Best Drum Machine VST Plugins – 2020 Guide

If you’re a fan of modern music, there is a high chance that your favorite song contains some drum machines. While they are vintage products, the current mainstream is all about having synthetic drums in the mix. Stay with us to see what’s so hot about those plugins.

Our Top Picks for Drum Machine VST Plugins

  • 28,000 drum samples
  • 8 multi-purpose Macros
  • Polyrhythmic Sequnecing
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  • 1,900 samples in 180+ kits
  • Genre-specific patterns
  • 16-channel mixer
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  • 10 samples per instrument
  • 16-step retro sequencer
  • Basic but very affordable
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Comparison Chart of the Best Drum Machine VST Plugins

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • 400 presets with over 28,000 samples
  • 8 versatile and modular Macro controls
  • Polyrhythmic Sequencing with randomization options
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  • 1,900 instruments stored into 180+ drum kits
  • Advanced sequencer with genre-specific patterns
  • 16-channel mixer with dedicated FX racks
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  • 10 samples per instrument packed in 50 presets
  • 16-step retro pattern generator
  • Basic but very affordable
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  • Best Drum Machine VST for Live
  • Best songwriting and arranging beat creation tool
  • 64-track sequencer with 24 pattern memories
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  • Best Vintage Drum Machine VST
  • 707 Drumpad presets, 64 Drum Kits
  • 10-channel mixer and XoX sequencer
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  • Best Groovebox VST
  • 14GB Library with 500 Multi Grooves and 250 Kits
  • 27 professional effect racks
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  • Best Drum Machine VST for Mac
  • Groovebox that covers all the hip-hop genres
  • 200 presets with 1380 different patterns
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  • Best Drum Machine VST for Kontakt
  • 14 most famous Drum Machines
  • 14-track mixer with individual processing
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  • Best Drum Machine VST for Hip Hop
  • 12 analog modelling algorithms
  • Detailed modulation with 4 dedicated LFOs per pad
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  • Specially designed kits for EDM and Trap music
  • 130 drum kits and over 1,000 MIDI grooves
  • Comes with acoustic drum and percussion sounds
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What is a Drum Machine VST?

Drum Machine VST is software that behaves more or less like the hardware Drum Machine.  So, in general, Drum Machine VST is a type of electronic instrument capable of generating percussive sounds by using drum sounds, loops, or user-provided samples. While it may provide you with the real drum samples as well, its main characteristic is that the sound it generates is based on analog or FM synthesis.

They may come with the preprogrammed rhythms or allow you to generate your own. Those patterns can be sequenced in a certain order so you can build a whole song structure programming with its internal interface.

History of Drum Machines

While the drum machines existed throughout the whole 20th century, the real Drum Machine fame started in the 1980s, with the Roland drum machine called TR-808. 

This model influenced dance and hip-hop music so severely that you can hear those handclaps and snares even in modern music. Its successor TR-909 had a similar impact on house and techno music and they both sounded very synthetic and unrealistic.

However, the first drum machine that used the sound of the real drum was Linn LM-1 and it made irreversible legacy on 80's pop music. Various pop icons of the 80s heavily relied on this drum machine.

Is a Drum Machine VST Hard to Learn and Use?

Drum Machines have a certain vibe you need to understand before you play it. If you’re a drummer, you can use them in the same way as you would use an acoustic drum and you will probably have a much better workflow than a regular music producer as you have a lot of experience regarding rhythm fundamentals. 

Regarding techniques, those grooves aren’t complex so anyone who can learn the basics. However, bear in mind that the Drum Machines aren’t just about playing skills, they require a certain sound designing experience, so understanding how the synth sounds are built may help you out a lot.

Are All Drum Machine VST Plugins The Same?

Not at all. Some will go and replicate hardware drum machine interface and behavior, while others will offer new modern features such as sample import and editing or a decent FX panel and mixer with multiple outputs.  

Some will base their sound generator on the samples, others may apply modeling algorithms and some will combine the best of both worlds.

And finally, the biggest difference lies in the presets and groove patterns - some will provide you with the thousands of studio-ready MIDI files that can be a huge time-saver during your songwriting process and even include an intuitive sequencer mode.

When Would I Use a Drum Machine VST Plugin?

Here are some situations when you could use Drum Machines VSTs:

Vintage Sound 

If you’re looking for recreating any retro vibe, vintage drum machine sound will put your song in the right mood. Most of the sonic character comes exactly from the drum sound so pay attention in not just nailing the sound but playing pattern as well.

Electronic Music

Any kind of techno music, house, techno, acid, trance, and so on relies heavily on the sound coming from the Drum Machines. It’s exactly what gives those genres the pumping effect they everyone’s familiar with. 

Hip-Hop and Trap Music

Hip-hop raised from the underground scene using vintage drum machines. Trap music has a mandatory TR-808 sound in its code, so you just can’t go wrong with these genres.

Pop Music

Modern pop music is all about the vocals. The rest of the backing track simply shouldn’t steal the spotlight but it’s very important to keep it as tight as possible. Using a drum machine instead of a real drummer may save you a lot of studio time.

Rock Music

While acoustic drum sound goes well with rock music, there is nothing wrong with hitting experimental parts and positively surprising your listeners.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Here are the best drum machine VST plugins:

  1. Waves Alchemy Drumvolution
  2. Arturia Spark 2
  3. AiR Music Boom

Review of the Best Drum Machine VST Plugins

And now, let’s check the list of the best drum machines - drumroll, please! But make it synthetic this time!

PROS

  • 8 versatile and modular Macro controls
  • More than 400 presets with over 28,000 samples
  • Polyrhythmic Sequencing with randomization options
  • The largest and most creative sample-based drum sounds library
  • Contains both electronic and acoustic sounds recorded with different saturations

CONS

  • Might be overwhelming for beginners
  • Provided groove patterns would be awesome

Features and Specifications

Drumvolution preset is made from 12 responsive Drum Voices that may contain up to 3 Drum Sounds, Transients, and Sound Design Tools. Every sample is available in 4 modes depending on how much of tape saturation you want in your mix.

Sequencing is available as a 32-step multi-track with a zooming option and it can be applied by simple drag-and-drop into any DAW environment. It also supports polyrhythmic sequencing and randomization options.

It also provides you with a bunch of effects such as EQ, transient shapers, and various filters, and 190 custom reverb impulses.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is probably the largest and the most editable Drum Machine VST on the market. Every layer can be edited to the tiniest detail and you can control various parameters using one of the eight available Macro knobs.

These features allow you to treat Drumvolution not just as an emulator, but as a tool to create a completely new drum kit. And while it excels with analog sounds it also provides you with numerous acoustic drum samples as well, so you may use it not just for electronic music projects.

Runner-up:
Arturia Spark 2

PROS

  • Highly detailed Studio and Modular modes
  • Extremely versatile model-based Drum Station
  • Advanced sequencer with the genre-specific patterns
  • More than 1,900 instruments stored into 180+ drum kits
  • 16-channel mixer with dedicated FX for insert and mastering bus

CONS

  • Effect panel is kinda basic
  • Might be too much tab-driven for some users

Features and Specifications

This plugin is all about tab organization. You have a panel dedicated for mixing and effects, a special page just for sequencing or song arranging, and if you want more details or sampling features Studio and Modular pages dedicated just for such work.

However, the first screen that is shown is made from 16 velocity-sensitive pads that allow you to audit the selected instrument from the drumkit, 16 step-based multi-functional bars that react based on the mode you have selected and quite useful XY modulation pad that can operate in Global or Instrument mode.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Arturia Spark 2 would be a wonderful plugin even if It would provide you with this vintage sound collection only. All drum machines are here starting from the LinnDrum and Simmons SDS-V up to Boss DR-55 or that legendary TR-808 and TR-909. You will fall in love as soon as you pick your favorite genre category And the interface is such a joy to play with.

But, it’s a lot more, actually - it’s a complete drum station. It covers all your needs for sequencing, mixing, drum sampling, FX routing, and groovebox making. You can even load REX files directly.

Best for the Money:
AiR Music Boom

PROS

  • Multi-track matrix sequencer display
  • Basic but very affordable drum machine
  • 10 samples for every drum instrument packed in 50 factories presets
  • 10-channel mixer with individual knobs for pan, level, tune, and decay
  • 16-step Retro pattern generator placed in the form of Boom Event Bar

CONS

  • No sample editing options
  • 10.15 Catalina not yet supported

Features and Specifications

A boom is a drum machine that provides you with dozens of electronic percussion sounds combined with a pattern sequencer. Patterns can be created from scratch, or adapted from one of the included presets.

Each kit is made from 10 drum instruments. You can adjust the panning, volume, tuning, and decay of each drum within a kit. Each drum channel also contains a special tuning screw that can be turned to make a sonic adjustment, specific to a particular drum. This tweaking ability provides for nearly limitless possibilities with a user-friendly interface

Why it Stands Out to Us

If you need a basic and incredibly affordable drum machine, we honestly doubt that you will even feel that you spent something with this one.

The reason why we like this plugin is that it’s completely straightforward. It doesn’t bother to faithfully restore original vintage drum machine behavior. Instead, it focuses on playability and combines vintage machines in its presets. That’s why you will find CR78 merged with Roland TR-606, ideal for Dance music. Of course, TR-808 and TR-909 are present completely as well, and just in case you have an idea, you can create your own kit out of it.

Best Drum Machine VST for Live:
FXpansion Geist 2

PROS

  • Multi-purpose beat creation tool
  • 64-track sequencer with 24 pattern memories
  • Zynaptiq ZTX time-stretch and pitch-shift algorithm
  • Load samples, loops or trigger scene sequences directly from 16 pads
  • 6 types of high-quality effects including Maul distortion and Bloom delay

CONS

  • Not designed for beginners
  • User interface could look much better

Features and Specifications

This plugin provides you with advanced beat creation tools. It comes with a full Sampler, Slicer tool ideal for beat chopping and 64-track Sequencer with 24 pattern memories and quite capable Arrange module to automate your song structure for either studio recording or live to perform.

Speaking of effects, it can be added to any page and it provides you with typical EQs, nice choice of different filters, dynamics such as compressor, limiter, stereo imaging, distortions effect based on the Maul plugin, and modulation effects derived from the Bloom VST.

Why it Stands Out to Us

FXpansion is a well-known company in the Drum VST world with the legendary BFD software and this is their take on drum machines. They are also well-known for creating micro-timing shifts that don’t break the groove but make it more organic if that’s what you would need.

This plugin provides you with the typical sounds you may expect and it sounds good on its own. But, its strength lies in songwriting tools so it can work as a loop machine, beatbox, production station, or sample player. Thanks to Zynaptiq ZTX advanced time-stretch and pitch shifting algorithm you can edit samples in a way not possible with other plugins.

Best Vintage Drum Machine VST:
XILS Stix

PROS

  • 707 Drumpad presets, 64 Drum Kits
  • 10-channel mixer and XoX sequencer
  • 70 Global presets with hundreds of patterns
  • Control StiX Live or record events in your DAW
  • Vintage analog and early digitals drum machines

CONS

  • Not all effects are track-individual
  • It seems there is no MIDI export for patterns

Features and Specifications

Stix is a huge collection of vintage and early digital drum kits. There are 707 presets coming from 64 drum kits. Every part of the drum kit can combine two virtual analog and sample sound or noise generators.

User Interface is built in a vintage digital way with the comprehensive 10-track XoX sequencer placed in the center with very useful copy/paste and randomize buttons. Right beneath there is a 10-channel mixer while the top panel is left for sound designing and Pattern loading with switchable Easy and Advanced panel placed in the top center.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We like the number of drum kits this drum machine provides and how it goes a step further and provides you with some new ones created with the same mindset. There are hundreds of samples available and if that’s not enough, you can add up your own as well thanks to almost synth-like editing options. That goes especially for the Polystep X/Y pad controller included in the easy mode.

Also, the included drum patterns make this unit very different. There are more than 700 pre-made rhythms that cover a wide range of genres and you have to love an option to randomize them even further.

Best Groovebox Drum Machine VST:
Spectrasonics Stylus RMX

PROS

  • 27 professional effect racks
  • Chaos Designer improvise feature
  • 9 hours of Video Tutorials available
  • Realtime 8-channel Groove Module
  • 14GB Library with 500 Multi Grooves and 250 Kits

CONS

  • Stand-alone FX usage would be a wonderful add-on
  • Too many great groove options may drag your workflow

Features and Specifications

This plugin provides you with an extensive library of 14GB of grooves of all genres. It uses a Time Designer engine to adapt to any time signature and it comes with 500 Multi Grooves and 250 Drum Kits allowing you to combine up to 8 grooves simultaneously.

Effect panel is also extremely resourceful and contains 27 rack modules such as Limiter, Compressors, 6 different EQs, Distortions, 3 Reverbs, 5 Delays, 2 Phasers, Flanger, Stereo Imager, and several variants of tape emulations and an advanced randomize generator called Chaos Designer.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Unlike the other software, Stylus RMX puts the main focus on groove making and you would be surprised how hard it is to find one made at a fully professional level. That’s why it’s ideal for any composer out there as it has probably the biggest groove collection ever made within a single software.

Also, it’s not so often that manufacturers provide you with the dedicated video tutorial and Spectrasonics included more than 9 hours of material and quite resourceful Help documentation. This will come handy whether you’re a complete beginner or seasoned music producer just getting into the new software.

Best Drum Machine VST for Mac:
AudioSpillage DrumSpillage 2

PROS

  • 16-step sequencer integrated
  • Analog modeling drum synthesizer plugin
  • 12 algorithms for different drum instruments
  • Optimized DSP effect chain for low CPU usage
  • Detailed modulation with up to 4 dedicated LFOs per pad

CONS

  • Windows OS not supported
  • Sequencer mode could be organized better

Features and Specifications

DrumSpillage is a model-based machine that provides you with several syntheses including analog, PM, and FM. There are twelve algorithms made for different drum instruments assigned to the specific MIDI note starting from C1 by default.

The interface is organized into two pages. Pad mode lays out 16 pads with dedicated buttons and volume and pan sliders. Model mode provides you with the detailed editing starting with the Distortion with five algorithms and basic Lo-Fi effect, Filter, 3-band Resonator and Frequency Shifter Editor, 16-step sequencer called Stepper, and Modulation panel that comes with 4 LFOs for every pad.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We approve the idea of having a modeling drum machine instead of a sample-based one. It can sound very vintage and the Model mode seems to be capable of making some extremely creative sounds.

High-frequency sounds such as cymbals and hi-hats are not modeled upon anti-aliased oscillators allowing much smoother sound in general while LFO cross-modulation gives some interesting possibilities for making new waveforms.

It allows you to alter the sound in any direction wanted. We also find FM Percussion quite interesting because it can be used not just for percussion sound, it can also generate some useful sub-bass sounds, too.

Best Drum Machine VST for Kontakt:
Wave Alchemy Revolution

PROS

  • Classic TR-style 16-button step-sequencer
  • Sample-based emulations of 14 most famous Drum Machines
  • 32-step multitrack sequencer with individual modulation routings
  • Dedicated 14-track mixer with individual processing and dynamics
  • High-end FX and dynamics processors with unique Character knob

CONS

  • Sampling is missing
  • A bit expensive for what it offers

Features and Specifications

This plugin contains samples of 14 most famous Drum Machines ever made such as Linndrum, TR 606, 808 and 909 series, CR-8000, and so on. It also allows you to combine the sounds of those modules and build your Drum Machine or call up one of the hundreds of pre-made drum kits. You can use it as raw as it gets or saturates by using the Character knob.

Besides drum kits, Revolution provides you with over 1,000 sequencer preset patterns that can be loaded into a sequencer or dragged into your DAW directly.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We like the retro design and approach Revolution interface has with that Roland-like 16 step-sequencing buttons laid in-line. It suits the sound that’s been offered pretty well. Everything necessary is visible on the front page while there are still options to go in-depth editing if needed.

The same goes for sequencing. If you want to go retro, you will use the front page. But, if you want more, then hit the Seq button-down left and enter a modern and very capable 32-step sequencer instead. Speaking of effects Revolution shares the same engine with our category-winner Drumvolution including 160 reverb impulse responses.

Best Drum Machine VST for Hip Hop:
UJAM Virtual Drummer PHAT 2

PROS

  • 8-channel Audio Output routing
  • Modern, beginner-friendly design
  • 200 presets with 1380 different patterns
  • Groovebox that covers all the hip-hop genres
  • Master Section with reverb, saturation, and maximizer

CONS

  • Lacks in-depth editing
  • Not very useful for other genres

Features and Specifications

This plugin contains 200 drum kit presets with almost 1,400 patterns specifically designed for a hip hop genre. It provides a simplified sound editing with words more convenient to beginners, so instead of compression, it uses word Slam.

It’s made as a 6-piece drum kit with dedicated channels for kick, snare, toms (linked), hi-hat, ride, and crash. Ambiance can be blended thanks to dedicated overhead and room tracks. Those tracks can be routed up to 8 individual outputs and there is a basic mastering section with several reverbs, tape saturation, and maximizer available.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This drum machine is more like a groove box. But, for a proper hip-hop making, we believe it also may be the right way to approach a typical hip-hop music producer mindset.

Let’s be fair, hip-hop music is all about the words, so the groove comes second. That’s why you will appreciate the fast way to get your groove done by simply picking the correct pattern.

It will also work great if you’re not yet very technical about music skills and you do your music “by heart”. And in case you’re a complete beginner this type of plugin will make your music start rolling.

PROS

  • Advanced all-in-one drum solution
  • More than 130 drum kits for all genres
  • Over 1,000 MIDI grooves performed by a real drummer
  • Specially designed kits for modern EDM and Trap music
  • Comes with acoustic drum and percussion packs as well

CONS

  • So many options may scare you
  • We would like to see options from Beat Agent available for other Agents

Features and Specifications

Groove Agent 5 is made from three modules or “Agents” as Steinberg calls them - Acoustic, Beat, and Percussion.

Beat Agent is their most advanced Agent and it’s dedicated to Drum Machine sounds. It provides you with in-depth sample editing, automatic loop slicing and one-click drum hit replacement. Decompose let you treat the noise part separately from the tonal so that pitch shifting applies only to the latter one.

Beat Agent shares the FX panel with the rest of the agents so there are four insert effects per instrument and four global send effects.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Steinberg made the most popular working environment for all those wonderful VSTs we’re using nowadays and the Groove Agent was the part of every DAW version.

Version 5 should be considered as an interesting all-around solution that may satisfy not just your needs for electronic drum machine sounds but acoustic and percussion as well.

But, on top of that, Steinberg is aware of what modern music is all about, so besides being vintage, it comes with 30 new kits specially made for EDM and Trap music created by real electronic music artists. Those kits even include bass drops, noises, and even miniature melodies.

Live Drumming vs. Drum Machine - Comparison Overview

This is a huge debate and we have to treat it accordingly. Both parties have their traits and flaws so here are some of our thoughts:

The Feel

Human playing can’t be faithfully replicated because all the drummers tend to make minimal inaccuracies that define their playing style. This may be very hard even to replicate with the drum machine VST so if you need a human signature on track real drummer may be a better call.

Music Genre Specific

Jazz or blues have no benefits from having a straight and precise drum machine groove. Being organic is what matters the most for those genres. In the same way, most electronic music is all about quantization, so having a rhythm where kick and snare don’t happen at the same moment will cause an energy loss and that’s unacceptable.

Mindset

Having a real drummer will lead to the collaboration where the rhythm is arranged by the player who does that for years. Even when you’re sure what groove you want, a real drummer will generate slight variations on it you wouldn’t even think of. So, always consider at least asking for feedback from a real drummer no matter what sound you’re looking for, it may pay off.

Advantages of Investing in Quality Drum Machine VST

Here are some pros regarding why you should invest in your Drum Machine VST:

Number of Sounds

Premium Drum Machine VST provides you with thousands of drum samples. If you compare the number of the sounds and the money you’re paying, you will be shocked what value you’re getting

This also means that you probably will get more sound options than you need at a specific moment. But, once you purchase it,  you probably won’t have to buy any other similar VST anytime soon.

Workflow

Such plugins will probably be more intuitive and better organized, making your workflow faster, and can seriously affect the speed of your drum layering. Those drum VSTs can be organized so you can perform in both studios and live situations and link your MIDI equipment much easier.

Features

They never come with just the drum sounds. They have to provide you with some advanced features regarding editing parameters such as adjusting the envelope or applying a modulation routing or assigning a specific filter. And most of the time those edits can be done for every drum part individually.

Besides that, they may provide you with additional features such as sampling, wave editing, sequencing, or those wonderful genre-specific pattern libraries.

Conclusion

Drum Machines are used to define certain genre trademarks and maybe an interesting add-on to the others. So, no matter what music genre fan you are or are you looking for tools for gaming and cinematic soundtracks, you’re going to need a decent drum machine VST at some point.

People Also Ask

Now, let’s cover some of the most frequent questions we’ve got regarding Drum Machine history and its most famous hardware models. Also, we will try to help you with some general troubleshooting you may stumble upon during MIDI connecting, sample organizing, and recording stages.

When Was The First Drum Machine Invented?

You would be surprised, but Drum Machines are centuries old. The first recorded Drum Machine comes from the 13th century and it was made in the area of modern Turkey. The first modern drum machine was created in the 1930s by Leon Theremin and it was called Rhythmicon.

What Do the 606, 707, 808, 909 Terms Stand For?

Back in the 80’s Roland made several drum machines. But, as they didn’t have any real acoustic drum sound, they didn’t sell so well. As the price started to drop significantly on the second-hand market, they became incredibly affordable and from that point changed the whole modern music history. 

What is a Linndrum?

Linndrum is a successor of the Linn LM-1 drum machine. Due to its high-quality samples of real acoustic drum and flexible interface, it became one of the most used drum machines ever.

Probably the best example of its sound is the legendary Axel F song from Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack.

How to Organize Drum Percussion on a Drum Machine VST

You will have either to assign percussion to the certain MIDI notes or pads. If there is an option to assign MIDI notes manually we strongly advise you to link one percussion sound to two keys as it will be much easier for you to repeat the notes if you need any kind of fast playing.

How to Map a MIDI Controller to a VST Drum Machine

Every drum machine comes with a certain map, so you will have to assign a specific note CC to your pad of the sound you want to play. If you want to change the key order, you will have to go the opposite way and create a new drum map for your VST.

How Do I Record With a VST Drum Plugin?

You can record it in several ways - by writing down the MIDI notes to the editor inside of DAW software or playing a MIDI controller in real-time. Once you’re done, you can decide if you want to keep it in MIDI format or bounce it back as a stereo or several individual mono tracks.