This week on MusicRadar, we've been showing you how to make better beats, sharing our wisdom on everything drum-related, from programming to mixing to sound design.
So far we've covered everything from free drum plugins to experimental beatmakers, but today we're looking at the best acoustic drum plugins for emulating real drum kits and crafting authentic-sounding drum patterns.
1. Toontrack Superior / EZ Drummer 3
Platforms: Mac/Windows | Formats: VST/AU/AAX | Price: €99/€179 | Buy
Choose EZ or bigger brother Superior Drummer and buy into an ecosphere of drum kits, sounds and MIDI grooves for every genre and style you can imagine. You get drum content by the bucketload, most of which sounds stunning, and all the groove-based files you need to create hugely realistic drum patterns with ease. These have made grown drummers cry, ‘cos you may never use a human again.
2. FXPansion BFD 3
Platforms: Mac/Windows | Formats: VST/AU/AAX | Price: £49 | Buy
Some of these have been around for a while, but there’s a reason they’re so enduring and BFD is a case in point. This was so well put together on release that it’s still one of the best ways to get acoustic drum kit sounds and playing, short of getting a session player in. With 50GB of content, and loads of mic and recording options, it set a standard that’s still hard to beat.
3. Native Instruments Abbey Road Drummer
Platforms: Mac/Windows | Formats: Kontakt | Price: £179 | Buy
Just as we lazily lumped EZ and Superior together, we’re doing the same with six titles from NI here. These take in everything from Vintage and ’50s drumming right through the ’70s and ’80s up to the Abbey Road Modern Drummer, all recorded with great kits in the best studio ever. Get all six together for a massive saving too.
4. XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2
Platforms: Mac/Windows | Formats: VST/AU/AAX | Price: €169 | Buy
It’s nearly a decade old (and looks it) but Addictive Drums is probably the only title here that comes close to Toontrack’s EZ series. Like that, you can choose drum kit sounds (ADpaks) and styles (MIDIpaks) over various genres, all recorded and played impeccably. Not cheap, but €169 gets you three of each genre. Just don’t get addicted…
5. Steven Slate Drums
Platforms: Mac/Windows | Formats: VST/AU/AAX | Price: $120 | Buy
There’s a bit of a Superior Drummer vibe going on here and while you don’t get quite the girth of that software, you do get some great in-your-face kits, sounds and playing via 2,400 MIDI grooves across various genres. It’s pretty easy to use too, with a simple mapping tool to assign sounds and a quite decent mixer.
6. Goran Grooves Handy Drums
Platforms: Mac/Windows | Formats: VST/AU/AAX/Standalone | Price: $39 | Buy
They might look simple, but these plugins really are filling a gap by matching beats and kits to produce perfect beat solutions for a wide range of styles. You get Rock Standard, World Percussion, Jazz Standard, Reggae Standard and more. All contain everything you need for the perfect drum mix.