned above but a top of the line one will give you a lot more.

The more expensive ones have a built-in CD burner; they let you connect a bigger monitor in case you’re not comfortable using the small display and so on.

You won’t be able to use the tons of software based sounds, effects and editors unless you also have a computer on your setup.

Multi Track Recorder
Go pro with a 24-channel hard-disk multitracker, or go portable with a hand-held flash media recorder. You’ll find the multitrack recorder to fit your budget & needs.
Best deals on multi-track recorders here…

To Conclude

Most recent multitrack recorders feature XLR or 1/4″ inputs, several tracks of playback, onboard effects, drum machine with trigger pads, USB audio interface and surface controller features. Depending on the offer, it might also come bundled with a sequencing software program.

So there definitely are scenarios where an MTR would fit in well. If you don’t have a recording setup yet and wish to record a few tracks and overdub vocals, then you should probably consider using a multi-track recorder.

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