I started recording songs for fun in high school in the 80s on a 4 track. I took a decade off and got back into it a few years ago and made a CD and now I'm doing my second. I did it all cheap in my basement. My friends, who know nothing about recording, think it sounds great, but I always think it could sound better. I have an opportunity to buy an UA LA610 for $800. I want to know if such an acquisition will really up my sound quality or be a subtle improvement. On my recordings I play electric and acoustic guitar, bass, and I sing. I use software for drums. Obviously knowledge of recording and mixing are a major element, but I'm speaking purely gear here. Here's what I currently use to record: a Presonus tube pre, a Joe Meek VC3 pre/compressor, a Presonus Firebox, a Groove Tubes GT55 condenser mic, Shure mics: beta58a, PG58 and an SM86 condenser; a PIV 2.6ghz computer; Cubase sx3, Waves plug-ins; Sansamp GT2, PodXT; Fender, Marshall, and Mesa Boogie tube amps. I know this pre is supposedly good for vocals, guitars and bass and it has a nice sounding compressor. I use no hardware compression most of the time now and use the Waves plug-ins for compression. They are a big improvement over the Alesis 3630 I used for a short time. I need to try the Meek again. I was overcompressing. The Joe Meek manual recommends a 7:1 ratio. I now find this more than I want. I have been so happy with the Waves plug-ins though that I haven't even gone back to experiment. OK, after all this rambling you probably forgot the initial question. Is this UA LA610 a real steal or should I focus on recording skills or another piece of gear. Remember, I've been doing this a few years already and reading a bit on the subject online- which means i'm still a big amateur, but I have made a lot of improvement. I have yet to take a class on the subject although I read an online class and heard audio samples. I've basically been operating in a vacuum here and have only one friend who records and he uses Behringer stuff, so there hasn't been a big knowledge exchange here. Also, is the lifespan on this type of high end gear usually decades long? I mean, I expect to keep this thing for the rest of my life if I can. I'm 37 now.