It's all kicking off
Static sampled bass drums are all well and good, with plugin effects and your DAW's editing features giving you endless options when it come to customising them; but when you want full control over your kicks, a dedicated instrument is often the best option.
The six examples we're going to show you here each have samples, synthesis or a combination of the two at their core, and offer a bespoke set of controls that make the process of designing kick drums easy and intuitive. Perhaps most importantly, though, they all sound fantastic.
Without further ado, then, let's get kicking…
Sonic Academy Kick 2
The original Kick was a simple yet effective affair, essentially letting you combine a sampled 'click' transient with a synthesised 'sub', then tweak the results in a fair amount of detail in order to design and refine characterful kick drums for your electronic productions.
Kick 2 is a far more flexible animal, based on a much cleaner synth engine that exhibits less aliasing distortion - basically, generating a purer sound than that of the previous Kick synth.
The internal effects are a bit of a let-down, but there aren't many dedicated kick drum synthesizers that come close to this level of sophistication and tweakability.
FULL REVIEW: Sonic Academy Kick 2
Plugin Boutique BigKick
Combine a synth sub layer with a click/top/character kick layer, tune the layers to fit, then sculpt the results with built-in EQ, overdrive, hard clipper and “Punch” control.
You can drag and drop between BigKick and your DAW to import and export audio to and from your projects.
FULL REVIEW: Plugin Boutique BigKick
Metrum features a low-end kick synth, plus three - yes, three! - sample layers for blending in the perfect amount of character and attack. It’s crammed with useful features, too: two filters per layer, three distortion models, a two-band EQ, envelopes, drag and drop sample import, a randomiser and an output limiter.
FULL REVIEW: Vengeance-Sound Metrum
Producer's Choice 808 Warfare
The TR-808’s bass drum is a legendary sound, forming the backbone of countless hip-hop, R&B, pop, house and techno tracks. Aimed at the true 808 connoisseur, this Kontakt 5 instrument is full of meticulously recorded and processed 808 kick drum samples.
READ MORE: Producer's Choice 808 Warfare
Many kick generators feature sample layering of some kind, but BazzISM is strictly a bass drum synthesiser. With a number of controls for tailoring the sound, it puts unique and personalised kicks at your fingertips, and can even turn its hand to bass sound synthesis.
READ MORE: ISM BazzISM
The latest kick drum plugin on the block, PunchBox takes a similar approach to that of its closest rival, Sonic Academy's Kick 2, mixing a synthesized layer with three sample layers, then processing the result with effects, to create sonically rich bass drums of all kinds - although in this case, the synth can be switched out for yet another sampler, too.
The controls can be a little fiddly, but with its enormous sample library, intuitive but extensive parameters and effects, and 800 tagged presets, it's a bass drum design powerhouse, and hours are easily lost blending and tweaking the four layers in the quest for the perfect kick.
FULL REVIEW: D16 PunchBox