A channel is a representation of sound coming from or going to a single point. A single microphone can produce one channel of audio, and a single speaker can accept one channel of audio, for example.
A digital audio file can contain multiple channels of data. Music that is mixed for headphone listening is saved as a file with two channels - one sent to the left ear, one sent to the right, while surround-sound movie audio is often mixed for 6 channels.
What does this have to do with my recorders?
Many of our recorders have the ability to record on two separate channels, including all SM2s, all SM3s, and the SM4 (non-ultrasonic). These channels are marked as channel 0, or the left channel, and channel 1, or right. When you configure these units to record in stereo, the recordings it saves will contain two channels. If you listen to these files in a conventional audio player, you will hear both channels simultaneously from your left and right speakers. If you open the files in Kaleidoscope, you can switch between viewing and hearing the left and right channels. Using Kaleidoscope, you can also split these stereo files into two mono, single-channel files.
Because the Song Meters listed above can only record on two channels maximum, plugging in an external microphone will override one of the internal microphones on an SM3 or SM4. If you plug one SMM-A2 into channel 0 of an SM4, the left channel will be recorded from that SMM-A2, and the right channel will be recorded from the right-hand built-in microphone if the recorder is configured for stereo recording.
The following recorders only have one recording channel, and will always produce mono files: SM4Bat FS, SM4Bat ZC, Echo Meter Touch, Echo Meter EM3, SMZC.