When you are looking for a creative processing, what plugin's do you use?
Do you often find yourself using Reaktor, Max, PD or any other modular languages? How often do you find yourself programming in them?
I often use Max/MSP. I know the quality isn't as good and getting the right sound can be very time consuming, but I really enjoy the process. I find it fun and rewarding, it's like a puzzle. I also feel that you're not limited to the developer's UI, you can just add a little something (even randomly), which can really change your sound for the best.
i <3 Max
I use lots of tools and plugins, just keep experimenting and collecting plugins. A great collection is Michael Norris' SoundMagic Spectral. It may seem over the top for some but its really great for creating some creative sounds.
I use AudioMulch for my sound design because I can bring in a variety of sources from Pd, SuperCollider, Soundfiles, Live Input, and mix them all in any fashion. The linear processing in DAWs are too rigid for my purposes, especially if live input is involved. I'll then setup a file recorder in AudioMulch or send it out to another recorder or software.
My next choice would be getting Reaktor and trying out ensembles and building some of my own. But the trouble with building your own is when you need to create a sound, its usually too late to start building one already. You need to know what interesting ensembles you can build in your free time.
I've learnt programming in Super Collider and Pd and it isn't the easiest thing. More often than not, I'm referring to books like Curtis Roads' Computer Music Tutorial to get break downs of synthesis and processing. I'll then build my patches based on a combination of techniques.
as of late, I grew to be a (so to speak) hardcore Ableton Live user - it sped up my workflow tremendously as compared to Cubase or Logic, but that's just my $0.02...
however, speaking of Live, one has to have a look at Max for Live, which I think is one of the really huge innovations in sound and music production, at least as far as the recent past is concerned.
even more than Live, I'm a homegrown Max/MSP programmer and actually I can see no large sound quality problems here if you do it the right way... the only problem maybe is to find a way to the optimal sound which can take a while.
but even more than creating sound effects I use Max for interfacing every kind of input to any kind of output... in the context of Ableton Live this can make even more sense because most of the time-consuming, nasty work to fiddle with the timeline is done by Live... so most of the time I find myself programming little MIDI effects that combine e.g. video input with my creative workflow, or arpeggiate on a given melody, etc. etc.
that said, I also use it (to a somewhat smaller degree) to prototype my own sound effects. i hardly ever use it, though, to build my own instruments, because IMHO Live comes with all the tools you need to do that.
when i need really creative sounds - i use Reaktor. Simply love it and moreover i use it more often than when its really needed. Because its easier than Max and other languages in "hot start" understanding, a complex and fast to build your own devices or any chain and many many pros reaktor have. Instead of poor Max quality as many of us mentioned above, Reaktor offer a really competetive and transparent sound quality. I know and use Max too but its 1 time in a year. Reaktor community is also more opened and full of things.
I've tried to use both Reaktor and PD, and I plan on learning... it's actually next on my list of things to do. I don't know what it is, but it's so weird for me to wrap my programming brain around my music and sound brain.
SuperCollider is my weapon of choice for creating new sounds. I actually like it cause it's non visual programming, which makes it harder to learn but in the long run can be more flexable. I've also used PD but have an issue with the sound quality, I find it very clicky and harsh. This was a few years ago though so maybe it has got better.