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Guitar Rig 2 Software Edition

Pick a component from the left, drag it to the right, and you're ready to rock. Guitarists used to say that nothing beats a good effects pedal - digital guitar amp and effects emulators just can't match the results. Then came Native Instruments' Guitar Rig, a guitar amp and effects emulator that impressed with its ability to make sweet music that's just as good as that from its analog counterparts. Guitar Rig 2 offers even more effects and amp emulations in a friendly interface. Get in line to get your copy, you purists.

DiscLabel 4.1.2

DiscLabel has more design tools than your typical disc label software. Label your CDs and DVDs like a pro.You put a lot of effort, time, and consideration to make that music mix CD for your sweetie or BFF, so don't ruin it with a Sharpie and illegible scrawl across the top. For about $33, DiscLabel makes it easy to create professional-level labels for your discs.

XRB

Over 2,000 percussion samples to send 'em to the dance floor. XRB is a collection of 2,007 invaluable percussion samples for Mac musicians who specialize in dance music. The drum samples include excursions into Latin and vaguely hardcore beats, but the majority are catchy dance-floor riffs, each with a number of variations so you don't have to chop the basic loops. The variety and sound quality are excellent, though there are a few nutty moments (cats squealing and women groaning, for example). Of course, with a little treatment to hide the samples' origin, these could add spice to a dance track.

TuneView for iPod

For such a pricey iPod accessory, it doesn't look very iPod-esque. Keyspan's TuneView is an iPod dock and remote control combo that lets you listen to your music on your home entertainment system. Unlike other products of its ilk, this remote has a color LCD that lets you navigate your iPod from your La-Z-Boy. Unfortunately, the remote's dated, inelegant design detracts from the overall package.

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Audio Stereo Tower

For people who like their speakers tall, dark, and handsome. You already know that you have many choices - too many, really - when it comes to speaker systems for your iPod. There are a few things you might not know about mStation Audio's Stereo Tower, a 100-watt floor-standing iPod speaker and dock with a built-in 5.25-inch dedicated subwoofer. First, it's a substantial piece of stereo equipment: It isn't overly large (43 inches high by 14 inches wide), but it seems much heavier than its 21 pounds. It will fit nicely in a corner of your living or family room, but unless your taste in interior décor runs to the bachelor-pad, black-leather, chrome-and-glass-end-tables motif, it might not exactly blend in. That said, a black iPod looks pretty sweet perched on top of the extruded aluminum and black metal Tower.

JBL Spot

Is hot pink too garish for you? JBL offers other Wrappers for their Spot, as well. You listen to music to suit your mood, so why shouldn't your speakers reflect your mood as well? JBL's Spot speakers have interchangeable plastic shells called Wrappers that you can switch out on a whim. You get two sets of Wrappers with the Spot: one black, one white. JBL says it plans to offer Wrappers in different colors and designs, but hadn't made good on the promise at press time. We hope the company doesn't wait too long - spring is here and we're already a little bored with black and white.

iWow Plug-In for Mac

iWow's interface is a lot easier to use than iTunes' equalizer. And it's a looker. Discerning listeners tend to cringe at the audio quality of music from the iTunes Store, which uses lossy compression on its music files. They're faster to download, but at the cost of sound quality. Just when audio snobs thought the iTunes Store was off-limits to their sensitive ears, in swoops SRS's iWow Plug-in for Mac to improve the sound quality of your digital music.

Analog Factory

You get 2,000 classic synth sounds in one AU instrument. It may be a high-tech world, but if you're a musician, sometimes the occasion calls for low-tech sounds. But acquiring older synths is a pain in the wallet, not to mention that they take up a lot of space, they're difficult to program, and they require a lot of maintenance. Thank the music gods for Analog Factory.

Tunes Explorer

No more flying blind with iTunes. Until now, we haven't found an ideal remote for using iTunes on a Mac. Even the Apple Remote (also used with Apple's Front Row), like many iTunes remotes, is missing one major feature: You can't see the song that's playing unless you're close enough to your Mac's display to read the iTunes window. So when the Tunes Explorer arrived in our offices, it seemed like our prayers were answered - the Tunes Explorer has an LCD, albeit a tiny one.

SFX Machine Pro

Who needs a fancy interface when the app is so powerful? Audio effects are a blast to create, but it's not easy to find an affordable equivalent of a Swiss Army knife for doing just that. SFX Machine Pro is a one-stop shop for audio processing at a reasonable price - and it makes sweet sounds.