MultiTrack Recording Equipment

By: Jerry A. Greene

Question: I see so many different types of multi-track recorders on the market. I need one for putting my song ideas down with different tracks. What would you suggest for someone starting out?

Answer: There are many different options when it comes to getting into multi-track, or sound-on-sound recording. The first thing you'll want to consider is where are you going to be doing your recordings? Portable multitrack recorders offer you the convenenience of being able to take it with you where ever you go, but aren't generally as powerful on the editing abilites as computer based recording software.

Portable Tape-Based MultiTrack Recorders

You have quite a few choices in the portable multitrack recorders. You have everything from cassette-tape based recorders like the Fostex X-12 . This unit is a simple 4 track model, but gives you the basics. It's really ideal for people that don't want to hassle with learning a lot of internal programming like the digital multitracks offer. You can also take it with you, since it is so small and light.

Portable Digital MultiTrack Recorders

The next step up is to go with something with a cleaner sound, digital. The lower end of the portable digital multitrack recorders starts with a model like the Fostex MR-8 MKII . This unit uses compact flash cards to record to instead of tape.

Hard Disk Recording

If you really want to get into recording like the pros, then you'll want to look at hard disk recording systems like the Digidesign Mbox . Pro Tools is generally considered the industry standard. You can learn the basics with this hardware/software bundle. If you want to go all out and get a semi-professional unit with a lot more features then you'll want to look at the Digidesign Digi 003 . The great thing about using hard disk recording is that you have the ability to edit your music visually. You also have many levels of undo, meaning that if you record over something by mistake, you have a way of getting it back. Not so with the tape-based units described above, and something usually limited by the digital multitracks. It's also non-linear, meaning that you can start and stop your music from any place. You can cut and paste the music into the arrangement that you want. It offers the most flexibility and often the best sound.