Hi FRM! I was hoping no one saw my post since I misread the date and accidentally revived a couple year old thread - guys my age should ALWAYS wear glasses at night
Since you asked, ...happy to offer an opinion. $6-$8K goes a long way today; it's enough to invest in new ("prosumer") equipment that will yield truly pro level results.
For $7K, one can buy enough gear to multi-track and mix a full band. Here's one suggested path to be specific:
DAW and Computer
$300 Protools DAW license
$1200 computer (Protools users typically chose Mac - based on legacy prioritized SW releases tested on Apple machines)
$1500 Antelope Audio Discrete 8 interface, 24 bit/192 Khz, 8 built-in mic pres, lots of I/O, and reference quality analog monitor outs. Internal DSP runs included plug-ins - low latency and easy on CPU usage. Excellent A/D, D/A performance with great clock stability (proprietary designs).
$800 outboard mic/eq pre for vocal chain. Warm Audio '73 is an outstanding value.
$800 Klark Teknik 1176 KT and L2A (compressor and limiter)
$400 Shure drum pack, 3-SM57s and a Beta 52A
$800 AA pair of CM48 condensor mics
$100 Shure SM58
$900 Presonus Sceptre 8 coaxial monitors
$70. AKG 240
$300 cables, stands, pop filter
There are more quality choices today than ever. While gear is critical, having great players with well cared-for instruments making lush in-room sounds is the number one prerequisite to quality recordings. To capture it requires expertise including managing the acoustic environment that will ultimately determine the quality of the recording.
Today's DAWs with a good plug-in suite allows one to "fix it in the mix" to a degree but getting good sounds into the machine as close to mix-ready is actually easier in a home setting (since your not paying by the hour to track) and yields better results.