Best Drum VST Plugins of 2020 – Ultimate Round-up

Regardless of what genre you prefer, groove is always the key factor of the song that makes people move while they listen to your song. And every groove is based on the drums that are played with manners, in time and recorded with excellent equipment. That’s why Drum VST is a game-changer in the music industry.

Comparison of the Best Drum VST Plugins

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Grooves recorded by world famous drummers
  • Dedicated kits for rock, jazz, metal - even brush kit included
  • Direct multi-channel audio export
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  • Professional drum playing ideally recorded
  • Thousands of drag and drop MIDI beats in library
  • Additional genre-oriented packs available
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  • Physically modeled acoustic drum engine
  • 148 drum kit Presets for all genres
  • 2.400 MIDI grooves for instant jamming
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  • Drums recorded at Nashville studio
  • Seamless velocity sample switching
  • 19 genre oriented customizable drum kits
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  • Fully sampled steel drum with dual microphones (close - far system)
  • Rubber or metal mallets option
  • Built-in arpeggiator and step sequencer
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  • Hybrid VST that excells in both acoustic and electronic drums
  • More than 180 drum kits with a couple of expansion sets available
  • Excellent stand-alone interface with various modes
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  • Essential tool for creating trap drum patterns
  • 50 drum kits grouped in banks by 12 pads
  • Intuitive user interface
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  • Urban and funky drumkit ideal for hip-hop
  • 60 musical styles with 1380 patterns
  • Drag and drop MIDI export
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  • 14 drum machines emulation, including the Linn drum
  • Comes with more than 1.000 beat patterns
  • 32-step sequencer built-in
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  • Drumkit inspired by the 80s vibe
  • More than 600 drum samples
  • Global ADSR control
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What Makes Great Drum VST Plugins?

There are many reasons why having a drum VST is a good call. Let us name a few:

The Sound

The era of the lousy demos is over. Even if you buy the cheapest VST drum, it will sound better than most of the demos from the early 2000s. And if you invest some time, it may happen that you don’t need real drum tracks for your project at all.

Instrument Variety

If you sit down and write all the instruments and equipment used for creating an average VST drum, you would probably pass over six-figure. Having them bundled all together and being a couple of mouse clicks away is something we really need to appreciate.

Money and Time Saver

Not so long ago, you needed a proper studio to record a decent drum track. Such studios were often paid in hours and yet, you were relying on the only drummer you have only to find out it has timing issues and that the drum track can’t sound much better at this price.

Drums VST are often recorded by famous professionals and they made a serious game-checking breakthrough allowing thousands of musicians the ability to have great drum tracks without entering a studio.

Tips For Recording a Drum VST

Here are some tips you can apply for drum recording in every situation:

Avoid Fixed Velocity

Try to imagine how much people would understand you if you would shout or whisper all the time. That’s exactly how drums sound if you don’t apply different velocity strikes and accents.

Be a Drummer

Always remember that the drummer has only two hands and feet so think about it when you lay any drum part. Pay extra attention to a hi-hat and ghost notes on the snare - real drummers tend to fiddle around from time to time just to make their own signatures even when playing a straight 4/4 groove.

Keep it Real

I know it’s tempting but don’t record some technical demanding parts that you’re not sure how many drummers can pull off in reality. Instead, try to organize your drum track in a way that you can recognize it even when all other instruments are muted.

The Song

The drum is the part of the song. It needs to match its vibe and while you can experiment, the rule of the thumb is that the song works the best if all instruments are following some general rules of the genre you’re playing.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Review of the Best Drum VST Plugins

We had to put some really good time to hand pick the best software out there for you. And as the drumming can be a lot more than just an acoustic kit, we included some special categories that may interest every drummer. So, drum roll, please!

PROS

  • Elements recorded with up to 80 velocity layers
  • Grooves recorded live by world-class drummers
  • Innovative tool implementation of rudiments technique
  • The most advanced physical modeling on the drums so far
  • Bunch of drum kits and groove packs available for additional purchase

CONS

  • Not your best user interface regarding graphics
  • Windows 7 support is discontinued for latest updates

Features and Specifications

FXpansion has been making BFD series for more than a decade. This time they made a more efficient audio engine lowering CPU performance requirements while delivering a better sound with advanced modeling technology applied so that tom resonance and cymbal swells are expressed in a way never done before. Add a natural bleed from the other components and you will get a very detailed drum sound.

The internal mixing engine is very powerful with DCAM-modelling compression among others, allowing you to use external sound sources for sidechain compression techniques.

Why it Stands Out to Us

It’s made for rock and metal music. The sound it delivers simply asks you to hit it at full velocity range. We also had enjoyed the groove editor, especially the rudiments tool. It’s the most comprehensive system we’ve ever seen in VST drum software so far - very intuitive even if you’re not a drummer.

In case you like what you got but would ask for more sound options, there are 40+ genre-specific expansions available in case you want to expand the sound library along with dozens of groove packs in case you’re looking for something more specific.

PROS

  • Huge MIDI library with more than 5.000 beats
  • Useful FX panel for both master and drum part
  • Professionally played and recorded drum sounds
  • 130 presets included with interchangeable drum kit elements
  • Additional ADpak, MIDIpak and Kitpiece Paks available for expanding drum library

CONS

  • No insert effects for individual drum instruments
  • Complex front panel that might be confusing for the beginners

Features and Specifications

The basic version of this product comes with three different drum kits that are further tailored into 130 presets based on the genre you’re playing.

There are several themed ADpak and MIDIpak that can be purchased and come with another drum kit or MIDI beats as an add-on if you’re searching for any specific sound. You may even flavor it up with additional percussion sets with purchasing several Kitpiece Paks.

But, no matter what add-on you may purchase, they are all integrated into a very deep user interface that allows you various editing, mixing, and effects options.

Why it Stands Out to Us

You like the sound in general, but you would like a different snare? No problem, just enter the panel and pick another snare and try it out. It’s that easy.

We’re also truly amazed that XLN Audio decided to give us such a huge MIDI library with five thousand presets. You can use these beats to record hundreds of songs without changing a single hit.

To put it short - if you apply any of the tips we have given you, this VST can make your drum tracks sound like it was played by a real human.

Best for the Money:
Steven Slate Drums 5

PROS

  • Bunch of expansions available 
  • Physically modeled acoustic drum engine
  • Create a drum kit with up to 32 drum elements
  • Percussions and sound effect instruments included
  • Drum kits available for all type of music with 2.400 pre-made MIDI grooves

CONS

  • No standalone version available
  • Works only under 64-bit environment

Features and Specifications

SSD 5 comes with 148 drum kit Presets and thousands of pre-made MIDI grooves. It applies new smart-velocity triggering of one-shot samples so that they sound more realistic.

It also allows you to import your own samples and MIDI files. The mapping section is redesigned so you can map your files on the fly and use it along with this software straight away.

And the best thing about it - it doesn’t ask for too much of processor power - it can actually work under 1GHz dual-core processors

Why it Stands Out to Us

We are amazed how affordable this VST actually is while it maintains to provide you with a fine-tuned acoustic kit tuned no matter what type of music you’re about to record - indie, rock, metal, jazz, or funk. Honestly, this is one of the most realistic VST drum that use physical modeling and it’s only up to you how good it will sound eventually.

There are also plenty of different drum instruments available so you can pick the one that sounds the best for your project. And with more than two thousand MIDI grooves, instant songwriting burst is only a matter of choice.

Best Acoustic Drum VST:
AiR Music Strike 2

PROS

  • Hyper-realistic acoustic drum engine
  • EQ and two insert effects per channel
  • Recorded at Blackbird Studios in Nashville
  • Smooth dynamic transitions across the whole velocity range
  • Full FX panel included including bit crusher and ring modulator

CONS

  • macOS 10.15 Catalina isn’t currently supported
  • Internal 3-band EQ may come short for certain drum sound editing

Features and Specifications

Strike 2 comes with 19 editable drum kits recorded at famous Blackbird Studios in Nashville. The built-in mixer gives you two insert effects for every channel along with 3-band EQ and the compressor.

You can also edit microphone levels and bleed leakage and treat the room microphones separately from the close mics. 

It also allows you to load up your own samples in WAV and AIFF format while in Export you can generate both audio and MIDI signals directly from Strike 2 into your DAW software.

Why it Stands Out to Us 

We like the fact it was sampled so good that you can’t detect any velocity switch no matter what genre you’re playing. You may also edit how tight the pattern will be played and create minimal timing issues that will make your drum track sound much more like real human playing.

And unlike other big drum libraries, Strike 2 provides you with the arranger mode which can be triggered by MIDI keyboard keys. This may come handy for quick jam or instant songwriting. And for modern music lovers, filters and bit crush effects may provide the needed extra inspiration.

Best Steel Drum VST:
Soundiron Steel Tones

PROS

  • Fully adjustable dual sound layer
  • Arpeggiator and step sequencer included
  • Multi-effect rack built-in including convolution reverb
  • Emulation of Hapi Drum tuned in D-major pentatonic scale
  • Comes with both rubber and metal mallets sound variations

CONS

  • Requires standard Kontakt player
  • Could come with more sequencing patterns

Features and Specifications

This steel drum was sampled in a very detailed manner using a premium studio microphones in close/far positions with seven round-robin samples and up to nine velocity layers for every note in 24-bit / 48kHz sound quality.

Sound is organized in 14 different presets and it was played with two different types of mallets - rubber for soft and warm sounds and metal for hard and cold tunes.

It also comes with waveform pad utility so that you can layer additional samples over it to create unique instruments or layer the pad along with the original sound.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Steel Tones is an emulation of the Hapi Drum, a very unique instrument that unlike other drum instruments excels in a melodic way which is very authentic. It’s rare to find a proper emulation of this instrument as it is very specific in terms of versatility.

We appreciate that Soundiron provided a full effect rack so that you can apply everything from the single source and on top of that, they included the same convolution reverb used for symphonic choir and orchestra software. This might sound like overkill, but this allows you to mix them together under the same environmental conditions.

Best Drum Machine VST:
Arturia Spark 2

PROS

  • Bunch of expansions available
  • Intuitive pattern and song mode
  • REX file supported both as one-shot or loop
  • The most versatile drum machine at the moment
  • Comes with a bunch of electronic and acoustic drum sounds

CONS

  • Doesn’t support 32-bit OS software
  • In-depth editing might be confusing for beginners

Features and Specifications

Unlike other drum machines on the market, this one allows you deep editing and fine-tuning of every single parameter and it also allows you to import your own samples, including REX files.

Mixing panel works almost like a virtual version of the real mixer with a dedicated FX rack for both every individual part and master.

It also comes with a standalone version that integrates perfectly with any MIDI controller so you can compose using only Arturia Spark by entering a song mode where you can compose by laying out the pattern order. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

If you’re looking to find a drum machine that will supply you with all the sounds you’re going to need, Arturia made an excellent product. It will provide you with acoustic drum sets as well with many musical patterns ready to use by simple drag and drop method into your DAW either as a wave sample or MIDI track.

But, Arturia really shines with the sonic variety of the drum machines emulated inside. Combine it with a bunch of real-time controls and apply the effects it comes with and you probably won’t need another Drum VST for a very long time.

Best Trap Drum VST:
BeatskillZ Soultastik Drums

PROS

  • Basic user interface, performance-oriented
  • 600 high-quality samples grouped in 50 drum kits
  • Pan and release control available for every pad individually
  • Predefined reverb, pitch and volume knob for global control
  • Affordable electronic drum VST specially designed for trap music

CONS

  • Narrow sound palette with basic effects and editing options
  • No option of combining sounds together from different presets

Features and Specifications

Drum kits are organized in a set of 12 and there are 50 different drum kit presets available. Every virtual pad has its own knob for volume, pan, and release function while reverb and pitch control apply to the whole kit and can be applied by simply turning the knob to the right amount.

CPU speaking, it’s very resource-friendly coming at 300 megabytes installation and doesn’t require high-power processors. It’s fully MIDI compatible with any modern DAW software or MIDI controller.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Soul-Tastik Drums are an essential tool for making trap music. They especially excel in recreating chill trap tracks where the beat needs to sound smooth and warm.

There are also some MIDI patterns provided so that you get an idea how it may sound. 

Samples are pre-produced for this genre so all you have to do is pick the one that fits your taste the best and you have 10 MIDI patterns to use. The user interface is laid out to be basic without complicated in-depth editing panels so you can focus on performance instead of sound designing.

Best Hip Hop Drum VST:
Virtual Drummer PHAT 2

PROS

  • Drag and drop phrases directly into DAW
  • 60 musical styles with 1380 different patterns
  • Advanced drum kit, mixing, and master editing
  • Essential hip-hop drum machine for instant inspiration
  • Master FX section with different types of reverb, saturation and maximizer knobs

CONS

  • Doesn’t include VST3 version
  • Drum kits would benefit from applying different samples based on velocity range

Features and Specifications

UJAM made another version of drum machine specially designed for funk and hip hop music. The mixer section has improved since the last time and besides regular master output, you can route the drum kit individually so that every element can be laid out as a different track in case you would need to process it differently.

MIDI keyboard control is fully supported and the assigned keys are shown visually on the front panel for every element and you can use keys to trigger different patterns and create an instant beatbox experience.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is one really groovy drum machine. It’s made for instant inspiration and can be used not just for hip hop but funk and soul music or any vintage street performance music as well. It provides you with only essentials in the editing panel shifting your mindset towards performance and not sound design.

We love how saturation works with this kit making it sound warm and thick without adding up the volume. And once you’ve found a pattern that you like, you can simply drag it into your DAW and it will be synced with project tempo in a beat.

Best Linn Drum VST:
Wave Alchemy Revolution

PROS

  • Faithful emulations of the most famous drum machines
  • Dedicated 14-track mixer available for further processing
  • 14 drum machines emulation, including the famous Linn drum
  • Analog effects emulations available as insert and master effects
  • Advanced 32-step sequencer built-in with more than 1.000 patterns

CONS

  • Steep learning curve
  • Drum machines sound only

Features and Specifications

This Drum VST comes with fourteen emulations of the most used drum machines throughout history. Linn Drum, Simmons SDS 8, 808, 909, CR-78 - you can find them all together here, perfectly sampled. Every sound variety was faithfully captured so we can say that Revolution behaves the same way as the original drum machines and the special Character knob can modernize it in a way that was impossible before. 

It provides you with a detailed 14-track mixing panel so that every drum part can be edited individually, more than a thousand patterns, and a very powerful 32-step sequencer. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The best part of this VST for us is that you can combine drum machines together in a hybrid kit. With the given user interface, you won’t have the need to use original drum machines ever again, especially regarding Linn Drum.

Reverb is another special part. It comes in a dual-module system and emulates some of the most famous units like Lexicon 300L.

Every part of the kit can be edited in detail and treated both globally and individually, but in case you need a quick solution a bunch of professional presets are out there waiting for your call.

Best 80s Drum VST:
BeatskillZ Retro Hit

PROS

  • Announced multi-output update
  • Essential 80’s drum machine sound
  • Vintage drum machine user interface
  • 50 different drum kits with 12 pads from the 80s 
  • Basic set of global controls such as pitch, reverb, attack, and release

CONS

  • MIDI presets would come really handy
  • Attack, Release, and reverb could be treated individually per pad

Features and Specifications

There are 600 well-curated samples inspired by the mainstream artists of 80’s pop and rock music. They come pre-produced but dry versions are available if you want to tweak them. 

They are grouped in 50 drum kits with a set of 12 pads. Those drum pads can be individually panned for getting a wider stereo image and turned up or down. The user interface is created to resemble that vintage drum machine vibe and like the original sounds, this one also takes very small storage space and won’t take too much of your CPU power.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The vibe of the 80s music is widely used in modern songs these days and there are specific genres that insist heavily on achieving that retro-sounding. If you’re looking to work in such genres, creating a drum kit that sounds exactly like coming from that era is probably the most essential part of the overall mix. 

Drum kits are tuned very well so they can be used directly into your project and as the individual routing is announced in the next updates you can rely on this VST for more than just a quick jam solution.

Real Drummer vs. Drum VST 

This question has been escalated so many times. Let’s try and summarize the biggest pros for both choices:

Actually… both are “real”

It may be weird, but if you think about it - sonic wise, both drummer and the VST are using the same equipment for recording a sound. VST Drum is nothing else than a sample-based strike of a real drummer playing a real drum.

The Paradox

Modern music requires very tight and precise playing so most of the time your producer will have to edit drummer’s takes to make it align to the grid.

Such music also asks for heavy compressing so in the end you might end up taking out all the “human” parts from your drum track and make your drummer sound like a drum machine.

Organic Genres

If you apply our “think like a drummer” advice, you will understand the drummer’s nature eventually and your drum tracks may sound just like a real drummer. But, the truth is that you will have to think about it in advance, while a drummer will do it naturally without even thinking in the nick of time.

Therefore, genres like jazz or funk will sound better if you recorded with the real drummer.

Conclusion 

While VST Drums may not be used in the end product, it definitely became an essential part of every studio that made songwriting brainstorms easier. And, with so many excellent pre-made grooves given in both electronic and acoustic drum kit format, we’re sure that many songs were actually created because of it.