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Just found this board and it looks like I could get some great input here.

My situation is this. I left the music industry about 10 years ago for various reasons. Started writing again and want to build a strong little audio environment at home. Obviously technology has changed quite a bit. I would prefer a laptop environment.

Abilities: I am not a novice. I understand sonics - recorded in alot of studios throughout the country - know outboard gear - always used analog in my day - slaving 3-24 track machines at a time. Engineering-wise, I remember my stuff. My last home studio was adat / cakewalk / mackie board / usual outboard gear / d4 for drums and a loaded proteus orchestral for a tone generator. That set-up did fairly well sonically and was easy to use. Proteus tones were really impressive. I have always worked with Windows but am not averse to going Mac.

Applications: For my songs I will use audio for vocals, guitars and bass only. Recording single tracks and stereo at a time. No live multi tracking applications ever. I tend to use alot of tracks for guitars (acoustic and electric) and many times will use alot of tracks for vocal harmonies. The rest will be midi (strings, keys, drums, horns, etc). As far as tones (strings, keys, horns, drums), I need "realistic" tones. For my needs, my preferences are to find tones as close to organic as I can get. The proteus strings and horns were pretty darn good at the time in my day. Songs will be used for demos to shop. Style is pure pop - top 40. I will be swapping files with friends throughout the country they all use different formats.

Preferences: I would certainly like an interface so that I can manipulate faders manually. I just like the feel of manually moving faders. I do not want to take up alot of room. Minimal outboard gear.

Budget wise I would not like to go above 4-5K. If less that would obviously be good.

I know there is alot to choose from. I have started my research and have had some help from friends still in the industry. I am no longer in a music industry town so I am limited in resources locally for technical input. Just wanted some suggestions from the gallery. I need input on:

Laptop type: Mac / Windows and specs
Software: Sequencer / Plugins
Mics: Have them