Sampling and Drum VSTs have been a part of modern music for many years. For a long time sampled drums were primarily limited to the electronic genre, but now they permeate mixes across all genres.
Drum samples can be integrated into mixes in a variety of ways from subtle to bold. They can be used to bolster a drum section on a rock track or to support the melody in a pop mix. Producers of all genres should have a go-to drum VST in their toolbox.
Now we’re going to go over some of the top drum VSTs currently available so you can get an idea which one might work best for your mixing needs.
The 12 Best Drum Plugins
- XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2: Custom XL
- Arturia Spark 2
- FXpansion BFD 3 Virtual Drumkit
- Xfer Records Nerve
- D16 Group Drumazon
- BeatSkillz Synthwave Drums
- D16 Group PunchBOX
- SONiVOX Tony Coleman Drums
- BeatSkillz Soul-Tastik Drums
- Heavyocity DM-307
- Toontrack Superior Drummer 3
- DrumDrops The Vintage Funk & Disco Dual Kit
Addictive Drums was first released in 2005, and it has only gotten better in the years since. Addictive Drums 2 builds on the original software with perfect recordings made in some of the most well-known studios globally. These are in addition to recorded sessions by some of the best session drummers in the business.
There’s a selection of more than 20 drum kits to pick from, and more are added to the library all the time. You also have the option to build your kit from the ground up with the convenient drag-and-drop interface. If that doesn’t interest you, there’s more than 5,000 beats available, categorized by BPM and genre. The time, feel, and tempo of these beats can also be adjusted.
Check out the onboard sampler to find a number of parameters for each kit piece. These include distortion, EQ, delay, transient shaping, reverb, and compression. Addictive Drums also features a parallel processing bus. Addictive Drums 2 is one of the top drum VSTs out there because of its constantly expanding inventory of drum kits for both electronic and acoustic drums.
- Drums sound amazing
- Goes easy on the CPU
- Impressive beat editing software
- Purchasing more kits can add up
If vintage sounds are right up your alley, you may already be familiar with the variety of workstations offered by Arturia. With the Spark, Arturia stays true to their roots with one of the most extensive libraries of vintage drum machines on the market. If you like an old-school sound, the Spark is calling your name. There are more than 2800 sounds to choose from. You’ll also find a range of patterns and banks contributed from pro sound designers.
The Arturia Spark 2 has something for everyone, but of course it is ideal for injecting a vintage vibe in your mix. Users will find that the step sequencer makes pattern making a breeze. You can also take advantage of several automation options to produce a more dynamic sound. As a bonus, the interface also includes a modular synth to push your sound that much further.
- High-quality vintage drum collection
- Awesome modular section
- Incredibly stable plugin
- REX support could have been prioritized more
- Genre-based content is a little inconsistent
FXpansion first came out with an incredibly forward-looking drum kit VST in 1999. They didn’t offer their first BFD kit until 2003, and this newest version goes way beyond what was initially included in the software. You’ll find 160+ GB of samples available with detail levels of more than 80 velocity layers each.
The majority of kits in the BFD 3 come from recordings at Ocean Wave Studio made with a vintage Neve. There are also some kits that were made at Omega Studios. You have the option of working with either processed or raw samples according to your preference. You can shape your tone from the ground up if you want. Then you also have the option of working with the provided samples. These have been processed with the BFD built-in effects, which you can easily adjust.
You’ll have your pick of more than 40 expansion kits to further enhance your options. The BFD 3 Virtual Drumkit is so expansive that you’ll feel that your options are endless. No matter which genre you are working with, this drum plugin will elevate your sound.
- Impressive kit sounds
- Customizable Interface
- Power groove editor
- Lacks triggering capabilities
- GUI is a little small
If you work within the EDM genre, you’re probably used to digging through countless sample packs in order to nail down the perfect drum sounds. You’ll be relieved to hear that the Xfer Records Nerve can save you time and effort thanks to its excellent design. It’s been created by top-notch dance music producers, and it shows.
The Nerve comes packed with presets and patterns, and if you want to harness your own creativity, you can easily develop your own custom beats and sounds. The effects section does not disappoint with its many varied options. You’ll also find up to eight stereo outputs so that you can transfer your sounds to external processing.
There are three primary sections that make up the GUI. These are the Pattern Editor, the Pads/Waveform section, and the Mixing section. Xfer Records keeps it simple, which translates to greater efficiency and less effort required on your part. One of the most notable features is the impressive step-sequencer. With this you can program your beats visually or by clicking your mouse rhythmically. With the Nerve, versatility is the name of the game.
- An awesome collection of high-quality sounds
- Simple, user-friendly GUI
- Advanced effects section with sidechain compression
- MIDI mapping can be tricky
- Takes up a good amount of CPU
If the Roland TR-909 is among your favorites, just wait until you get your hands on the Drumazon. It would be difficult to find a more authentic-sounding drum machine out there. It faithfully reproduces vintage sounds to the point where you might forget you’re working with a VST.
There’s also plenty of controls for you to play with to make the software work for your producing needs. For just one example, the kicks offer both pitch and tune depth controls—something you wouldn’t get with the TR-909. The decay times are also significantly longer, almost enabling you to transform your 909 kicks into expansive 808-style subs. You’ll also find reverb knobs for the handclaps and decay controls for the cymbals.
The Drumazon doesn’t offer much range, but if you want to faithfully recreate the Roland TR-909, look no further.
- Authentic 909 sounds
- Flexible sequencer modes
- Improved sound control over the original machine
- Not a lot of versatility
Drum machines from the 1980s were primarily characterized by a ton of reverb. If you’re looking to recreate the iconic drum sounds from the 80s and the new wave genre, the BeatSkillz Synthwave Drums will not disappoint. As we know, trends have a way of circling back around, and the 80s drum sounds have resurfaced in a big way over the last several years. If you are a producer of pop music, you’ll want to have retro drum sounds at your disposal. With Synthwave Drums you’ll have access to 63 amazing kits that each offer 12 individual sounds.
This drum plugin also comes complete with 13 combinations of kick and snare. Synthwave Drums features four banks for cymbals, twelve for toms, four for effects, four for claps, four for percussion, and eight for hi-hats. You can choose from more than 1,350 one-shot samples to further enhance your drums. These drums are already processed, so they deliver the iconic 80s sound immediately without any additional tweaking.
You’ll find that the GUI is quite basic, but it gets a boost from its neon coloring and its user-friendly arrangement. This VST makes it exciting and easy to produce drum sounds that will transport you to a different time.
- Authentic 1980s sounds
- User-friendly interface
- Lacks grooves and beats
With the Group PunchBOX you’ll find an awesome library of drum sounds, but D16 takes it a step further. There’s also a great collection of modules, effects, and synths, which makes this VST an attractive option. Finding the right drum sample to fit with your mix is no easy task, but the samples on the DST will make your job that much easier. You’ll be able to find just about anything you might be looking for.
The PunchBOX is a rack module with a design that will boost your creativity. You’ll find three sample layers along with a synthesized layer to work with. Then take advantage of the effect modules to develop authentic sounds that can be adapted for any type of music. The compression and EQ modules make it easy to add in bold snares, rich bass drums, and a range of other intriguing percussion sounds.
You’ll find an abundance of presets conveniently situated based on their sound characteristics and musical style. The PunchBOX offers incredible versatility and everything you need to take your mix to another dimension.
- Versatile four-module design
- Amazing sounds and samples
- High-quality processing
- Controls could be bigger
The Tony Coleman Drum VST is perfect for those who want authentic drum sounds without breaking the bank. If you’re not familiar with Tony Coleman, just know that he is a bit of a legend in the R&B realm. His drumming talents have backed artists like B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Etta James, and Albert King. With Tony Coleman Drums, you can perfectly replicate his unique tone.
Coleman prefers his drums, including his snares, toms, and kicks, to be large and open with a rich, deep tone. If you’re searching for an awesome drum sound that will overwhelm you in the best way possible, you’ll find it here. What you’ll get with this VST is 20GB of drum samples from recordings made at Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.
This acoustic drum VST includes a Mapex Black Panther snare, a Sabian 22” AAX ride; 10”, 12”, 13”, 14”, and 16” toms; a Sabian 18” AAX crash; Sabian 16” AA hi-hats; an 18” AAX Fast Crash; a 20” vault, and a Mapex Saturn Series 22” kick.
- Ideal for jazz, funk, and blues
- User-friendly interface
- Authentic brush samples
- Lacks versatility
Beatskillz has introduced a unique VST full of smooth drum beats that come straight from classic boom-bap songs and beats. Soul-Tastik Drums includes 50 drum kits with 12 different samples each. This means that there are more than 600 high-quality samples to choose from.
The GUI has been organized to optimize workflow and make it easy to manipulate sounds. The controls you have at your disposal like panning and pitch give you so many ways to shape your sounds. Also it’s super easy to translate these sounds into your DAW. We are also pleasantly surprised at how solid the built-in reverb sounds. With this VST BeatSkillz gives you everything you need to create the beats you want.
- Great selection of drum kits
- User-friendly parameters
- Intuitive GUI
- Sample manipulation capabilities are somewhat limited
Heavyocity has built a great reputation based on their range of high-quality VSTs. Many producers are drawn to Heavyocity because they have some of the best Kontakt instruments available like Gravity and Forzo. The DM-307 stands out because of its incredible range of samples that include live percussion, analog, modular synth drums, and so much more. In fact, there are 3,600 sounds to play around with in addition to 1,500 presets to get you where you want to go.
The DM-307 can be utilized in just about any style of music, including hip-hop, cinematic, electronic, industrial, and everything in between. One stand-out feature is the 16-step sequencer that provides you with eight extra 16-step bars. This basically means that you will have a 128 step-sequencer at your fingertips to create incredible beats.
- Great selection of top-end samples
- Works great for just about any genre of music
- One-of-a-kind step-sequencer
- A good number of the loops sound quite generic
- Some might be overwhelmed by the expansive sample library
Toontrack’s EZdrummer 2 software is known for making it super easy for non-drummers to add drum beats to their mixes. With the Superior Drummer 3, Toontrack offers more expansive software that is ideal for authentic drum programming. Superior Drummer 3 provides more than 250 GB of sounds and ultimate control for the user. Its cross-grade capabilities allow you to move presets and sounds between Superior Drummer 3 and EZdrummer 2.
If you’re a songwriter, you’ll appreciate the advanced grid-editing tools like the piano roll editor. You can choose from a great selection of top-notch samples, or you can use samples you have created. No detail is overlooked in the mixer, and you’ll find that the routing capabilities are incredible. One clear sign that you are working with a real kit is the separate channel that’s specifically designated for microphone bleed.
One of the most exciting tools on this drummer VST is the Tracker function. With this you can identify certain sounds and hits from drum audio tracks that you drag into the software. Superior Drummer 3 should be towards the top of your list if you are looking for ultra-realistic drum sounds and a number of exciting features to enhance your mix.
- An incredible 230+ GB of quality sounds
- Drum sounds are very realistic
- Sample replacement
- Workflow can take some getting used to
DrumDrops brings together two of their amazing drum kits—the Vintage Funk Kit and Vintage Disco Kit—in one exciting VST. And if you’re on a budget, you’ll be happy to know that these kits can be used with the Kontakt Player, which is available for free. The founder of DrumDrops is Mike Pelanconi, who has played with reggae artists like Big Youth and Gregory Isaacs as well as other artists, including Blur and Lily Allen. His extensive experience helps him ensure the quality of the kits included on this VST.
With the Vintage Disco Kit, you can faithfully recreate that vintage 1970s sound with small hi-hats, a fat low-end kick, and a warm snare. The sounds produced bring to mind gaffer taped heads and dampened dustcloth drums. With the Vintage Funk Kit, you can expect additional percussion and a bit more of a kick overall. The GUI is user-friendly, so you’ll be able to handle all of the processing elements without any trouble.
- Ideal for disco and funk sounds
- Compatible with the free Kontakt Player
- Lacks versatility
Finding the Right Drum VST
That wraps up our list of some of the best drum VSTs currently available. Our goal was to highlight a range of VSTs with specialties that provide a lot of value to producers of all genres. To find out which best matches with your musical needs, you’ll have to get under the hood and test these out for yourself. You might be surprised which one will be a perfect match for you.