In times gone by, drum machines offered a completely new and exciting battery of percussive sounds and computerised sequencing that spawned whole new genres and transformed existing ones. Many designers intended for their drum machines to replace acoustic drums, but in reality, they sounded very little like the real thing - and ultimately we loved them all the more for it.
As sampling became cheaper and more powerful, classic drum machines rocketed up in price and began to find themselves being replaced in the studio by sample banks, which, perhaps ironically, were often packed with sounds derived from them. Thankfully, many people hankered after the creativity and real-time modulation that synthesised percussion offers, so plug-in emulations came to the market, bringing these advantages (and more) to the virtual world.
Whereas classic drum machines rarely offered much beyond tuning and release time adjustment of hard-wired sounds, the new generation of percussive synths do considerably more. Novices can quickly get to grips with the customised interfaces of this new generation of plug-in, while seasoned programmers can revel in their enhanced controls and convenience.
In this round-up, we’re looking at some of the best virtual drum synths out there. Let’s get into the groove.
NEXT: Audio Damage Tattoo
Audio Damage Tattoo
The Damage’s first foray into virtual instrument design offers easy synthesis, a clever step sequencer and a mod matrix to take things up a notch.
A Roland TR-909, -808 and -606 emulation offering accurate synthesis, step sequencing and the added bonus of being able to load your own samples.
A tweaker’s dream with deep sampling functionality and synthesis. Since we reviewed it, updates have cured some of the issues that previously held it back.
Definitely the elder statesman of the group, but far from outdated. Note that it’s only available in the Waldorf Edition bundle, which is what the price refers to.
Sonic Charge MicroTonic 3
The third incarnation of this percussive powerhouse is not only one of our favourite drum synths, it’s also one of the phattest virtual instruments of any kind.
D16 Group Drumazon
One of a trio of drum machines from D16, this is a turbocharged Roland TR-909 emulator, adding more juice to almost every aspect of that classic machine.
The FL Studio developers remind us that they do pretty nifty instruments too with this semi-realistic physical-modelling effort.
Combining a variety of virtual analogue and physical modelling techniques, this creative monster is reminiscent of Reason’s mighty Kong drum machine.