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Old 09-24-2016, 10:45 AM   #1
mouver
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Question Audio Channels and Audio Tracks?

Hello everybody!

I hope that anyone of you can help me with a little question:

What is the difference between Audio Channels and Audio Tracks?

For example, if I want to buy a Multitrack Audiorecorder that says "6-input/8-track"
What the hell does that mean?

Thanks!
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Old 09-24-2016, 01:37 PM   #2
AcousticAl
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Think of a channel as a complete pathway. It "channels" the sound from an input source to a final destination. A 4-channel mixer, such as the Sound Devices 442, can take 4 individual inputs and rout them to seveal different outputs. It has a stereo mix out, but it also has a direct output for each channel which allows each channel to be sent out separately to a multi-track recorder.

"Track" is a leftover term from tape days, when studio recordings went to magnetic tape and the tape had a certain number of record tracks on it. Each track took up a physical space on the tape, the width of which was determined by the width of the overall tape and the total number of tracks occupying the tape. For instance, a 1/4" 8-track tape recorder ran a 1/4" reel-to-reel and divided the tape path into 8 individual record tracks. This allows for 8 individual sources to be recorded separately and mixed down to a stereo image later. Each track took up 1/8 of the tape width, or 1/32". A 1", 16-track recorder meant that each track took up a 1/16" path on the tape.

Modern digital recorders obviously don't use tape, and "tracks" are actually recorded as separate data files, but the analog terminology works so well that there's no need to change it.

So your 6-input, 8-track recorder can take 6 separate sources and record them separately. Since it's 6-in, 8-track, my assumption is that the last two tracks record a stereo mix of the first 6 tracks. This describes the Tacam DR-680.

Last edited by AcousticAl; 09-24-2016 at 01:46 PM.
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Old 09-24-2016, 08:17 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AcousticAl View Post
Each track took up 1/8 of the tape width, or 1/32". A 1", 16-track recorder meant that each track took up a 1/16" path on the tape.
Just to nit-pick a little…

The 1/4" tape was for cassette recorders. In pro recording studios 1/2" tape usually handled stereo mixes and mastering, but occasionally four tracks, 1" tape handled eight tracks, 2" tape was for 16 and 24 tracks.
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Old 09-24-2016, 08:19 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alcove Audio View Post
Just to nit-pick a little…

The 1/4" tape was for cassette recorders. In pro recording studios 1/2" tape usually handled stereo mixes and mastering, but occasionally four tracks, 1" tape handled eight tracks, 2" tape was for 16 and 24 tracks.
Sgt. Pepper was recorded on 1/4" 4-track reel-to-reel. There are plenty of 8-track, 1/4" cassette machines out there, too, even if those are consumer rather than pro. Lots of 1/2" 8-track reels, too. I was really just trying to simplify the explanation.

Remember the Fostex E-16? 1/2" tape with 16 tracks. We could wax poetic about how narrower tape paths made for lesser fidelity, but again I was really just trying to define "track" for today's digital user.

Last edited by AcousticAl; 09-24-2016 at 08:27 PM.
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Old 09-24-2016, 08:28 PM   #5
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Yup; I hated the E16.

Hell if you want to we can go back to wire recorders and recording direct to wax.

Ever do any window punches?
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Old 09-25-2016, 03:09 PM   #6
mouver
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Question

Quote:
Originally Posted by AcousticAl View Post
Think of a channel as a complete pathway. It "channels" the sound from an input source to a final destination. A 4-channel mixer, such as the Sound Devices 442, can take 4 individual inputs and rout them to seveal different outputs. It has a stereo mix out, but it also has a direct output for each channel which allows each channel to be sent out separately to a multi-track recorder.

"Track" is a leftover term from tape days, when studio recordings went to magnetic tape and the tape had a certain number of record tracks on it. Each track took up a physical space on the tape, the width of which was determined by the width of the overall tape and the total number of tracks occupying the tape. For instance, a 1/4" 8-track tape recorder ran a 1/4" reel-to-reel and divided the tape path into 8 individual record tracks. This allows for 8 individual sources to be recorded separately and mixed down to a stereo image later. Each track took up 1/8 of the tape width, or 1/32". A 1", 16-track recorder meant that each track took up a 1/16" path on the tape.

Modern digital recorders obviously don't use tape, and "tracks" are actually recorded as separate data files, but the analog terminology works so well that there's no need to change it.

So your 6-input, 8-track recorder can take 6 separate sources and record them separately. Since it's 6-in, 8-track, my assumption is that the last two tracks record a stereo mix of the first 6 tracks. This describes the Tacam DR-680.

Thanks for your answer!

Just to make sure that I got it right...

A channel is a path an audio-signal flows. For example:
Input: Microphone to Recorder
Output: Computer to Loudspeakers (mono, stereo, surround)


But I don't think that I understood the term "Track" correctly.
So I have 6 inputs for microphones. Does that mean that I can only record 6 Tracks of Audio? But what happens if I want to record with 6 stereo-microphones? That would mean that my recorder needs to record 8 Tracks because of the stereo. Is that even possible then? I'm so confused.

Maybe I seem stupid but it's really hard to understand for me somehow. But I really appreciate your help!
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Old 09-25-2016, 05:30 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mouver View Post
But I don't think that I understood the term "Track" correctly.
A track is where the audio is recorded. Channels direct audio signal to the track on which the audio will be recorded.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mouver View Post
So I have 6 inputs for microphones. Does that mean that I can only record 6 Tracks of Audio?
Yes

Quote:
Originally Posted by mouver View Post
But what happens if I want to record with 6 stereo-microphones? That would mean that my recorder needs to record 8 Tracks because of the stereo. Is that even possible then? I'm so confused.
If you want to record with six (6) stereo mics you would need 12 tracks as each mic needs two (2) tracks, left and right.
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