Well, for some time now, ive wanted to have a little studio. Just so i can record my band and some of my demo's etc. I have come to the conclusion that im going to use a multitrack recorder to record my songs, instead of a computer - as latency issues really put me off.

As far as i see it, i have 3 options. A tape recorder (yes i know!), a reel to reel recorder, or a digital recorder. Id like to know the major reasons why and why not to go with any of those recorders. Are tape recorders really that bad? Are there any particular models i should look into? Will i be able to get fairly decent recordings with a tape recorder? Or should i just stick with digital?

Quote by Rum Monkey
Are tape recorders really that bad?

No. Tape dominated electronic music reproduction from its birth until the new millennium, and is still used in major studios. Of course, Pro Tools rigs have been popping up in major studies and home project studios due to the cost-effectiveness and ease of use. Tape machines require regular maintenance, but so do computers. Tape can go bad, but so can hard drives. The great thing about tape, though, is how amazing it sounds.

Quote by Rum Monkey

Are there any particular models i should look into?

Tascam 30-series. The 38 is arguable the best 8-track reel-to-reel even produced. If you want more than 8 tracks you'll have to spend some big money. Not just on the machine, but the thick tape they use. You could also look in to a Fostex R8, E8, R16, E16. The Tascam 80-8 is also worth mentioning. Remember that Teac and Tascam are pretty much the same brand.

Quote by Rum Monkey

Will i be able to get fairly decent recordings with a tape recorder? Or should i just stick with digital?

I've said this many times: Most of the albums you listen to were recorded on tape. The sound quality difference is not an issue between analog and digital, they are both capable of reproducing sound perfectly as far as our ears can tell. Analog does give a warmer, more lush sound that digital recordings, but it's possible to emulate an analog sound very well in the digital realm. The deciding factors between digital and analog systems comes down to short-term and long-term costs.

Look in to digital (DAT or Hard-Disk) and analog multitrack recorders. You'll find that neither option is at all cheap. You can find 8-track reel-to-reel machines on eBay for roughly $200 to $400 depending on the condition. A digital multitrack recorder will be quite expensive too. The Alesis HD24 is the only hard-disk recorder I have seen. It delivers 24-tracks for $1200 US.

Tape machines, of course, require tape. It'll cost you about $50 to $70 for a brand new reel of 1/4" or 1/2" tape from RMGI or ATR Magnetics. Depending on your machine and the thickness of the tape, one reel should deliver roughly 20 to 25 minutes of recording time. You'll also have to buy a cheap bottle of potent Isopropyl alcohol and some cotton swabs to clean the tape path. For me, the cost is justified. I love the tape sound, and I love working with such a complex machine.

Even if you decide to go digital, grabbing a Tascam 32 (2-track R2R) would be a great investment to use as a mastering deck.
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If you are willing to spend money on the medium, go with analog...the sound's more natural in my experience and the entry costs are lower than the digital alternatives. The biggest reason to use digital is for easy audio editing, usually through a computer, which doesn't apply to you. In any case, a tape recorder will probably be the easiest to use, while the reel to reel, as long as you are careful with it and make sure your hands are clean, will give the warmest sound. Before going with Muphin's suggestions...what is your budget and what are you playing?
Analog has its goods and bads, some just dont like using an analog setup.

With digital (which is what I use and prefer) you can easily realign tracks, add FX, tweak FX after a record, wont need a mixer, and digital setups are cheaper overall as you don't need all the rack FX as well as a rack...

Digital setups like a Yamaha 01V96V2 paired with an Alesis HD24 gives you a nice digital MTR setup which is portable enough for road use and advanced enough to keep in a studio. I'm getting this setup with a Yamaha MY16AT card to use all tracks with a minimal amount of cables.

You could go for the Yamaha AW2400, the 16 track version was reviewed at the SC board: