Multitrack Recorder Vs DAW: Everything You Need To Know

One of the biggest questions fledgling audio engineers face is the choice of a multitrack recorder vs daw. Do you want to record your music straight into a laptop and do all your work in the box, or do you want to record onto a multitrack recorder with all the exciting constraints that may entail?

DAWs have grown their level from competing with a multitrack recorder to competing with a music studio. They’re often compared to a “virtual studio rack” that enables you to basically do whatever your heart desires. However, the ability to do everything doesn’t mean that everything you do will be awesome. With fewer options many find it much easier to record and finish songs. 

In this article let’s take a look at the differences between these two technologies and some of the techniques for each.

Multitrack Recorders Rocked the Music Industry

The music production world boomed in 1979 with the launch of mass-produced portable multitrack recorders recorded on a standard cassette tape. Due to the all-in-one feature of these models, they became the craze and preference for musicians. 

Music composers were more into a multitrack recorder and a computer with a user interface, software setup, and DAW. As everything is self-contained, multitrack recorders have become an “immediate” and more reliable music production device to craft music ideas and transfer them from your head to your instrument and onto a recording. 

TASCAM Compact 8-Track Digital Pocketstudio Multitrack Recorder (DP-008EX)
  • Two tracks simultaneous recording/ eight tracks simultaneous playback
  • CD-quality recording (44.1kHz/16-bit)
  • Dedicated stereo master track available
  • 2 Built-in omni-directional condenser microphones
  • Microphone sensitivity can be selected from 2-positions (Low/High)

At some point in your journey as a musician or composer, you’ll be more into being a recordist. You’ll be eloquent with various ways to express what you want, and you’ll be interested in choosing the best tool for the job. So, this is not about dropping the use of DAW but about choosing the right music equipment for recording. 

A multitrack recorder allows recording the output of guitar and keys, the singer’s microphone, and every individual drum in the kit independently.  If we discuss the recording process of a DAW and a multitrack recorder – each has its pros and cons. Let’s take a look at them both to decide which option would be ideal for you. 

How does DAW work?

You don’t always have to record digital audio to make music. Your best bet is to take suggestions from famous audio-for-video composers who execute their ideas with Propellerhead software’s reason

DAW mixing

A DAW is a digital audio workstation that is a software program used to produce, compose, record, mix, and edit audio and MIDI. Things are straightforward with a DAW. You can avail two options: either choosing to set up your PC to work as a virtual studio, a.k.a computer-based DAW, or you can execute the process in an all-in-one DAW (this device is known as a multitrack digital recorder). 

Before choosing the right tool, consider expandability, convenience, learning curve, compatibility, price, and quality. 

How does a Multitrack recorder work? 

TASCAM introduced the word “Portastudio” back in the 1970s to name their analog cassette-based, portable studio-in-a-box that could not only record but has a built-in mixer in it—the aux requests for outboard gear. 

The same company is still ruling the Portastudio game, from the hard disk-based multitrack recorder: 2488neo to DP-004 (higher-than-entry-level). With 2488neo, you can record 250 virtual tracks and eight inputs simultaneously, which is genuinely unique in portable studios.

The multitrack recorder offers many effects like guitar multi-effects, multi-band compression, plus 3-band EQ on all 24 channels. The 2.0 USB is portable and used for all file transfers, and a user can do sample rates over 44.1 kHz. As far as the quality of the finished product is concerned, you would never be able to guess that you recorded a demo on a “cost-effective” portable studio. 

Comparison – Multitrack recorder vs DAW 

Both systems we talked about above will let you do the following things: 

  1. Record tracks (more than one) simultaneously and store them on a hard disk. 
  2. Fix mistakes by editing the recordings and applying chorus, delay, reverb, compression, etc. 
  3. Mixing the tracks. 

What differentiates the two devices? 

The main difference between them is, although multitrack DAWs have been created for recording and have all the essential accessories (other than speakers and microphones), computers need third-party accessories to become efficient DAWs. To cut it short, you have to choose between an open or closed architecture (computers can be expanded and peripherals can be interchanged) and multitrack recorders come in ready-to-use form, and they don’t permit third-party upgrades. 


The best thing about DAWs is that they can grow with the user because of their open-based architecture. 

You can keep adding internal or external software and hardware to improve your recordings’ quality with time. A multitrack recorder, however, can also expand but comparatively less radically. Particularly, add-ons, software updates are not a choice. The hardware restricts the processor speed, the ins, and outs, and internal storage can’t be improved. Still, you can work by using analog-to-digital converters and external mic preamps, and other effects if you want to. 

TASCAM Compact 8-Track Digital Pocketstudio Multitrack Recorder (DP-008EX)
  • Two tracks simultaneous recording/ eight tracks simultaneous playback
  • CD-quality recording (44.1kHz/16-bit)
  • Dedicated stereo master track available
  • 2 Built-in omni-directional condenser microphones
  • Microphone sensitivity can be selected from 2-positions (Low/High)


When you ask an expert recording professional what piece of equipment has better quality, they will always tell you, “Listen to your ears.” It all relies upon what you want to achieve, what you are playing, and what you can afford. 

Wrap Up 

There is genuinely a huge world beyond DAWs. A DAW works best for beginners who want to record a full studio album with live instruments or have space to save their precious music ideas. You can capture, process, edit and mix music, but obviously, power always comes at a price. 

There are times when musicians and composers want to make music, and other times, they want to seize it before it disappears. Multitrack recorder is the best alternative to recording. A musician can write more songs, produce better music, and learn never-ending ways of creating music with a multitrack recorder.