Choosing a multitrack recorder
January 22, 2007 6:51 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recommendations for a good cheap multitrack recorder.

What I'm looking for... Something less than $200, even better if I can find it used around $100. Records digitally on a removable easy to find style of memory. The recording quality doesn't need to be incredible, for what I'm looking to do, a little bit of noise will be fine. It's got to be portable (ie. I need to be able to carry it to what I'm looking to record). It would be nice if it could record 4 tracks at once, 2 would be acceptable, 8 would be a pipe dream. It also needs some sort of line level type output. For inputs, it needs to have 1/4" jacks. XLR is not not required, but I can work with it.

Bonus things... works with MIDI, can connect to a computer over USB, is black or silver.
posted by drezdn to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Check out Musician's Friend online or look at Ebay, where there are usually some good Fostex four-tracks available. You won't get a solid-state recorder for under $400 even used at the moment.
posted by parmanparman at 8:28 AM on January 22, 2007

I'm not sure if you're going to be able to get under $200 for what you describe.

I came across this Fostex recorder that seems pretty cool for $250.

I also found a Korg machine for $300.

Both of them only handle recording 2 tracks at a time.
posted by fletchmuy at 8:43 AM on January 22, 2007

I was thinking of the Zoom models... Is there some reason I should avoid them?

There two I'm thinking of are the Zoom MRS-4 and the Zoom PS04.

With the PS-04, it looks like it only has one input, while the MRS-4 has two.
posted by drezdn at 8:47 AM on January 22, 2007

I think you're a bit under on the price. I'd save up until you hit $400. That's when you'll do OK.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:11 AM on January 22, 2007

I suppose I should mention what I'm trying to do, I need to be able to record two channels of a single instrument or drum set playing, in some supremely portable way. I already have an old working 1/4" reel recorder or my computer for anything more complex.

Odds are, I will never need to record multiple instruments at the same time on different channels. Ideally, I'm looking for the recording equivalent of a sketch pad, to either record one instrument playing an entire song, or to just record short pieces of music to load onto a computer and futz with as a loop.
posted by drezdn at 9:25 AM on January 22, 2007

A friend of mine has had bad luck with Zoom effects pedals. They aren't very durable and break easily...i don't know about their recording equipment, though.

Also, you could easily split inputs to record more tracks simultaniously. It makes mixing very hard but is a cheap, quick fix to record everything at once.
posted by unreasonable at 9:26 AM on January 22, 2007

If you want something really simple and cheap you could use a personal digital recorder, like this.
posted by unreasonable at 9:33 AM on January 22, 2007

The Zoom H4 is pretty close to what you want. It's known for cheapish build quality, and some units exhibit a low-level beeping noise on recordings while on battery power. But you can probably find outlets where you need to record.

It's not top quality but it's definitely serviceable. It can do 4 tracks, as well. Search the Create Digital Noise forums for it, it even has it's own forums, and there are often used units there for sale cheap.

Really, this is the closest new thing to what you really want. If a little noise and not-perfect menus are OK with you, it will suit you the best of any unit.

If you don't go that route, I *highly* recommend Minidisc, which is small, sounds amazing, and is relatively cheap (you can get an RH-10, my unit, for about 190$. There's a seller on eBay who makes amazing microphones for cheap. I've made many stunning recordings with them. He goes by "microsound, inc" and you can find him by looking in the recording forums at

With the RH10 or RH1 you can upload beautiful PCM .wav files to your computer with a minimum of fuss. I've posted about MD tech here on askme before, as well.
posted by fake at 9:54 AM on January 22, 2007

check your local guitar shop! i picked up a couple four tracks back in my day, portable as ever, for $25-75 used.
easy connecting to computer as well (however, not through usb) with y-split audio cables - 4-tracks usually have a stereo output with 1/8 audio outputs.
posted by boygirlparty at 11:27 AM on January 22, 2007

I assume you don't have a laptop? Because you could get a nice mic and preamplifier for $200, get some free software, and you'd be set.
posted by ludwig_van at 4:21 PM on January 22, 2007

Yeah, what ludwig_van said. I'm surprised no-one brought it up sooner: if you have a laptop, going PC-based is very cost effective and operationally flexible.

In that case, try the M-Audio Audiophile USB, for instance.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:44 PM on January 22, 2007

And less lazily, here's a link. Price will have dropped by now.

For great ubercheap mics, check Naiant's MSH-1O omnis. Depending on what you want to record, you could also try MXL, Studio Projects, Rode, and if all else fails, Behringer. Good luck.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:47 PM on January 22, 2007

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