I've been recording for the past year on my PC with a $20 sony mic(surprisingly it sounds pretty decent) lined directly into my computer. I record acoustic instruments as well as my electric bass. my PC: del 1.5 Ghz P4 256 ram 60 gig soundblaster live I use cakewalk SONAR to record/edit tracks. I'm wanting to upgrade now. I've been reading some posts and have found some good info but am still a little inquisitive about some things. Soundcard: Upgrade to Audiophile 2496 Memory:Upgrade to 1 gig memory (let me know if i will notice any difference - keep in mind that memory is ridicously inexpensive right now) Mic: Upgrade to Rode NT-1 Pre-amp-Direct Box - This is the area where i'm a little less sure about the precise upgrade. My assumption is that a Pre-amp/direct box powers the mic, amplifies the signal before it goes into the computer, and allows for the mic to be able to connect to my PC. is this accurate? I saw that the M-audio direct box was reccommended...any other suggestions? program: cakewalk SONAR seems to work fine, so i'll keep that as is it is. Anything i'm missing? do i need an external mixer? anyone have any reccommendations on simple things that really help a low budget studio (i.e. good pop filters) Any input on this matter would help me a ton.