This review is all about the best drum VST plugins of 2020. Drum VSTs come in all shapes and sizes. Finding the right drum VST for you depends largely on your goals musically. We will look at some of the most advanced and expensive drum VSTs, as well as some smaller free ones.
It’s worth pointing out that it’s perfectly possible to get up and running right away with a basic drum VST and in many cases these come at no charge whatsoever. If you consider yourself a bit of a nerd when it comes to an authentic drum sound then you’ll find our rundown of the top drum VSTs essential reading.
As with all VSTs, it’s important to have a suitable setup with which to run them on. Many of the higher budget drum VSTs are quite heavy on resources and so will require fast computing speeds with lots of free disk space. If you plan on connecting controller kits such as electronic drum kits to the setup, it’s advisable to have a good low-latency sound card or audio interface. So, let’s crack on with the review.
Here are the best drum VST plugins 2020:
- Toontrack Superior Drummer 3
- XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2
- FXpansion BFD3
- Steven Slate Drums SSD5
- GetGood Drums Modern & Massive Pack
- Tony Coleman Drums
1. Toontrack Superior Drummer 3
First up on our list of the best drum VSTs is Toontrack’s Superior Drummer 3. This plugin is a behemoth when it comes to sound and detail. Toontrack have equipped this VST with practically everything you will need to create your own real-sounding custom drum tracks. There’s everything here, from thousands of acoustic drum samples to a host of vintage drum machine sounds.
Toontrack enlisted the help of music legend George Massenburg when putting together this catalog of drums. George recorded the sounds at Galaxy Studios in Belgium, which is known for having one of the best live rooms in the world. He has previously worked with international superstars such as Earth, Wind & Fire and Linda Ronstadt. He’s also credited with inventing the parametric EQ, so he’s bound to know his stuff when it comes to getting a good sound.
In total there are 230 GB of samples onboard the Superior Drummer 3 VST. That will give you some insight as to the level of detail which is available here. Some of the drum kits used are from world leading brands such as Ludwig, Ayotte, Gretsch, Pearl, Premier and Yamaha. There are also 350 classic drum machine and vintage sounds to play around with should you wish. But with Superior Drummer you don’t just get one sample per drum or cymbal. Each instrument is played with several different drum sticks, from regular hickory sticks to mallets, brushes, blasticks and rods. Adjusting the velocity of the stroke will in turn change the response of the sample sound.
Mic placing is also catered too. With Superior Drummer 3 you can choose where you want to position your microphones about the drum set. There’s also the option to set the level on mic bleed. This is an extremely useful feature for increasing the realism of a drum track. Mic bleed is a natural occurrence in studio and live drumming and something that usually is impossible to replicate with a standard drum machine.
When it comes to the microphones, Toontrack have used only the best. Some notable names include Neumann, Sennheiser, Ehrlund, Beyerdynamic, AEA, Sanken, and Schoeps. There are also 35 studio effects which you can use to further enhance your drum tracks. These effects range from classy reverbs and delays to studio standard compressors.
Navigating around Superior Drummer 3 is quite intuitive. There is a handy search feature which can get you up and running right away if, for example, you need to find a genre of beat or kit type. You can search and browse to choose import sounds from the vast 230 GB of files or simply tap to find the tempo and begin that way instead. Superior Drummer 3 is compatible with 3rd party samples too and has full MIDI support. It even has a cool audio to MIDI conversion tool which lets you rid MIDI drum parts from audio files.
|Image credit: Toontrack Check and Download||
There’s no doubt that Toontrack have knocked the ball out of the park with Superior Drummer 3. It has everything that a recording studio aficionado should need for creating professional sounding drums at the click of a mouse. It has full multi-screen support and is rock solid when it comes to stability. A great drum VST and there’s no surprise that it’s regularly top rated by users.
2. XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2
If you like the look of Superior Drummer 3 but find it a little out of your budget, you’ll be happy to know that this VST is just a fraction of the price. Addictive Drums 2 is aimed at home recording enthusiasts who need a database of high-quality drum kits on a moderate budget.
This VST has won awards and plaudits around the world for managing to create an impressive library of kit sounds. There are over 5000 drum beats and fills in total in Addictive Drums 2. This is a lot of drums, by anyone’s standards.
If you’re not the most technically minded when it comes to music you’ll find the numerous presets extremely useful. They’re laid out in a way which makes it easy to pick and choose what type of drummer you want. You can choose the genre and customize the beat and kit sound. On the other hand, if you prefer to take full control over the kit from the get-go, then you can import your sounds, bit by bit and build the drum track that way instead.
Addictive Drums 2 has lots of effects to play with too. There are EQs, reverbs, delays, compression, distortions and a few others. You also have mixing capabilities such as buses for any parallel processing.
|Image credit: XLN Audio Check and Download||
For the money XLN Audio’s Addictive Drums 2 packs quite a punch. It’s one of the most popular drum VST plugins around. The spec says it will work with most setups on only 2 GB of RAM (although they recommend at least 4 GB). To put this in context, Superior Drums 3 by Toontrack requires at least 8 GB of RAM. This makes Addictive Drums more suited to amateur setups and also explains the pricing. It lacks a few of the elite features of Superior Drummer 3 but makes up for that with value for money.
3. FXpansion BFD3
BFD is a drumming VST which has been around for some years now. It’s widely considered one of the top drum VSTs around. BFD has a huge collection of drum samples and loops which you can incorporate into mixes at the click of a mouse. The main man behind the sound sourcing on BFD3 actually worked for 2 years with George Massenburg, who we previously mentioned with Superior Drummer 3.
In total there is 162 GB of sample sounds, but wait, just before you throw your arms up, the makers have managed to squeeze this down into a mere 55 GB. How they did that, we’re not quite sure, but it does mean that you can now carry this entire portfolio of drumming goodness around on a tiny 64 GB flash drive. This makes it super-convenient when working across different setups.
BFD3 contains grooves played by legendary drummers such as Steve Ferrone, Brooks Wackerman, Peter Erskine and more. They’ve added 12 new effects too, which brings the total up to 33. Some of these include DCAM overdrive, new reverbs and envelope shaping tools.
When seeking to get started with a drum track you can choose to build your own kit or pick from one of the finely crafted presets. There’s a fully editable groove engine with a very handy rudiments tool. This tool allows you to work with many of the standard drum rudiments in order to create drum fills. Each rudiment is further explained through drum notation.
|Image credit: FXpansion Check and Download||
BFD3 is an impressive drum VST. While it’s not quite as expensive as Superior Drummer 3, it’s not far off the price. It has many cool features which make it a pleasure to use, and lots of slickly edited samples and loop which are a breeze to work with. This VST works well along with a DAW or as a standalone. It also has full MIDI operational compatibility.
4. Steven Slate Drums SSD5
If you’re after a quick and convenient drag and drop type of drum VST then you may like the SSD5 by Steven Slate Drums. This VST comes with lots of different kit sounds which are split up into different categories and styles.
There are kits such as the Spicy Rock kit, Old ‘n’ Dusty, the Thick Metal kit, the Pure 60’s kit, Steven’s Oldie kit, the Savage kit, the Ribeye kit and more. You can probably tell from the names as to how these kits sound. It’s pretty straightforward. In total there are around 100 drum presets and a couple of cool features such as ‘Rimshot’ mode. This allows you to replace drum accents with rimshot hits for added attack.
|Image credit: Steven Slate Drums Check and Download||
Overall, the SSD5 by Steven Slate Drums is a decent drum VST with a lot going for it. It’s easy to use and quite light on computer resources too.
5. GetGood Drums Modern & Massive Pack
For rock and metal fans we have a nice little drum VST without any additional fluff. GetGood Drums produce VSTs for the modern market and this particular pack is aimed at a bigger, punchier drum sound.
There is a nice selection of drum kits, all of which have been recorded at Middle Farm Studios in the UK. These kits certainly pack a punch, so if that’s what you’re after then this VST may be for you. It’s certainly one of the best-sounding acoustic drum VSTs around.
|Image credit: GetGood Drums Check and Download||
In total this pack contains 9 snares, 6 kick drums and 2 sets of cymbal packs. This may not sound like a lot but it’s plenty to get some nice rock or metal demo tracks off the ground. If you need more options, GetGood Drums also do other ranges of kit styles which are of an equally high-quality.
6. Tony Coleman Drums
Tony Coleman is one of the most famous names in blues drumming. He has played with legends such as B.B. King, Albert King, Etta James and Buddy Guy, among others.
With this collection from Sonivox we get access to an entire library of the great man’s sound and feel. This VST is aimed at lovers of blues, pop and rock. All sounds have been captured at Ardent Studios using only the best professional drum microphones.
|Image credit: Sonivox Check and Download||
This entire collection is only 20 GB in size, so it’s not one of the more bulky drum VSTs out there. In that 20 GB you’ll find beats, fills and individual sample hits as played by Tony himself. This is certainly one for lovers of a great R’n’B groove.
The DJinnDrum VST is a nice little free drum VST plugin which has apparently been used by megastars such as Michael Jackson, Prince and Peter Gabriel. Listening to the beginning of ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ by Micheal Jackson will give you an idea of what this drum machine is capable of.
It’s very easy to use with 12 drum pads to play with. There are also slidable faders for the volume of each voice and knob controls to alter the sounds further.
|Image credit: SimpleRecorder Check and Download||
For the money we can’t argue with the DJinnDrum VST. It’s free to download so be sure to check it out. It lacks gigabytes of sample libraries but is quaint and fun to use. Definitely one to have in your collection of VST plugins.
If you’re looking for a VST with a few more drum sound options, then the DrumTROOP might fit the bill. This VST is packed with 20 free drum kits. These kits are largely digital-sounding drum kits and perfect for lots of genres from hip-hop to dubstep to EDM and pop.
The layout is clean and easy with lots of controls to alter the sample sounds. A very cool electronic drum VST.
|Image credit: DUBturbo Check and Download||
DrumTROOPS is a cool little VST and is sure to help out budding music producers. Some users have complained about this VST being a little unstable on certain DAWs.
In order to avoid any unwanted crashing we advise that once you have created your beat on DrumTROOPS, then you should bounce it down to an audio file. Next import that audio file into your mix, disable the VST and you should find no further conflicts.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed this round-up of the best drum VSTs out there. Finding a good drum plugin can take time if you don’t know what you’re after or where to look. We’ve looked at acoustic drum VSTs as well as some electronic drum VSTs. Some of the more expensive options cater to both electronic and acoustic.
Whatever your preference, be sure to look at the spec and take note of the kits used in recording. There’s no point purchasing hundreds of gigabytes of pristine acoustic samples if you’re mainly going to be working in EDM. There are plenty more cheaper options out there, and as we’ve shown, some of them are free.
The spec of your setup matters greatly in how any particular drum VST will perform. A fast computer is essential in most cases, especially with the bigger drum VST plugins.
RAM is also important and it’s worth pointing out that you can upgrade the RAM in your computer or laptop in most cases. Some computers, such as certain iterations of the Mac Mini, do not allow you to upgrade the RAM, although the average PC will have no such issues. Having a fast system and plenty of RAM is always a good idea when making music on your computer. Processing will be quicker and you should notice a drop in any latency issues too.
Having a fast processor means that the VST and the DAW can work easily together and this means there will be less chance of your system crashing and you losing unsaved work.
Have fun on your quest for the best drum VST plugins!