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8 Awesome Drum Simulator Plugins

Virtual drum software allows you to quickly and easily create realistic sounding drum tracks using samples and grooves performed by actual drummers on high-quality kits that were recorded in world-class studios.

Whether you’re a singer-songwriter looking for a rhythmic foundation to write a song, or a producer looking to add some realism to your drum sound, here’s a roundup of the most popular virtual drum plugins on the market.

Toontrack EZdrummer 2

Toontrack’s EZdrummer 2 is the number-one selling drum software production tool in the world. Designed as a quick and easy way for guitarists to lay down drum ideas when songwriting, EZdrummer 2 includes a full library of MIDI grooves performed by professional drummers as well as drag-and-drop templates with pre-made song structures. Add, remove or change parts by dragging in new groove presets or creating your own unique MIDI parts. Drag a MIDI groove into the “Song Creator” window and EZd2 will suggest other grooves with a similar feel, allowing you to create cohesive songs in seconds.

EZd2 features five complete kits split into separate “Modern” and “Vintage” libraries, and over 40 expansion packs featuring new samples and MIDI grooves designed for jazz, country, hip-hop and more. Grooves are highly flexible and can easily be changed using EZd2’s editor. Reimagine grooves by dragging the “Power Hand” icon over the drum or cymbal you want the drummer the use as the lead instrument.

Although the samples in EZd2 are designed to be record-ready, the onboard mixer is packed with presets for effects chains including compression, reverb, delay and EQ. After perfecting your drum tracks, simply drag them into your DAW as MIDI or export them as a .wav file.

Toontrack Superior Drummer 3

While Toontrack’s EZdrummer 2 is meant for guitarists looking to quickly put together record-ready drum tracks, Superior Drummer 3 is designed for hours of in-depth tweaking. Packed with over 230 GB of raw, unprocessed sounds; SD3 offers even more control and processing than it’s younger sibling. Toontrack makes it really simple to cross-grade platforms and allows you to transfer your sounds and presets from EZd2 to SD3.

Showcasing enhanced songwriter functionality like multiple song tracks for different versions and advanced grid editing features like a built-in piano roll editor; SD3 is one of the most in-depth drum production suites available. Upgrades from EZd2 include the ability to use your own custom samples and a more detailed mixer with advanced routing capabilities, including separate channels for mic bleed.

SD3 also allows you to drag-and-drop drum audio tracks into the “Tracker” window to identify hits, replace sounds or even convert entire drum tracks to MIDI. SD3 doesn’t just use a transient detector to trigger samples — it’s programmed with artificial intelligence to more accurately detect drum hits.

In addition to the massive drum library, SD3 is compatible with dozens of sound and groove expansion packs.

XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2

XLN Audio released the original Addictive Drums software back in 2005 and they’ve been working on perfecting it ever since. Addictive Drums 2 combines meticulously recorded drums from legendary studios with authentic performances by professional session drummers.

Choose from sample presets or build your dream kit from scratch using the intuitive drag-and-drop interface. Select from over 5,000 beats, fills and grooves using the “Sound Ideal” slider to select from natural-sounding or extremely affected grooves.

Transform your beats using the onboard sampler, loaded with EQ, compression, transient shaping, distortion, reverb, delay and even a dedicated bus for parallel processing. And if you still can’t find the right sound, explore XLN’s ever-growing library of expansion packs for additional samples and grooves.

XLN also offers great support for electronic drums and works out of the box with most models, making it a great option for drummers looking to create high-quality beats in their bedroom.

Steven Slate Drums

Steven Slate is well-known in the audio community for his Slate Digital plugins, but Slate got his start in 2006 as “the drum sample dude” with his first pack of Slate Drum Samples. Since then, Slate has released a variety of drum production software, including his most recent: Steven Slate Drums 4.

SSD4 features 100 preset drum kits recorded with extreme precision and detail, including Slate’s classic mix-ready samples reprogrammed for better playability. SSD4 also includes hundreds of preset grooves for rock, metal, jazz, urban, dance and even vintage genres. Drag-and-drop samples into the mixer and easily adjust mic levels, tuning, panning, ADSR envelope, velocity and range. You can even add up to 32 custom samples for additional sonic variety.

SSD4 also supports a variety of electronic drum kits as well as any MIDI device. You can even customize key mapping to create the perfect drum kit for your needs.

Slate Drums recently announced that Steven Slate Drums 5 is due out “Spring 2018” and will include hundreds of kits, thousands of grooves and a new algorithm for more dynamic drums. The latest update is set to include “more drum sounds than any other program”.

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Native Instruments Studio Drummer

Native Instruments introduced their legendary Kontakt sampler in 2002. Now Kontakt 5 hosts one of the largest libraries of sampled instruments available — including Native Instrument’s own Studio Drummer.

Studio Drummer allows you to create dynamic, authentic high-quality drum tracks using three drum kits recorded at legendary Teldex studios in Berlin, and over 3,500 grooves and fills in a wide range of genres.

Adjust the playing style of your drummer from robotic precision to loose and groovy with the Tightness control. Use the onboard mixer to control levels for each drum as well as separate mono and stereo overheads and room mic controls. Apply EQ, transient shaping, bus compression, tape saturation and even convolution reverb to every channel.

Studio Drummer can be used with the free Kontakt Player, so there’s no need to purchase Kontakt 5 or Komplete 11. Native Instruments also offers additional drum and percussion libraries for Kontakt from Abbey Road that operate using the Studio Drummer interface.

FXpansion BFD3

FXpansion was founded in 1999 and released the original BFD in 2003 — a revolutionary acoustic drum sample instrument years ahead of its time. FXpansion recently introduced the third generation of their flagship acoustic drum studio software, which features over 160GB of samples — each with over 80 layers of velocity.

Four of the kits for BFD3 were recorded at Ocean Way Studios using a vintage Neve, while the other three kits were recorded at Omega Studios. BFD3 includes raw and processed samples, allowing you to sculpt your own tone or grab something that sounds great right out of the box. Uniquely, the processed samples use BFD’s built-in effects, allowing you to tweak them to taste in real-time.

FXpansion also sells over 40 different expansion kits ranging from metal to jazz to Japanese percussion.

Free Drum Production Software

There are plenty of other drum studio plugins out there, including free options like Sennheiser’s DrumMic’a plugin which loads inside of the free Native Instruments Kontakt Player and features options for Sennheiser or Neumann mics.

MT-PowerDrumKit 2 is another free option offering powerful, high-quality sounds of a realistic acoustic drum kit. Samples have been specially processed to make them ideally suited for use in Pop, Rock and Metal productions.

Most DAWs also feature some form of built-in drum processing as well, such as Pro Tools’ BOOM or Logic Pro’s Drummer.

Now that you’re familiar with the most popular drum production software on the market, the only thing left to do is drop a beat!

*drops microphone*

(Just kidding. I would never do that…)

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Brad Pack

Brad Pack

Brad Pack is an award-winning audio engineer, writer and educator based in Chicago, IL. He helps musicians become artists by creating sustainable careers in the music business. Brad holds a Master's Degree in Electronic Media Production from Central Michigan University. When he’s not in front of his laptop, Brad can be found in the mosh pit. Follow him on Instagram or get in touch on his website.

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