The mad ax lab: Variax Workbench lets you concoct any flavor of guitar from scratch. Line 6 has made a name for itself creating simulations of a wide range of guitar amplifiers and stompbox effects. When used with an amazing Variax guitar, the Variax Workbench software and dedicated USB interface lets you play Dr. Frankenax, mixing and matching the pickups from a Fender Stratocaster with the body of a Gibson Firebird, in dropped D tuning with a capo. It's beyond good - divine is much more appropriate.
Massive's main editing screen is a study in intuitive interface design, offering stellar internal signal routing options. With a name like Massive, you'd expect this software synthesizer to have an extremely expansive sonic presence. And that's exactly what this beauty delivers. Even though it's deep enough for the most devoted sound programmers, it's easy enough to use that you can start doing some serious damage right out of the gate.
The iKaraoke can connect to your stereo via cable, or transmit your voice to your FM radio over the airwaves. When you've been dumped, there's nothing quite as cathartic as belting out a rendition of "Love Hurts." In fact, we're pretty sure that's how some of the first-round contestants on American Idol got their start.
Toast's DVD-burning options aren't nearly as comprehensive as iDVD's, but they're great for quick burns. Toast 8 Titanium nails all of our disc-burning needs with support for nearly every format and situation we can imagine, but it almost loses focus, including several utilities and features that you may not need. As multitalented as Toast is, we wish we could buy it with just its robust burning options.
This is Live 6's Session view, the interface which you use to mangle your audio files on the fly. During long-winded debates with your devoted-to-vinyl DJ friend, launch Ableton Live 6, load a few beats and some media clips, and start mixing. Then let DJ Luddite give it a try. The next challenge will be figuring out how to pry DJ Ozzy Oldschool away from your Mac.
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.
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.
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.