(or, why I tend not to answer certain questions...)
Please don't ask me out of the blue which mixer or recorder or computer or soundcard to buy, because...I don't know how much you want to spend, how many tracks you want to deal with, whether you insist on sweepable mids, whether you want one that's a tabletop kind or rack-mountable, etc.
You have to do a lot of thinking along these lines before you buy anything. Of course, you could skip the thinking and end up like some other people...you know, the ones you see placing classified ads with stuff they can't use? But I don't want to see that happen to you.
And that's one reason why I pointedly refuse to answer, in the great detail they seem to want, many of the people who show up and say things like, "I have $(fill in the blank),000 and I want to start my own studio. Tell me everything I need."
How can I possibly know what someone else needs or wants? How can I know how they like to work? I happen to like monkeying around with computers and equipment, which is why I'm very good at all this. But for a lot of people, a tape deck is a far better user interface than a computer screen.
And people don't always tell you what's really important to them. I once spent hours checking out computer systems for a friend who had been saving his money for a year and told me that he wanted me to pick out the absolute best system for the money (he didn't have a lot of money, either). I found the deal of the century for him, and called him up to tell him where to buy it...too late, he had already bought a system that was just about 60% of the power of what I had found him for about 50% more money. To me, the worst possible deal, but his unstated fear was that he wouldn't be able to get his computer running or fixed, so he bought it from a local dealer and the peace of mind was worth it to him.
And if you expect someone else to do the research and legwork for you, how will you ever know what the tradeoffs were in selecting it? Especially with something technical like this -- which you're going to be using personally to make music, you must understand it inside and out if you're going to be able to get anything out of it. That's why I try to concentrate more on teaching people concepts than just saying "buy this, buy that".
Want some proof? Check out this article on our BBS for what happened to a guy who got equipment he wasn't ready for. Imagine the frustration he must have felt. Imagine yourself sitting in front of $3000 worth of equipment that you don't have the foggiest idea of how to use. I don't know if you're married, but imagine explaining that to your spouse...yikes!
I'm not boasting when I say that I pick up technical stuff fast. When I started in all this, though, I started with a Porta 03, about as far down the totem pole as you can get. I pushed the envelope of that thing so far that I was doing things -- no kidding -- that people at TASCAM told me couldn't be done (like MIDI virtual tracking with SMPTE time code). But when I was done with that recorder, I knew how to drag every last bit of performance out of it.
You can't get to that point if you let anyone else pick out stuff for
you. You have to learn about everything in advance, otherwise you're going
to waste money because someone will take advantage of you and talk you
into buying something, or you'll just buy the wrong thing on your own.
(based originally on a posting in one of our BBS Forums.)