GoranGrooves Handy Drums: What is it?
It’s one of the most frustrating slogs we face as producers, trying to find – and fit – the appropriate drum samples for our projects. It’s particularly troublesome if you’re operating outside of the electronic world and are hungry to inject some brutal, real-world sounding rock drums, spritely jazz rhythms or bouncy reggae beats. Finding the samples and kits that don’t sound like samples (particularly when they’re placed among other real instruments in your mix) can all too often be a long-winded task.
GoranGrooves understands this annoyance all too well. With its Handy Drums, it has produced a range of immaculately recorded drum kits, housed within genre and style-specific plugins. Formerly a content producer for Singular Sound’s BeatBuddy Premium Library, Goran Rista has painstakingly recorded a large range of kits, and applied his expertise when considering the appropriate spatial characteristics for each.
GoranGrooves Handy Drums: Performance and verdict
The watchword for Handy Drums is simplicity, and that’s apparent from the moment you load the plugin, either within your DAW or as a standalone program. As there is a massive choice of kits within the Handy Drums range, we settle on trying out a few markedly different sounding options – namely Rock Standard, World Percussion, Jazz Standard, Reggae Standard and Studio Legend.
Firing up Rock Standard first, and A/B-ing with a demo backed by a simple Logic Drummer kit instantly impresses. The air, punch and clarity of each drum element of the Rock Standard – particularly the booming kick and cutting snare, are simply head and shoulders above Logic’s default. As Goran states, these kits are mix-ready.
• Toontrack Superior Drummer 3
More of an all-in-one drum engine, this features a colossal library of drum sounds, kits and sound processing effects. Produced by the careful ears of one George Massenburg.
• XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2
The opposite of Handy Drums in terms of its scalability, Addictive Drums 2 is expandable with a variety of expertly recorded kits, and grants a heap of sonic options and spatial manipulation tools.
The UI’s simplicity might cause those who enjoy fastidiously moving mics around a virtual space to sniff, but for those of us who’d rather outsource that consideration to the more experienced ears of someone who’s been doing it for years, Handy Drums delivers a guaranteed, considered level of quality across the board. As well as accurately tuning the kits for each genre, the natural ambience of the room has been recorded by Goran at the same time as the kits, while each drum’s multiple dynamic layers result in a pretty authentic kit sound.
Also enhancing the legitimacy of the kits is the fact that there are 12 round robins per drum, making each distinct hit ever so slightly different in flavour than the previous. This culminates in the impression of a drummer hitting each drum with minor variations each time. Something many other ‘realistic’ VIs never quite nail.
While the UI grants simple volume controls to increase/lower the kit’s constituent parts, under the hood a series of over 50 hard-working samplers and nifty algorithms keep the individual samples in simpatico. Throughout our tests we never noticed any clipping or struggling to keep pace with our shifting tempo, even when aggressively swinging between extreme bpms and more leisurely paced plods.
Style and substance
Though it’s clear Goran knows his way around a kit, rhythmic percussion of the handheld variety is also captured with exceptional accuracy. Within World Percussion, we can explore a range of more non-Western percussive options, including a superb Udu, Cajon, Cowbell and Djembe. Switching back to a more conventional kit for Jazz Standard, and sultry sounding hi-hats and slinky snare inject our experimental jazz-funk project with a stylish cool.
On the subject of hi-hats, one particularly slick aspect of Handy Drums is the ability to adjust the openness of the hi-hats via MIDI CC. Rista’s self-designed system manipulates just two notes (tip and edge), and grants the ability to scale different variations of hi-hat style with the MIDI keyboard’s mod wheel. This approach streamlines something that was previously more of a time sink of assigning notes to each articulation. Mod wheel control however allows for a more realistic scaling – allowing e-drummers to think more naturally and find a natural sweet spot for their hats, somewhere between tightly closed and fully open. This can be regulated further by accessing the Variable Hats Controller Curve graph in the Settings menu.
Little drummer toy
Auditioning and switching out kits is easy, simply using Handy Drums as the driver of your pre-existing samples (as there aren’t any full kit samples included in the VIs – though ten MIDI drum loop packs are available separately) is pretty painless. There’s also the option to build up individual drum components, which can be volume/gain manipulated on the front page of the UI, then mapped via the key-mapping panel, here we can assign different drum elements to different notes/pads, while the Output Routing panel allows for up to eight stereo outputs for each drum.
Get your groove on
While Handy Drums provides a top-down means of injecting a virtual pro drummer into our existing tracks, GoranGrooves also offers a range of MIDI drum loops. Dubbed ‘Handy Grooves’, these loops take the simplicity ethos of Handy Drums into an easy to apply groove-carving domain, whilst also containing a range of manipulable layers including Rhythmic Patterns, Instrumentation, Microdynamics and Groove Timing.
Out of the box, these loops sport lifelike human deviations, as well as subtle ghost notes on the snare. The ability to alter the articulations, swap out notes and get more surgical on how these beats are made up provides us with a much deeper way of exploring these kits. Handy Grooves is a nice, if inessential, accompaniment to Handy Drums, but if you want to delve further in, they snap together beautifully, particularly when you meld the appropriate genre-flavoured grooves with their respective kits.
From impactful, room-shuddering thuds of the rockier-tilted kits, the mesmerising textures of the World Percussion pack and the unmistakable syncopated bop of the Reggae Standard, what we have here is the easiest access to a range of kits that have clearly been expertly pored over, and bottled with absolute precision. While there will undoubtedly be many who need a drum VI with more scalability, for those for whom the series is aimed – those needing pro drums, quickly and painlessly – the Handy Drums range delivers in spades.
MusicRadar verdict: A veritable platter of beefy drum kits and vibrant percussion instruments that are ready and eager to slot themselves into your musical world, the Handy Drums series is a no-brainer for those who need a solid rhythm section – no questions asked.
GoranGrooves Handy Drums: Hands-on demos
GoranGrooves Handy Drums: Specifications
- Size: 657MB
- Format: VST/AU/Standalone
- CONTACT: GoranGrooves (opens in new tab)