The whole MSVC editor-is-my-debugger thing is such a massive win that it really hurts to step back from it to the bad old days of separate debugger.
I did one thing that sort of helps - I run my test app in a loop, and when it finishes each test, I unload my SPU image, wait for a key press, then reload it and repeat. This lets me rebuild my SPU ELF and just reload it and repeat. This avoids a lot of test cycle time, but only works until you have a crash so it fails a lot.
The ability to just do stdin/stdout to/from a console from the PS3 is pretty awesome. It lets me write my test apps as if they were just command line apps and run them from my PC.