It seems that every day in most cities around the nation, there are concerts, theatrical productions, and songs performed at houses of worship. People often want to relive the experience and make it available to others who couldn’t be present for the original event. Multitrack recording unlocks the greatest potential for high-quality capture and reproduction of the audio from the live event. In live productions, all used channels get recorded simultaneously. So, track counts can easily fall into the 20 to 70 range. Companies such as Midas, QSC, PreSonus, Behringer, SPL, Tascam, and Sound Devices make products designed specifically for such a need.
As a seasoned sound engineer with many years of expertise or a humble musician who was just voted “Most Likely to Succeed at Operating the Soundboard,” you’ll encounter a range of equipment installations that impact what you need for multitrack recording. At some venues, you will find large-format mixing consoles installed and regularly in use. Such consoles often offer multi-channel digital and/or analog outputs. In those environments, it would make the most sense to take a split from the existing mixing console to a multitrack recorder. At other venues, the “house” mixing console may be limited in functionality and quality, pushing you to bring your own mixer and recorder. Here are ten solutions for recording 24 to 64 channels of audio in a live event at both sorts of venues.
Scenario #1: Recording to a Stand-alone Device—No Mic Preamps or Physical Mixer Needed
- Cymatic Audio uTrack24: The 1 RU uTrack24 can record up to 24 tracks of 24-bit/48 kHz audio to a USB drive. Its DB25 connectors allow for up to 24 balanced analog line level inputs and outputs. So, just take an analog split from the FOH (Front of House) mixer and you’ll be set. Its word clock I/O ensures that you can properly sync its sample rate to a digital console. The front-panel transport controls, metering, headphone jack, and large LCD screen make operation fast and simple. You can even use the uTrack24 as a USB audio interface or install an optional card for ADAT, AES67/Ravenna, or MADI I/O.
- Tascam DA-6400: The 1 RU DA-6400 can record up to 64 tracks of 24-bit/48 kHz audio or up to 32 channels of 24-bit/96 kHz audio to the included 240GB SSD, which comes installed in a case equipped with a USB 3.0 port for effortless transfers to computers. Although it comes without any audio ports, it can be outfitted with MADI (coaxial or optical), Dante, or AES/EBU cards. Its timecode and word clock/video reference I/O allow tight synchronization with a variety of devices. With front-panel features like those on the uTrack24, you know it will be easy to use.
- Sound Devices 970: The 970 features the same track count as the DA-6400, but utilizes up to four SSDs (available separately)—two via eSATA and two via optional PIX-CADDY accessories. Its plentiful audio I/O ports include eight analog channels, eight AES/EBU channels, 64 channels of Dante, and 64 channels of MADI. It has timecode and word clock sync functionality, a 5" LCD, and user-friendly controls. Plus, proprietary PowerSafe and FileSafe features prevent the loss of data that would normally occur during a power outage or drive disconnect!
Scenario #2: Recording to a Computer—No Mic Preamps or Physical Mixer Needed
- SPL Madicon: The Madicon acts as a 64-channel MADI-to-USB audio interface for your computer. Simply take an optical MADI split from FOH, plug it in to the Madicon, then connect it via USB to your computer. It supports up to 24-bit/192 kHz resolution and can record up to 64 tracks direct to your computer’s hard drive without relying on a DAW. So simple, so good!
- Midas M32C: The 1 RU M32C functions as a 24-bit/48 kHz 32x32 USB audio interface. Dual AES50 ports allow up to 96 input channels and ADAT, MADI, and Dante cards (available separately) can be installed for I/O versatility. An ULTRANET port provides a 16-channel connection to an optional P16 personal monitoring system. Designed to be the hub between stage boxes or digital snakes, monitor mixers, and your computer, the M32C occupies little space and offers great features!
If you need to record analog inputs to a computer, but don’t need microphone preamps or a physical mixer, the Cymatic Audio uTrack24 mentioned earlier is exactly the unit to get!
Scenario #3: Recording to a Stand-alone Device or Computer—Mic Preamps and Physical/Virtual Mixer Needed
- Behringer X32 Recorder Kit: This is an all-in-one digital mixer with mic preamps, multi-track recorder, audio interface, and control surface. It’s packed with 32 microphone preamps, 25 motorized 100mm faders, and a 32 x 32 USB audio interface. Plus, the included Cymatic Audio u-Track-X32 card and 64GB USB flash drive provide 32-channel stand-alone recording at the push of a button, no computer needed! The X32 offers robust mixing functionality, iPhone/iPad control capability, and connectivity for AES50 and ULTRANET devices. It’s at home as the centerpiece of a complex live setup or integrated with an existing large-format stage configuration!
- PreSonus StudioLive 32 Series III: Like the X32 Recorder Kit, the StudioLive 32 Series III is an all-in-one, multi-function marvel. It has 33 mic preamps, 33 motorized faders, and a 38 x 38 USB audio interface. Multi-track record to an SD card or utilize the included Capture software for automatically configured, one-click recording to your computer. With its full-featured mixer, AVB audio networking compatibility, flexible remote control options, and 48 kHz resolution, it’s powerful on its own or paired with your computer!
- QSC TouchMix-30 Pro: The TouchMix-30 Pro is a slick hybrid combining 24 mic preamps, support for 32-channel recording to an external USB drive, 32 x 32 channel USB audio interface functionality, and a 10" multi-touch screen. As if having what is effectively a built-in tablet wasn’t cool enough, the TouchMix-30 Pro has a large master encoder designed for touch-and-turn operations and can be controlled remotely via iOS or Android devices. How’s that for modern convenience?
- Behringer X32 Rack: The X32 Rack is a trimmed-down 3 RU version of the X32 console. It provides 16 mic preamps, six 1/4" aux inputs, stereo RCA input jacks, a 32 x 32 USB audio interface, and stereo recording via USB flash drive. It also has the AES50, ULTRANET, wireless control, and capable mixing features native to the X32. For smaller shows and installations, the X32 Rack is a space-efficient, portable, and versatile solution!
- PreSonus StudioLive 32R: Think of the StudioLive 32R as a 2 RU rackmount version of the StudioLive 32 minus the faders, knobs, display, and a few odds and ends. It gives you 32 microphone preamps, a 40 x 40 USB audio interface, and stereo recording via SD card. Add in AVB networking and control via computers or mobile devices and you’ve got a highly functional and compact recording and mixing system.
Although there is some common functionality among the devices previously described, each has a different set of strengths. So, all you need to do is pick the one that suits your specific situation! There are many other models that you may stumble across in your adventurous research; feel free to share your findings in the Comments section below this article.