Which multitrack recorder is best?
As recording technology has progressed, the equipment involved in capturing sound has become more complicated. For musicians who don’t want to bother with expensive computers and complicated software, multitrack recorders offer a simple, quality option.
The Zoom R16 Multitrack Tabletop Recorder provides flexibility, portability and a straightforward, physical means of quickly capturing sound. This model’s 8 channel simultaneous recording and built-in digital effects make it the best choice if you want an easy to use, affordable recording experience.
What to know before you buy a multitrack recorder
The benefits of using a multitrack recorder
Musicians who find themselves frustrated by complex recording systems full of hard to use features usually prefer multitrack recorders. These devices provide a more cost-effective recording option, as they are much more affordable than the combined cost of the computer, hardware and software required for recording. They are also great for quickly recording songwriting ideas or capturing interesting field audio.
What kind of recording you want to do
Multitrack recorders are the ideal solution for recording small performances or minimalist songs. If you’re a musician on the go, looking for a quick way to save audio during moments of inspiration outside the studio or just have an interest in recording sound for fun, a multitrack recorder will suit your needs well.
One of the biggest reasons to use a multitrack recorder is portability. These units are compact and can easily be used in the field to gather recordings on the spot with minimal fuss. Even those with professional studios equipped with the latest computer technology can benefit from the convenience a multitrack recorder brings to the creative process.
What to look for in a quality multitrack recorder
Consider the kind of recordings you plan to make and the source of the audio you plan to capture. If you want to record simple, solo performances, a recorder with as few as four tracks may be all you need. For those who intend to record full band performances or larger ensembles, a recorder with eight tracks or more is best.
Consider the complexity of your audio source. A singer who also plays guitar will require two inputs to allow you to keep their vocal and guitar audio separated for customized mixing. Keep in mind, however, if that same performer uses stereo effects on their voice or guitar, each audio source will then require a separate left and right input to be captured accurately. While it may be tempting to skimp on inputs to keep costs down, it is worth spending the money to have plenty of input options.
Many multitrack recorders have microphones built in. This allows for convenient, on-the-spot recording without the need to bring along separate microphones, stands and cables. Built-in microphones will generally not be of the highest quality, but usually suffice for field recording and most small performances. For more info on microphones, check out this BestReviews guide.
Some multitrack recorders are basic devices that simply capture audio for listening afterwards. Others are designed to be used as alternatives to full studio workstations. These recorders allow users to add effects, mix and produce their sound to professional standards. Consider what your end goal is for your audio recording, and think about investing in a more robust multitrack recorder to accommodate future projects.
How much you can expect to spend on a multitrack recorder
Quality multitrack recorders can be purchased for around $150. These will be small devices that capture audio, but are not designed for mixing or editing sound. Musicians looking for multitrack recorders with more tracks, features and inputs will have to spend $300-$1,000 to meet their needs.
Multitrack recorder FAQ
How do multitrack recorders save audio?
A. The multitrack recorders of years past used to capture audio on cassette tapes or rewritable CDs. Most of today’s models write data digitally to SD cards. You can swap out SD cards of different sizes to get more recording space.
How do I listen to the audio on my multitrack recorder?
A. Multitrack recorders include a headphone jack as well as outputs for connecting to speakers or studio monitors. These outputs can also connect to your audio interface, allowing you to record audio from your device directly into your DAW in real time.
Do multitrack recorders capture sound as well as a computer?
A. Yes. Multitrack recorders are capable of capturing professional audio. However, whether you’re capturing sound in a studio or in your bedroom at home, the quality of your end result will depend on your familiarity with proper recording techniques as well as the quality of your microphone.
What’s the best multitrack recorder to buy?
Top multitrack recorder
What you need to know: This multitrack recorder continues Zoom’s history of providing high quality audio gear at competitive prices.
What you’ll love: 16 tracks and built-in microphones make this a great portable recording studio. Eight separate inputs give you flexibility when it comes to capturing sound, and the device can also be used as an audio interface. This recorder can run on battery power for portability.
What you should consider: Users report that Zoom does not provide regular firmware updates, which may result in compatibility issues with some PCs.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top multitrack recorder for the money
What you need to know: This multitrack recorder from TASCAM is a great tool for songwriters or those interested in learning about basic sound recording.
What you’ll love: TASCAM is a well-known company with deep roots in the history of audio recording. This recorder is compact and very light, making it easy to pack in a bag or guitar case. Two built-in microphones and battery power make this device perfect for travel.
What you should consider: The menu on this recorder is challenging to navigate and the device only allows two tracks to be recorded at a time.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This compact model is incredibly portable and ideal for quick recordings and simple song sketches.
What you’ll love: This unit is small enough to fit in your pocket, but still captures pristine audio. Two inputs allow for the use of external microphones or instruments.
What you should consider: This device is best for collecting audio and is not suitable for mixing or producing a finished product.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Derek Walborn writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.