Steinberg announces and releases Groove Agent 4

Without so much as a pianissimo drum roll by way of fanfare, Steinberg have upgraded their Groove Agent 'auto-drummer' plugin to version 4.

One of the German giant's more… unusual virtual instruments, Groove Agent has expanded far beyond its original ultra-simple (and not hugely impressive) premise with every new iteration since v1, and the latest looks to be the biggest single leap forward yet, with a completely redesigned interface and feature set that opens it up into a broader system in the same ball park as XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2 and Toontrack EZdrummer 2.

Like GA3, Groove Agent 4 is divided up into three 'Agents', although they've been renamed Acoustic, Beat and Percussion, and up to four of them can now be combined in a single instance of the software rather than just two.

The Acoustic and Percussion Agents are built for the playback of one-shot drum and percussion samples, either triggered by MIDI or the powerful Style Player that's served as the beating heart of Groove Agent since v1 and now boasts over 3800 grooves.

The Beat Agent, meanwhile, is for the synced playback, editing and slicing of loops, as well as groove extraction and "one-click drum replacement" via the Drum Classifier, which intelligently recognises kicks, snares and hi-hats within loops.

Agent of change

Fuelling the three Agents is a library of more than 22,0000 samples (three multisampled Acoustic kits, over 20 Percussion instruments and 100 Beat Agent kits are included), covering a comprehensive range of genres; and full pattern editing is - at last - in place, doing away with the need to record GA's MIDI output into a host DAW for editing.

Proper mixing has also been incorporated into Groove Agent 4, with the Acoustic Agent boasting a dedicated mixer that gives full control over 20 mic channels (with bleed options), six groups and four auxiliaries. As well as EQ, compression, saturation and envelope shaping on every mic and group channel, 29 insert effects are onboard, too.

Unsurprisingly, Groove Agent 4 integrates nicely with Steinberg's Cubase DAW, featuring drag and drop of patterns between the two in both directions, and automatic drum map creation. It also includes mapping templates for the standard array of e-drum kits.

On paper, then, this is clearly the deepest, most powerful Groove Agent yet, and we're looking forward to getting our sticks on it. You can download the upgrade (VST/AU/standalone) from Groove Agent 3 to 4 right now in the Steinberg Shop for £82. The full, boxed version should be in the shops imminently, priced €179 (£142).