Technology is changing the way that everyone expresses their rhythmic concepts and ideas, which is helpful for those who don’t have space or equipment to record a live drum kit. Of course, even when you can, today’s best drum VST plugins have so many features that you might prefer to work with them instead, anyway. These virtual drummers and plugins feature massive libraries of sounds, with the choice between electronic and authentic acoustic beats and sounds.
Below, we’ll take a look at the best drum VST plugins, helping you explore their features and learn more about what each has to offer. Below that, we’ll cover what you should be looking for when you’re in the market for a quality virtual drummer to help you make the best choice. For now, let’s take a look at the best tools and plugins on the market today and see what sets them apart from the rest.
The Best Drum VST
|Toontrack Superior Drummer 3||
|Addictive Drums 2: Custom XL||
|Nerve Drum Machine by Xfer Records||
|Toontrack EZdrummer 2||
|Geist2 by FXpansion||
|XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2||
|Steven Slate Drums 5 (SSD5)||
|DS-10 Drum Shaper||
Toontrack Superior Drummer 3
For those who want the ultimate in drum sounds and mixing, the Superior Drummer 3 from Toontrack delivers everything that they need and more. There are seven total drum kits included, recorded with a variety of placements and mics to create so many unique sounds. The plugin library was recorded by George Massenburg and the program also features a full library of MIDI patterns, styles, and fills along with a multi-track editor and virtual mixing studio.
This plugin is designed for more advanced users, offering customization options that you don’t find in every virtual drummer plugin. You can build an entire track right in the program and there are channel strips, mixer effects, and even a range of presets for those who don’t want to put in all the work on their own. There are expandable sound packs, too, and the studio offers an impressive selection of features, tools, and beats that can make any music production more enjoyable. Although it’s not ideal for beginners, this VST is among the best of the best for those who want premium VST plugins.
Addictive Drums 2: Custom XL
Those who want more than the standard package from XLN will love the Custom XL version of Addictive Drums 2, which brings professionally-played drums and beats to your hands, along with a wide range of mixing and sound-shaping features that will create the most alive music that you’ve ever heard. The rhythmic sounds and robust audience of beats allow you to tweak presets or create your own custom kits. Plus, while some platforms focus on one sound or another, this one gives people more personal control and offers plenty of choices.
This plugin allows you to create crystal-clear, well-produced drum beats along with grungy beats that are more raw and distorted, depending on the type of sounds you have in mind. It also offers a quick and efficient user interface, MIDI and ADpaks, and the option for upgrades and expansion in the future. There are hundreds of features in this app, which is as good for beginners as it is for more experienced producers. Drag-and-drop audio, rapid layering and linking, and instant kit piece swapping make it quick and easy to make the best beats and the customization features are ideal for those who are more advanced and want a little more control.
Nerve Drum Machine by Xfer Records
Those who want to delve into the electronic side of VSTs will love the Nerve Drum Machine from Xfer. This electronic beat manipulator offers a diverse library that is uniquely designed by dance producers and includes a huge library of drum kits, presets, loops, and hits, crossing over many different genres and sound styles. You can also import your own samples, edit and mix sounds, and process a lot more than you can on other VST platforms. This tool is ideal for sequencing, too.
The user interface makes mixing easy and it’s fun to pick and choose between all of the available sounds and beats. Plus, the performance features allow you to create variations and fills, re-trigger the pads as you edit, and more. Modulation pages and filtering are easy to access and the manipulation abilities are what keep producers and amateur beat makers alike coming back to this platform time and time again. For those who want to create the best premium dance beats, the Nerve platform is the one to try.
Toontrack EZdrummer 2
The Toontrack EZdrummer2 plugin was designed for those who might not need the complex depth of the Superior Drummer platform. This simple-to-use platform is ideal for new users and those who are less experienced or who want a lighter production experience. Toontrack has been a fan favorite for years, but the brand realized that not everyone might need the features and customization that comes with their bigger VST. That’s where this program comes in, offering all the great features and sounds people want with a much easier interaction.
One of the best features is that this tool lets you set up a work style that suits your needs. You can generate your own templates, arrange grooves in real-time, or connect actual kits and make your own. You even get a custom drum mixer engine to ensure that you get total customization of your beats no matter how skilled you are at using VSTs. This platform offers three tools in one: an impressive MIDI library, a high-quality virtual drum set, and a creative environment that lets you produce some great drum tracks with ease.
Geist2 by FXpansion
The Geist2 platform offers a great environment for sound sculpting and creating beats for all kinds of productions. The platform offers a user-friendly interface and fast workflow with modulation and arrangement capabilities and robust sample manipulation to make creating unique beats easier than ever. It allows users to slice loops, manipulate sounds in seconds, and sample directly to the pads for even more fun ways to mix and record beats. There is also a reworked vector interface that allows for resizing, scaling, and custom configuration.
This VST plugin features 64 pads for longer loop slicing, a vintage emulation mode, and plenty of new effects to keep you trying new mixes and testing out different sounds for a long time to come. You can inspire your creativity with the presets and included sounds or get to mixing and creating your own. This is a more basic platform, but it’s anything but boring and it still provides some impressive features. After all, it’s one of the best plugins available today for a reason, and sometimes that reason is that simplicity works.
XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2
From XLN, Addictive Drums 2 is a scaled-down version of AD2 Custom XL, offering all the features that you love about AD2 without the extras that you might not need. It’s also a better choice for those who are just starting out and don’t want to make as big of an investment in a massive VST platform. With this tool, anyone can create polished tracks quickly and easily, thanks to features like the built-in EQ, Transient Shaper, and Tone Designer. Plus, there are “trigger” pieces that offer one-shot samples and other cool sounds.
This platform is much more user-friendly for those who want something quick and reliable for producing tracks. Not designed for those who want to get into the details of production and spend hours mixing the best beats, this platform makes it easy to drop a beat and get back to business, even if you only have limited experience with VST plugins. It offers drag-and-drop features and allows you to explore their best sounds in the library, and more. Plus, there are plenty of styles to choose from and MIDI grooves are plentiful.
BreakTweaker is changing the way that people look at VSTs, creating an environment that’s part drum production and part melody maker, offering so many sequencing and sculpting options that the level of depth available is often unmatched. Beats are plentiful and the sample library is among the best on the market today. This company is known for its micro-editing technology, offering a whole new way to create beats and get a custom production at a level that you can’t find in all VST platforms.
This VST isn’t just about creating beats. It’s about making music and getting creative, changing the way that producers create. The program features a robust library of samples, drum sounds, MIDI files, and more. Plus, the Micro Editor makes it easy to tweak every last detail and build all kinds of new patterns that you can sync to your DAW and switch back and forth until you get the perfect sound. More than 80 preset beats are available and you’ll get plenty of inspiration from the library while you’re creating your unique sounds.
Steven Slate Drums 5 (SSD5)
If you’ve been around the VST world, you’ve no doubt heard of Steven Slate Drums 5, the latest iteration from one of the best brands in the industry. This newest version includes thousands of sounds and grooves, with 103 kick drums, 111 snares, and hundreds of other percussion and cymbal sounds. If you’re looking for a premium sound library, this is the platform you need. Plus, there are expansion packs available for this plugin that feature producers like David Bendeth and Chris Lord Alge. This is the ultimate choice for electronic drum production, featuring microphone customization and an instant download so you can get started right away.
SSD5 offers a streamlined, user-friendly interface with easier routing and fader grouping, along with a deluxe library and easy beat creation. It’s a tool that is loved by those who are experienced in the VST niche as well as those who are just getting started. Steven Slate has been the secret ingredient for some of the biggest hitmakers in the industry since the early 2000s, and this newest version just steps up the game and offers even more features for people who want to make beats like the best.
DS-10 Drum Shaper
The DS-10 Drum Shaper is a simple tool that’s anything but basic. This impressive VST plugin features premium sounds in a massive library that offers three different settings to create the perfect sound every time. The mixes are plentiful and there’s even a MOJO knob that can add a touch of flair whenever you need it. You can also shape the sounds along the way, including the punch and attack, and leaves the possibilities wide open for those who want to make premium, unique beats.
This platform also comes from XLN, but it takes a different approach than the other products on the market. This one is more technical-based offering a unique shaping approach that isn’t found in all tools. Some people are put off by the simplicity of the plugin, but that’s actually what makes it such a great choice for those who want the best of the best without all the bells and whistles. It’s simple and gives you the exact sound you want. What more could you ask for? Take your creativity to a new level with sound shaping when you choose this tool.
How to Choose the Best Drum VST Plugin
Now that you have taken the time to see the best drum VST plugins, you can start looking at the various features to help determine which one suits your needs. Of course, they’re not all created equally so you’ll need to explore their features a little more. To assist in your decision, keep the following elements in mind in your search.
Acoustic vs. Electronic: What Sound Do You Want?
The great debate continues over acoustic vs. electronic drum beats. It’s a matter of personal preference, based on the type of beats and sounds you are trying to create. We’ve listed each in the table at the top with the style used so that you can select which is best for your needs.
Acoustic beats offer a more authentic sound, while the electronic VST plugins focus on creating unique sounds and beats that take advantage of modern technology. You’ll also notice that the creators of the beats and samples might be more your style in one category or another. There’s no right or wrong answer here—it’s all about the sound you’re trying to create.
For samples and inspiration, having a massive sound library can be a great asset. Of course, all of the VST plugins on this list have quite impressive libraries of beats, percussion sounds, MIDI, and more. Take the time to look at the library options, as well as available expansion packs that could enhance the available presets and sound samples that you have to play with in your beat production.
For example, the SSD5 library is one of the most impressive on the market today. However, it might not offer all the right types of sounds that people want. How big the library is matters just as much as what kind of tracks, samples, and sounds are found there. Most platforms will let you check out their offerings before you decide.
How much control do you want over the customization of your beats? Some people are looking for a fully-customizable editing platform that gives them total control. Others want a quick drag-and-drop creator that’s about making a quick beat with less effort. Both options are available and found on the list above.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a professional even if you want more editing control. There are plenty of in-depth programs and platforms that are still user-friendly for even the most basic beginners in the world of beat production. Look into not just how much customization you have, but how easy it is to use the features.
Ease of Use
Speaking of which, ease of use should also be on your list when choosing the best VST plugin. After all, if the platform is complicated or difficult to navigate, you’re not going to enjoy using it and will likely just stop after a while. Consider the way that the platform works, how easily it integrates with the DAW, and whether you will need to spend a lot of time learning how to use the plugin before you can get to creating.
The majority of the plugins on this list are user-friendly. After all, what beat producer wants to be discouraged or distracted by bulky software that is complicated to use? However, it’s still important to point out.
We didn’t put this higher on the list because most VST plugins today are compatible with all major operating systems and devices. Unless your computer is a dinosaur, you shouldn’t have a lot of issues here. Still, it’s important to check the compatibility of the plugins that you consider using to ensure that they will work with your system.
The last thing that you want is to fall in love with some great VST software only to realize it’s not going to work with your setup. Check what operating systems the platform works with, as well as how much memory and hard drive space is required. Check the hosts and formats, too, so that you don’t have to compromise on these, either.
The Final Call
Given the information above, any of the VST plugins on this list could provide you with the ideal solution. We like the SSD5 and the Toontrack family of products best because they offer so much versatility and can be used by everyone from amateurs to professionals, but you’ll have to look at each to see which you like best. Consider the tracks, sounds, and samples included, as well as the ease of use and how much custom control you have in production. Feel free to check out free trials and sample platforms before you buy, too– sometimes the best educator is experience.