This is without a doubt the best sequencer for your money. It's gorgeous UI is inspiring. It sounds better than cubase. I'm getting a great clear sound. There are a TON of features and there is a new version, XT2, on the way!. I found XT easy to learn since I also use synthedit, alhough video tutorials are available, can't beat that. There is also a dedicated forum for help which usually is quick. For what energyXT does there is no better deal out there. energyXT is also a lot more stable than cubase on my system. I wont penalize for presets because I really don't believe it applies here.
I have not tried energyXT as a VST plugin yet, because it works so well as standalone application. I simply ditched my old sequencer for this new wonderful application. I am very greatful for the low price that I could afford. I feel as if i'm building my own virtual recording environment when using energyXT. It's quite easy to get comfortable using it because it's so customizable. There are many skins to apply on the GUI and if that's not enough you can even make your own! I honestly don't know what I'd do without it.