i've been having alot of luck recently getting good sounds out of the Mercury1 (vsti) and something called the Muon Tau pro (vsti)
i haven't heard alot of people talk about these two (well i have heard some people say they use the Mercury...) at least not as much as people using absynth/fm7/etc...
but i rate them pretty fucking well for what limited production experience i have.
the Mercury is the more complex of the two - i think its modeled after the korg MS2000 hardware synth. its got a bunch of knobs and shit to fiddle with. and you can shuffle thru the presets till you find an interesting patch, then start mangling it yourself...
as for the Muon tau... it pretty straightforward... not sure how to describe it. try googling it to get some info. the same developer makes a couple other similar, simple synth vstis that also sound pretty good. i have found it to be really nice at creating both warm subby basses and techy, grimy stabs/b-lines/synthlines. and i think the sound quality is pretty hot... especially with some post-processing... and it doesn't eat up much of your 'puter's processing power to run.
i've made "tester" tracks using sounds i created on these two bits, just to play at our weekly nite on a *banging* sound setup... and i was really pleased with the way the sounds came out.. pm or email me if you would like to hear some examples.
just a couple of my recommendations, if you're looking for something other than absynth/junoX/etc...
I reckon its a good idea to start with summin like absynth or Junglist vst, at least then you will get the feel for analogue synths, they are both easy to understand.
If you are like me and dont particulary know what sound your after, just one that it sticks with the tune your prodding then absynt/junglist is enuff, if you are after a particular sound find out how the bass is made then download a demo synth and see what you can come up with.
e.g i wanted to know how T-10 bass was made, i tapped into google and found a forum where there was a post suggesting an ohmboys plug. Im not sure if the info was true or not but after hours of trying i failed! With a few more year experience of using absynt/junglist i will probably be able to understand the bass and hopefully produce the sound on absynth , if its not poss moving to an ohmboyz will be lot easier.
anyway the plug i suggested was quad-frohmage.... you wanted to put an LFO on the filter cutoff frequency... could be done with other plugs but this way works out easiest (plus you have the cool ass distortion on there aswell)
With any synth its fairly easy to make half decent patches. If you want to make a clean low bass line mess around with sine waves and phasing. I recommend using reason to get the hang of using synths, Then progress onto pastures greener!!