Multitrack recording keeps audio source separate. Here are some reason why you may and may not want to record your podcast in multiple tracks.

The difference between channels and tracks

Mixers, audio interfaces, recorders, and other audio devices will often refer to tracks and channels.

Generally, channels are how many separate audio paths a device supports. For examples, Mackie describes their mixers by the number of channels: 8-channel, 12-channel, 18-channel, and such. Behringer uses the word “inputs” to mean the same thing (although they technically have more inputs than they say).

Tracks, also sometimes called bus, represent the final mix and separation of all the channels. You know 1-track audio as “mono,” and 2-track audio as “stereo.” However, the number of tracks does not necessarily imply any kind of perceived physical positioning (such as left and right). Most devices support at least two tracks, which are usually treated as stereo.

Consider the Behringer X1204USB and the UFX1204. Both are 12-channel mixers. The X1204USB (and most of the 1204 line) outputs only two tracks through USB or through the main outputs. You can get an additional two tracks from the Alt or Subgroup outputs, effectively turning it into a four-track analog mixer (but the USB is still only two tracks).

The UFX1204 outputs up to 16 tracks via USB to a PC or directly to USB storage. That makes it a 16-track device. Each track can be treated as an individual mono source.

Stereo audio is technically multitrack. If you have the same audio going to both tracks, you’re treating it as a single, stereo track, not two separate tracks. However, it’s possible to use stereo for multitrack, which I’ll explain further in the next episode.

Thus, when we refer to multitrack, it generally means separating audio sources into their own tracks. Here’s what a 4-track podcast could look like:

Track 1: Main host
Track 2: Cohost
Track 3: Guest
Track 4: Soundtrack

Benefits to recording podcasts in multitrack

Multitrack has some definite advantages that you might want for your podcasting. It’s all about the flexibility multitrack-recording offers.

1. Powerful editing

When each participant or the soundtrack is separated, it’s easy to edit almost anything. Here are some examples.

  • If one participant coughs while the other is talking, you can edit out the cough without affecting the speaking you want your audience to hear.
  • If participants talk over each other (accidentally or intentionally), it’s easy to edit out or shift things so the conversation is still understandable.
  • If you have any background audio during the opening or closing, you never have to worry about perfecting the timing because you can shift things in editing when they didn’t align in recording.
  • If make a mistake while you have background music or other audio, you can edit out the mistake and shift the background. This won’t sound obviously edited because you didn’t have to cut anything from the background audio.

2. Specific loudness adjustments

A common problem when there’s more than one audio source (whether a person or a soundtrack) is the loudness between the multiple sources. For various reasons, one cohost’s voice could be a different volume from the other.

Compression can help with this, but when it’s really only one source that needs the loudness-correction, recording it on its own track means you can adjust it without affecting the other tracks.

3. Targeted processing

Audio equipment, microphone technique, voice, and environment could be—and most likely are—different for each audio source (person or soundtrack). Thus, the ideal processing for one source may not be ideal for another.

Here are some practical examples.

  • Audio compression (evening out the dynamic range between loud and quiet) is usually good for voices, but not good for music.
  • Male voices usually need different processing than female voices. There’s even enough variety within each gender that two males (or two females) may sound best with different processing from each person.
  • One participant may have more background noise (or other interference) than anyone else. So you can reduce the noise on only their track and not have to process the others.

Benefits to recording podcasts in a single track

Single-track recording (even if you’re treating stereo as single track) offers a lot of simplicity.

1. Simple management and workflow

When everything mixes down to a single track (mono or stereo), it’s easy to route the audio appropriately.

For example, using a multitrack interface may make it complicated for a remote participant or your live audience to hear everything being recorded. However, many multitrack interfaces offer a separate stereo-track mixdown of all the tracks. This is easier to manage when you have only one track.

Editing in single track means far fewer files to manage and the processing is much simpler. Instead of separately processing several tracks, you have only one to process.

2. More-affordable equipment

It seems multitrack audio gear is always more expensive than single-track equivalents. For example, the Behringer UFX1204 16-track mixer is more than twice the price of the X1204USB 2-track mixer, even though they both have the same number of channels; the Mackie Onyx 1220i 12-channel mixer is nearly three times the cost of Mackie’s VLZ and ProFX 12-channel mixers.

There are even more advanced multitrack audio interfaces, offering USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt connectivity, and these can cost even more—$1,000 and up.

Sticking with basic stereo/2-track recording works with most of the professional-quality audio equipment available and at much lower prices.

3. Improved skills

If you record all your participants and the soundtrack into the same track, you’ll quickly discover you can’t rely on editing to fix everything. To avoid capturing mistakes, your best option is to prevent the problems in the first place by improving your skills.

  • Fix crosstalk by learning to not interrupt each other and to share your thoughts effectively.
  • Fix coughs or other distractions by muting or moving away from the microphone.
  • Fix background noise by turning off noise-makers or moving away from them.

Improving your skills will not only make your podcasts better and easier to edit, but it will also make you a far better communicator.

Do you record in multitrack or single-track? What benefits or limitations have you discovered?

Thank you for the podcast reviews!

  • Danny Stern (“Middleagecrank”), from Art Dealer Show, wrote in iTunes USA, “Must listen for both the novice and seasoned podcast vet. One year ago with nothing more than an itch to start a podcast of my own. I decided to binge on every podcast I could find that covered the topic. There are many indeed. And the value of them ranges greatly. But of all of them, you’ll never find one better researched, delivered and thoughtfully put together by someone who knows of what he speaks. And done by a good guy to boot. Now a year later I’m several episodes into my podcast Art Dealer Show and very grateful for the role this podcast took in getting me there. Thank you Daniel.”
  • Brad Hargis, from The Cinema Guys, wrote in iTunes USA, “Fantastic show and very informative. I’m very new to the world of podcasting and recently started a podcast, The Cinema Guys. After we recorded our first episodes I wanted to learn more about podcasting and work to make our show better. As I researched and came across many great shows, I found The Audacity to Podcast. It has been a great help with improving not only my podcast but inspiring me to work on creating more shows in the future. Thanks for the great episodes and keep up the awesome work!”

Your written iTunes reviews encourage me and they help other people find the podcast. If you appreciate the podcasting information I share, please write your own review on iTunes or Stitcher!

Check out My Podcast Reviews to get your own podcast reviews automatically emailed to you and learn how to grow your audience with reviews!

Announcements

Need personalized podcasting help?

I no longer offer one-on-one consulting outside of Podcasters' Society, but request a consultant here and I'll connect you with someone I trust to help you launch or improve your podcast.

Ask your questions or share your feedback

  • Comment on the shownotes
  • Leave a voicemail at (903) 231-2221
  • Email feedback@TheAudacitytoPodcast.com (audio files welcome)

Connect with me

Disclosure

This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship and may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.

About the Author
As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters and Zoom H6 for Podcasters courses, the Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for WordPress, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcast about how to podcast. Daniel's other podcasts, a clean-comedy podcast, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, have also been nominated for multiple awards. Daniel and his son live near Cincinnati.

4 comments on “Why and Why Not to Record Podcasts in Multitrack – TAP286

  1. mikewilkerson says:

    A grand episode to be sure! Thanks, Daniel! Another note to bolster support for single-track recording, is that you’re only recording ONE TRACK – not 4, which depending on the quality you’re recording at, can be MASSIVE when it comes to eating Hard Drive space. Great tips for sure! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi Daniel. Still re-listening to the shows from International Podcast Day. I actually made a podcast just about IPD on IPD day and got a response from someone who wants to podcast. My show is not about podcasting. I helped them out and also sent them your way.

    I used to multitrack my podcast but found it to be cumbersome and time-consuming. Although I haven’t totally settled on a system yet, this is what I do now after 32 episodes – I single track when it’s just me podcasting a show. I use BossJock on the iPad with it’s mic switch and music carts then condition that track after exporting and upload to Libsyn. If I trip over my words or play music at the wrong time etc., I joke with my audience about it being a “Live Recording” and keep going. When I interview a guest, so far, I multitrack via my Zoom H4N digital recorder (I haven’t interviewed more than one person at a time yet except at a live event). I then upload those tracks to the computer, add music, condition etc., mix to mp3 then upload to Libsyn.

    ALTHOUGH, I am considering doing everything as single recording – BECAUSE multitrack seems more like an edit job and single track feels MORE LIKE A PERFORMANCE which is what I loved as a DJ and Musician.

    I wanted to recreate the feeling and excitement of a live performance, especially since my topic tends to be more on the serious side (Discovering and living the abundance of the Real You – http://www.TheRealTruthAboutYou.com )

    On episode 32 I threw in (planned) a recipe for Caesar Salad, so I chose some cool “strutting” music from the cart and interjected my voice over the music as we “strutted down the hall to the kitchen, to get the recipe”. I find that I can’t do that atmosphere as well when I edit in multitrack.

    Anyway. That’s my two cents! I LOVE your podcasts Daniel. You make a difference to MY podcasts!

    Namaste!

    Will Sinclair

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

50%
5/5

Enter your name and email address below to learn “7 Ways to Get More Podcast Reviews” FREE!

50%

Enter your first name and email address below to get my favorite TextExpander snippets!

This form collects information we will use to send you podcasting-related updates with tips, offers, and news. We will not share or sell your personal information. You can unsubscribe at any time.
50%

Enter your information below to download the free guide “Free Tools for a Faster Website”

This form collects information we will use to send you podcasting-related updates with tips, offers, and news. We will not share or sell your personal information. You can unsubscribe at any time.
50%

Enter your first name and email address below to download “Tools to Improve the 4 Cornerstones of Your Podcast” FREE.

This form collects information we will use to send you podcasting-related updates with tips, offers, and news. We will not share or sell your personal information. You can unsubscribe at any time.
50%

See what Apple Podcasts and other popular podcast apps search with the Podcast SEO Cheat Sheet!

This form collects information we will use to send you podcasting-related updates with tips, offers, and news. We will not share or sell your personal information. You can unsubscribe at any time.
50%

Enter your first name and email below to download the Podcast Cover Art Toolbox.

This form collects information we will use to send you podcasting-related updates with tips, offers, and news. We will not share or sell your personal information. You can unsubscribe at any time.
50%

Get a FREE printable checklist “20 things you should do before recording every podcast episode”!

This form collects information we will use to send you podcasting-related updates with tips, offers, and news. We will not share or sell your personal information. You can unsubscribe at any time.
50%

Before you go! Don’t miss this FREE checklist, “20 things you should do before recording every podcast episode”!

This form collects information we will use to send you podcasting-related updates with tips, offers, and news. We will not share or sell your personal information. You can unsubscribe at any time.