#1
I'm looking to get a home recording studio together this summer. My budget is at about a thousand dollars, but I'd be willing to push it an extra couple hundred. I want to get a microphone, interface, software, and good headphones, as well as any other necessities that you would recommend. Possibly monitors, depending on the cost. I want to be able to have at least 3 or 4 audio inputs for the interface. I'm not concerned with MIDI compatibility, but that would be nice in case I decide to delve into that in the future. As for the software, I've heard mixed things about Pro Tools, what would you guys say about it?

If I'm not doing professional grade recordings, is it important for me to buy monitors? How much of a difference can it make in the mixing process?

I'm mainly trying to get a decent package thats not super cheap, but most cost efficient way to get quality sounding multi-track recordings.
#2
People never agree on what music package is the best, but Pro Tools has the advantage of being pretty much the industry standard. All of the big studios and producers seem to use it.

It's pretty costly, though. In terms of cost, the best I know of is Logic Pro Studio 8. They dropped the price considerably on the latest version, and added a crapload of new features. It's an awesome package, but I personally prefer Pro Tools overall.

Everyone has their own preferences, though. And there's loads more programs out there. Cubase and Ableton Live seem to have huge followings. I've never used either, though, so can't comment on their quality.

Another issue is Mac vs. PC (everybody seems to have this argument) - what are you going to be using? In terms of music making, there's not much of a contest, to be honest - Mac absolutely trampels Windows for me. Although, Windows are slowly catching up.

Monitors make a huge difference in the mixing process. But if you're not aiming for really professional recordings, I reckon a good pair of headphones would suffice. You want to get some 'closed-ear' phones - a couple of models to look at are Sony MDR7506 and Sennheiser HD595 (or similar).

In terms of microphones, it depends what you're wanting to record. But if it's all-rounder mics you're wanting, I'd recommend Shure SM57 and SM58. The Rode M3 has been getting great reviews, too. But, there's plenty of cheaper microphones out there that could surprise you - a lot of the time it depends on your luck, really. My friend bought a condenser microphone for about £20 and it turned out brilliant on some vocal recordings I did with a singer I know.
#3
Personally, I think that it is important for you to get monitors, especially seeing as you have a decent budget, and could afford to get a pair. I use this set, and find them to do a great job for the price :

Wharfedale DP8

Also, you say you want several inputs, but only mention one mic? Why? Are you planning on using Direct Input for the rest of your instruments?

Either way, I haven't seen many interfaces that allow 3/4 inputs. They usually have 1 or 2, then jump straight to 8. See if someone else can come up with a recommendation for that, as I can only think of good interfaces with 2 or 8.

As far as microphones go, you can't go far wrong with a Shure SM57 for micing up amps. Works well for general use too, and you can get them for $100. I really like the Studio Projects B1 condenser for acoustic and vocals, which you can get for a bargain price http://www.zzounds.com/item--STUB1. I've heard great things about the MXL 990/991 pack for acoustic and vocals too, but I haven't personally used them myself.

For software, I use Cubase, but I think you'd be as well just buying Reaper for now, which is around $40 I believe. It's cheap, and has lots of features.
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#4
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#6
Interface:

Art Tubefire 8 or Presonus Firestudio Project. $530/$500 (can be found for $400)

Event ALP5: $330. KRK's are nice too.

Sennheiser HD280. AKG K240's are fine too (I've seen professional rappers use them, who often turn it up LOUD, yet there's little bleed). $100/120.

Deathspeak's microphones: $300.

For MIDI: Get a USB keyboard when you want them. M Audio's 88 Keystation's used by professionals such as Junkie XL. Their Axiom offerings feature aftertouch and have lots of pads to hit.

Software: Traction 3 Ultimate: $250. Easy to use and lots of stuff to play around with. Izotope Ozone 3: $200. Professional mastering.

Cables: 8 XLR, 2 TRS-TRS. Firewire/USB should come with the interface/keyboard.

It's 1.5k, and can be reduced by looking at used interfaces, holding off on mastering, getting two SM57's and nothing more, or getting a lesser Traction software.

In the future: Possibly Avatone Mixcubes to ensure your mix sounds good.
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#7
I swapped the PreSonus for the M-Audio, because it puts us over budget. The Firestudio is preferable if you can afford it though.

I also left out MIDI because he said he didn't need it.

Also, if you want to squeeze you can leave off the headphones and one of SM57's, but In my opinion 2 of them = win. You'd also be short a mic for recording a drum kit if you dropped one.

DS
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#8
Thanks for all the info. The M- Audio Fast Track looks exactly what I want with 4 inputs. I was planning on hooking up the interface through a pc laptop, but a mac is a possibility if they have a wider range of options available. I'm possibly considering cutting my budget to more around 500-700. The reason is if i end up spending 1000 or more, thats not much money for cables and stands on top of that. It will also pretty much leave me broke, so no money left If i decide to get a synth or MIDI keyboard for my recording project.

The SM57's look good for guitar recording, I'll check them out. Haven't got the chance to look through everything, but I will get back and check it out tomorrow.