Toontrack Superior Drummer 2.0
The big news with SD 2.0 is that it follows the now industry-standard layout, with separate drum kit and mixer views. If you do feel nostalgic for the original version (dfh Superior), the 'main' super-pad screen or 'classic view' can be selected instead, though Toontrack has done away with the convoluted construction pages.
All kit-building now takes place in the main interface, with microphone bleed levels handled on a fader-by-fader basis in the mixer window – clicking the Bleed selector next to a fader opens up an additional Levels tab.
In terms of kit construction, SD 2.0 includes a few basic layouts, and beyond that you can also augment kits with so-called X-Drums. These are essentially extra instruments that you define and allocate samples and mics to – they then appear in the main kit window with a graphic.
You can have a total of 45 kit positions, including those in the presets list, which is pretty impressive and enables truly monstrous designs.
Superior Drummer 2.0's mixer is incredibly well-equipped. With five inserts per channel, 16 routable busses, phase reverse, and mute and solo on all channels, it feels much like a typical DAW.
It's worth mentioning that the mixer retains the Bounce facility. This includes various options for rendering SD 2.0's audio output to a set of individual audio files. Factor in the five Sonalksis-designed effects (filter, gate, EQ, compressor and transient) and you can do much of your sound-shaping within SD2.0.
In typical DAW style, each effect opens its own small window, which floats within SD2.0's mixer page. All five have familiar interfaces, and wouldn't look out of place in Cubase or Logic. Impressively, you can sidechain within SD 2.0's effects using channels and busses.
Although there's nothing immensely complex about any of the effects, in use, the compressor sounds particularly good. It's also nice to see a transient-tweaking processor, as these are great for shaping both close miked hits and drum ambiences.
In terms of sheer power, the filter's Rude setting enables some very aggressive sound-shaping.
SD2.0 ships with the first volume of Toontrack's New York Studio Legacy Series library, which was recorded at NY's Avatar Studios (formerly The Power Station) by Pat Thrall, Neil Dorfsman and drummer Nir Z. It's a 60GB library, reduced to 20GB on disk using lossless data compression. There are also three slimmed down installs available, 4GB being the smallest.
With the full install, you get to choose which sticks (sticks, brushes, rods or mallets) and kick beater (wood, plastic or felt) to use. The basic kit comes from US company GMS, but is augmented by additional pieces.
You get three kicks, seven snares (including a Ludwig Black Beauty), three hi-hats, four rides, five cymbal sets, two types of tom and a cowbell. For added variety, the kit sample recordings include some additional microphone options. These were processed at source to retain phase coherence, and include an 1176-processed snare mic and another with Shure Green Bullet-recorded room ambience, processed via a Boogie amp.
Finally, as well as overheads, there are five room mic options, recorded with Coles, U67 and C24 mics, among others. However, given the additional memory required, not all of these load automatically, even when you fire up the full kit. Once we got the hang of this, the level of variety available – even before we reached for the onboard effects – became apparent.
Although the window itself is dominated by either the drum kit or the mixer, the bottom quarter of the screen remains constant at all times. Here you'll find memory status, master volume, and detailed parameters for each instrument, including velocity parameters and key assignments.
The instrument section in the right corner is the best place to audition kit sounds, as it's context-sensitive (alas, the main kit graphics aren't).
SD2.0 is fully compatible with previous Toontrack libraries, including dfh Superior and EZdrummer. Sadly, you can't mix and match kits freely, though you can add X-Drums to combine elements of different libraries.
Out of the box, SD2.0 is as easy to program as any other drum ROMpler, and with extra snare and hi-hat articulations on separate notes, in time, you'll learn to create convincing drum parts from scratch.
However, if speed is of the essence, the included EZ Player Pro plug-in instrument includes a large library of MIDI grooves. It also has its own multi-layer arranger, and will even convert its MIDI mapping to match other popular drum ROMplers, such as BFD and Addictive Drums. Its drag-and-drop functionality enables you to simply import grooves onto SD2.0 instrument tracks for instant results.
In addition to being used for programming realistic percussion tracks, drum ROMplers are also employed as instruments to be triggered live by drummers playing electronic drum kits. Although designed primarily as a plug-in, SD2.0 includes a standalone host app called Toontrack Solo, and this is your best bet when using an electronic kit.
Select the E-drum preset from the MIDI/controller list and you'll get mapping suited to most mainstream digital drum hardware. If you have electronic hi-hats, you can even fine-tune the response with the CC offset option.
Operationally, SD 2.0 is much slicker than its predecessor, and this isn't just down to the more logical workflow – the engine also seems to have been improved. With instruments of this type, shifting such large amounts of data sometimes results in the odd buffering click or pop, but we experienced none of that with SD2.0.
Ultimately, if we do have any criticism, it's that there is a 'sameyness' to the sound of the library, no doubt imparted by the studio room itself. However, with Volume 2 available in 2009 year, you'll soon be able to add the sound of Allaire and the Hit Factory to the mix.
Overall, Superior Drummer 2.0 is considerably better than its predecessor, and arguably the best product in its class.
Listen to Superior Drummer 2.0 in action:
Slick performance. Library sounds fantastic. Useful included MIDI library. Top quality mixer and effects. Good standalone option for e-drummers.
Library sounds a little samey. MIDI patterns not integrated into plug-in.
Easy to use, slick as you like, and with a 'superior' sound, SD 2.0 has beaten back the competition to claim its place as perhaps the best drum ROMpler going.
All MusicRadar's reviews are by independent product specialists, who are not aligned to any gear manufacturer or retailer. Our experts also write for renowned magazines such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Computer Music, Future Music and Rhythm. All are part of Future PLC, the biggest publisher of music making magazines in the world.
Superior Drummer® 2.0 is a complete overhaul of the original dfh Superior engine but we've made painstakingly sure to lose nothing of the sound quality, attention to detail and musicality that has made the Toontrack® Music drum sampler line what it is.
Superior Drummer® 2.0 has been re-developed for optimized use with e-drums with more effective use of sample layers and much improved loading times. It will include custom MIDI played by Nir Z accessed through the all new customized MIDI engine and arranger EZplayer® pro, it will feature stand alone capacity through Toontrack solo. From premium UK based software developer Sonalksis Superior Drummer® 2.0 has been fitted with, 5-band EQ, high and low pass filter, compressor, gate and transient designer filters.
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