Some pointers about computer systems
A decent PC or Apple based system will cost you money. And the cheaper the software, the more powerful the computer will have to be to run it.
The computer must be capable of saving your project as a series of 'WAV' files on CD.
Test the system before you start recording. Lay down 24 tracks of rubbish (keep counting to ten or just record the radio) and perform a trial mix-down with all compression, reverb, etc.
If you intend mixing in a professional studio, ask them first how they are going to get the recordings into their system.
If you intend recording in a professional studio, but mixing down on your home system, make very sure that they can put the project on a DVD-R and that your system can read it.
If you already have a computer with at least 256 MB of RAM (any less and it will freeze) and a 24-bit full-duplex audio card (i.e. it can play and record at the same time), we suggest you go to the ProTools website and download the 8-track free version of ProTools.
This is not just a fully functional 8-track recorder with all the usual effects (harmonizer, flanger, compressor, gate and reverb) but is also a sophisticated MIDI sequencer.
If you like it, you can take the next step up to the M-Box. This gives you 24 tracks (you'll now need 512 MB of RAM) and a good 24-bit AD/DA 2-channel converter and all for about sixty Pounds. For ten times that price, you can get the 001 with eight AD/DA converters (minimum for recording drums).
ProTools usually runs best on an Apple, but there is a whole host of good PC based systems such as MOTU, Nuendo, Cubase and Soundscape. But be warned: by the time you have invested in a small mixer, eight microphones with stands and a large computer and all the software, you will have spent about 4,000 Pounds or more!
If all you want to do is record music to make that all important demo, take a closer look at dedicated systems that incorporate mixer, effects, harddisk multitracker and CD recorder all in one box.
These systems cost about half as much as the equivalent on computer (if you include the cost of the computer) and usually come complete with a whole range of built-in effects. And they have one big advantage. Once you have worked out which button to push, they work straight out of the box. No connection cables between devices, no fiddly software installation and no compatibility problems. Just plug in your keyboards, guitars and mics and start recording!
Check out the latest models (specs and prices change all the time) from Akai, Roland, Korg, Tascam and Fostex. Remember to add the cost of mics and stands to your budget!
If you are a working band, then the chances are you will already have all those bits and pieces such as mics, stands, leads, effects, etc. so all you need is the multitrack. If so, you will be happy to hear that prices for a 24 in/24 out harddisk recorder start at around 1,800 Pounds, but you will have to add about 300 Pounds for a CD recorder. Nearly all these systems export to WAV file format and some will allow you to do all those interesting cut-and-paste edits on a computer screen. Check out the systems form Fostex, Mackie and Tascam.