Ok, this is a quick rant about the sales of pro-audio equipment.
First off, the majority of equipment you see walking into a Guitar Center (and even a Sam Ash) is hardly professional. Anyone using an entire low-end Peavy Set-up* does not have a professional set-up. your "Professional Tube Microphone. A Professional Behringer Condenser" is about as professional as me running in a marathon. Yes, i could run it, probably finish it...dead last.
There are uses for such things, but calling them "professional" is misleading. Then again, people claim to run professional studios when all they do is pop out unmastered demo tapes for local groups. I guess in the most literal sense, yes, this is professional. You are, in fact, getting paid to do this work, but is it professional.
So, let's say you're planning on starting up a "real professional studio" and you're off to buy gear. You think "well, buying used is fine for a lot of the gear, and can save me a bundle" so you start trolling eBay. you go to musical instruments: pro audio: microphones; wired microphones; recording condenser and you're bombarded with a couple thousand entries. And you start seeing the following things over and over: "CAD Professional Studio Condenser!" "Behringer Professional Studio Condenser!" "Professional USB Condenser."
This is not a huge dig on CAD and Behringer. They definitely have a place. I used Behringer mixers regularly for small live set-ups, like bar bands, small events and parties, etc. CAD, especially their vintage Equitek line (ie the e300), has some nice microphones. I'm not saying they are terrible mics...
It's just that you get what you pay for with pro-audio gear, and there is a reason studios have started carrying specific mics. Take the Behringer microphones and boards. They are definitely bargain priced. If you're just starting a home project studio, getting into beat making and a little rapping over top, having a Behringer mixer, with a couple Behringer mics, and, oh, let's make it complete, some Behringer Truth 2031A monitors, running into a Behringer ADC, wouldn't be a terrible set-up. But...it'll be noisy, for sure. The mics will have a definite brightness to them, with a mid scoop and a lot of proximity effect. The speakers will have a mid-scoop. And, your ADC may not be good enough to handle better than 44.1Khz 16 Bit and, may in fact, have problems with all the data you're throwing at it (especially if it's USB 2.0). ah, latency...
You can repeat this set-up however you wish. Let's say you're doing Samson, and you don't want to mess with a lot of stuff. So, you buy a G-Track USB microphone (with an extra XLR input, and a stereo headphone output) and a pair of Samson SH700 headphones, etc. You're mainly working out of Fruity Loops, and the free version of Cubase LE4 that comes with the G-Track. Is this a terrible set-up? For a beginner, not at all. It's all about getting your ideas out onto the computer.
Is it "professional?" I don't think so. Does a studio need to have Neumann's, DPA, Earthworks, Manley Labs, and maybe an old RCA 77 to be a professional studio?** Nope, not at all. Maybe you need a Neve console or at least a couple Avalon pres? Nope, not at all. Oh, and it HAS to be PRO-TOOLS (HD, of course, though most people won't think about it). Again, nope.
It's about finding the right gear for your style, in the end. Price is always a problem, so scouring for deals is fine. But, i don't like the idea of "settling" too much. My home set-up isn't amazing
Event TR5 monitors
Oktava 219A (old 319)
Soundcraft Spirit Folio 16 (w/ 8 direct outs and inserts on all mic inputs)
MOTU Ultralite Mk II
That's not an amazing studio. The Shure was a parting gift from my old sound company, Concert Quality Sound. The Ultralite i bought in 2008 as i became desperate to do some work at home (i was borrowing mics from CQS at that point). Everything else has been e-Bay trolling. and i have reasons for all the gear. The BlueTube isn't about the tube at all, actually. It was a cost efficient way to add 2 pre-amps to my ultralite in an easy to move format. at $100 that's not bad. The cleans are clean and actually pretty decent sounding. Yeah, not Neve or Avalon, but all i want from my pre-amp is CLEAN. lol. The TR5s were just a steal at $125. Same with the Soundcraft board at $125. The Oktava was on a suggestion from my brother after i mentioned to him that i really like dark vocal tracks and using dark microphones***. So far, i like the sound, as it makes my voice not quite as grating to my own ears.
Anyway, for what i'm doing, it's a good set-up. I could use a pair of DPA mics. LOL.
anyway, i've ranted long enough. here's the ultimate tip for n00bs going and buying gear off eBay.
1) do your research on the gear. If it looks like an awesome deal, it's probably cheap to begin with and you should buy new. don't buy a used MXL, Behringer, Samson, CAD (unless vintage), Nady kinda mic. They are inexpensive to begin with, so don't take your chances on what some other guy has been doing with it. The biggest thing with them all is that they aren't sturdy, so new is definitely better.
2) if someone feels the need to put "professional" in the headline, he's either trying to cheat you, or he's an idiot
3) don't buy a USB mic if you're serious about it. If it's for a 10 y/o and they want to play and sing and do podcasts, that's fine. if it's to do some home project studio work, get an interface. there are inexpensive good ones (like the Presonus AudioBox.).
4) don't buy into the hype of any given program. Test them out (you can get trials of most of them) and see what one you like. You may find yourself wanting different programs for different things. Case and point, i have Logic and Ableton Live, Pd, Spear, Peak, and a host of others. and i use each one for semi-specific things.
5) did i mention do your research? there are a lot of interesting mic companies out now: Charter Oak, Chameleon Labs, Cascade, sE Electronics: that seem to make well-reviewed products for a bit less money than the mint you pay for a Neumann or DPA microphone.
end rant. time for coffee and class. AH, in 30 minutes!!!
*There is some good Peavy gear. The Black Widow loaded speakers are pretty good. and, surprisingly, their line array has gotten really good reviews. Still, i seriously doubt it compares to, say, a Meyer or L-Acoustics rig. Probably not even a JBL rig.
**without even naming mics, other than the RCA, i can tell you that microphone set-up, new, is going to set you back at LEAST $15K, i'd guess. The DPA and RCA mic could cost you about $10K by themselves...
***I generally think of dark sound coming from the low-mids and mids. I generally like a high end roll-off, actually, on my vocals as well. dark dark dark dark. LOL