audio software

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.

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.

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.

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.

Guitar Pro 5

The intuitive interface lets you focus on your music. Guitar Pro is a favorite among guitarists for composing and sharing musical scores, and it has a resource-rich workshop for honing your guitar chops. But until recently, it was only available for that other operating system. Version 5 now runs on the Mac.

FM8

FM8 finds its roots in the Yamaha DX7 synthesizer. FM (Frequency Modulation) synthesis is the foundation of the incredibly popular Yamaha DX7 synthesizer, which ruled the '80s music charts and is best remembered for the clear, bell-like sounds accompanying any number of corny dance hits. Native Instruments pushed this idea to the limit with FM8 - and while it's not exactly our one-stop, desert-island sound plug-in, this thing has more useful sounds than you can shake from a rain stick.

B4 II

True-Sounding Virtual-Organ Software

Podcast Like a Pro

1. PODCAST TRACK: Manage an enhanced podcast's artwork and Web links here.2. LOOP LIBRARY: Click the eye icon to load your loops.3. TRACK EDITOR: Flips into Chapter Manager mode when the Podcast Track is present.4. ART-ANNOTATED CHAPTER MARKERS: Spice up your audio podcast.5. MUSICAL TYPING: Play your Mac's keyboard like a piano.6. MEDIA BROWSER: All of your other iLife stuff is right here.7. DUCKING CONTROLS: Twiddle the arrows to set which tracks cause others to duck in volume. 

Reaktor 5

Merge John Horton Conway's Game of Life sim with Reaktor's Newscool Groovebox, and you get a groovy beat box. Reaktor is a guiding light for the do-it-yourself sonic set. The latest version extends the app in crucial ways, with awesome new sounds, a load of fresh building modules, and mounds of examples - expect this monster to keep you busy for the next 10,000 years or so.