So I'm brand new to recording and I don't have much recording stuff yet. Since I'm the kind of person who likes to know what they're going to do in advance I've spent several hours yesterday researching my options. That plus I'd like to make the switch to free software for reasons of price and ideology. And I'm getting a new (or used) computer with recording in mind. All I want to do is record hip hop vocals and mix them with other people's beats. So far what I've been able to glean from this and other recording related forums is that I should probably get a mic, a mixer/preamp, enclosed headphones and probably a USB interface of some kind. My budget, minus the computer, is about $300 - 350 US. The name that I've noticed being suggested for a cheap but decent mixer is the Behringer UB808 because it has phantom power and built in mic preamps. For interfaces I've noticed people suggesting the griffin Imic and the Behringer UCA202. Opinions on mics seem to vary a lot more but I understand that it's a matter of personal preference, budget and purpose. Based on what I've been reading though I've been leaning toward large diaphram condenser mics in the $200 or less price range. I keep reading that the mic and preamp are the most important pieces in the recording chain (for vocals.) On the other hand I've read that it's pointless to get a really nice mic if other components in the recording chain won't be able to keep up. So here are my questions thus far: 1. Am I on the right track here? What's your opinion of using the UB808 with the UCA202 and say a Behringer C1? If you think I might want a better mic are the other pieces of hardware acceptable? Should I use a tube preamp? Does the interface replace the internal soundcard of the computer? If I have a mic jack should I use it instead of the USB interface (directly from the mixer and/ or preamp)? 2. Right now I'm planning on using Audacity. What is your opinion on using it for my purpose? 3. What are some realistic specs for the computer (laptop) I'm going to buy? (RAM, processor, speed etc.) I'm planning on having only one input at a time. 4. So I'm hoping to have the beats mixed with the vocals in my headphones while I record. So latency might be a problem. How big of a problem do you think it will be? Should I spend more for a firewire interface and a computer with a firewire jack? Since they're rap vocals and I can't sing anyway can I get away with not mixing the vocals in the headphones and just go by what I hear through my skull / trial and error? What headphones should I get to ensure that the sound won't leak out and be picked up by the mic? Thanks so much for any help.