Updated: March 10, 2021 by Richard Cole
After the frustration of having to find a good drummer whenever I needed to record, I decided to make my own drum tracks with drum VST plugin. A drum VST (Virtual Studio Technology) plugin allows you to easily and quickly make realistic sounding drum tracks with the aid of samples and grooves performed by experienced drummers on high-quality skits that were recorded on state-of-the-art studios.
Let’s explore some of the best drum VST plugins available on the market, so you can easily choose what suits your needs.
Our Top Pick for Those in a Hurry
We especially recommend the XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2. It has excellent features that set it apart from the rest. You can use it on any kind of music. While it is a bit expensive, it’s worth every penny you pay for it.
The Best Drum VST Plugins Reviewed
XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2 – Best of the Best
Our choice for the second-best drum plugin is Addictive Drums 2 from XLN Audio. If you want a sound and feel that is as close as possible to a real acoustic drum kit, you can’t go wrong with the Addictive Drums 2 plugin.
- Three drum kits – Black Velvet, Fairfax Vol. 1, and Fairfax Vol. 2
- At least 5,000 MIDI grooves, allowing you to make drum tracks in various styles
- Tone Designer and Transient Shaper for fine-tuning the character of drum sounds
- Excellent delay and reverb effects
- Power equalizer
- Beat Transformer to make MIDI grooves match your track’s rhythm
- Grid Search to easily find the appropriate MIDI groove
- Easily drag and drop finished drum parts straight to your desktop or DAW
Addictive Drums 2 gives you a wide range of options when it comes to creating and fine-tuning your drum tracks. You can create excellent tracks for virtually any type of music. You can use the Transient Shaper to add or remove snap.
Then you can employ the Tone Designer to get a perfect amount of dampening. The built-in EQ, reverb, and delay allow you to refine your drum tone. You can also introduce new dimensions to your drum tracks with specialty Trigger kit pieces such as sine wave, white noise, and one-shot samples.
This software also comes with a large MIDI groove library, in addition to an easy way to find what you want by filtering for a category, library, time signature, or tempo. You simply drag and drop the MIDI groove into your DAW.
Another remarkable feature of Addictive Drummer 2 is the ability to download ADpacks. These are expansion packs that give you more drum sounds, including pop, metal, electronic, indie, R&B, rock, funk, jazz, etc. The notable downside of this software is the absence of mic bleed options, but that isn’t a deal-breaker when it comes to creating your drum kits.
- Powerful yet user-friendly
- Flexible MIDI Transform options
- Tone Designer for kicks and snares
- Integrated browsing for extension packs
- No onboard sequencing
- Limited bleed options
Addictive Drums 2 is one of the best sounding drum plugins on the market. It allows you to create realistic-sounding acoustic drums or modify them into unique sounding percussion kits. You can use Addictive Drums 2 on virtually any track since it’s great sounding and sits perfectly into any mix.
Overall Rating 4.7/5.0
The D16 Group Dramazon plugin is another one of the most realistic sounding drum VSTs on the market. It replicates the iconic Roland TR-909 drum machine, in terms of both looks and sound.
- Authentic emulation of the TR-909
- Enhanced control of instrument sounds
- User-defined plugin output settings
- Dynamic signal routing from instruments to outputs
- Fully controllable through MIDI CC
- Mutes/solos for each instrument
You can use this application to create a bass drum, tom, snare, hi-hat, rim shot, and cymbal sounds. Each of these sounds can be routed via any of its eleven outputs. You can control the Drumazon by its internal sixteen-step sequencer or via external MIDI through the host application.
This plugin is equipped with eight banks of presets, each with twelve patterns to help get you started with creating tracks. The sound quality is top-notch, and the price is quite competitive, considering the value it offers. However, you’ll need some time to understand the controls.
- Super sound
- Flexible sequencer modes
- Improved sound control
- Ability to save sounds and patterns separately
- Limited options compared to higher-end versions
- May take some time to get used to controls
All in all, the D16 Group Drumazon plugin is an excellent investment for anyone looking for a competitively priced tool that sounds fantastic and offers an excellent range of sounds. It can especially be a great choice if you use electronic sound drums.
Overall Rating 4.5/5.0
Xfer Records Nerve
Created by refined dance music producers, Xfer Records Nerve is one of the most versatile drum plugins you can find on the market today. While it’s a bit expensive compared to its competitors, it offers great value for money.
- Powerful effects sections
- Up to eight stereo outputs
- Intuitive interface
- REX import capability
- Built-in sidechain compression for pumping electronic beats
- 2GB artist sample pack
The interface of this VST is divided into three major sections
- The pads and waveform section
- The pattern editor
- The mixing section
The pattern editor offers two distinct views – ‘1’ and ’16’. You can only program one parameter at a time when view ‘1’ is active. You can access these parameters through tabs like cutoff, velocity, late, and pitch.
With ’16’, you get a classic piano roll-style interface. This plugin boasts a comprehensive system for loading and saving kits. You can load or save kits, individual pad patterns, complete patterns, MIDI note out mappings, grooves, and much more.
The Nerve allows you to either make your own beats or use some of numerous presets sounds and patterns that it comes with. You’ll also benefit from the rich effects section and up to eight stereo outputs. It is on the expensive side, though, and the MIDI mapping leaves a bit to be desired.
- Unique effects section
- User-friendly interface
- Great sample
- Simple sidechain compression built-in
- A bit pricey
- MIDI mapping not great
The Xfer Records Nerve plugin features some very unique features that put it above the rest. It is an excellent tool for virtually all electronic music genre, offering superior sound quality. Regardless of the numerous options it offers, it is quite simple to use.
Overall Rating 4.8/5.0
Toontrack Superior Drummer 3
The Superior Drummer 3 plugin is designed to give you endless possibilities when it comes to shaping, molding, and refining drums. It boasts over 230GB of raw sounds recorded at Galaxy Studios by the legendary George Massenburg. The software also allows you to drag and drop individual or third-party samples.
- Drum sample engine with 230GB of sounds
- Integrated Audio-to-MIDI conversion
- 1 Surround Support
- 35 Insert effects
- Grid Editor
- Search browser
- Scalable Interface with Detachable Windows
Superior Drummer 3 is an ideal drum VST for hours of comprehensive tweaking. It offers exceptional control and processing compared to its competitors. It is one of the most comprehensive drum production suites you can get, offering advanced songwriter functionality such as multiple song tracks for a variety of versions.
The software also comes with cutting-edge grid editing features, such as a built-in piano roll editor. You also get a quite detailed mixer with top-notch routing capabilities. With Superior Drummer 3, you can drag and drop audio tracks to the “tracker” to accomplish several things, including
- Identifying hits
- Replacing sounds
- Converting drum trucks to MIDI
Also worthy of note is that this drum VST is programmed with artificial intelligence to identify drum hits more accurately. It’s unlike other software options that use only a transient detector. It also has a large drum library besides being compatible with a wide range of sound and groove expansion packs. However, many users have pointed out that they would love if the grid editor opened in its own window.
- Efficient, ergonomic, flexible user-interface
- Awesome sample library
- Remarkable effects
- Grid Editor doesn’t open in its own window
- QWERTY keyboard in standalone mode would be great
Superior Drummer 3 creates drum tracks that sound amazingly realistic at a fraction of the price you would pay for a combination of a world-class studio, top kit, refined drummer, and an experienced engineer. It accomplishes that with minimal effort. The sound is deep, detailed, incredibly believable, and virtually unbeatable in your studio.
Overall Rating 4.7/5.0
Steven Slate Drums 5 (SSD5) – Best Affordable Drum VST
If you are looking for an affordable drum VST plugin that is easy to use and delivers quality sound, you might want to try Steven Slate Drums 5 (SSD5).
- Clear, user-friendly interface
- Over 100 drum kits from different music genres
- Simple routing and mapping system
- Includes 103 Kicks, 111 Snares, 49 Crash Cymbals, 16 HiHats, 115 Toms, 5 Chinas, 3 Splashes, and 10 Ride Cymbals
The SSD5 plugin is packed with hundreds of incredible drum samples, including a wide selection of kicks, snares, and kits. It can simulate the genuine sound and feel of a live drummer, thanks to its new physically modeled drum playback algorithm.
SSD5’s interface is divided into several different screens, giving you great control over the kit selection, mixing, and mapping to the MIDI notes from your kit. There’s plenty of flexibility for individual sound parameters such as pitch, dynamic response, and close/room mic position bending. The mixer section offers full control over mic levels and routing back to the DAW for further processing with EQ, compression, and more.
This application allows you to choose from a wide selection of presets for vintage and modern kits, including rock, jazz, and country. The major setback of the SSD5 is that you can’t resize the user interface. It also doesn’t allow you to save discrete instrument presets.
- Competitively priced
- Wide variety of sounds
- Great sound quality
- User-friendly interface
- Excellent flexibility
- SLR channel sounds thin
- Can’t resize the user interface
- No dedicated mixer channels for China, crash cymbals, and splash
The Steven Slate Drums 5 plugin is an excellent option for anyone looking for a simple way for expanding their e-kit sounds for recording or simply jamming. SSD5 is not only easy to use, but it sounds great as well. It is also surprisingly inexpensive.
Overall Rating 4.6/5.0
Buying Guide How to Choose the Best Drum Plugin
There’s a wide selection of drum VST plugins on the market to choose from. However, you should realize that the most sophisticated or the most expensive drum plugin is not necessarily the best match for your needs. Drum plugins have a minor difference in features and functionality, which set them apart from each other.
Hence, the best plugin will depend more on how you approach your music and your personal flow than how you go about creating your drum tracks. While all the plugins we’ve reviewed above are capable of delivering pro results, not all of them will work for you. You’ll want to choose a drum VST plugin that fits perfectly with your DAW and various other production tools.
You want an application that allows you to accomplish a lot of stuff without getting distracted. If you’re having a hard time creating the kind of grooves and feel you need, you might need to re-evaluate your current drum VST and experiment with different features and functions that other plugins have to offer.
You also shouldn’t rule out any drum VST plugin that seems to be designed for a different music style than your own. The application may turn out to be just what you need to take your music to the next level if used ingeniously beyond its intended use. That means you should keep an open mind when shopping for a drum VST plugin.
Whether you are a professional or someone who wants to use a drum VST for fun, you can always find the right one for you. There’s a wide selection of drum VST plugins. Some of them have been developed for professionals, with superb sound quality and notably high price tag. Conversely, you can also find free plugins of impressive quality. We hope this review helps you find the right software for your needs.