The MUSE comes bundled with a decent software selection, although it does not
include any games, even in a demo version. And that really reflects just who
this card is being marketed towards when you see it's being bundled with many
multimedia and MP3 music utilities.
This is the stripped down (and free) version of Sonic Foundry's Acid. Actually a quite innovative and usefull tool for creating little sound clips. It works by sequencing pre-recorded loops together and hopefully turn out "music". Unfortunatly this is the free version which anyone can download from the Sonic Foundry website.
Your basic MP3 player/ripper, nothing too special not bad for new users. It does offer a nice visuals via Geiss, basic CD burning and basic CD ripping/MP3 compression. A nice simple layout eye grabbing visuals make EarJam not a bad program at all. But it tries to offer too many features and ends up not exceling in any area, the ripping and burning features are nice, but don't offer enough options and features to make very usefull. Lastly, we experienced quite a few crashes and freezes with EarJam, most related to larger playlists (20+ songs) and the Geiss visuals.
Siren Jukebox Xpress
Yet another title from Sonic Foundry, this is a different sort of MP3 player and ripper in one. Jukebox is a complete music library management suite with a quite intutive sorting system which allows you to quickly make a pretty advanced playlist. Jukebox supports CD ripping to both MP3 and WMA formats, although the trial version is limited to 20 rips. Also includes not a bad burning system, enough for new users, but advanced users will want to stick with Nero and the like. Once again, this is the free version which anyone can download.
Yamaha XG Studio
This is the shining star of the entire software bundle. This MIDI "studio" from Yamaha comes with an enormus instrument set, and kicks out some beautiful sounding music. The driver itself is fairly customizable, allowing you to specify the instrument set size, maximum CPU usage, output quality, etc. Remember that this is a software based synth, so older systems may experience high CPU usage, but on our P3-800 testbed, CPU usage was neglegable.
MIDI is one area where this card really shines. Combined with the included Yamaha XG driver, the MUSE kicks out some of the best MIDI I've ever heard, easily surpassing that of the SB Live! cards. Quite a feat for a low-end card such at this. For a budding composer, the MUSE is an excellent starting point, both for the cost and surpurb playback. I found it interesting that no games were included in the software bundle, usually manufacturers use games to showcase their products capabilities. Nevertheless, the included software (barring the Karoke system) is actually not too bad, EarJam IMP turned out to be much better than expected, and XG studio was an eye-opener.