The use of VST plugins for drums has become extremely popular among musicians and music producers in recent years. This is because they provide an accessible and instantaneous way to put percussion on a track without needing access to a drum kit and all of the required recording equipment.
The main flaw with sample packs of the past was the lack of variation and human feel that they could provide. As years have passed, VST plugins have become so convincing that it can be hard to tell some of the best drum plugins apart from real drums.
In this comprehensive article, I will cover VST drum plugins which are suitable for a variety of genres including metal, hip hop, EDM, jazz, rock and more. Whether you prefer processed drums, realistic acoustic drums or anything in between.
Best Drum VST – Plugins Worth Considering
Table of Contents
- Best Drum VST – Plugins Worth Considering
- Free Drum VST Plugins
- How to Choose the Best Drum VST Plugin
Addictive Drums 2 is in my opinion the best premium drum VST plugin when it comes to producing authentic, real sounding drums. It contains a huge library of drum sounds, from classic drum kits of the past to more modern, processed kits.
The standout quality of Addictive Drums is the responsiveness of the samples. Each hit is recorded at varying velocities and in different positions on the drum, creating a feel so natural that it’s very difficult to differentiate the sound from that coming out of a genuine acoustic kit.
Included with this VST are six Kitpiece packs, MIDIpacks and ADpacks. One thing I love about the AD packs is that you can identify a drum kit that you like the sound of, and then swap the individual components to create interesting combinations.
The drums featured in Addictive Drums 2 were recorded at the legendary Sound City studio in LA. There are also 130 presets which vary from tight and clean to harshly processed and manipulated with effects. The core MIDI Library also contains over 5000 pre-made grooves, rhythms and loops which, in my opinion, can be a good source of inspiration if you struggle to find the right rhythm for a song.
The layout of the plugin is interactive and allows you to visually build your own kit one drum at a time. You can then mix every drum individually to create unique sounds. For this reason, I have used Addictive Drums for years now. Additionally, you can hook up an electric drum kit or sample pad to the software and trigger the drums. Overall, it’s an exceptional VST drum plugin.
The Superior Drummer 3 by Toontrack is a highly responsive and realistic acoustic drum plugin. World renowned audio engineer and producer George Massenburg recorded over 230GB of drum samples at Galaxy Studios in Belgium. The result is a VST plugin which allows you to have complete control over the feel and timbre of the drums.
There is real science behind this VST plugin. The acoustics, reverberation and microphone placement were all fine tuned to create incredible details within the drum samples. It’s very difficult to tell them apart from traditionally recorded drums.
The usability of Superior Drummer 3 is second to none. It emulates a hardware mixer and allows you to tweak every sonic aspect of the drums through built in processors and effects. You have complete control over the velocity details and individual microphone bleed, making for an incredibly natural overall sound.
For hip-hop producers, Drum Weapons 3 by Music Weapons is an invaluable drum plugin which features an extensive library of 530 kits. Each kit contains 12 unique sounds, with over 6500 included overall.
Whether you make old school hip-hop beats or modern trap, this plugin has an array of suitable high-quality samples.
Music Weapons have improved the audio engine and made the third edition of Drum Weapons specifically tailored towards VST plugin usage. All of the presets are also compatible for use with the MP60 and SP1200 samplers.
This VST plugin is really simple to use and allows you to create beats in your chosen DAW within minutes. If you use Propellorhead’s Reason to produce your music, you receive a useful Reason ReFill. A Mashine Expansion which makes the plugin more compatible with the popular sampler is also included.
The DM-307 is a quality plugin for producing electronic styles of music. It includes a comprehensive collection of 3600 samples and loops from modular synth drums, processed drum machines and live percussion. If you produce dance, hip-hop or cinematic music then the DM-307 is an outstanding option.
The great thing about this VST plugin is its intuitive user interface which Heavyocity have named “The Grid”. This is a build in sequencer pad which resembles the design of a Mashine sampler.
You can create drum patterns by lighting up certain sections of the grid, a great way to make unique beats quickly. You can also build multiple drum sequences for one track, and then trigger them off individually. This feature is very useful if you’re trying to decide between options for the rhythmic groove of a song.
The loops presets can be used as the foundations for your drum tracks, and the built in processing unit allows you to tweak the individual drum settings such as EQ, compression and ADSR to create unique sounding kits.
Kontact’s Audiomodern Sync 3 is a sampler instrument which is based on electronic loops. This VST plugin is well suited to ambient styles of music, or for cinematic audio for film or games.
Contained in the Sync 3 are a total of 28 construction kits which are packed with crystal clear sounding samples and loops. The ten reverb settings allow for maximum attention to detail when mixing the drums.
The pre-made loops within the VST plugin are easy to manipulate and allow you to adjust the tempo, pitch and length of each one. All of the loops are labeled with their respective BPM so you can quickly find one to suit your track’s tempo.
The high clarity of the samples included in this VST plugin makes it perfect for creating epic soundscapes. For producers of futuristic, sci-fi audio, the Audiomodern Sync 3 sits atop the pile.
The Nerve VST plugin is a great option for producers of electronic dance music such as techno, trance or house. Designed by a group of veteran dance music producers, Nerve includes a library of high quality samples which can be further manipulated within you DAW to suit your taste.
The internal step sequencer is a great tool for building drum rhythms one hit at a time, and you can program beats by clicking rhythmically. The plugin is visually compact so you can still see your DAW behind it. 16 loop slices can be attributed to a single pad, making triggering samples a creative and simple process.
Another great thing about the Nerve is that it allows you to import your own samples from other files into the sequencer for mixing and processing alongside the built-in sounds.
You can also set up random sample selection from a certain folder, which is great for getting unexpected samples into your music or breaking out of habitual ways of selecting samples.
Perhaps the most accessible and easy to use plugin on this list, the EZdrummer 2 is a multi-faceted percussion creation tool which offers an expansive library of samples. If you enjoy producing in a variety of music styles, this highly versatile VST plugin is an option worth considering.
Toontrack have created a plugin which suits all production styles. Whether your preference is to record your percussion through an electric drum kit for a more realistic feel or to utilize pre-made loops as the basis of your tracks, EZdrummer 2 facilitates both in an easy to understand style.
The effect engine is set out like a vintage mixing desk and allows for the user to create a chain for each individual track, where you can then add reverbs, delays, compressors and EQ.
You can also use this plugin to create full songs, as it has the capacity to record melody instruments too. Once you are happy with the track, it can be exported into your DAW where you can edit and mix it with the rest of a song.
Fxpansion’s third edition of their BFD drum VST plugin is a very useful tool for creating authentically real-sounding acoustic drum tracks. The attention to detail of the individual samples is quite impressive, and culminates in a natural end product.
The arrangement features of the BFD 3 are also useful. Drum patterns can be created and arranged, then processed to suit the overall sound of the kit. The library consists of high quality drum hits recorded by a team of recording engineers using different types of drums, microphones, sticks and mallets for a wide variation of sounds.
Each drum hit has up to 80 velocity levels, highlighting the small nuances of an acoustic drum kit which give the sound a personal feel. The rudiment tool is useful for creating syncopated grooves of your own by highlighting certain beats and making parts of the rhythm more prominent.
Momentum is a VST plugin specifically designed for creating drum tracks for TV, film and video games. It features over 2500 unique samples and oneshots which range from dramatic to atmospheric.
Impressively, each individual sample was recorded organically by the team of Impact Soundworks engineers. This makes a huge difference when comparing the samples to other synthetically created ones. The organic recording process creates an authentic, genuine, real sound which is perfect for setting the tone of a visual production.
The editing capacity of Momentum is also efficient and easy to navigate. There is a wide range of mixing functions built into the VST. Then, once the tracks are sufficiently built they can be exported into your chosen DAW to process further and to be lined up with videos or other visual projects.
SINiVOX have partnered with legendary soul drummer Tony Coleman to produce a drum plugin which gets very close to the feel and groove of a real acoustic kit. All of the drum hits are played by Coleman, and his signature drumming style is instantly recognizable.
Some purist musicians are may be skeptical of how close a drum VST plugin can come to a real acoustic kit, but I think many would be surprised at how effectively this one pulls it off.
The library contains 20 GB of Coleman’s drumming, and if you hook up an electric kit or sample pad you can add your own flavor to his already brilliant sound. The drums can also be manipulated and processed within the plugin. Pitch, dynamics, envelope and EQ are all adjustable.
This drum VST basically gives you the unique experience of having one of the greatest drummers of all time playing on your music, and you have the ability to tailor his drums to fit your preferences.
Free Drum VST Plugins
If you are looking for basic drum VST plugins and are on a budget, these are some of the best available.
- MT Power Drum Kit – Responsive acoustic drum sampler, the best free option in my opinion.
- DrumTROOP – Simplistic free drum kit rompler which allows basic beat creation.
- Spitfire Labs – Decent quality collection of acoustic drum hits.
- StudioLinked Drum Pro – An electronic drum plugin with a large variety of sounds.
- Sennheiser DrumMic’a – A free VST which is a comprehensive showcase of Sennheiser’s drum microphones and their capabilities.
Obviously, these free options don’t come close to the overall quality of the plugins I discussed previously. They are still a worthy addition to your VST folder, though.
How to Choose the Best Drum VST Plugin
Unlike other VST instruments such as synthesizers, keyboards, or melody instruments, drum plugins need to offer more than simply playing back notes with different tones. There are many integral qualities you should look for in a drum VST plugin.
Perhaps this is the most obvious aspect that you need to analyze, but it’s very important nevertheless. The quality of the sound library and samples are the backbone of any drum VST.
If the samples included in the software are sub-par, this will lead to your drum tracks sounding lifeless, and the ways that you can process them will be limited.
Rather than opting for quality over quantity, you should look for both! A great drum VST should contain a comprehensive library of samples and sounds to fit any musical style or genre.
The quality of the samples in a drum plugin is likely to be directly correlated to the process used to record them. Some are recorded in prestigious studios around the world, with perfect acoustics and a variety of microphone placements.
Any sound engineer will tell you that the best way to record drums is by making sure your kit and the room are prepared to the best of your ability. That’s why having well-recorded samples makes such a difference.
It’s very difficult to make a dull-sounding snare drum sound great. However, it’s very easy to make a great-sounding snare drum sound fantastic! The more attention is paid to the recording of the drum samples, the better they are likely to sound.
Another thing you should look out for when searching for the best drum VST plugin is who is involved with the project. Which recording engineers were responsible for capturing the drum samples, and do they have an impressive resume?
Creating authentic sounding drums within a VST is no easy feat, and therefore the more accomplished the people involved in the project are, the more you can be confident that the end product will be of a high standard.
Attention to Detail
Live drums are characterized by human elements which are difficult to replicate through a VST plugin. However, some plugins are now so good that they can produce these smaller details with stunning accuracy.
Things like snare rolls, flams, ghost notes, and hi-hat clutch control are what give live drums their natural and fluid sound. Electronic drum samples aren’t great for reproducing this humanistic feel.
The best drum VST plugins include these playing techniques and nuances, which improves their authenticity dramatically. If you’re hoping to create natural-sounding live drums, make sure you look out for these finer details, as they are vital.
The way that a drum VST is visually laid out also makes a huge difference to its effectiveness. Some allow you to view a drumkit from various vantage points, and this is great for building your desired kits and swapping out certain drums for others.
You’ll need to make sure you enjoy the layout of the sequencer too, as this is a feature you’ll likely be looking at for long periods when building your drum tracks in the VST.
Compression, EQ & Other Effects
Your DAW of choice will undoubtedly offer plenty of effects and processing tools for editing the sound of your drum tracks.
Many of the best drum VST plugins include effects of their own, which are often specifically tailored to drums and percussion. These may include vintage compressors, equalizer units, or reverb settings that you can add to the samples.
It’s Time to Create
I hope that this comprehensive list of the best drum VST plugins has been helpful. The great thing about creating music digitally is the instant accessibility. Once you have chosen your preferred drum plugin, enjoy the hours of experimentation and creativity that come with it.