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The Top 5 Best Multitrack Recorders For Making Music In 2024

audiosorcerer
|
January 21, 2024 
|
Last Updated on January 21, 2024

Odds are, your DAW supports multitrack recording. But you don’t have to chain yourself to your computer-based setup. Swapping your open system (OS, DAW, interface, preamps, plugins, and whatnot) for a closed system (just a recorder) can be a smart move if you need to work on the go. To help you find the perfect closed system, we’ll look at five of the best multitrack recorders on the market.

Included in this guide:

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
Best Overall
Tascam Model 24 Multitrack Recorder And Live Mixer

Tascam Model 24 Multitrack Recorder And Live Mixer

  • Analog mixer, digital recorder, and USB interface
  • 24-track recording/playback
  • 22 inputs
4.4
Check Price
Runner-up
Zoom LiveTrak L-20 Multitrack Recorder And Mixer

Zoom LiveTrak L-20 Multitrack Recorder And Mixer

  • Digital mixer, recorder, and USB interface
  • 22-track recording, 20-track playback
  • 20 inputs, 7 monitor outs
4.6
Check Price
Top Pick
1010music Bluebox Compact Digital Mixer And Recorder

1010music Bluebox Compact Digital Mixer And Recorder

  • Digital mixer and recorder
  • 12 mono/6 stereo-track recording
  • 6 inputs, 3 independent stereo outputs
4.2
Check Price
Top Pick
Boss MICRO BR-80 8-channel Digital Recorder

Boss MICRO BR-80 8-channel Digital Recorder

  • Digital recorder and USB interface
  • 2-track recording (Live Rec), 8-track playback, 64 virtuals
  • Guitar/Mic input, headphone output
4.4
Check Price
Lowest Price
Zoom R4 MultiTrak SD Recorder

Zoom R4 MultiTrak SD Recorder

  • Digital recorder and USB interface
  • 4-track recording/playback
  • 2 XLR/combo inputs, headphone output
4.1
Check Price

Related Article: The Top 5 Best Instrument Cables Of 2024


The Top 5 Best Multitrack Recorders

The Tascam Model 24 main panel has 17 input channel strips, 16 of which have mic preamps. Meanwhile, the last strip is for an RCA/stereo source. That said, four of those 16 channels can also be used with stereo sources, leaving you with a total of 22 analog inputs. Now, add the L/R channels of the main mix, and you’ve got 24 possible tracks that you can record simultaneously.

If you want to route a guitar or a bass directly into the recorder, though, you’ll have to use the first or second channel since they’re the only ones with high-impedance inputs. But on the end of the panel, you get two main XLR outputs alongside a dedicated sub out (good for bouncing tracks). Tascam also included control room outputs, one headphone out, and three aux sends (two pre-faders and one post).

Pros
  • Sub mix for easier track bouncing
  • Bluetooth support for recording or play-along
  • Footswitch standard TS jack for play/pause, muting, and punching in
Cons
  • Global (all-or-none) phantom power for the first 16 channels

The LiveTrak L-20 can record 20 tracks along with the master stereo signal. Out of the 20 channel strips, 16 correspond to the staggered XLR/combo inputs, while the remaining are for stereo lines. The first 16 channels are split into four blocks, each controlled by one phantom power button. Two out of the 16 XLR inputs are high-impedance for direct connection to electric guitars. The rest? They have switchable 26dB pads instead of the Hi-Z buttons.

You have balanced XLR outs for the master. But in the monitoring section, you also get six TRS outputs for headphones or stage monitors. The nifty thing here is that you can toggle master or cue mixes on each one.

Pros
  • Recall feature for saving up to nine customized scenes
  • Built-in slate mic doubles for recording and talkback features
  • FS01 footswitch compatibility for controlling playback, punch-ins, and effect patches
Cons
  • Hard to find room for a scribble strip
  • Phantom power has to be switched in blocks of four channels

The metallic Bluebox is ideal for recording up to six stereo tracks from synths, keyboards, and drum machines. The output options let you monitor a cue mix while sending the main mix to a PA system. However, it’s worth noting that the Bleubox is branded as a compact mixer first and foremost. So, its recording capabilities aren’t as impressive as its mixing features (like the four-band parametric EQ). For instance, it doesn’t support punching-in or phantom power for external condenser mics.

Pros
  • Touchscreen with intuitive click-and-drag controls
  • MIDI I/O for syncing effects
  • Comes with a 16GB card loaded with project files
Cons
  • Needs slim connectors to fit the tight input-jack spacing
  • No built-in mic
  • No USB file transfer

The MICRO BR-80 is a hand-held digital recorder and audio interface that runs in three modes. First up, we have the two-tracked Live Rec mode that uses the built-in stereo mics. Any recordings you capture on Live Rec can be imported to the eight-tracked MTR mode as a foundation for your song production. Finally, the eBand mode is made for backing tracks and phase training.

It’s worth noting that while the built-in mics are condensers, the external mic should be a monaural dynamic mic. Of course, you can hook up a guitar or bass into the ¼” jack instead. If you do, remember to shift to high impedance using the Guitar/Mic switch on the bottom panel.

Pros
  • Strapable, lightweight (~5 oz.), and can run on 2 AA batteries for more portability
  • COSM amps and effects suitable for guitarists
  • Comes with an SD card with interface drivers, Wave Converter app, and song list editor
Cons
  • No external mic support for Live Rec mode
  • Relatively long boot-up time

The handheld R4 is designed with musicians in mind, which is abundantly clear in the track-bouncing feature that you can repeat and layer. However, without bouncing, you can only record four tracks directly from external mics (with optional phantom power) or instruments. It’s also possible to stereo-link two adjacent tracks by connecting the L/R channels of the output device (ex. synth) to inputs A and B, respectively.

Pros
  • Tripod-mountable and highly portable at ~10 oz. (with the four AA batteries in)
  • Musician-focused quick bounce, real-time bounce (active faders), and undo
  • Significantly lower risk of clipping thanks to the 32-bit floating point functionality
Cons
  • Can’t record from the built-in condenser mic and the two inputs simultaneously—it’s either input A or the built-in mic

Related Article: The Top 5 Best Studio Monitors On A Budget


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is global phantom power dangerous to non-condenser mics?

Sending phantom power to a dynamic mic will likely not damage it. However, extended exposure could wear it down over time. So, you want to be careful if your recorder/mixer doesn’t let you turn phantom power on/off for individual channels.

How many tracks do I need in a recorder?

For most musicians, 4–8 tracks is a good place to start. But it’s always better to have extra channels to give yourself room for larger projects. Of course, some recorders will allow you to bounce tracks so you can go beyond the number of inputs.

What are virtual tracks?

The “virtual track” count refers to the number of takes the recorder can handle. On the MICRO BR-80, V-Tracks can also be used for bouncing when you’re out of the main tracks. Not all recorders support this feature, though.

Are there drawbacks to using multitrack recorders?

Your editing options are typically very limited on digital recorders. Plus, there’s the issue of small displays. The recorders are still more portable than DAWs. They’re also closed systems and less likely to crash.

Can multitrack recorders run on a power bank?

Yes, models like Bluebox and MICRO BR-80 can be USB-powered, so you can hook the cable to an external battery rather than adapters or hubs. Keep in mind that it’s better to avoid connecting all your USB-powered gear to the same brick to avoid noise issues.

Product Recap

The Tascam Model 24 jams 22 analog inputs into 17 channel strips, so you can easily record a full band without having to sacrifice portability. The LiveTrak L-20 is a lot like Model 24 in that it offers 16-mic preamps, but it’s two channels short. Finally, the R4 MultiTrak is the ideal pick for those on a budget. Despite being affordable, it delivers 32-bit float capture and a dedicated bounce track to stretch the four-track architecture as much as needed. Remember that you don’t have to give up your computer-based setup just yet—your DAW might come in handy for complex processing.

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