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XP and Cubase. I don't think I'd ever make the switch over to Vista unless all the compatibility issues were fixed.

For the sake of argument, let's say you have no problems running Cubase on Vista. You'll need some VST's

The mighty Ambrosius recommends:

Battery (and some good drum samples ie Drumkit from hell)
Decent mic for vocals (I use a KSM27)
A good interface. A 2 channel firewire will run you around $200ish.

In no way do I mean to insult anyone's intelligence with this next blurb, but I'm not sure how familiar you are with the stuff. So here goes.

The reason for needing a firewire or direct monitor USB interface is because normal soundcards aren't made to handle simultaneous in/out audio with a gigantor DAW program. Depending on the card, you can have anywhere from 200ms to 2 seconds of latency (the time it takes between hitting a string on a guitar and hearing the audio come out of your speakers). Firewire interfaces get down to 5ms and USB around 20ms.

Another caveat is knowing whether you have phantom power on the interface or not. If there isn't a button that says "phantom" or "+48v", you don't have it and you won't able to use a condenser mic like I mentioned before. You don't NEED a condenser mic to get a nice vocal or acoustic sound, but they are quite nice. You'll want a popscreen with one, but you can make one out of a Gatorade bottle, a rubber band, a set of panty hose, and a coat hanger. Ghettolicious.
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