I'm looking to use a USB Audio Interface with a DAW to do some long duration multitrack recording spanning into the 10s of minutes, possibly 1 hr. I intend to create a multiple microphone setup to help identify the source of an irregular sound from a mechanical object.

What are the limitations dictating how long a track can be? Is this an area where DAW software stability could be an issue with crashing and what not? For physical multitrack recorders, what spec dictates the duration of a track(s)? Also how does the number of tracks figure into this; is there some upper memory budget I have to fit everything into?

  • Great question--welcome to Music.SE! – jdcode Jan 19 '18 at 23:04

Wave files have a file size limit, but for an hour of recording it should be fine. I've recording live shows over an hour in length recording 16 tracks simultaneously using standard wave format with no problems.

Here's some info on the size limit from wikipedia:


"The WAV format is limited to files that are less than 4 GiB, because of its use of a 32-bit unsigned integer to record the file size header (some programs limit the file size to 2 GB)[citation needed]. Although this is equivalent to about 6.8 hours of CD-quality audio (44.1 kHz, 16-bit stereo), it is sometimes necessary to exceed this limit, especially when greater sampling rates, bit resolutions or channel count are required. The W64 format was therefore created for use in Sound Forge. Its 64-bit header allows for much longer recording times. The RF64 format specified by the European Broadcasting Union has also been created to solve this problem."

If you do end up needing to go longer than the 6.8-ish hour limit, the recording software Reaper supports the RF64 file format.

  • That is a fantastic use case I never would have considered off the bat, concerts. Those definitely run into the hours timeframe. – jxramos Jan 19 '18 at 21:00

It's largely about storage space.

There are situations where stability could be an issue such as running on low spec hardware or if you are tracking with plugins enabled, but those should be rare. And if you are having problems with crashing that's a separate problem that needs solved. I regularly do recordings lasting 10's of minutes and have done an hour or two without problems.

As far as storage space, if you have n number of tracks at a certain sample rate and word length, you can calculate how much space it should take. Then compare that with the free space on your computer or the specs of a recorder to see if it will be a problem.

For one recording at a time it almost certainly won't be a problem. But you don't mention how many recordings you want to make and save before you have to start deleting to make room. They can pile up over time so you may have to manage that somehow.

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