How to Record a Whole Band: Audio Interface, Recorder or Mixer?

These days, it’s almost standard practice to record every member of the band separately, whether you’ve booked some time in a recording studio or you’re doing everything at home. But, for a lot of reasons, more and more bands are longing to make a return to full band recording, where every member of the band is recorded at the same time, while playing together – in the same room – but preferably not in a hyper-expensive recording studio.The problem is, the two channels of your audio interface just won’t cut it. Even with eight channels, you’re going to fall short. So what’s possible? Can you even get massive multi-channel audio interfaces? Or will you need to kit out the band with a specialised recorder or mixer?

Why Not Record One-by-One?

If you wanted to record a bigger band in the past, you’d need an enormous studio space and mixing desk so that every instrument got its own channel. These days, things work a little differently. The recording process is not only easier, but cheaper, with band members happy to record their parts at home, playing along with a click track. The mixing engineer can then simply take all of those parts and make a final mix. It’s an efficient method, but it comes with its disadvantages as well as advantages.

First, the advantages:

  • Your recordings won’t suffer from crosstalk (think of the sound of the hi-hat bleeding into the vocal microphone), so every recording is clean and can be easily mixed.
  • You can record whenever you want.
  • There are no peripheral costs: you don’t need to rent a studio or space, there are no travel expenses, accommodation or catering expenses and so on.
  • Everyone is able to deliver their very best takes, so there’s no need to accept a take that one band member ‘fluffed a bit’.

Now, the disadvantages:

  • It’s less fun. While this isn’t necessarily something that will affect the music, playing together creates a very specific vibe and energy that you don’t quite get when playing alone, one by one, which for some bands can really add something special to the final record
  • You’re forced to stick to a fixed part that’s been worked out in detail beforehand. Also, it’s highly likely that you’ll be playing your parts over a click track. This approach removes the chance of any ‘happy accidents’ that can happen when a group of people are playing together. Improvisation, those spontaneous hunches and those sudden lightning bolt ideas also fall under happy accidents.
  • There are some mixing engineers who actually use crosstalk to their advantage. Think of the massive ‘wall of sound’ technique developed by Phil Spector (1939 – 2021). These kinds of engineers actually prefer a whole band recording rather than individual home recording.
  • Since you can record any time you want and as many times as you want, there’s a lot of room for procrastination which could mean that the recording stage takes forever.
  • Every member of the band will need to have good recording equipment at home as well as a good space that’s well isolated from street noise, where they can record uninterrupted.

How to Record a Whole Band: Audio Interface, Recorder or Mixer?

Whole Band Recording

So, what if you want to record the whole band at the same time? It’s possible. Of course, you’ll need to find a big enough space to do it in, but you’ll also need enough microphones and cables, and maybe some isolation screens, enough sets of headphones and some acoustic treatment for the walls.

Where do you even start to record a whole band? It’s a strange question, since it’s been happening for over a century, but because even big name bands have started recording alone at home, recording equipment manufacturers have been tailoring their gear with home recording in mind. As such, it’s not necessarily possible to get your hands on equipment that can record a lot of individual tracks at the same time – especially not on the cheap. Of course, you can do it in a big and expensive studio, but that’s not who this blog has been written for. The first obstacle to get over, is the fact that a solution to the problem involves a lot of different gear, which is hard to compare. It might even be that there’s a solution out there that you’ve never heard of, simply because the gear can only be found in places you wouldn’t expect. To help, we’ve lined up a list of possible options so you can find the one that best suits you and your band.

1 to 8 Tracks

How to Record a Whole Band: Audio Interface, Recorder or Mixer?
The Focusrite Clarett+ OctoPre

You have a few options here:

  • Audio interface: This is the easiest. In our external audio interface department, you can use the filters on the left to select the number of tracks you’ll need. Eight tracks might be a bit tight for the average band. While you may not have eight members, something like a synthesizer is already going to take up two tracks (left and right stereo), and the drum kit will need at least four (one for the kick, one for the snare and two overheads for the cymbals). All of it quickly adds up.
  • Recorder: Is eight tracks enough? Then you could go for a portable multitrack recorder. Zoom and Tascam produce some really great models, and one of the big advantages of taking this route is that you don’t need a computer.

Good to know:

  • For a drummer recording at home, eight inputs will be more than enough. Then you can set up every bit of your kit with a microphone. You can even point two microphones at the kick and the snare to capture the resonant head as well as the batter head.
  • For a lot of audio interfaces, eight tracks is the limit, simply because these models are based on what most people are actually able to do at home. There are interfaces out there with more inputs, but they tend to get pretty pricey.

9 to 24 Tracks

How to Record a Whole Band: Audio Interface, Recorder or Mixer?
The Presonus Studio 1824c

Have a look through these options to see what fits:

  • Audio interface with ADAT: Since most affordable audio interfaces won’t supply any more then eight inputs, what do you do if you need more? ADAT offers an answer. ADAT is a digital format that has eight tracks flowing through it, or four tracks at double the sample rate (which, if we’re honest, isn’t really necessary). If you’re working with an audio interface with an ADAT input, then it can be hooked up to an ADAT interface, giving you an extra eight inputs so you can send an extra eight tracks to your computer. If your audio interface has two ADAT ports, then you can hook up two ADAT interfaces and get an extra sixteen inputs. And, if your audio interface already has eight analogue inputs, that means you’re able to input and record twenty-four tracks simultaneously.
  • A Mixer with a built-in interface: A mixer with a multitrack audio interface built in, like the Behringer X32 Producer, is really easy to work with, puts everything in one box and this particular model supplies you with sixteen microphone inputs. To record, the mixer is coupled with a computer in exactly the same way as an audio interface, so you can record everything straight to a DAW.
  • Mixer with a record function: The Zoom LiveTrak L-20 is a specialised portable mixing desk and recorder in one. This model comes with twenty tracks (sixteen of which are microphone channels) and records to an SD card. Because this is an all-in-one machine, it’s a great option for bands since it removes the need to mess with a computer. Simply set it up, plug everything in and start recording. You can also get a smaller version: the Zoom LiveTrak L-12, which has twelve channels and eight microphone inputs.

Good to know:

  • For most of the options listed above, you’ll also need a computer and DAW recording software to serve as your recorder.
  • There are also other solutions that seem perfect at first, but they’re actually not. These include models like the Zoom R24, the Tascam DP-24/SD and the Tascam DP-32/SD. Each of these models support way more than eight channels, but the maximum channels that you can actually record simultaneously is still only eight.

25 to 32 Tracks

How to Record a Whole Band: Audio Interface, Recorder or Mixer?
The Behringer X32

Here are the options:

  • Mixer with a built-in interface: Just like the suggestion above, this would be a mixer with a built-in multitrack audio interface. Another Behringer model is a good option here: the powerful X32, which has thirty-two microphone inputs. So, if you’re working with a really big band, you’ll have plenty. Since it comes with a special USB expansion card installed, the X32 can also serve as an audio interface to record thirty-two tracks to a computer at the same time. By installing another specific expansion card (which you would need to install yourself), you can also set up the X32 as a standalone recorder, so you no longer need a computer and recording software. Combined with the extra expansion card, the X32 might be the easiest solution for a lot of bands.
  • An audio interface with ADAT: The ADAT story isn’t quite over yet. Generally, bigger audio interfaces will come with a maximum of two ADAT inputs, and there’s currently only one model that’s able to take up to four ADAT interfaces: the RME Digiface. Combine this unit with four ADAT interfaces, and you gain a thirty-two channel USB interface supported by thirty-two Midas preamps for a price that’s actually pretty good – even better, in fact than the X32 plus the expansion.

33 to 48 Tracks

How to Record a Whole Band: Audio Interface, Recorder or Mixer?
The Motu 24 Ai

Here, you have just one option:

  • An audio interface with ADAT: Here’s just one more expandable audio interface: the Motu 24 Ai. This model has three ADAT inputs (that amounts to twenty-four digital channels) plus another twenty-four line inputs via D-Sub. The line inputs can be used for synthesizers, stage pianos, but also things like the outputs of effects equipment – just in case you want to record them live. In most cases, effects like reverb won’t be used in the initial recording, but if you’re recording, say, a beatboxer who needs specific effects to make it work, then this will come in handy. Some synthesizers also have multiple sets of outputs. This way you can do things like play a piano sound with strings and use an output for each sound so they can be recorded separately. The D-Sub is intended to keep things more compact, simply because a row of twenty-four 6.3mm jack ports will immediately result in a much bigger interface. To use the D-Sub, you will need some breakout cables, but like the interface itself, these are one-time investments. All added up, this setup would give you up to forty-eight tracks that can be recorded to a computer at the same time.


  • Drum kit: 8 inputs
  • Keyboard player with 3 synthesizers (stereo): 6 inputs
  • Bass guitar: 1 input
  • Lead guitar: 1 input
  • Rhythm guitar: 1 input
  • Vocal: 1 input
  • Second vocal: 1 input
  • Trumpet, trombone, saxophone: 3 inputs

This imaginary, ten-member band would already need twenty-two inputs. While it’s easy to think that many of the interfaces already mentioned seem a bit over-the-top, once you have the gear, those inputs disappear faster than beers in a student flat.

What about a smaller band?

  • Drum kit: 4 inputs (1x kick, 1x snare, 2x cymbal overheads)
  • Bass guitar: 1 input
  • Lead guitar: 1 input
  • Rhythm guitar: 1 input
  • Vocal: 1 input

This is a really typical line-up for a small rock band, and as you can see, this kind of band could easily work with just eight inputs. While it doesn’t leave much space, it can work. If you really want to add a keyboard or synth, then you might need an extra two or more inputs. You might also be wondering if the drum kit really needs four microphones. This is easy to explain: when it comes to mixing, the kick and snare are the most significant part of the drum kit, so you really need to be able to mix them separately. And with the two overhead microphones, you not only record the cymbals but gain a kind of light stereo image of the drums themselves. In that light, four microphones is considered the absolute minimum for a drum kit. All in all, eight inputs can be enough for a small band, but if you want to add a little something (like synthesizers), then sixteen inputs would be better. And, since we’ve already touched on the fact that most audio interfaces don’t offer any more than eight inputs, you’ll need more than just an 8-input interface or an 8-track recorder.

To Finish…

This blog has been written for bands that know what route they want to take with their music and want to self-produce, so it’s not intended for audio engineers who are kitting out their studio. In terms of the investment required to record the whole band, all of the ADAT combos should be attainable. Bigger studios may well make different decisions when it comes to gear, and will maybe work with Dante and MADI systems – the prices of which are significantly higher.

See also…

» All Audio Interfaces
» Audio Interfaces with ADAT
» ADAT Interfaces
» Mixers with Multitrack Audio Interface
» All Mixers
» Portable Multitrack Recorders
» All Studio & Recording Gear

» How to Record Synthesizers
» How to Amplify & Record a Cajon
» How to Make Awesome Live Recordings
» Recording the Acoustic Guitar: The Basic Rules
» How Loud You Should Record Audio
» How To Avoid Mic Bleed
» How to Record a Full Choir
» How to Record a Piano
» Recording Drums: A Specialised Skill

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