Hello, My brother is looking to set up a personal portable recording capability. He only needs to record guitar and vocals. The final product need only be demo-level quality, something for him to work out ideas and share with a select audience; at this point he is not shooting for pro-level output. Previously he has not used a Mac, or any computer, for any of his recording, just an old Tascam 4-track. But now he is upgrading from an iBook G3 to a MacBook Pro. He asked for my help with the computer side of things, as that is not his forte. After talking with him and reading a lot on this forum and elsewhere, I identified his needs as: - pre-amp: M-Audio MobilePre USB or FireWire Solo: is the FireWire Solo worth the extra cost (~$40)? - mic: primarily for vocals, I think the AT2020 sounds like a good choice, at ~$100. But if he wanted to save a little here, is there anything below this you might recommend as comparable in quality? - midi keyboard: M-Audio 49e: he said ideally he wanted 3 octaves; I'm not sure if he needs anything fancier than this - maybe something better than GarageBand: he is a college student, so he could get Logic Express for $150, but Logic Pro is most likely outside his budget. He is leaning towards starting off with GarageBand, learning it, and then possibly moving up as necessary to LE or a competitor. Or might you recommend he start higher in terms of software? He likes the idea of more/better loops etc.-- how much better is LE than GB? So with a budget that wants to stay as close to $400 as possible, obviously his choices are limited. With that in mind, if there is one of the above items that you think he should delay purchasing so that he can get a higher-end one of the others, please say so. If he needs to save up a few more months to get, say, the keyboard, in order to get a better pre-amp to get started now, he might be willing. One other option is the M-Audio Ozone pre-amp/Midi combo. Yes, it has less keys, but he has worked on 25-key-board before and said he would deal with it if it's a better overall package than the stuff mentioned above. Final caveats: - sorry about the M-Audio emphasis; he has a bunch of AppleStore giftcards and they carry it, even though I know M-Audio stuff can be found cheaper elsewhere - I know about as much about music as he knows about computers, so excuse me if I miss something obvious! Thanks for your advice.