Spectrasonics Trilian (Mac/Win, $279)
When the third shoe finally dropped in Spectrasonics'' major upgrades of its flagship virtual instruments, it was instantly clear that it was worth the wait. Trilian far outshines its predecessor, Trilogy, which was already at the top of the class of sampled bass instruments. Start with 34GB of exquisitely sampled acoustic and electric basses, including some special instruments like the Chapman Stick and the Epiphone Viola bass. Add Spectrasonics STEAM Engine''s deep processing architecture, and you won''t run out of sounds anytime soon. But where Trilian especially shines is in playability. Everything you need is under your fingertips, such as extensive velocity layering and all manner of artifacts: slides release noises, finger squeaks, etc. A robust selection of keyboard layering and keyswitching performance options brings it all together. Trilian puts the feet on the music.