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My favorite drum vst instruments

Best Drum VSTs: My Favorite Sampled Drum Kit Plugins

Over the course of my more than ten years producing music for my band and others, drum VST plugins have been instrumental in my workflow when writing and making songs. And if you’re a drummer with an electronic kit, these plugins are often needed to get the most out of your drum brain, since most included module sounds are terrible.

One of these plugins always makes it into my projects unless I’m recording real drums (and in that case I’ll most likely use drum samples).

1. EZ Drummer 3

The latest iteration of EZdrummer3 is built for accessibility. It’s sleek and easy-to-navigate. Even if you’re not a drummer, the software makes it easy for producers and songwriters to add drum parts without knowing how to program.

Toontrack EZdrummer 3

The ultimate drum VST plugin for songwriters, guitar players, and electronic drummers. Approximately 15GB of drums, cymbals, and percussion sounds.

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In addition to a big library of around 15GB of drums, cymbals, and percussion sounds, the software has a bunch of MIDI grooves and fills that you can easily drag-and-drop into your session (along with additional expansions if you want more).

  • Drum sample engine with over 230GB of raw, unprocessed sounds
  • Captured at Galaxy Studios
  • Recorded by the legendary George Massenburg
  • Recorded using 11 surround microphones
  • 35 studio-quality insert effects
  • Built-in grid editor

A lot of the drummers in bands I work with use EZdrummer 3. It’s a fantastic-sounding drum plugin that’s not overly complicated and has tons of awesome expansions. When I do programmed drums for albums, the drummer can send me their MIDI data, whether recorded with an e-kit or programmed by hand, and I can pop it right into the session without having to worry about mapping.

EZ Drummer 3 Interface

An interesting feature is the built-in Band Mate mode. It allows you to upload a WAV file of music (guitar, bass, keys), and EZdrummer3 will generate a custom drum part tailored to the input.

I also love EZDrummer3’s integration with electronic drums. Using the software with my Roland TD-50 module is a breeze, as the software has pre-programmed mapping layouts for most drum modules. The sounds are incredible and are far better than those in almost every e-drum module available.

My favorite feature, leads us into the next drum VST plugin. EZdrummer3’s core library and additional expansions are compatible with Superior Drummer 3, which is my go-to drum plugin in the studio when working with bands who use programmed drums.

2. Superior Drummer 3

SD3 is one of the best drum VST plugins available. Superior Drummer 3 was meticulously recorded by George Massenburg at Galaxy Studios in Belgium—it’s an impressively massive 230GB in size.

Toontrack Superior Drummer 3

The best drum sampler around boasting 230GB of sounds captured at Galaxy Studios by the legendary producer George Massenburg.

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SD3 includes six drum kits, additional percussion instruments, and approximately 350 vintage drum sounds. The drum sounds are phenomenal, especially in some of the expansion packs available from Toontrack.

Toontrack took this library a step further than it’s predecessor by recording an additional eleven separate room microphones set up in surround for a truly lifelike experience. Superior Drummer 3 offers the most realistic drum sounds you can find in a drum VST plugin. It’s also a blast to use alongside an electronic drum kit.

Toontrack-Superior-Drummer-3-Interface

When I work with bands, I use SD3 as my primary drum engine. In my Cubase session, I route the audio from Superior Drummer 3 out of the sampler and into my individual DAW channels. This allows me to mix within my DAW, not needing to worry about the plugin interface. I can also use other plugins on each individual channel, like Waves SSL Channel Strip.

Not only does this make mixing a breeze, I have full control over the sound I like when using SD3 for drum programming and samples. From here, I’ll use Slate Trigger2 on the kick and snare when necessary for additional sampling.

Superior Drummer 3 is also compatible with EZ Drummer 3 libraries. I use expansion libraries from both softwares, so good on Toontrack for making these compatible (SD3 libraries do not work with EZDrummer 3, so don’t think that this will work in reverse).

Of all the expansions Toontrack offers, the best ones by far are Alt Rock EZX, Big Rock Drums EZX, Pop Punk EZX, Custom & Vintage SDX, Fields of Rock SDX, Hitmaker SDX, Legacy of Rock SDX, and The Rooms of Hansa SDX—all of which I own and use on pop rock productions daily.

Superior Drummer 3 also has the best product installer I’ve used to date. The Toontrack Product Manager lets you download and activate both SD3 and any expansions you end up buying—the interface works great and I’ve never experienced a headache when installing libraries (I’m looking at you Native Instruments…).

Pros

  • Incredibly-recorded libraries
  • Useful built-in tools
  • Fully-functional mixer with EQ, compression, verb, and more

Cons

  • Takes up a lot of space
  • Limited type of stick choices
  • Big learning curve

3. Addictive Drums 2

Addictive Drums 2 is another one of my favorite acoustic drum VST plugins that I tend to use on a lot of sessions with bands. The samples sound incredible, and XLN continues to add expansion packs.

Addictive Drums 2

Addictive Drums 2 from XLN Audio is the perfect all-around rock and pop drum library plugin, featuring incredible libraries to choose from and a great sampling engine.

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The Custom XL bundle includes the Addictive Drums engine along with your choice of six ADpaks, six MIDIpacks, and six Kitpiece paks. My favorite kit currently is United Pop. It’s perfect for modern production.

While I use a multitude of different drum VST plugins (like GetGood Drums, for instance), I find myself coming back to Addictive Drums 2 the most.

The plugin includes a simple-to-use user interface complete with a mixer. Typically I don’t utilize the mixer included with sample libraries, as I route the outputs to Cubase, but the option’s there if you need it. I typically use AD2 when making quick demos of songs with my band.

The interface loads fast and it’s simple to choose a preset that works with almost any genre of music. Like SD3, Addictive Drums 2 also works great with your electronic drum kit.

Pros

  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Tons of great-sounding add-on packs
  • Built-in FX engine
  • Lots of MIDI packs available for songwriters

Cons

  • Some presets are overly processed
  • MIDI is quite different than most GM mappings

4. GetGood Drums Modern & Massive

I’ve raved about GetGood Drums before. The sample libraries from Nolly and the guys are a go-to for me when working on demo productions for heavier songs. These drums are punchy and are perfect for heavier metal/rock productions. Just like AD2 and SD3, GetGood Drums offers extremely realistic drum sounds.

GetGood Drums Modern & Massive

Bands on the heavier side looking for big drums recorded in an incredible room, look no further. Modern and Massive has radio-ready drums for your productions.

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The drum software plugin is built on the backs of the Matt Halpern packs, which to its credit, is also a wonderful library I own. Here are some of the features:

  • Perfect for contemporary rock and metal
  • 9 snares, 6 kicks, 14 toms, two sets of cymbals
  • Minimally processed for full creative control
  • One-knob “turbo” for instant radio-ready production
  • Trigger via electronic drums or program your own MIDI
  • Awesome GUI
  • Blend close and far mics to taste
GetGood Drums Modern and Massive

Pros

  • Raw and processed samples included
  • Mix-ready drums

Cons

  • Requires use of Kontakt
  • Limited customization in the GUI

5. Steven Slate Drums 5

If you browsed internet forums in the late 2000s, there’s no doubt you’ve already heard of Steven Slate. Steven Slate Drums 5, aka SSD5, is the latest iteration of Steven Slate’s drum VST plugin library. SSD5 comes with a whopping 103 kick drums, 111 snares, hundreds of tom/cymbal/percussion sounds, and 1,000 grooves.

Steven Slate Drums 5

SSD5 is a high-quality sample pack perfect for rock, country, and metal. A plethora of expansions are available for the software, as well.

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Some features include:

  • A streamlined interface — super easy to load your favorite tones
  • Advanced playback algorithm
  • Deluxe 2 drum library — 50 new instruments, 10 new kicks and 10 new snares
  • Easier routing
  • Fader grouping
  • Live preview — quickly audition sounds by clicking an instrument in the browser
Steven Slate Drums 5

In addition, there are plenty of expansion packs you can download from producers like Chris Lord Alge, Terry Date, and David Bendeth. SSD5 is one of the best drum VST libraries around.

Pros

  • Light load on CPU
  • Easy routing to DAW
  • Tons of great MIDI loops

Cons

  • Poor user interface
  • Feels dated
  • Sounds may be overused, less unique

6. Room Sound – Beau Burchell

With Beau Burchell’s Signature Series Drums, you can program or play the drum kit of your dreams. Room Sound’s Beau Burchell features a realistic room sound and allows controlling the individual mic channels and bleed for a truly immersive experience.

Room Sound Beau Burchell

Tons of great sounding kit pieces with a built-in mixer with a large library of MIDI grooves included.

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The drum VST plugin allows you to build your own custom drum kit with 26 unique pieces, including samples of drums. You can customize each drum to your liking by adjusting pitch, envelope, and MIDI dynamics, creating a one-of-a-kind sound.

One of the standout features of this VST plugin is its 16 individually controllable close, overhead, and room mic channels. This level of control over the mix allows for an incredibly realistic sound that captures all of the nuances of a live performance.

Room Sound Beau Burchell

With full bleed controls, you can further enhance the realism of your drum sound. The plugin also includes presets created using the internal mixer and effects, making it easy to mix your audio.

In addition to the comprehensive control over your drum sound, the VST plugin also includes a large library of customized drum grooves. You can audition and select drums in the kit select area, and there is a customizable key mapping page for alternate MIDI mappings and electronic drum kits.

7. Drumforge Classic

Back in 2015, I helped in the making of Drumforge Classic, sampling the drum shells in a studio in Madison, Wisconsin. For many years, an instance of Drumforge made it onto 99% of all Vinyl Theatre demos prior to heading into the studio with our producer Joel Wanasek.

Drumforge Classic

An award-winning collection of drum sounds—shells sampled by yours truly.

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The kit 1 preset is actually my original Pearl Export Select series drum set I took on tour with me for six years with Vinyl Theatre. It wasn’t the most high-end kit around, but we were able to get it tuned to perfection, and tons of producers have used that kit preset on albums.

The sampler makes it easy for songwriters to get high-quality drum samples on recordings without the need of a world-class room or high-end microphones and pre-amps. The plugin loads very fast and all of the sounds are either “radio-ready” (mixed), or unprocessed.

Drumforge Classic

Being that it’s been out for almost ten years, the interface is slightly dated by today’s standards, but at the end of the day, it’s the sounds and functionality that matters most—Drumforge delivers.

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