Recording has come a long way in a very short time. To find the Best Multitrack Recorder is not easy as there are so many good machines to choose from. The history of it goes back further than you might imagine.
Elvis Presley was the first to be recorded using what we now know as a multitrack recording. That was a reel to reel a three-track magnetic tape machine in 1957.
You might pin it down to Paris in 1881 when a stereophonic system was developed using what was then, telephone technology. In 1933 at EMI in London, Alan Blumlein created stereo and surround sound on more than one track. Then, in 1950 Ampex devised a crude 8 track they sold to Les Paul.
Moving on to the 60s, Frank Zappa played around with the idea and British producers Joe Meek, and later, Sir George Martin pioneered the ideas. Four track Telefunken machines from Germany machines were installed in Abbey Road in London in 1960, but even the Beatles didn’t have access to them.
All of their recordings before “I Want to Hold Your Hand” were made on 2-track. It makes their sound and achievement all the more astonishing. But then they were just that – Astonishing.
We remember using our Akai 400DS tape machine in the 70s, which was a 4 track effort we thought a miracle at the time. The Japanese got hold of the idea. Then came Tascam with a system using cassettes rather than tape.
In the 1990s, the digital age was upon us, and it all very suddenly became a huge market. Multitrack recording was now being designed for the consumer, and even included as standard in some computers as with Apple’s Garageband.
Have as many tracks as you like. Do with them what you will, all from what is often a tiny little box. Sometimes so small you can put it in your pocket. A long way from the huge trundling tape machines of the past that weighed about the same as a small car.
It is, of course, good to have such development, and opens up opportunities for the songwriter sitting in their bedroom. It is interesting, though, how so often the old analog sounds are trying to be recreated. But back to today. Let’s take a look at finding the Best Multitrack Recorder currently on the market…
Top 10 Best Multitrack Recorder On The Market 2021 Reviews
1 Zoom H4n Pro 4-Track Portable Recorder
What was it we said about having a portable studio in your pocket? Well, here is one.
This is a recorder suitable for a multitude of functions. It can operate, of course, simply as a voice recorder, but it will also record live performances. Recording live music requires certain features, and one is high SPL. The Sound Pressure Level on this little machine is 140dB. It is going to be able to record most live performances with a minimum of distortion.
It is a compact little unit and measures 6.2 inches x 1.5 by 2.8 inches, and is also lightweight at ten ounces. It has a built-in preamp that is common to some more expensive Zoom models.
On the top are two condenser microphones that are unidirectional. They are set at an angle of 90 degrees to give you a decent sound recording area. They can be rotated around to 120 degrees to get a wider recording stage if it is required. If necessary, a Lavalier microphone can be attached.
Any WAV files have a recorded time marker letting you facilitate post-production work. The marker makes it easier to drop them in a video through the stereo feed. It is possible to monitor using headphones via a line out. This has its own volume control, and a USB connects it to your computer to download files.
Extra connection options include two XLR or ¼” cable inputs to which Phantom power can be applied. There is also a stereo ¼” jack socket.
Sound shaping facilities are built-in, including Delay, Echo, and Reverb. There is also a Limiter, Compressor, and low-cut filter. To emphasize its potential for live recording, a tuner and metronome are included. There are also some sound modeling features for bass and guitar.
It works in MP3 and WAV formats and also uses SD and SDHC cards up to 32 GB. It also comes with a license to obtain Cubase LE recording software via a download. All in your pocket.
It hasn’t got some of the features and options that physically larger recorders have got. But it is still a remarkable piece of kit. Especially for those who want a recording studio in their pocket. The price point means this is great value.
- Compact size and packed with features.
- Built-in Sound creation and control options.
- Lacks a few of the features that the desk design recorder might have.
2 Tascam DP-32SD 32-Track Digital Portastudio
Many moons ago, we used a Tascam 4 track. Their equipment is made well and always reliable, and this DP-32SD 32 has 8 individual channels and plenty of effects and signal processors. It even comes loaded with some tools for mastering. Plus, if needed, there are enough channels to record a whole band.
Each input has an XLR ¼” socket, and a microphone preamp is built-in to each channel. If you use a condenser mic, there is Phantom power. Therefore having enough mics for the drums is not going to be a problem, and you will still have loads of channels left over.
Tascam has really tried to create a professional-style studio with the DP-32SD 32 and has included some great extras that make this one of the best multitrack digital recorders out there. Compressors, Limiters, and EQ have been included.
They have taken it all a stage further by building-in an amp simulator. This allows you to fine-tune your sound to get exactly what you are looking for. Of course, you do need a little more to have a completely functioning recording suite at your fingertips. For that, Reverb, Chorus, and Delay features are included.
And when the tracking is completed, Tascam has built-in some basic mastering effects. Once the job is done to your satisfaction, then you can save your work to the included SD card. If you prefer, you can use the USB to download it to your computer.
It has been designed to fulfill a number of functions. 32 tracks can, of course, all be played back simultaneously, and 8 mono tracks with 12 stereos mean you can record the band. Eight inputs are provided for session multitracking. Plus, there is a headphone jack for monitoring.
This is an exceptional piece of kit from Tascam and at the price incredible value for money.
- Fully equipped with many features for recording and mixing.
- Tascam reliability at an affordable price.
- Might be more than some want to spend.
3 Tascam DP-006 6-Track Digital Pocketstudio
Another multitrack recorder from Tascam, but this one a little more modest in its capability.
The DP-006 is designed for musicians and songwriters to carry around with them. It is compact, measuring 9 inches by 6 by 3 inches and weighs less than two pounds. It is battery powered, giving you nine hours of battery life from four AA batteries. At any one time, you can record up to six tracks straight to an SD/SDC card.
When your recording is complete, you can use the USB to download to your computer. It features two built-in microphones, which are omnidirectional condenser mics. So you do not need to connect an external mic. It is one of these great little machines that when you get an idea, you put it down – no-fuss, no complicated setup. It is not much different to using a cassette player. Turn it on and go.
Of the six tracks, two can be recorded at the same time. Playback is obviously for all six. It has a metronome and tuner built-in, and there are some basic editing facilities. It also has a ‘bounce’ function, so if you need more than 6 tracks, you can make yourself some extra space.
We particularly like this little machine because it has a convenience factor. It is not designed to produce stunning quality or a finished product. It is simply to keep with you for when the ideas start to flow. You can quickly put ideas down and then try things around the outside.
Simple to operate, it is a super little machine for a musician or songwriter to carry with them everywhere they go. For a carry around with you machine, this is one of the best multitrack digital recorders you can get. And at a price that makes it a very tempting option.
- Compact, lightweight, and portable machine to carry with you.
- Simple and easy to use at an affordable price.
- Some will want more features built-in.
4 Tascam DP-03SD 8-Track Digital Portastudio
Another machine from one of the masters of compact recording devices, Tascam. This recorder sits in between the DP-006 6-Track and the DP-32SD 32-Track. The first two we reviewed.
It has eight tracks with bounce and editing options, and it has a metronome and a built-in tuner, so no need to carry those around with you either. Plus, it has two built-in stereo condenser microphones, so there is also no need to carry a mic with you.
All this allows you to start with an idea and have an almost finished song in no time. There are enough tracks available to lay down some guitar and bass and still have plenty of room for a vocal or two. As we mentioned in an earlier review, this also has a ‘bounce’ facility, so if you need more tracks, just create the room.
The asset you have with this machine is that it is very compact and measures only 8.2 inches by 11.4 by 2.1 inches. That means in a portable machine you have a lot of the things built-in you need. It has a nice reverb engine and a two-band EQ on all channels. And it works great at home as well as on the move.
It has XLR inputs for microphones that have phantom power as well as TRS connections to plug in guitars and keyboards.
It records using 16-bit/44.1 kHz quality straight to SD or SDHC cards. And with the onboard effects and processing options and a basic multiband mastering kit, you will produce quality recordings. It is going to surprise you with what you can achieve with this machine, and all at a cost that is very affordable.
- A good little portable machine that is easy to use.
- Good effects and features built-in to make quality recordings.
- Some are going to want more recording power and options.
5 Zoom R16 Multitrack Tabletop Recorder
Zoom has come up with a very nicely designed 16 track machine that has a lot of features.
It is a compact and portable machine measuring 14.8 inches by 9.33 by 2.06 inches, so it is easy to carry around with you. In fact, this is a mobile studio that lets you record a band using 8 tracks at the same time. You can choose to record straight to card, or you can use the USB to connect it to your computer. That way, you can use it as an audio interface and work with your DAW.
There are two built-in condenser microphones as well as eight XLR mic inputs. Two of those have 48v phantom power. You could say for a portable machine it has its fair share of effects. One hundred and thirty-five to be exact. Including guitar and bass amp modeling, compression, Reverbs, Delays, Overdrive and Chorus, and lots more. It has Cubase LE software as an extra.
As a portable recording machine, it fulfills a lot of functions. You can record your band at rehearsals and playback and change what you don’t like. Or it can be taken out on the road with you as a songwriting tool. Maybe even use it at home for the same thing. You don’t have to lose that idea you have anymore as it is easy to quickly lay it down.
It is a nice aesthetically pleasing design being finished in white and with its glowing screen. However, it does need care in handling, and it might not be the toughest piece of kit out there for traveling around. Also, the price point is starting to look a little expensive when compared with some of the others we’ve reviewed. But it is a nice machine.
- Good looking well-made machine with 16 tracks
- Packed with good features.
- It might be a little expensive for the features it offers.
6 Zoom H6 6-Track Portable Recorder
Zoom is well-known for manufacturing their handheld recording devices, and the Zoom H6 6-Track Portable Recorder is another example. The H6, though, is one of the top-rated products and no ordinary recorder.
The beauty of the Zoom products is that they have a multitude of uses. This machine can be used for recording music or voice but also will fit on a DSLR or a camcorder. Compact probably isn’t an apt description as it fits neatly into your hand. Measuring just 3.1 inches by 1.9 by 6 inches, it is able to fit comfortably in your pocket and can go anywhere with you.
The controls are all located easily though it will take a little bit of time to appreciate all of its functions. And of course how to operate them. It has a two-inch full-color display that gives you operating status. And features six channels, all of which can be used at the same time for recording and four mic or line inputs.
Built-in are gain controls for each and phantom power. It is great for recording live music and has an SPL of 122 dB. That means the minimum of distortion even at moderately high volumes. You can record directly to cards of up to 128 GB.
There are two condenser microphones fitted on the top of the unit. There are unidirectional. They are built into a shock-mounted unit to prevent unwanted vibration and reduce handling noise. They are set at 90 degrees but can be swiveled to 120 if required giving you a wider field of sound. It also features an overdub facility
This is an excellent little recorder within its field of operation. Obviously, it will not perform as well in some functions and cannot compete with portable studios. But as a carry around recorder for basic sound recording, especially for film or video, it is excellent. However, it is quite an expensive item, but it does come with two capsules, four batteries, a USB cable, access to Cubase, and a carrying case.
- A very small unit that can fit in your pocket.
- Some good handheld recording features with high SPL.
- Not enough studio-like features for some.
7 Zoom H1n Portable Recorder
Another product from the extensive Zoom catalog though this one is more like a voice recorder than a multitrack device.
Zoom was a business set up originally by an ex-Cisco systems designer. Its target was to provide efficient communications for meetings and conferences. They have since expanded their operations to include multitrack recording devices. The H1n, though, is a throwback to those initial products.
It is another hand-held unit that Zoom are so good at designing and manufacturing. This one measures 5.4 inches x 1 x 6.4 inches. It is lightweight, weighing just two and a half ounces. Ideal to just slip into your pocket and use it when needed.
On top of the unit are two condenser microphones. These are in what looks like a protective cage. They are arranged in an X-Y 90-degree format for stereo recording. They can handle loud sounds with their SPL of 120dB, so will be ideal for recording live music.
This is where their music uses emerge because this machine could be ideal for recording rehearsals to listen back to after. There is an LCD screen that is black and white rather than color that provides information on the current status of use. The one-touch functions are all well displayed and easy to use. The options are displayed through a series of menus on the screen.
There are sound enhancement features, including a Limiter, Lo-cut filter, and Voice enhancer. To allow for extras to be added, there is an overdub facility. It will record to SD or SDHC but only up to 32 GB, which is quite a bit smaller than some of its competition.
Power is from one AA Alkaline battery. However, that should give about ten hours of use, which is a decent amount of time and superb for recording ambient sound miles from anywhere.
It is a very basic unit, and if your finished product does not require a perfect sound, then it is fine. However, it is quite noisy when handheld, which is a bit of a negative. Not an expensive unit, though, if you just want basic recording facilities with no frills.
- Well built at an affordable price.
- Compact and pocket-sized so easy to carry around.
- Does generate a bit of handling noise if handheld.
8 iZotope Spire Studio Portable Recorder
As they say, ‘And now for something completely different.’ And as multitrack recorders go, this is quite different. It is a very compact unit that measures just 4.8 inches by 4.4 by 3.4 inches and weighs one and a half pounds. For those who might be looking for a new way to record, this might be worth a look.
It has custom preamps and an XLR input for external microphones and a ¼” jack socket for instruments. There is phantom power, so it will take condenser microphones, and it has a rechargeable battery. Besides the XLR input for your own external microphones, it also has a built-in mic, which is an omnidirectional condenser.
If you want to use headphones to monitor what is being recorded, there is a 3.5mm socket. You can record using your smartphone controls, or you can use the intuitive control situated on the top of the unit.
This recorder has two very innovative design features that set it apart from other portable units – the Soundcheck feature. By pressing and then playing your instrument, it will automatically set the correct level for you.
Additionally, the Soundcheck feature can recognize what instrument you are using or if it is vocal. It will then automatically assign an EQ curve. This will improve the sound of whatever it is your recording.
It has built-in sound processing options and some very nice studio effects. You can connect to the Spire App to give you a wide range of options and music transfer capability.
This compact device certainly isn’t going to suit everybody, but it has its place. As a portable unit, it does its job well. It won’t win any awards for the effects and features it carries to shape the sound. But as a basic recorder, it is something completely different and very functional. It is rather expensive, though.
- Interesting design with some good features.
- Portable and easy to use with good wifi connections.
- Quite expensive for what it is.
9 Zoom F8 MultiTrack Field Recorder
If you were seeing the name Zoom and expecting to see another handheld device, you won’t be too far wrong. This model, though, is a little different. It is still very compact, measuring 7 inches by 2.1 by 5.5 inches and weighing two pounds. It has a rugged build, though with an aluminum chassis, and is built to work outside.
This F8 model by Zoom is really aimed as a multitrack recorder for the film industry. It can be mounted on a tripod and also has a bracket to fit your DSLR supplied. This is a ten-track eight in and four out recorder that carries a lot of features for its small size.
One advantage which might seem irrelevant to some is that it has a variety of power sources. These include AC connections and external and internal battery operation. Important if you are working out of doors.
It has eight locking jack sockets with a choice of XLR or ¼” and a switchable line or mic operation. Each input has a separate mic preamp giving up to 75gb of gain. There is also phantom power, +24, or +48 on each. You can, therefore, use individual condenser microphones.
A headphone jack socket lets you monitor sound sources and levels. The built-in headphone amp means you won’t struggle to hear if the background noise is loud.
High pass filters reduce external noise like the wind, and an adjustable limiter gives a little extra headroom for each track. And if you happen to be using it outdoors, the metering can sometimes be a problem due to light or poor visibility. The F8 is fitted with high-visibility metering and displays to solve that problem.
Each input has its own LED meter to help you get your levels right and so as not to clip. For such a compact machine, there are a lot of features built-in. It will be looked upon in film and video, making circles as one of the best multitrack digital recorders. It is though very expensive and is really probably only for those doing professional projects.
- Compact design and a sturdy build for outdoor use.
- Plenty of good sound recording features.
- Rather expensive unless you are a pro in films and video.
10 Marantz Professional PMD-706
Back in the day, if you owned anything Marantz in audio, it was viewed as a near status symbol. They produced high-quality audio equipment that looked the part. Founded in 1953, they were at their high point in the late 70s, and sold to Philips in 1992. Then on again to the Japanese in 2001, they now only deal with the higher-end in audio.
This multitrack recorder designed for a DSLR camera is a good example of the quality they still have.
It measures 6.5 inches by 4.3 by 2 inches and weighs only 1.2 pounds, so it is easy to carry around. It gives you recording to six channels that use SD, SDHC, and SDXC rads. Built-in four combination sockets for XLR and TRS connectors for microphones or line-level inputs.
It has 48v phantom power allowing you to use your condenser microphones. There is a further 3.5mm stereo jack for other microphones. It uses high-definition preamps and has a five-position low-cut filter and Limiter.
This is where a duplicate track is automatically recorded as a safety in case the initial track is damaged or compromised in some way. It has a mounting bracket for use with DSLR cameras or for use with a tripod.
It is a recorder ideally suited to outside recordings by reporters or others who need accurate sound recordings. Its size makes it easy to carry around, and the features make it a professional piece of kit. It is set at a very affordable price.
- Rugged recorder designed for the outside.
- Affordable cost giving you good features for production.
- Only really suitable for a few working environments.
Best Multitrack Recorder Buyers Guide
Finding The Best Recorder For Multitracking
Multitracking is quite a late arrival on the music scene compared with most things. Even the Beatles only had access to it halfway through their short career together. It grew slowly, but with the ‘digital explosion,’ it has become the norm. Open to everyone, a consumer product, and for some a necessity.
What Did We Do Before It?
Well, the answer to that is nothing. We would write our songs, prepare them as much as we could, go to a studio and record. Watch, as they were changed beyond all recognition and got charged what was then a lot of money. Now we can do 75 percent of it at home if we want to.
We still need good engineers to mix and master if we want the best. But tracking, ideas, etc. can all be done in advance. All on these machines we have been looking at. But what do you need? Important question
What Will You Use It For?
They have a variety of uses. Is it for music? Maybe studio recording. Recording an album, for example. That requires a certain level of equipment and features. We looked at some that have exactly that.
Maybe you just want to carry it around with you for when the ideas strike. You can’t always predict when that might be. Having a recording machine with you solves that problem. There are even small handheld devices that fit in your pocket. What about as a soundtrack for a blog, an interview, or an addition to a film?
You will need a different set of features to someone who is using it for writing songs. Does it need to record live music, possibly band rehearsal? This for playback later and assessment. If so, you will need portability, simplicity of use, but above all, a good SPL to deal with the volume. Whatever you need it for we saw some very good recorders that cover every possible use you may have.
Every environment it will be used in will need features of some description. Are you recording outside for a film or a blog? Then you will need a recorder that doesn’t react badly to being held in the hand, and a high-pass filter might be a good idea. What direction of sound will you require? Some offer alternatives where microphones can be adjusted to give a wider sound collection.
If you are using it for music recording or songwriting, how far do you want to go with effects? That will depend to a certain extent on what level of product you want to end up with.
If it is just for recording ideas for later more serious work, that is possible even on a handheld recorder. You certainly don’t need all the bells and whistles. If you want a near-finished product, plenty of bells and whistles will help.
This is one area where it is so easy to get carried away. Decide what you need carefully and then how much you want to spend. Bear in mind the more bells and whistles the more expensive it is likely to be
Have fun choosing. There is some great kit out there for all requirements.
Some Great Accessories
Not much point having your dream multitrack recorder if you haven’t got the accessories to go with it. So check out our reviews of the Best Vocal Mics, the Best Lavalier Microphones, the Best Dynamic Microphones, the Best Microphones for Recording Rap Vocals, and the Best Microphones Recording Guitar currently available.
So What’s The Best Multitrack Recorder?
What Would We Choose?
For us, we would choose a machine with plenty of tracks and with good features built-in. We would need it to be portable though not handheld. It would be used for recording music and songwriting, so it would need to have attributes that enhanced those operations. We would, therefore, choose the…
It is easily our choice as the best recording multitrack. A great recorder from an established name in portable multitrack recording.