U&I Software MetaSynth 5 (Mac, $599)
Another 2006 winner, U&I Software MetaSynth got the editors' attention with a new release that supports Mac OS X Leopard. This favorite of sound designers offers new tools and processes in most of its sound design rooms. Eleven new resynthesis-instrument modes beef up image synthesis. The Spectrum Synth lets you restrict most processes by pitch range. The Effects room adds convolution to the crossfade effect and lets you render to disk, which overcomes the 6-minute sample-editor memory limit. The Montage sequencer now has 24 tracks, and you can apply Effects room processing directly. Best of all, MetaSynth is more CPU-efficient, and its diverse processes are more fully integrated.