12 thumpin' VST/AU kick drum plugins

D16 Group Punchbox
(Image credit: D16 Group)

Today’s software-based producer has access to a plethora of tools for emulating acoustic kick drums and synthesizing electronic ones, from dynamically responsive sample players and virtual classic drum machines, to innovative new instruments and generators that could only exist in the box. 

It's minefield and you don't want to put a foot wrong when deciding the best kick drum tool for you.

We have carefully curated some of today’s leading software options that delve into modern kick drum design and mixing. So here are the top 12 picks on the market today.

Native Instruments trK-01 £89

Native Instruments TRK-01

(Image credit: Native Instruments)

NI’s intriguing new Reaktor Player instrument is dedicated to generating kick drums and synth basses. The Kick engine comprises two layers, each hosting one of three highly focused synths or a sample player into which your own or any of the 80 included samples can be loaded. 

Read review: Native Instruments trK-01

FXpansion BFD 3 £279

FXpansion BFD 3

(Image credit: FXpansion)

An amazing, complete ‘acoustic drum studio’, boasting seven beautifully recorded kits, tom resonance and cymbal swell modelling, awesome effects, excellent sequencing, the impressive Rudiments tool, and preset grooves by some of the greatest drummers around.

Read review: FXpansion BFD 3 

Sonic Academy Kick 2 £50

Sonic Academy Kick 2

(Image credit: Sonic Academy)

An amazing, complete ‘acoustic drum studio’, boasting seven beautifully recorded kits, tom resonance and cymbal swell modelling, awesome effects, excellent sequencing, the impressive Rudiments tool, and preset grooves by some of the greatest drummers around.

Read review: Sonic Academy Kick 2

XLN Audio Addictive Drums €170

XL Audio Addictive Drums 2

(Image credit: XLN Audio)

With its streamlined GUI and famously easy workflow, Addictive Drums puts three multisampled kits (others available via purchase) at your fingertips, including lovingly captured kicks by Gretsch and Drum Workshop. Solid mixing and effects processing are a bonus.

Read review: XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2

Plugin Boutique BigKick £40

Plugin Boutique BigKick

(Image credit: Plugin Boutique )

Combining a sampled ‘click’ (Attack) stage with a synthesised ‘sustain’ (Body) portion, BigKick is quicker and more straightforward to program than Kick 2, but obviously not as flexible. More than 300 Attack samples are included, providing a wealth of starting points.

Read review: Plugin Boutique BigKick

D16 Group Nepheton €50

D16 Group Nepheton

(Image credit: D16 Group)

With its evocative historic connotations and beautiful analogue sound, Roland’s TR-808 might just be the greatest drum machine of all time. Nepheton emulates it near-perfectly, including that subtastic kick, which is as popular with urban producers today as ever.

Read review: D16 Group Nepheton

D16 Group Punchbox €79

D16 Group Punchbox

(Image credit: D16 Group)

Described in the review as a “bass drum design powerhouse”, this one gives you a synth and four sample layers to mix into your ideal kick, the former offering TR-606, 808 and 909 emulations, a sine wave or a sampler; the latter getting their own sample libraries. Knockout.

Read review: D16 Group Punchbox

Initial Audio 808 studio $69

Initial Audio 808 Studio

(Image credit: Initial Audio)

This unusual synthesiser is entirely geared up for the generation of 808-style kick drums and sub-bass tones, based on two oscillators, each drawing on 70 waveforms, and with 200 production-ready presets included.

Read more: Initial Audio 808 studio

Native Instruments Battery 4 £169

Native Instruments Battery 4

(Image credit: Native Instruments)

This veteran drum sample player is packed with hefty kick drums for house, techno, hip-hop and many other styles, and lets you import your own via drag and drop. It’s also very well endowed in the processing department.

Read review: Native Instruments Battery 4

Vengeance Sound VPS Metrum £89

Vengeance Sound Metrum

(Image credit: Vengeance Sound)

The original ‘one synth and three sample layers’ kick drum plugin, Metrum is powered by a big library of over 1800 attack samples, a tweakable sine wave generator with pitch and amplitude envelopes, and a full-on modulation system.

Read review: Vengeance Sound VPS Metrum

Toontrack Superior Drummer 3 £305

Toontrack Superior Drummer 3

(Image credit: Toontrack)

2017’s version 3 overhaul put Toontrack’s incredible drum kit ROMpler back in the limelight, with 230GB of massively multisampled kits onboard, plus the Tracker drum replacer and a ton of other stuff.

Read review: Superior Drummer 3

Intelligent Sounds & Music Bazzism €30

Intelligent Sounds and Audio Bazzism

(Image credit: Intelligent Sounds and Audio)

There’s not a sample in sight with ISM’s cheap-as- chips kick drum synth. The pitching, sweeping and envelope-shaping controls are easy to get to grips with but also broad in range, and it can even be pressed into surface for basslines, too.

Read more: Intelligent Sounds & Music Bazzism

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