Multitrack recording - direct to Audacity or external device


It’s good to know this isn’t a Secret Aural Teaching – that this can actually be made to work with available materials.

The previous champ was a multiple-referenced internet message that someone on old hardware managed to get a multi-channel recording in Audacity using obsolete software drivers. The modern ones wouldn’t work and had to be removed. Fascinating on Reddit, but not useful for production.

It is pointed out that we only get the problems, not the successes, but you would have thought that somebody would have posted a problem where channel 6 of 8 is distorted and everything else seems to work. Clearly indicating a successful multi-channel production – aside from the distortion.


@Steve, sounds interesting about the Linux Jack thing, but don’t you still need driver support from audio interface vendors to be able to plug it into your system? I’ve recently looked around a lot on the web for audio interfaces, and right off the cuff I can’t recall one single instance of someone saying “our hardware supports win mac AND Linux”. (Reminds me of the problems I’ve heard in the past of Linux trail blazers having problems getting their printers to work because of driver issues)

Fortunately ALSA supports a huge range of sound cards - most will work out of the box, though some may require a bit of tweaking.
Jack is usually configured to use ALSA as the sound card driver and can therefore be used with most sound cards.

Linux has built in support for a much greater range of hardware than is the case for Windows, so there is much less reliance on drivers being provided by the manufacturer/vendor. As Linux is becoming a more popular desktop operating system, a number of hardware manufacturers/vendors are coming on board and providing Linux drivers, though Linux developers strive to provide native, open source support as well so as to avoid any possible licensing or other problems that could occur from reliance on closed source proprietary code. Notable manufacturers/vendors to directly support Linux and provide drivers include NVidea, AMD, Dell and HP. Other manufacturers, such as Intel, provide (as source code) “development drivers” to the open source community.

When Microsoft released Vista, they reversed the situation for many users by making it more likely that their existing hardware would work correctly with Linux than with Windows.

It is pretty easy to test if hardware is going to work out-of-the-box with Linux by running a “Live CD” version of Linux (a Live CD runs directly off the CD rather than needing to be installed). If hardware does not work with a Live CD, then that does not automatically mean that the hardware will not run under Linux, but it may mean that a bit of tweaking is required to get it to work.

NVidia provides graphics drivers for linux, but they’re not free (as in the free software definition).

The last two usb audio interfaces I’ve used on linux worked out-of-the-box… Many manufactures probably don’t explicitly specificate that their products work on linux… but despite that most of them do work on linux.

The device collection rejoices. A M-Audio FastTrack Ultra 8R (usb) device has joined the rank.
8 mic/line inputs. And the recording is swell.

The Edirol, only having 4 mic entrances (with mic pre-amp and phantom),… suggested a purchase of extra mic preamps to use the 12 other line-entrances for recording of mic signals. The price for these pre-amps was bigger than the price of the M-Audio 8-channel. Hence the choice.

Now REALLY swell would be if I could record the tracks of both devices simultaneously.

now stevethefiddle states:

I was wondering whether this limitation is carved in stone…
Wouldn’t it be suggestible to allow recording of multiple tracks of multiple devices (keeping and extending my previous suggestion for the “Channel Mapping” feature)…
Now since we’re suggesting anyway… This multi-track, and multi-device feature… should not be limited to input only…
Having that M-Audio FastTrack Ultra 8R,… which supports 8 different audio-channels OUT tooo (I’m believing)… But the device has also a FireWave 5.1 ieee1394 adapter (6 extra channels)…

Now immagine having a “jackboard” in audacity… allowing the setting of
for recording: input device+input channel → record track (with support to individual choise of “create new track” and “append to existing track”).
permitting to name to-be-created tracks beforehand.
for playback: record track → output device + output channel…

Thanks for the info. Feel free to write a review if you wish:

There is a practical difficulty there in that unless the devices share a common clock signal they will gradually drift out of synch.
Having said that, for short recordings they would probably be close enough for that to not be too much of a problem. Apparently on Mac and Linux it is possible to create a single virtual sound card (called an aggregate device) that unifies multiple sound cards with a single sound card driver. It does not totally overcome the synchronisation problem, and for it to work properly requires either using high end sound cards that give access to their clock signals, or physically modifying the sound cards so that they share a common clock signal. I’ve not done this myself, but you can Google it if you’re interested.

On Windows it may be possible to do a similar thing using “Virtual Audio Cable”
If you try this method and get it to work, please post - I’m sure a lot of people would be interested.

Hi liselorev!

You wrote some days back:

My Fast Track Ulta 8r arrived yesterday and I cannot get it to work satisfactorily. I only get 2 in and 2 out. Could you please post some details what your settings are? I mean stuff like OS and driver/firmware version, the Audiacity device settings and M-Audio Contol Panel settings (ASIO or no ASIO)?

Any help would be appreciated!

Thanks a lot!


Unless you have built Audacity from the source code and manually added ASIO support, ASIO will not be supported by Audacity.

Most multi-channel sound cards in Audacity require that you record using either 1 channel, 2 channels, or ALL of the channels (which I would assume is 8 for your device).
If you get it working with 8 but you only want, say, 6 channels, you will probably need to record 8 channels and delete the 2 empty channels after recording.

Some devices have a “multi” driver listed in the Audacity “Devices” Preferences (Edit menu > Preferences > Devices).

Make sure that the device is switched on and connected to the computer before you open Audacity.

For playback Audacity currently only supports mono or stereo.

If you get this working correctly I’m sure that you could make many other people very happy by posting detailed step-by-step instructions on out “Recording Equipment” section.


Then I fear I will have to build Audacity myself… could be complicated for me as I have no experience with compilng stuff on Windows.
To record all channels even if I don’t need them all is ok for me… there is plenty of harddisk space! :slight_smile:

Is it planned to add support for multi-channel output to Audacity? That would be a feature I REALLY would like to see… if I were a better software developer I might try to do it myself, but programming is only a hobby of mine…

Anyway, I will report back if/when and how I got multitrack recording working with the M-Audio Fast Track Ultra 8R and Audacity.


It an often requested feature that the developers are well aware of, but I guess it’s also a pretty major development project, so I doubt that anyone will be keen to start messing with it before Audacity 2.0 comes out.


I must admit I did not yet check the output channels yet,
using the device only for recording 8 microphone channels in,
using Audacity 3 beta (1.3.11 beta I believe it was)
OS: Mac Os X 10.6.4

After installing the m-audio (propriatary unfortunately) driver… and rebooting, the device was recognized.
Some problems were encountered when the mac had gone in standby modus and coming back…
the M-audio was not recognized anymore untill after reboot.

The site of m-audio (somewhere) also states that the driver is not capable of connecting two devices simultaneously…
However disconnecting and reconnecting the device is no prob,…
so I immagine 2 devices could be “configured” using 1 laptop,… but recording would not go so well (I fear).

The matrix in the device has to be configured (using the m-audio tool) to use the different outputs.
I believe the “startup config” is NO mic-in to any out channel.
Switching the device off and on,… looses the configuration (bummer).

edit d.d. 2010-12-27:

That last remark seems to be incorrect (about the default patch, and/or the saving of configuration).
I repeatedly started my m-audio ultra 8r, (without connecting it to my macbook), and each time, I discovered the configuration:
mic 1 → out 1
→ out 7
mic 2 → out 2
→ out 8
mic 3 → out 3
mic 4 → out 4
mic 5 → out 5
mic 6 → out 6
mic 7 → …
mic 8 → …

However if the device is connected to the macbook (driver), the patch is set to
mic n → … nowhere (for n in 1…8).

There is another problem waiting at the output end of the process. There are very few sound file formats that will manage uncompressed, multi-channel shows. So File > Export may be an adventure.

We tell people that Audacity Projects are useful for saving multi-channel shows. We also tell people that Audacity Projects are a terrible way to archive work. Projects are brittle and easily damaged.

Did you understand the problem with ASIO? Audacity can either include ASIO in the program or distribute the program. Not both. If you produce an Audacity with ASIO support, you can’t distribute that product.

It’s a production dead end.


Hi all!

I didn’t think there would be a reply after that long, great! Thanks for your answers! :smiley:

I didn’t really follow up with Audacity for my multitrack recording and multitrack playback. I got recording working under Linux with JACK but never more than two outputs. And it is more complicated than seems necessary to me. Maybe one could extend JACK support in Audacity to get multitrack output working? This sounds easier to me than adding native multitrack output and would have the same result, at least on Linux.

Next I tried some other open source solutions (Ardour, Traverso, …), both on Linux an Windows, but they didn’t really match my needs (Ardour would probably work out fine but requires too much screen estate on my little Laptop…). I ended up using a commercial software for the time being (Reaper, which is not that expensive…). I would still prefer Audacity or at least another open source solution if it were possible.

I did not try to compile my own Audacity with ASIO support. I understand the principle, but I have no experience at all with compiling stuff on Windows. This would be a whole-weekend-task for me, time I cannot afford to invest right now. Maybe I will try this some time in the future. Until then it seems I have to use commercial stuff… grumble


Would it be possible to use JACK to make a virtual “sound card” with multiple channels which actually takes inputs from multiple real sound cards and controls them under one driver for Audacity?

I presume that you are talking Linux?
Yes that is possible, but unless all physical recording devices are sharing a common clock signal they will gradually drift out of sync.
Inexpensive sound cards will often not have very accurate clocks and no input for inputting an external clock signal so this will probably require hacking the cards with a soldering iron.
See here:
and here:

I was not actually talking any specific OS as JACK is cross platform and I would think that it would work the same on all platforms even though it doesn’t have much documentation for windows or Linux.

That first link is a good article, thanks, I should see what I have around here and try it.

On Mac OS X it might be easier to use CORE audio rather than Jack

Does Jack actually work on Windows? Jack development on Windows has tended to be rather sporadic and Windows users tend to shy away from anything that is more complicated than running an EXE (gross generalisation I know :smiley:)

I think Jack does work but I have not been able to find enough documentation on it to get anything going in the patchbay. I will probably have to use Linux but that is not a problem.

I am on windows primarily by the way but I also use Linux occasionally.

Hey there!

I just recently purchased an interface which has two inputs for two microphones. I’ve been wondering the same thing…how I can record with both microphones at one time and get two seperate tracks, since it seems Audacity only offers input recording for a single mono track or a single stereo track? It is, in fact, doable!

Set the input to 2 (Stereo) Input. Let’s say microphone 1 is a guitar in the left ear and microphone 2 is your voice in the right ear. When you record with the two microphones with the input set to stereo, you’ll hear the guitar in the left ear and your voice in the right ear in the single stereo track.

Pan the stereo track you just recorded all the way to the left and export the file (you’ll need that file again in a second). Repeat this process, but pan to the right instead (you’ll need this file, too…remember where you save them!). Now you have two new files, one for the guitar and one for your voice.

Import both of those files. You’ll notice that they’re still stereo tracks, and that the track for the guitar is still in the left ear but your voice in the right ear is silent, and vice versa for the track that you panned all the way to the right (i.e. your voice is still in the right ear but the guitar in the left ear is silent).

Simple go to the “Tracks” tab and click the first option: “Stereo Track to Mono.” Now they are both mono tracks, one for the guitar and one for your voice, as if you recorded the two microphones into two seperate tracks.

Hope this helps!

The quickest and easiest way is to record a stereo track, then, from the track drop down menu, select “Split Stereo to Mono”