Some people think that four tracks are too basic but hey, if it was good enough for Bruce Springsteen, then its good enough for anyone.
It wasn't good enough for Brian Wilson! However there is a good point being made here, the equipment you require largely depends on the kind of music you wish to make. Bruce Springsteen may have been a great songwriter, but pushing the sonic envelope was not really his thing. It all depends on how ambitious you are with your sound.
Having a large amount of tracks and effects at your disposal is not neccesarily a good thing for all artists. Complexity can be distracting rather creatively stimulating. I know I often spend too much time experimenting with what my software can do instead of sitting down and just writing a track, not that this presents any real problem to me as I just like messing around with creating tracks for fun rather than being particularly serious about it.
The thing about taking the software route is that its ultimately cheaper in the long run if you intend on extending your sound. Want a new effect? just download one of the many free VST plugins out there, no expensive paying for hardware compressors, chorus effects, etc.
Want to get a really cool synth sound? a copy of Reason, Rebirth or one of the many Native Instruments packages is far cheaper than a new hardware synth. Purists may scoff, but I defy all but the most trained ears to distinguish between a "real" TB-303 and a well written soft synth emulating that sound.
Not that I'm dismissing the hardware recording route completely, in fact I'm considering using it in the future. The thing is I use a desktop PC rather than a laptop, which is much cheaper, but not very portable. I have been thinking about using some kind of solid state recording device when I want to record in another location. Solid state devices have the advantage of being a bit more robust than a laptop, tape or minidisc recorders because they have no moving parts. Ideal if you want to incorporate "found sounds" (for "found sound" read cheeky live bootleg sampling). Then take the recordindgs and edit them later on the PC.
The thing is there's not many good small solid state recorders on the market. Then only one I can think of is the Tascam pocketstudio which isn't that small:
It would be nice if someone came up with a small solid state recording device that could record decent (if not perfect) quality audio. I have been even looking at those tiny USB pendrive/dictaphone/mp3 player type devices. Anyone know what kind of quality of audio they can record. I'm not expecting the same quality from them as using a proper mic and 4 track, anyone have any idea how good/bad they are though?