Recording several mics to separate tracks

I want to record my drums over pre-recorded music. I have several mics on the kit. I am using Audacity 2.0.3 on a Toshiba Satellite running Windows 7. I obviously need some extra piece of hardware to plug the mics into but I can’t understand how the signals are going to be kept separate. I can see how a mixer could take all the mics and combine them into 1 track but I want separate tracks. If this is possible, can someone please advise me as to what extra hardware I need to buy in order to make it happen?
Thank you very much.

Actually, the natural limit is two. Stereo Left and Stereo Right. If you can make do with that and mix down in Audacity, then devices like the Scarlett 2i2 might be for you. These devices are not mixers. Whatever you plug into #1 will appear on Left completely separate from what’s going on on the right.

Plug in your two Shure SM57s and go. You have the additional requirement of zero latency monitoring for sound-on-sound overdubbing. I think the Scarlett will do that. It does according to that feature list.

Three or more microphones on their own tracks and overdub monitoring is pretty much beyond me and maybe the other elves as well. We did make a list of multi-channel devices. I’ll see if I can find it.

You are getting into the “full studio” area with Digital Audio Workstation instead of trying to convince a Windows laptop to do it all. It may not make any difference, but Audacity has no provision to live play anything past two-channel stereo. So you’ll be mixing down and doing post production in stereo.



Thanks Koz!
That is most helpful. Unfortunately 2 mics is not enough for my 10 piece + cymbals and hi hats kit. It looks as though I will have to bite the bullet and go with a more professional setup (not to downplay the capabilities of Audacity in any way which I think is quite brilliant).
Thanks again!

Multi-channel audio devices may work in Audacity. It all comes down to driver support.
Audacity is only able to access one recording “device” at a time. As far as Audacity is concerned, if that “device” has 12 channels then Audacity will allow you to record all 12 channels onto separate tracks.

Unfortunately some multi-channel devices use multiple 2 channel drivers. When that is the case, Audacity sees multiple 2 channel “devices”, but it can only record from one of them at a time. Other multi-channel devices have a single multi-channel device driver. In this case Audacity sees a single device with multiple channels. In this case Audacity can record all of the available channels at the same time.

We don’t have much information about which devices support multiple channel recording in Audacity and which don’t. There is a little information in this topic:
If you do try a multi-channel audio device with Audacity, please let us know how you get on.

Thanks Steve
Wow, I thought it would be complicated, if indeed possible, but this is way out of my depth. I was really hoping to learn from someone else’s experience as I didn’t think I was venturing into uncharted waters.
I will do some more research and let you know how it goes.
Thanks again

To record multiple channels at the same time (on a computer), you (obviously) need as many input channels as the number of channels that you want to record. The sound cards that are fitted as standard in PCs have a maximum of two input channels and so only allow recording 1 (mono) or 2 (stereo) channels.

Sound cards (audio devices) that are designed for music production may have 2, 4, 8 or more input channels.
More than 2 input channels are referred to as “multi-channel” (though note that some sound cards may have 2 input channels and multiple output channels, which allows surround sound output but only mono/stereo recording).

So, to record multiple channels at the same time on your computer you will need a multi-channel sound card (this may be an internal sound card or an external USB or firewire device).
On Windows, multi-channel devices usually come with ASIO drivers which allow programs with ASIO support to access the multiple channels. Very often the device will also be bundled with a multi-channel recording program, such as a “lite” version of Cubase or Cakewalk or similar.

Audacity is not able to ship with ASIO support due to licensing restrictions, so support for multiple channels is not guaranteed. However, almost all multi-channel devices will also work with standard Windows drivers (supported by Audacity), but those drivers may only allow basic 2 channel recording.

The upshot is, that to make multi-channel recording (multiple tracks at the same time) you will need a multi-channel device, and that device will work with most commercial multi-channel audio programs. It “may” (or may not) work for multi-channel recording in Audacity. We only have information about the very few devices that users have told us about, so if/when you get a multi-channel device do try it with Audacity and let us know how you get on.

Or you could do what at least one other poster did. 8 microphones, native multi-channel.


Thanks guys, you are being most helpful and I truly appreciate it.
It seems, from the looking around I have done with your direction, that there are (at least) 2 kinds of device I need to look at: 1) Audio interface or 2) Digital Audio Workstation.
The Audio Interface seems to be the correct device to use for PC based editing, whereas the Digital Audio Workstation attempts to make PC based editing redundant. How am I doing so far?
If my understanding is correct, would the DAW do the same job as the AI? 2 reasons for this question: 1) DAW seems to be cheaper and 2) I have been advised NOT to move away from PC based editing due to functionality and upgradeability.
Back to you…
Thanks guys, once again!
P.S. This is brilliant being able to get answers to these questions, saves lots of phone calls!

Audio Interfaces work on the premise that a general purpose computer can be made to do any job by appropriate programming and a little hardware here and there. You usually have a computer anyway, so why not put it to work? It’s also insanely cheaper than a DAW.

However, there can be significant problems. Computer Delay is a big one: the inability to monitor yourself in real time during overdubbing. Then there is the “frying mosquito” noises you can get with USB microphones and mic level interfaces. We’ve never really nailed down what’s causing that.

And don’t forget the natural barrier to recording more than one microphone. You can force two USB devices to record and under poor and uncontrolled conditions, but rarely three.

Multi-channel devices can have poor or completely absent software support and monitoring on a naturally stereo computer can be a challenge.

Have you done your overdubbing latency adjustment yet? Wasn’t that fun? Have you found out that it moves around yet?

So yes, there are significant challenges to using a general-purpose computer to sub in for a DAW.


All in one, purpose build hardware for multi-track recording has some distinct advantages:

  • Low cost compared to buying a computer, multi-channel sound card and mixing desk (though you may already have a computer that can be used).
  • Very little or no mechanical noise. The noise from computer fans is particularly a problem when recording quiet sound sources such as acoustic instruments or spoken word, and even more of a problem if you can’t get more than a couple of meters away from it due to the length of a USB mic lead.
  • Quick and easy set-up. In many cases it is just switch on, plug in, set your levels, go. Note that some more advanced / more versatile machines can be considerably more complex.

For editing and processing, a computer is in my opinion the much better option. Trying to make precise edits on a tiny LCD display is no fun at all.

Other considerations:

Although many all in one solutions include built in effects, without buying additional hardware you are limited to those effects, whereas on a computer there are literally thousands of free plug-ins available (and thousands more commercial ones).

On both all-in-one and multi-channel sound cards, it is common for there to be only two “microphone” inputs, with the other channels being “line” inputs. A microphone should not be plugged directly into a line input because a microphone signal level is far too small and the resulting sound is likely to be very quiet and very poor quality.

All in one solutions rarely support MIDI (neither does Audacity, but most software DAWs do).

Latency issues generally don’t occur on all-in-ones, but providing you use appropriate hardware (with “direct monitoring”) then it should not be a problem on a computer either. Latency can be a big problem when trying to do multi-track recording with a dirt-cheap sound card, such as the ones that are usually included as standard in computers.

Multi-channel recording with USB microphones is difficult at best, fraught with problems, and may not work at all (depending on your computer system).

Recording with multiple (conventional) microphones plugged into a mixer, mixed down to stereo and recorded in stereo, is a popular inexpensive option. The main drawback being that you can’t work on individual inputs later because it is already mixed down.

Using a mixing desk that has “direct outs” plugged into a multi-channel “line level” sound card (USB, Firewire or internal) is one of the most flexible options, but often more costly.

Getting a multi-channel sound card to work well is not a task for an old underpowered computer that is full of crap. For a good, reliable system, the computer should ideally be set up for the task.

Thanks Koz
Up to now I have been recording my entire kit using a Yeti connected by USB to my Toshiba Satellite running Audacity. After experimenting with mic positioning the results have been amazing, really quite good, just not good enough and of course no real control of individual pieces of the kit. With phones plugged into the Yeti there is 0 latency (allegedly) but it did manage to creep in on a couple of occasions which is horrible to listen back to. It’s interesting you mention that it can move: I THOUGHT IT WAS MY PLAYING GOING OFF!!!AAAARRRGHHHH, the time I spent…
So a DAW it is I think. I wonder if the recording can be done on the DAW and then transferred to the PC for editing. The one you sent me the link to looks impressive. Can it do this do you think?

I don’t know the exact process, but I’d be shocked if you couldn’t move your tracks to another machine. The prospect of note by note editing on a tiny LCD screen is scary.

I found it valuable to Google “frammis complaints,” where frammis is the product or service I’m interested in buying.

“This thing is a steaming pile of junk and the makers should be shot on sight.”

If there is one of those comments, I’d be suspicious, but multiple versions of that should get your attention. Don’t pay any attention to the comments that it’s the greatest thing since free-flowing beer and that it cures cancer. Those are written by the manufacturers.


Thanks Koz, I will take all that on board and let you know what I find.

Hi Koz and Steve
Been a long time I know but finally I have all my mics in place and a Tascam DP 24.
Brilliant, in a word!
I now have full control of everything. I can load the original music via USB from the PC to the SD card in the DP24. I can then record 8 mics simultaneously which is liveable. I can (or could if I knew what I was doing) add effects, adjust EQ, compression, reverb, loads of things, then mixdown to a master file. Or, I can export the individual tracks back to the PC via the USB again and import them all into Audacity and play with them there instead (or give them to someone else to play with which is even easier!). All this with 0 latency and no PC delays or interference whatsoever. Fabulous!
This is precisely the solution I was looking for and I said I would let you know how I got on.
So, thank you guys for all your help and advice. I think that in the future if this query is raised again you can recommend this with confidence.
Kindest regards