Tape Width Questions...


New member
Caught somewhere halfway between a dream and seriously thinking about setting up a tape-based analog studio, and I have a few questions...

Obviously wider tracks are wider tracks, but with 2" tape, does 16-track have any advantages other than that over-track. I could probably get by with 16-track, but if I have to lose a track for timecode and a guard track, 14 tracks might be pushing things.

For mixdown, would a 1/2" 2-track offer any appreciable sonic advantages over a 1/4" 2-track?

This will be for a personal home studio, recording basic guitar/bass/drums/keyboards/vocals.

And should reality smack me too hard, are any of you guys pulling off this kind of stuff using an 8-track machine? I'm thinking in terms of doing 8 drum tracks, mixing them to my DAW, then putting the mix on 2 of the 8 tracks, then bouncing as required. Anybody doing anything like this (or a better workflow)?

I'm in a manic phase so I'll probably have more questions later...thanks in advance...:guitar:


New member
If you are going to go to 2" do 24 track, period. The track difference in sound "quality" is negligible in top end 2" machines.

1/2" 2 track? Yeah advantage over 1/4", but most mastering facilities work on 1/4"

For a while 24 tracks wasnt enough, LOL, or so I thought. I had three 24 track tape machines synced, minus the time code tracks I had 69 to use. Ummm, Ive rethought and with some planning 24 gets the job done.
Last edited:


Cosmic Cowboy
Yeah...if you're going to go for a 2", just get a 24-track, which is the standard.
You get enough tracks and they sound really good and will beat out any small format multitrack.

Sure, a 2" 16-track gives you that little bit extra...but I think that would be only worth it if you had like absolutley the best analog gear in your racks to go with the 2" 16-track, and a top-shelf console to mix it on. :)

1/4" 2-track is also a standard, and will be more than good enough to mixdown to .

Chris Marcelli

New member
A 1/2" 8 track isn't going to compete with a 16 or 24 track 2" deck. That said, I use a Tascam 48, an Audient ASP008 and Allen & Heath 20:8:2. Record 6 tracks of drums, then mix them down to two (or maybe three), freeing up 6 (or 5) more tracks. Two caveats: (1) excellent overheads and mic placement are essential and (2) plan on crappy mixes until you get the hang of it. It's tough to predict what the mixed drums will sound like in the overall mix. It's tough to burn $100 on a reel of tape for mixdown practice...

I'd also point out that having 8 tracks forces you to make permanent decisions. I like that, but I would love to sync two machines. 14 tracks would be more than enough after dealing with 8.


The first thing to know when looking at analog as that track width did shrink as technology advanced, and some later model narrow-track machines can keep up with and even outperform older wide-track formats. Overall the recommendations already given are good generally speaking, but there are a lot of things to consider.

How many tracks you really need first of all. Depending type of music some of us do get by with 8-tracks or 7 when using timecode. No guard band needed. There may be little difference sonically speaking between a given 8-track on 1/2-inch tape and a 24-track on 2-inch tape. Those two formats have the same track width. Tascam invented the 8-track on 1/2" format and the track spacing is such that the tracks are closer together without increasing cross-talk. Tascam was at the forefront of advancements in head design for many years. They made more tracks on less tape doable and sonically fully professional. However the machines generally won't hold up mechanically in a working 'round the clock commercial studio as long as the traditional heavy hitter 2-inch models.

When you hear terms like "Professional format" that is from the days when studios had compatibility standards where you could take a 2" 24-track tape from one studio and finish it at another studio anywhere in the country. Has nothing to do with sound quality. Home and project studios didn't have to follow those rules and still don't.

If you are old enough (like me) I was just barely there when large studios were still in transition from 16-track standard to 24-track. At the time 24-track was considered narrow and noise reduction was for the most part a given in professional environments. Dolby-A, dbx Type I and later Dolby SR in the United States.

If 16-tracks is enough for you IMO 16-tracks on 1-inch tape is the sweet spot. I see NOS 1-inch tape going for less than 1/2-inch tape all the time. When it comes to your tracking machine and your mixdown deck tape cost is certainly something to think about ahead of time. As others have mentioned 1/4" half-track was/is a professional standard. With 2-tracks on 1/4" you have basically the same track width as 16-tracks on 2-inch tape. The advantages of 2-track 1/2-inch are negligible, but measurable. For the most part it is overkill.

For home studio especially, many of us are fans of the Tascam and Fostex decks. 16-track on 1/2-inch and even 24-track on 1-inch. My personal preferences are for the last generation decks from Tascam... TSR-8, MSR-16 and MSR-24. I get by with the TSR-8 at present, but would happily use the MSR-16 on 1/2-inch tape. I do a lot of sequencing with vintage keyboards and synth modules for my own music, so my need for analog tracks is modest, but my need for mixer channels is ponderous!. I also use digital multitrack side-by-side with my analog multitrack, but everything hits tape first. I mixdown to a Tascam 1/4-inch half-track (2-track) I have a couple of them. One does double duty as a tape echo unit.

nearly all my gear is modified (by me) to have better performance than factory spec, but that's a whole 'nother story about so much to do; so little time that can lead to divorce, range wars, problems with law enforcement, the church and the state.


Well-known member
Good post, Beck.
I too like the newer tascam stuff . You mentioned the lack of need for a guide track. Way back, I ran a 238 ( narrow tracks for sure) with time code on trk 8 and no safety track....never a problem. Moved on up to a msr 16 and loved it so much I got another one.


New member
Thanks for all of the responses, guys...please keep them coming!

I haven't done any analog recording (other than cassette PortaStudio) in ages, although I have tried to keep up with whatever's happening in the field. Something I found interesting in you guys' comments is the lack of need for a "guard" track when using timecode.

I come out of a broadcast background, and "guard" tracks were considered absolutes.

Has something changes making it unnecessary, or have we found it wasn't necessary in the first place? Are you guys doing something like recording loud stuff next to the timecode track, or otherwise compensating.

Lack of need for a guard track changes the equation a bit...thanks for any info you can give!

Also, I was considering going with Chris Mara's refurbed MCI machines (which would give me a 1" eight-track), but they are quite expensive for what I'm considering. I've noticed a lot of you guys are using Tascam machines...how difficult would it be to find a 1" 24-track Tascam machine in good condition?

I don't want to end up having to spend all of my time working on my gear, but if I could get a Tascam machine in good shape that, too, would radically change the equation.

Also, for those of using Tascam gear, what are you using for a mixdown deck?

Again, thank you for all of the info...what I want to do is starting to look a whole lot more "doable"...


New member
For 2" I have a Tascam ATR-24 and two Sony APR-24s. But for mixdown, I dont use Tascam. Im hooked on Otari MTRs, in particular the MTR-12. I like them because I can change the format from 1/4" to 1/2", 2 to 4 tracks in about two minutes.


Tape Wolf
If you go MSR-24, avoid the Dolby S version, since they're based on a chipset that fails over time and which can't be replaced. Get the DBX version if you can.


Well-known member
Msr !6s are more common and easier to find in good condition. !6 tracks should be more than enough.....Hey, Hendrix did electric ladyland on 16 tracks. With a 16track you could probably find one within driving distance from you.

I've been mixing down to a Tascam Da30. Digital yes, but the dat tapes archive well and sound good to my ear. Even years later they sound as fresh as the day I recorded them. Sooner or later your stuff is gonna end up in the digital domain anyway.
But that's just me. I'm not a complete analog purist.:D
I'm a musician. The Tascam 48 is a exelent deck. I just bought my 3rd Tascam ATR-60-2 1/4" 2 track for final stereo mix and its awsome. Your mic preamps are vitally important as is the best mic for the job for beat sound. A Tascam ATR 60-2 with a Neve board and top of the line studio mics will make a better recording than an Ampex ATR-100 with a $500.00 board and $50.00 mics. Theres no substitute for econmy boards, mics, and effects. The ultimate would be an Ampex ATR-100 with a Neve board and top of the line studio mics and effects gear.