Home recording studio questions

I have a co-worker who is aiming to build himself a recording studio in his house. Ive helped aim him in some directions for amplification and monitors, he is on somewhat of a budget, but he seems to have come across some stumbling blocks.

He is currently thinking of using a computer for the main system. He is an aspiring rap artist and needs to be able to input analog signals such as vocals and live instruments and digital samples and loops, mix and coordinate it, then be able to record this to a CD.

Does anybody have any reccommendations for computer hardware that is not TOO costly (not thousands of dollars) that he could use for this? It looks like he already has his software picked out, but he needs a real good interface that will be flexable and give him the capabilities to do what he wants to do.

Any reccommendations? Anybody here built a recording studio based around a computer? If so, what are you running?

He is getting some advise from some computer guys, but they seem somewhat hung up on MP3 and stuff. I know that he is looking to be able to make real quality recordings.

" rap artist" and " real quality recordings. " seem to me to be mutually exclusive terms, however. (A case could be made for "rap artist" being an oxymoron too.) ;-) yeah, I don't care for rap at all, but the Mac is the best platform for this sort of thing.

Monitor wise...definitely look at PMC. Most of the really serious studios use them and there is a definite advantage to having the same voice as what the big boys use.
At a minimum your friend will need a microphone, a mic preamp and a computer interface supporting analog, digital and MIDI I/O. The computer/software can handle the recording/mixing/editing functions. The computer he uses should have at least two hard drives with one dedicated for recording tracks, a fast CPU and plenty of memory. The type of computer, Wintel or Mac, depends entirely upon the software he wants to work with.

For hardware he might consider either a Tascam US122, a Digidesign MBox, a Tascam US428, or a MOTU 828MkII. I've listed them in ascending price order with the US122 at around $200 and the MOTU at $750. Mackie, Lexicon, M-Audio, Aardvark and RME also make similar products in this price range.
I have a similar setup that I use to do home recording. My preference is for mac. I have both a G4 desktop style and a laptop. The desktop uses a PCI interface card that runs to a MOTU 2408 MK 3 interface via firewire. The 2408 has 8 ins and outs via 1/4" balanced connectors as well as 2 digital SPDIF outs and one in. It also can connect to ADAT lightpipe as well as the Tascam format. The Laptop uses a PCMCIA card (the size of a credit card) that slides into the side and runs to a similar to the MOTU interface box that allows similar input options. The MOTU unit running from the desktop has far better sound quality than the laptop system, it probably has more to do with the connection via PCI slot vs. the card slot in the laptop than the gear I bet.

I used to run a ton of intputs through a 32 channel analog mixer, and when I switched over to the all in the computer method, audio quality went way up. Of course I have tweaked the 2408 with an aftermarket power cord and isolation, which really improve things a lot as well.

As for monitoring. I picked up a Meridian 566 DAC and 518 digital processor for around 500 each. So I run from the 2408 via SPDIF to the 518, from the 518 via SPDIF to the 566 and then connect the 566 to your preamp. When recording you run from the 2408 to the 518 and from 518 to the CDR recorder then loop out to the 566 for monitoring. The differences that the 518 make to a recording are unbelievable and well worth the 500 used price tag. The 566 is also a great buy even though it only works in the monitoring chain.

My thoughts are that if you don't have an excellent monitoring system that is telling you all about your mix how can you do a good mix. Hopefully your friend already has a good sounding system, that is far better for mixing and monitoring than any set of nearfields. Tell him to stay away from the pro audio guys, they know about features and tech stuff, but they usually don't know crap about fidelity.

I have my studio system listed you can check it out.
I use a Tascam FW 1884 surface controller running into Windows XP with Cubase sx 2.0 as the recording software. Works fabulous and has never crashed. Also supports 5.1 surround mixing at high res formats if desired.
Slappy,I'm not trying to rain on your friend's parade but if money is an issue,he'd be better off renting studio time. You can rent a lot of studio time for 200 dollars an hour(including the technicians and the end product master) for what it would cost him to build one himself. Of course,it's a different story if he wants to rent it out to others.
These guys are right on the money. I buy a lot of stuff from Sweet Water Sound. Tons of software, all the hardware, excellent advice, I highly recommend them.