9 recommended drum software packages
Toontrack Superior Drummer 2.0
Drum software has evolved greatly over the past decade, and the current crop of virtual kits and drum machines are all capable of detailed sound editing and creating grooves ranging from cerebral jazz to foot-stomping funk and bone-crunching metal. But which one is best for you, your budget and the way you work?
To save you the legwork and expense of hunting down the hottest software, we’ve rounded up nine of the best packages available today. For an in-depth look and OS requirements for each product click through to the full review at the bottom of each page. First up: Toontrack Superior Drummer 2.0...
Easy to use, slick as you like, and with a 'superior' sound, SD 2.0 has beaten back the competition to claim its place as perhaps the best drum ROMpler going.
The included MIDI library (if a little samey), mixer and effects are particularly useful.
Now read: Toontrack Superior Drummer 2.0 review
XLN Audio Addictive Drums
This drum studio package offers three main features: drum samples, production tools and grooves. It ships with three complete kits (a Sonor Designer, a Tama Starclassic and a DW Collector’s Series) plus lots of extra drums and cymbals. Samples include nuances from the softest to the hardest hits, and many stroke variations.
All of the sounds were recorded with a multi-channel mic setup and you can adjust the tuning and characteristics of each sound, as well as the amount of EQ, reverb, distortion and compression to be applied. It boasts an attractive, intuitive user interface.
Now read: XLN Audio Addictive Drums review
Although potentially complex, BFD2 is an excellent package and a big step up from v1.5. It’s more reliable, easier to use and should be strongly considered by anyone looking for a virtual acoustic drum kit.
It also boasts a massive sound library - just watch out for the large disk footprint that comes with it.
Now read: FXpansion BFD2 review
Although a watered-down version of Toontrack’s massive Superior package, EZdrummer has more drum sounds and MIDI patterns than you can shake a drum stick at.
A friendly interface visualises the drums loaded and combines auditioning and kit construction. An internal mixer allows the module to work in both stereo and multi-track mode without the user having to step out of one version of the plug-in and into another, and gives control of levels between mics and ambience and overhead mic leakage.
A good package for beginners but for state-of-the-art drum sounds look elsewhere.
Now read: Toontrack Funkmasters EZX review
Native Instruments Battery 3
A state-of-the-art drum module with a huge array of sounds and editing capabilities. It has a 12GB sample library with 100 drum kits covering a massive range of styles. Alongside the expected rock, pop and hip hop kits you’ll find setups dedicated to jazz (including a brush kit), reggae, vintage soul, hard rock, electronic and avant-garde sounds and ethnic percussion.
Countless effects and performance articulations help create realistic or even bizarre effects. Import your own samples and create kits containing up to 128 different drum sounds, each with up to 128 different velocity variations.
Now read: Native Instruments Battery 3 review
Steinberg Groove Agent 3
This popular package boasts a large library of tweakable drum and percussion grooves covering more than 100 popular styles, all syncable to a sequencer’s song tempo. You can import your own sounds and create your own kits.
GA3 also includes Special Agent, offering realistic acoustic kits and Percussion Agent for percussive grooves and sounds. Dual Mode allows you to use two Agents alongside each other. This is easily the best, most powerful and flexible version of Groove Agent yet.
Now read: Steinberg Groove Agent 3 review
East West / Quantum Leap SD2
This impressive package is packed with big drum sounds that can really beef up your percussion tracks. Some of the more unusual instruments include Tibetan and Chinese gongs, Indonesian hand drums, giant log drums, hang drums, anklung, a waterphone, an 80 ft metal bridge and the largest floor tom ever built - 42"x 42", built by Remo especially for the project.
The sounds are superb and their expressivity is impressive. Useful MIDI performances are also included. It’s an awesome package.
Now read: East West / Quantum Leap SD2 review
It’s an insanely powerful concept, handles loops as well as hits and allows the user very detailed control over each sound, but still the latest version of Linplug’s RM doesn’t quite live up to expectations.
Still, with a little bit more polish (starting with the user interface flaws, clunky loop handling and synthesis methods) it could yet become the dream drum machine that we hoped for.
Now read: Linplug RMV review
Toontrack EZplayer Pro
EZplayer Pro is a multi-track MIDI organiser, arranger and format conversion tool that allows you to organise MIDI drum clips. You can use EZplayer Pro to preview the clips and drag and drop them directly into your sequencer and the multi-track arranger allows you to rearrange your MIDI clips.
It’s easy to use and a handy tool for anyone who works extensively with MIDI beats.
Now read: Toontrack EZplayer Pro review