With modern computers as powerful as they are, and off the shelf software capable of competing with professional studios, cutting your own album from home is a relatively inexpensive and simple task. All you have to do is browse Jamendo.com or MySpace to see how many artists have gone their own way. Brad Sucks jumps to mind and is definitely worth checking out.
The biggest problem with recording on a computer are noises that you don't want to hear. If you use the microphone input on a computer's sound card, it will require certain amount of gain to bring the volume up from your microphone. Being amplified at the computer level means that it can also amplify any other noises nearby. Often you'll hear hard drive noise and perhaps EMI produced from spinning fans.
Consistent noises are the easiest to remove, but certainly in the case of hard drive noise, it can be erratic and nearly impossible to eradicate. Of course, if you're only using your microphone for Skype then this is perfectly acceptable. But when it comes to recording audio, you'll want something a little better...
By using a preamp and turning the gain off on your sound card, you are amplifying the signal before it hits the computer. Hopefully, this will reduce or perhaps even eliminate the noises that your computer makes.
In reality though, or at least from my experience using a Shure SM7A microphone and Behringer preamp, there is still plenty of white noise that will find its way into the recording. Every time you use noise reduction filters, you run the risk of affecting the quality of the recording. This is really noticeable when you are multi tracking - layering up several sounds on top of each other. You can hear the hiss increase in volume as each track kicks in.
And this is where the Shure PG27USB microphone we have here comes in, as it solves so many problems at once that you'd have to pay me to move back to an analogue setup.
Much to Riyad's excitement, the first thing I'm going to do is commend Shure on its packaging. Although it looks like a fairly standard cardboard box, it uses foam cut outs similar to those you'd find in aluminium carry cases, specifically designed and shaped for the microphone. This means you can reuse it if you happen to be on the move a lot. If that's not enough, the company also includes what looks like a faux leather padded pencil case, which the microphone comfortable nestles into.
A 3m USB cable is also included - an ample length - as well as an adapter for fitting the mic to a stand. You will need a microphone stand to properly use this device and Shure offer a number of accessories to this effect. I attached it to my own swing arm, much like you see in broadcast studios.