If you read the excellent interview with RedOne over at Electronic Musician (the producer behind Lady Gaga’s material), he is just using a MacBook Pro laptop and Logic. Nothing else. Big sounds.
Sometimes I feel marketing is pushing new aspiring producers — the ads tell them that they need all the Waves plugins plus zillions of software (and hardware ) synths just to get started. That’s a good job of a marketing department!
Really, all you need is a good Mac laptop plus Logic (get the full Pro release). Add an Apogee One for output and some recording (guitar, voices, anything.) and a cheaper 49-key or so MIDI keyboard, pick one you like playing. Or get a smaller 21-key in case you travel around. All set. Write good songs. Don’t worry about mastering. Logic’s tool give you good enough mastering if needed, if unsure outsource it to many companies and individuals that nowadays do mastering for a reasonable price.
The total sum of all this is manageable for anyone who saves a little bit money or works fulltime.
Did I mention that you need to write good songs?