Multi-track recorder

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Multi-track recorder with 16 tracks

Multi-track recorders are devices for recording several sound sources simultaneously or one after the other. In contrast to a mono or stereo recorder, the multi-track recorder offers at least two independent audio tracks that are run in parallel. For example, a singer can record his singing four times in a row on a four-track recorder, while listening to what was previously recorded and singing with himself in the choir. The process was the key technology for the success of high-quality record productions from the 1950s onwards, because it freed musicians from recording everything in one take .


Multitrack recording are used in the recording studio area and the home recording . For a long time, four-track devices that can be operated with conventional music cassettes were the standard in home recording . In the professional area, tape machines with up to 64 sound tracks were used. Until the 1990s, tape recorders in particular were able to record several tracks independently of one another in analogue format , but in the 21st century they have been largely supplanted by digital systems. These initially included MiniDisc multi-track recorders and hard disk recorders , followed by mp3 digital recorders and, above all, computer systems for digital audio (DAW) .

The forerunners of the first multi-track recorders emerged in the 1950s and offered recording on two tracks in parallel, with the aim of subsequent mixing to mono ("dumping" from two tracks to one). In the early 1960s, tape machines were added that recorded both tracks independently of each other. The first 4-track recorders came on the market around 1964. Elaborate musical productions such as the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band the Beatles would not have been possible without the 4-track technology. Due to the restriction to four tracks, dumping was the rule: you mixed several tracks down to one or two to make room for more recordings. This process had to be used with caution because every dumping of the analog recordings entailed a loss of sound ( loss of generation ).

In 1967 the first 8-track machines came into the studios. For the first time, they made it possible to record the complete arrangement of a rock song on a single tape without intermittent mixing.

In the early 1970s, the technology expanded to 16 tracks. Based thereon perceived by a public album Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield in 1973. Oldfield had this recorded all the tracks themselves.

Professional multi-track tape machines from the 1980s could be synchronized. For example, two devices with 24 lanes each could be operated together. Devices with 64 tracks also found their way into the large recording studios.

Examples of track assignment on multi-track recorders

2 tracks

  • Track 01: Music
  • Lane 02: Singing

4 tracks

  • Track 01: drums
  • Track 02: bass
  • Track 03: guitars
  • Lane 04: Singing

8 tracks

  • Track 01: drums on the left
  • Track 02: drums on the right
  • Track 03: bass
  • Track 04: rhythm guitar
  • Track 05: lead guitar
  • Lane 06: Singing
  • Track 07: choir
  • Lane 08: Click

The creative advantage of using more tracks is most evident when recording a drum kit. A drum kit consists of a large number of sound sources (kick drum, snare drum, etc.) which cannot be recorded separately using the eight tracks listed above. With these eight tracks it is necessary to determine how loud the hi-hat should be, for example, when recording. Their volume level cannot be changed afterwards. Only when the number of tracks is significantly increased is it possible to record almost all sound sources of a drum kit separately, the volume of which can also be changed later.

See also


  • Roland Enders: The home recording manual. The way to optimal recordings. 3rd, revised edition, revised by Andreas Schulz. Carstensen, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-910098-25-8 .
  • Wolfgang Junghans: Tape recorder practice (= RPB Electronic Pocket Books. Vol. 9, ZDB ID 996632-8 ). 10th, supplemented edition. Franzis-Verlag, Munich 1970.
  • Hubert Henle: The recording studio manual. Practical introduction to professional recording technology. 5th, completely revised edition. Carstensen, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-910098-19-3 .