Selecting an audio interface to create 4 Audacity (or not)

I am guessing there is already a good thread or wiki page to address my question, but my searching the forums here (including the excellent “check here before posting”) and googling in general weren’t much help.

My goal is to record into Audacity with a friend in a way that we could generate 4 tracks at a time (i.e. two vocals and two stringed instruments simultaneously). We have enough microphones and amps, a Dell laptop with Windows XP, Audacity 1.3.4, and whatever sound card it came with (not sure of the name at this moment). We previously used a Tascam US-122 USB powered audio interface, and we recorded one part at a time.

We are amateurs with no intent to sell, distribute, win a grammy, etc. We just get a kick out of recording our favorite songs when we get together, and having them as a document of the fun we’ve had over the years. So ease of use is very important, and while we don’t want cruddy sound, we don’t need anything professional-grade. The reason we’d like to be able to generate 4 tracks at once is so we could do effects on the different vocals/instruments separately after the fact, but have the benefit of actually recording it together. (One last thing we need is a midi interface - not for use w/Audacity but for some unrelated projects.)

The loan we had on the US-122 is up and we’re planning on pooling our $ to get a better one. I thought the documentation that came w/the product and on website was inadequate for problem solving, and we would like to record multiple tracks simultaneously, if that’s possible.

My question to those w/more experience are

  1. Is it possible to record more than 1 track at a time into Audacity . . . or regardless of how many inputs/outputs you have on an interface, you’ll still just get one audacity track?

  2. Given our goals, is it correct to go the route of getting an audio interface? Or is there a different set up that we should be considering?

  3. If an audio interface is indeed a reasonable approach, what are the brand names, specific products, etc. that similar users can recommend? I think it’s unlikely that we would spend more than $300 (USD), and probably we would stay closer to the $100-$200 range unless everything at that price was garbage.


With a standard audio interface you can record one (mono) or 2 (stereo) tracks simultaneously.
Note that if you record in stereo, then with a small mixing desk you could pan the volacls to one channel and the guitars to the other, then once it is recorded into Audacity you can split the stereo track into 2 mono tracks, one with the vocals, and the other with the guitars.

To record more than 2 tracks simultaneously in Audacity, you need a multi-channel audio device - there are PCI cards such as the “m-audio Deleta 1010 LT”, or various firewire devices. If you search this forum there have been some posts about Alesis Firewire mixing desks.