Typical of me...I sell off gear thinking I'm no longer in the business, and then I get projects in the door. I already had MOTU Mach Five (this is a very powerful tool), and like it, but needed more stuff to do the projects. Of course, my shopping budget is tight, so instead of new hardware... Software to the rescue. I tried these software synth things, bought some, tested others: Crystal - Free software. Yes, free. Powerful, sounds good, but uses a LOT of computer processing power. Unless you have a dual processor machine, you won't get the most out of it. MX4. Motu's software. Uses less horsepower from the computer than crystal, sounds great, easy to get around on. Very cool rhythmic things synced to tempo, plus arpeggiation, etc. After demoing it, I'm buying it today. It's a really nice product. Motu Symphonic Instrument. Bread-and-butter orchestral sounds, easy to use, and the sounds are substantially better than what comes on most keyboards, but are limited in number. Still, this is an effective tool for writing and the sounds are good enough to be useful in a track. By way of comparison, I formerly did my orchestral writing with my old Kurzweil 2500 simply for speed and ease of selection, and then printed the final tracks with my higher end samples, which took longer to select. With this tool, you don't have to do that. What you write with is usable. There just aren't enough sounds for me to say, "wow, this is IT." But I no longer have the 2500, or my 2000, so it's a reasonable substitute, and I have Mach Five to load samples from my libraries. Uses a lot of processing power, tho. Still, I bought it. Native Instruments Absynth. Great sound, presets are very..um...creative...but brought my computer to its knees. EQ/Dynamics - Tested ChannelStrip. I'm not sure about this one. On some things, it's good, on others merely okay. I think I like the Waves stuff better. Maybe I'm just used to it, since I've had it for years. So that's my report.