Toontrack EZdrummer 3: What is it?
In what feels like a very long time ago, but not necessarily in a galaxy far away, Toontrack created the original EZdrummer package, to provide DAW-based musicians with the ability to combine great drum performances in a MIDI format, with ultra realistic-sounding drum samples. Back then, there were some very pessimistic musicians and producers, questioning exactly how good this concept could really be. That question was answered very swiftly, with a fully resounding “it’s unbelievably good!”.
As the years pass, the EZdrummer ecosphere has grown to huge proportions. With a vast array of sample expansion and MIDI groove packs, EZdrummer has proven to be a monster hit for many styles and genres of music, from pop, funk and jazz, to the heaviest of metal.
The latest addition to this lineup sees EZdrummer move to its version 3 incarnation. Make no bones about it, for existing users, this is a sizeable update, while anyone jumping on the EZ bandwagon for the first time is going to be utterly delighted.
Toontrack EZdrummer 3: Performance and verdict
Let’s begin with the basics; EZdrummer 3 ships with 18GB of all-new content. This includes a sizeable number of new MIDI Grooves, encompassing a considerable number of stylistic genres.
It will come as no surprise that the vast majority of data is related to the drum samples themselves, and again these are all new to the EZdrummer series, but with a small degree of association with its bigger brother, Superior Drummer. A couple of years ago, Toontrack conducted some major sampling sessions, for the creation of its SDX expansion library called ‘Rooms of Hansa’.
Based around the legendary Hansa Studios in Berlin, this library has been one of the most successful to date. So why wouldn’t you go back to these studios, enlist the help of supremo producer Michael Ilbert, and take full advantage of some of the finest sounding drum spaces in the world?
It’s important to stress here that these are all-new samples and not a repeat of the Hansa SDX suite. What we get is a beautiful combination of seven different kits, recorded in three different rooms; the Main Room, the Bright Room and the Tight Room, all under the watchful eye of Ilbert, who has also curated a superb set of signature production-ready mixes. There’s also a matching complement of percussion instruments, such as tambourines, shakers, cowbells and even claps, snaps and foot-stomps.
Unsurprisingly, each and every room and kit sounds stunning, leaving the user to merely load their desired kit, with the option of swapping out individual instrument elements, at will. Another important point to make is that with the ability to swap out kit components, there is considerable variety. Not all of the components might resonate with your production style, that is until you suddenly find a place to use them! It’s really due to the fact that you have the choice to either go with a tight snare or the next time a deeper toned snare, that makes this package so appealing.
The characteristics and behaviour of the drum elements can be so radically different from one room to the next. There is plenty of diversity to provide you with a palette which is usable, to the greatest possible degree.
Grids and Grooves
Moving away from the samples for a moment, it is very clear that Toontrack has been listening intently to its users, and in doing so has initiated a significant number of new features and improvements, to allow for easier editing and more realistic performance.
One of the most obvious additions to EZdrummer 3 is the inclusion of a Grid Editor. While this will be nothing new to DAW users, it now opens up the possibility for use within the EZ realm. You can now build your song template, within EZdrummer 3, and then edit as desired. Moreover, new humanise facilities allow the potential to engineer even greater levels of controllable humanise.
The extent that which you might make use of this grid editor is obviously dependent on your way of working, and whether you prefer to keep things within the DAW. We have to point out that in employing some of these features, the ability to drag and drop into the DAW and maintain those levels of realism, is not only useful but something of a coup.
First seen in EZDrummer 2, the Power Hand parameter allowed easy embellishment of leading drum parts, such as ghost notes on a snare. With EZdrummer 3, this has moved on a level, with the addition of smart AI algorithms, that intelligently and musically alter the way these components interact. As before, this can be dialled in sympathetically, and once applied can be exported out to your DAW, although it is also easy to build a song construct within EZdrummer 3, and get it to sync and play along.
Staying with the intelligent angle, the new Bandmate feature allows the drag and dropping of MIDI or audio, requesting EZdrummer 3 to compile and suggest appropriate grooves to accompany your analysed file. It’s actually quite an impressive and useful feature, which can act as a clever springboard to creativity, without halting the writing process.
Mix it up
All of the other EZdrummer stalwarts remain, such as improved easy access to grooves via a very easy to read menu hierarchy, and a newly refashioned mixer, which is clear and concise. There is simplified control of bleed elements, and of course, it is fully expandable, in line with the entire EZdrummer brand. That has always been one of the selling highlights for us; the ability to expand as you go, although EZdrummer 3 is in no way lacking impressive and highly usable content. It sounds pretty awesome, with a level of realism which is one of the best in class. Toontrack continues to push those boundaries while maintaining exceptional quality throughout.
MusicRadar verdict: EZdrummer has always been the drum suite of choice, and the update to EZD3 merely seals the deal. It is stunningly good!
Toontrack EZdrummer 3: The web says
"This is already my personal choice for virtual instrument of the year. EZdrummer 3 is fantastic!"
Sound on Sound (opens in new tab)
Toontrack EZdrummer 3: Hands-on demos
Audio Tech TV
Toontrack EZdrummer 3: Specifications
- 18GB free disk space (plus 18 GB for download).
- 64-bit Windows 7 or newer, 4 GB RAM (8 GB RAM or more recommended).
- macOS 10.10 or higher, Intel or Apple silicon processor, 4 GB RAM (8 GB RAM or more recommended).
- A 64-bit host (with support for VST 3, AU or AAX). Standalone is included.
- CONTACT: Toontrack (opens in new tab)