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Thread Is it me?

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1 Is it me?
I've been recording for 3 years with my home rig. I never seem to get the high quality sound I'm looking for. My gear seems ok...see below. I spend up to 50 hours mixing 1 song only to get a very wimpy sound overall.

I believe the configuration of my gear is ok. I record at 44.1k, 24 bit. No latency problems. Everything works as expected. After I mix and export to a master, it sounds just like it does when I play back in my sequencer. It sounds ok on my monitors, sounds ok on my stereo, the car, etc. But when I A-B it with other other recordings (professional or otherwise) there's no comparison. My recordings are dull, low volume, the instruments are mushed together, wimpy sound overall.

It's like I'm missing something. Like there's some magical plugin out there will make your mix sound big and full and warm. I doubt if that's actually the case but what is it? Is it just me? If my ears are that bad, then how come I can tell the difference between a good mix and a bad one?

Should I be recording on a PC? I know 2 people with Mac's that get amazing sound. Should I get a dedicated digital recorder? I don't know...

Here's my gear:

-PC clone w/XP, 2.6 GHz CPU, 1 GB RAM
-M-audio Audiophile 2496 Soundcard
-8 Channel Alto mixer
-Apex 460 mic
-Cakewalk Home Studio
-Kontakt v1.5 sampler
-Various DXi and VST plugins
-Line6 pod xt for guitar
-Gigs of samples and loops

a mixdown is always dull and low volume if compared to a professional recording.

professional recordings are mastered for maximum volume and optimal sound.

yes, mastering is easier to do on a pc (although mastering is NOT easy), that is probably the reason your freinds get such an 'amazing sound'.

and remember, very few people have "absolute hearing", its a one-in-a-million gift.

The rest of us do like you do: A/B compare. It's the best way to get best results. :)