I can't speak for other recovery firms, but yes, for the most part we do utilize highly specialized, expensive tools. Specialized because nearly every drive manufacturer has their own quirks, which means we have tools just for Maxtor, WD, Seagate, etc. Expensive, because what we need is generally fabricated specifically for us. The data recovery industry does not share it's technology among one another for the most part, which means we have to be pretty self reliant. I would say for the most part, all of the big data recovery companies pretty much utilize the same type of software utilities, both commerically available and proprietary since no single solution works in every case. For example, we have at least 14 different recovery methods we utilize.
As far as pc3000 is concerned, this is something that is probably not used nearly as much as people think it is. You can really only use that tool in very specific situations, and even then you have to be extremely cautious, since you can easily render the data completely unrecoverable. I would say that this is probably one of the most dangerous tools out there, but if you have 12-15K to spend and play around with it, then I say go for it.