Drum VST plugins are an essential component of your DAW as it can be costly to buy hardware like drumming machines and set up a professional studio. VST plugins are a boon in this regard as they provide us with a virtual way to create music. Drum vsts are a must if you want to create beats on your DAW.
After conducting thorough research, we have compiled this list of best drum plugins of 2021. If you think you have what it takes to create magical beats, then you should definitely check these out.
Our Top Picks
- Best Paid: Toontrack Superior Drummer
There is nothing much that this plugin cannot do.
- Best Free: MT Power Drum Kit by Manda Audio
The best free plugin in the market with a wide range of features and impressive library.
- Best Value for money: Plugin Boutique Big Kick
Offers so many features at a low price.
- Best for Rock/Metal Music: GetGood Drums Modern and Massive
Exclusively designed to produce some of the most iconic rock music.
- Best for Dance Music: Xfer Nerve
The most trusted plugin by DJs around the globe.
- Biggest Library: Toontrack Superior Drummer
The 230 GB library makes it an indisputable king in this regard.
Top Drum VST Plugin Reviews of 2023
You’ve probably heard of the fabled DAW software FL Studio. If yes, then Drumaxx is a plugin from the same company, Image-Line. Just like FL Studio, Drumaxx is also one of the widely used drum plugins by professionals. The reason behind this is the intuitive user interface which makes it very easy to use.
It can work as a standalone unit, a VST or even as an AU. Drumaxx features a vast array of kits, patches and patterns which perfectly emulate the sounds of real instruments. You’ll have access to 16 drum pads which you can customize entirely as per your preferences. Drumaxx is suitable for rock, hip-hop and dance music.
This is one of those plugins that takes just a little space on your drive. Just make sure you have 30 MB of free space and your computer has 512 MB of RAM and you’re all set.
- Extremely low hard drive space.
- Easy and fun to use.
- Impressive user interface.
- Some users have reported crash issues.
Image-line Drumaxx is probably the most user-friendly plugin in the market. Also, the fact that it has ridiculously low CPU usage is a bonus.
This is one of the high-end drum plugins in the list which comes with a hefty price tag. The price tag also brings a host of superb features along with it. One of these features is the Spectrasonics Advanced Groove Engine or SAGE, which is an award-winning technology and allows you to produce grooves effortlessly.
Stylus RMX comes with a massive 14 GB library, which features thousands of kits, patches and grooves that were created by their design team. The user interface makes it easy to remix grooves and share them with other Stylus RMX users.
Time Designer and Chaos Designer are two unique features that allow you to add variations in your grooves which gives it a more realistic feel.
You might need a robust system to run this plugin. Whether Mac or Windows, you must have at least 2 GHz processor, 15 GB free hard drive space and 2 GB RAM, although the company recommends 4 GB RAM.
- Best plugin for groove creation.
- Suitable for several genres.
- Extensive Library.
Spectrasonics Stylus RMX arguably has the most extensive collection of sounds. Moreover, it is the perfect plugin if groove production is your top priority.
If you like a vintage touch for your mixing experience, then Spark 2 might be the best VST plugin for you. The user interface of Spark 2 will make you feel as if you are working on an antique device. But don’t let the appearance fool you, Arturia has made sure that you don’t face any shortfall when it comes to beat making.
One of the most striking features is Spark 2’s vast library. It features thousands of sounds, patterns and kits. The mixer is world-class and is loaded with fourteen effects including EQ, chorus, delay, distortion, bit crusher, multiband, phaser, plate reverb and many more. It also has a 64-step sequencer which enables easy pattern creation.
Spark 2 can be used either as a standalone unit or can be integrated into any of the mainstream DAWs such as Ableton or Logic Pro X.
There are many other advanced features including the shuffle and shift modes, Advanced loop mode, modular Drum synth editor and many more.
You’ll be able to run this plugin on both PC and Mac with only 2 GB of hard drive space. Just make sure you have 4 GB RAM and Mac OS 10.1/WIndows 7 or higher.
- Vintage Looks.
- Impressive sequencer.
- Stable workflow.
- Not suitable for multiple genres.
Arturia Spark 2 is the only drum VST plugin that comes with a distinct vintage look. Moreover, the 64-bit sequencer and endless features earned it a spot on this list.
Named after the legendary blues drummer Tony Coleman, and as you would expect this plugin is best if you are into blues or jazz music. SONiVOX has designed this plugin to produce some of the purest drum sounds in those genres. This is also one of the most budget-friendly plugins in the market.
The library is pretty vast with over 20 GB collection of Tony’s excellent drum samples. The GUI or Graphic User Interface is quite interactive and will bring out the best out of you. Most essential controls are present nearby, which makes tweaking and editing very comfortable.
Coming to the mixer, you’ll notice a 6-channel mix panel with dedicated channels different drum types like snare and kick. EQ, compressor, and reverb are the only three effects you’ll find on this plugin.
Make sure you have Windows 8/Mac OS 10.8.5 or above, 4 GB RAM and 35 GB of free hard drive space, and you’re good to go.
- Great for soft music like blues or jazz.
- Brilliant and authentic sound.
- Interactive GUI.
- Not suitable for heavier music.
Arguably the unique entry of the list as Tony Coleman Drums is exclusive for blues or jazz music.
Steven Slate Drums 5, which is popularly known as SSD5 is one of the most popular plugins among professionals. Since its launch in 2005, SSD5 has developed a unique and loyal fan following. It takes many elements from its predecessor, SSD4, and augments those with many of its own offerings.
The company has entirely rebuilt the user interface from scratch to provide you with a fresh experience. The library has also seen an upgrade featuring many new types of drums including several snares, kicks and toms. Moreover, SSD5 also features nine percussion instruments and four sound effect instruments.
This plugin was designed to provide effortless routing, which means it is elementary to map and back up presets.
Steven Slate Drums 5 works on both PC and Mac with at least 4 GB of RAM
- Brand new interface.
- Efficient routing.
- Numerous sounds.
- Not suitable for beginners.
Steven Slate Drums 5 is a brilliantly made plugin and lives up to the legacy of the SSD4. It packs a terrific library featuring numerous types of sounds.
If you are into music from the 80s, irrespective of the genre, then Beatskillz has done you a massive favour. Synthwave drums feature some of the most iconic drum sounds from this era. The company has also included the unprocessed or dry versions of those drum sounds if you want to experience authenticity.
The library is pretty vast as it features more than 100 drum kits and more than 1000 sounds. Among those kits, you’ll find 13 snares, eight hi-hats, and 12 toms among many others, which is more than what others offer. Synthwave drums features three effects, namely, pitch, reverb and volume.
It is compatible with both Mac OS and Windows. You only need 300 MB of hard drive space and 2 GB RAM to run this plugin.
- Massive library.
- Minimal system requirements.
- Impressive sound quality.
- Limited Effects.
Synthwave Drums by BeatSkillz is one of the only few plugins in the market that will deliver original 80s sound quality.
Superior Drummer 3 by Toontrack is indeed superior to its competitors in many regards. It is also one of the expensive entries of this list. This plugin is not for the amateur drummer who is just testing the waters. We recommend only hardcore professionals who know their trade should go for this plugin.
The library is enormous, over 230 GB collection of some of the most captivating drum sounds that you’ll ever witness. Superior drummer arguably has the most intuitive user interface that allows you to do multiple tasks at once. It has an integrated browser which makes searching for grooves a piece of cake. The mixer features a staggering 35 effects and a wide range of presets.
Superior drummer has one of the fastest SD3 and MIDI connectivity speeds. You probably would’ve guessed by now that this plugin will require a substantial system to run. Toontrack recommends having at least 8 GB of RAM and 230 GB free hard drive space for optimum performance.
- Gigantic library.
- Breathtaking effects.
- Impressive UI.
- Great sound quality.
- Pretty expensive.
What’s not to like about Superior Drummer? It has everything, from a vast library to a wide variety of effects. It is a complete package.
Addictive Drums 2.0 or AD2 is the kind of plugin that is suited for multiple genres. It is ideal for blues, jazz, rock and many other styles. XLN Audio has provided three kits, and 130 presets that gives you a wide range of choice on what type of drummer you want to be. AD2 features reverb, delay and EQ effects, which might not be many but is decent for the price tag.
It is also one of the easiest to learn plugins, which you can do if you practice regularly. Transient Shaper and Tone Designer are two unique features that allow you to modify the character of the drum sound. The interface also enables you to alter every characteristic of drum kits, including distortion and compression.
The library has more than 5000 grooves, and the Grid Search feature makes it effortless to choose your favourite groove.
AD2 is compatible with most DAWs and can also function as a standalone unit. It also has quite low system requirements as you only need 2 GB RAM to run it, although 4 GB is recommended.
- Value for money.
- Gigantic groove library.
- Intuitive search feature.
- Bleed options are limited.
XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2.0 is an affordable solution if you’re looking for an easy to use plugin with a lot of unique features.
Another entry from Toontrack, and this time a more affordable one. The company has especially designed this product to cater to the needs of the less affluent drummers among us. That being said, there has been little to no compromise when it comes to quality. EZdrummer is the best plugin in its price range.
As expected, the interface is brilliant and you can move around individual MIDI blocks to create a song from scratch. Other impressive features like groove suggestion which recommend similar grooves are also great for groove creation. EZdrummer 2 features a collection of presets and several effects like reverb, delay and EQ. These presets and effects allow you to work with any kind of music, from metal to rap.
It has 2 separate libraries or setups which are called Vintage and Modern, along with five different kits. All this suggests that EZdrummer is highly flexible and versatile.
Unlike the Superior Drummer, you won’t need a heavy system to run EZD 2. Make sure you have 4 GB hard drive space with 2 GB RAM and its a plus if you have a professional sound card.
- Extremely versatile.
- Effortless search option.
- Impressive sound quality.
- Limited editing options.
Toontrack EZdrumer 2 is the best plugin in this price range. It delivers great sound quality and is super easy to use, all this while taking only 4 GB of hard drive space.
10. Fxpansion BFD3
If anyone called BFD3 a groove making beast, he wouldn’t be wrong. When it comes to groove creation, BFD3 from FXpansion is one of the best plugins in the market. A lot of options are present to edit patterns. You’ll also find the bleed and tom resonance functions which give a more realistic feel to the sound. The modelling technology also helps in this regard.
BFD3 has a new browser which helps in streamlining your workflow. Also, if you have a large screen, there is an option of the extendable interface.
FXpansion has provided seven kits and a massive library which features a plethora of sounds. The best thing that they have done is compressing more than 170 GB of audio data to 55 GB. Now you won’t have to worry about deleting stuff from your computer to make room.
When it comes to installation, you’ll have three options for free space, 18 GB, 27 GB, and 55 GB. Other than that, screen resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels and 3 GB RAM is recommended.
- Many kit choices.
- Vast library despite low disk space.
- Brilliant features.
- Slightly expensive.
FXpansion BFD3 is an all-round solution to any drumming problem you might face. However, the fact that it takes low-space and has more content is genuinely baffling.
You must have heard about Native instruments as a drum machine company. They also make world-class VST plugins and Battery 4 is one of them. It is one of the most widely used applications by professionals to this day.
Battery 4 has undergone a complete overhaul from Battery 3. It has a newly designed GUI which produces smooth workflow and has many cool features like drag and drop, and colour-coded cells. Native Instruments has also added several new filters and effects including Solid EQ and Solid Bus Comp.
It works with both OSes, but you’ll need a 64-bit version to run it along with 4 GB RAM. You’ll also need an internet connection and a graphic card to activate Battery 4.
- Intuitive GUI.
- Improved workflow.
- A diverse range of effects.
- 64-bit OS might not be available to everyone
No list about musical equipment, whether hardware or software, is complete without an entry from Native Instruments. Battery 4 is their most ideal representative for this list.
Vintage Funk & Disco Dual Kit or Kontakt Dual Kit from DrumDrops features two kits in one. As you can guess by the name, this plugin is best for funk or disco sounds. Both of the kits that are featured were recorded somewhere around the 1970s by Mike Pelanconi in Brighton.
Both the kits have a collection of snare drums, bass drums, floor toms, rack toms and cymbals. EQ, Compressor, Shape and Tape Control are the effects you’ll find on both of these kits. You’ll also find many other types of tools including crush, limiter and 4-band equaliser. When combined, both of these kits contain more than 25000 samples. They have also improved the MIDI groove player who has almost 3000 loops, of which more than 100 are funk loops.
- Dual Kits.
- Massive collection of samples.
- Original and dry sound.
- Limited to funk and disco genres.
If we talk about plugins, there are not many which are exclusively built for funk or disco music. DrumDrops provides the perks of both of them in this attractive bundle.
Big Kick by Plugin Boutique is one of the budget-friendly plugins. If you are a beginner, this might be the perfect choice for you. Using it is a child’s play, and you’ll be creating beats in no time. As the name suggests, Big Kick is mainly known for its vast range of kick drums. It perfectly emulates most of the widely known kick sounds. If you are curious enough, you can edit the existing sounds to give rise to sounds previously unheard.
It features a collection of 110 presets and more than 300 attack types. You can also use your own samples which can assimilate very easily into your library. The company has also provided many features like autoplay, hard pass filter and fine-tuning, that will boost your creativity and allow you to create mind-blowing beats.
- Wide variety of kick sounds.
- Terrific sound quality.
- Value for money.
- Poorly designed GUI which is hard to use sometimes.
If you are into kick drums, then Plugin Boutique Big Kick is the best choice for you. It produces some of the finest sounds at such a low price.
14. D16 Punchbox
This is another plugin that specialises in kick drums. Punchbox by D16 group fills some of the gaps which Big Kick leaves behind. Trusted by several musicians around the globe, Punchbox has a lot to offer when it comes to sampling and synthesis.
The library is gigantic, with over 1100 samples and 800 presets that give you ample opportunity to take your pick. It has been designed to emulate the sounds of classic Roland drum machines. Although the editing options allow you to create fresh sounds as well.
Punchbox features 5 effects, namely, EQ, crusher, distortion, filter, and limiter. Considering the price range, the company is giving you more than enough.
D16 recommends running this on a system with 8 GB RAM and a processor having a clock speed of 2.40 GHz.
- Focused synth modules.
- Brilliant effects.
- Lots of presets.
- Controls are a bit tiny.
D16 Punchbox is for those kick drum lovers who were not satisfied by the Bid Kick. Punchbox gives you more control and choice over your music.
This one is for the 60s fans who want to take a walk down the memory lane. It features two kits that were recorded in Abbey Road in London, which has hosted many big-name artists including the Beatles. Both kits come in flavours or settings, namely, Full, Lite and Vintage. The primary focus of this plugin is to produce authentic and organic sounds of the sixties.
It has a huge library that has more than 29000 samples and 1000 grooves which are divided into five genres that resonate with that era. You can also customise grooves as per your preference. The tightness control tool and swing control tool have been provided precisely for this purpose only.
The mixer features a vast array of effects which include the standard EQ and reverb, but also include some unique ones like Transient Master.
To use this plugin, you must have KONTAKT Player 5 or higher.
- Organic 60s sound.
- Extensive library.
- Terrific depth and tone.
- Not suitable for modern music genres.
Native Instruments Abbey Road 60S Drummer is suited for the classic rock fanatics who want to recreate the authentic sounds from that era with a modern touch.
Nerve is one of the most popular VST drum plugins in the world right now, particularly among musicians who work with dance music. Even if you are a beginner who aspires to become a DJ, then this might be the plugin you need.
Nerve has a 2 GB library which features a range of different sounds, patterns, samples, loops and grooves. All of these sounds have been designed by the most prominent sound designers around the globe.
The user interface is one of the best in the industry. It has many standard features like the drag and drop which you can use to create music from scratch. Nerve also has a mouse-driven step sequencer which is pretty simple to use due to its design.
The best aspect of Nerve is the pad section and waveform editor. There are 16 pads in total, each one of them has 2x-oversampled State Variable Filter and flexible LFOs, which enables more variation in sound.
Despite being a heavyweight plugin, Xfer Nerve has a fairly low CPU footprint.
- Brilliant sequencer.
- Great effects.
- Impressive samples and library.
- MIDI mapping is not that great.
Xfer Nerve is a household name for many dance musicians globally. It has a plethora of unique features that make it stand out.
Geist 2 is the second entry from FXpansion in this list. The plugin was designed by keeping only one thing in mind. To provide a smooth and efficient beat production experience to musicians. Geist 2 does that job brilliantly. This is because it has one of the fastest working GUIs.
Geist 2 allows you to upload or record your samples directly to pads with ease. You can effortlessly perform many other functions like slicing loops and beat sequencing. 64 pads come in handy in this regard. Each pad has eight sample layers which can be further split. You’ll also find many great effects and algorithms that will further make you fall in love with this plugin.
The most striking feature of the Geist 2 are the eight sound engines which give immense power to it. Despite that, you’ll be able to run Geist 2 on any decent computer with a minimum 4 GB RAM.
- A lot of pads.
- Low hard drive space.
- Terrific sampler.
- Might be tricky to use for a beginner.
Geist 2 is one of the most powerful plugins in the market. It features a state of the art sampler and slicer that allow you to create high-quality music.
XLN Audio is back with another one of their brilliant offerings. This is the Addictive Trigger VST plugin. It is also one of the most technologically advanced plugins which has some impressive features.
An audio fingerprint is one such feature which can accurately detect even the minutest ghost notes. It is also good at differentiating between similar sounding strokes that were played at the same speed. Superstart is another unique feature, which suggests parameter settings based on your previous work and preferences. Due to these features, working on Addictive Trigger is a rewarding and fulfilling experience for many.
If you already own Addictive Drums 2 by XLN, then you can seamlessly transfer your presents and sounds to the Addictive Trigger.
It is compatible as a standalone unit or a DAW component in both Mac and PC. Make sure you have the latest version of OS and 4 GB RAM.
- Fast and smooth workflow.
- Supports AD2 presets.
- Great sound detection.
- Sound expansion is limited if you don’t have AD2.
Addictive Trigger packs some of the most unique features like Superstart and Audio Fingerprint that sets it apart from the rest.
This is the only free plugin in this list. We suggest if VST plugins are alien to you, then you should experiment with a free plugin before buying a paid one. MT Power Drum Kit is the best free plugin in the market.
Despite being free of cost, MT Drum Kit produces a realistic sound of an acoustic drum kit. It is ideally suited for pop, rock or metal music, though you can experiment with similar genres such as R&B and Rap.
The library is pretty vast as well. It features a wide range of drum sounds including different types of snares, kicks and cymbals.
MT Power Drum Kit is one of the few plugins that can run on a Linux computer as well.
- Free plugin.
- Organic sound quality.
- Compatible with Linux.
- Limited options for editing.
Being the only free plugin in the list, MT Power Drum Kit by Manda Audio still packs a lot punch that makes it a strong competitor to the paid plugins.
The final entry is GetGood Drums or GGD Modern and Massive. This is one of the best applications to work if you are into rock or metal music. It features a state of the art GUI that brings out the best creativity out of you. Each instrument is displayed under a different tab which allows you to shape and balance. This is one of the most streamlined interfaces that you’ll see.
GGD modern and massive also comes with a built-in groove player, and even reverb and processing effects. You’ll have access to a wide range of snares, kicks and toms.
The processing is minimum which gives you complete control over your music. An impressive feature is one-knob Turbo control.
You’ll need a computer with 15 GB of hard drive space and 4 GB RAM to run this application.
- Impressive GUI.
- Each instrument is separated by tabs.
- Great effects.
- Not suitable for dance music.
GetGood Drums Modern and Massive is arguably the best plugin for rock and metal music. The diverse set of features make it one of the most unique plugins.
Things to Keep In Mind While Choosing A Drum VST Plugin
There are a plethora of drum plugins in the market. Here we have listed mostly the paid ones; if you include the free plugins, then the number might go into hundreds. However, most of the drum plugins are quite similar to one another. In fact, there are only a few differentiating factors which lead to some relevant distinction between any two VST plugins.
If you are confused on what kind of plugin you should buy, then let us help you. The kind of plugin you want depends on these four factors listed below.
1. Compatibility with Windows or Mac
Most plugins are compatible with both Windows as well as Mac. However, there are a few VST plugins that are compatible with only one OS. So before buying, make sure that the product you have chosen is compatible with your computer.
Budget is another factor. If you don’t want to spend anything at all, you can get a free VST plugin for practice. On the other side of the spectrum , you’ll find many VST plugins whose cost is equivalent to some of the best drum machines. So, any product you choose must be in line with your budget.
Due to the sheer number of options available, each VST plugin brand tends to offer some unique features to its customers. Many of the items in this list have special features which won’t be found in any other plugin. In the end, it is up to you which features you want to choose and which you want to pass.
4. User Interface
This is the final differentiating factor for VST plugins. Particularly for drum plugins, you’ll find that there is a significant disparity in the quality of user interface. Many are relatively easy to use and can be mastered quickly even if you are a beginner. While others are confusing and complicated. So if you are a beginner, choosing a plugin with a comfortable UI design would be best.
While most plugins are suitable for multiple genres, many are designed exclusively for particular genre types. For example, the Abbey Road Drummer from Native Instruments is made for music from the 60s. So before buying, you need to consider what kind of music you’ll be creating and choose the optimum plugin accordingly.
6. System Requirements
This is one of the most critical factors that you must keep in mind before you shop for a VST drum application. Most of them will run on average computers and will have minimum system requirements. However, there are some entries in this list that require a lot of hard drive space and RAM. Some even need a professional sound card. Make sure that the product you choose is in line with your computer.
What are The Best Brands To Choose?
FXpansion is a limited company based out of London that is famous for its music software including BFD3, Geist2 and Strobe2. Soon after their inception in 1999, they expanded their operations to international locations. They were the recipient of “Electronic Musician Editors’ Choice Award” four times.
2. Native Instruments
Native Instruments was founded in 1996 in Berlin and now they have 6 offices in 3 continents. They are a renowned vendor that supplies state of the art musical electronics and software. One of their famous hardware line is the Maschine drum machine series.
ToonTracks was founded by Mattias Eklund around fifteen years ago for providing technological solutions to drummers. They are one of the few companies who exclusively deal in drum VST plugins.
Arturia is a Frech technology company based in Grenoble. They specialise in making electronic equipment for musicians including high-end drum machines, MIDI controllers, sequencers and much more.
Xfer Records is a company that specialises in making software for musicians from different genres. Many of their world-class products include Cthulhu, which is a chord and arp tool, and Serum, which is a synthesiser.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the system requirements for a good VST drum plugin?
Most plugins are compatible with both Mac and PC, and can run on quite basic requirements. However, some high-end plugins require a heavy machine to run it. To be on the safe side, make sure you have the latest operating system, 4 GB RAM and ample amount of disk space.
What is the average cost of a VST drum plugin?
The range is pretty diverse. There are many free plugins and some of them you can buy for a few dollars. On the other end, you’ll find VST plugins that cost hundreds of dollars. As the price increases, so does the features and specifications.
Should I go for a VST drum plugin or buy an external drum machine?
It is a complicated question whose answer depends on your skill level and your preference. Drum machines offer much more than a plugin ever will. But that comes with an extra cost. Operating a drum machine also requires extra skill which many of us don’t have.
Can I use VST plugins on a Linux based computer?
Yes, but most of the high-quality plugins are not compatible with Linux computers. Nearly, all of the plugins that we have featured in this list run on Mac or PC. Some plugins run exclusively on PC and don’t support Mac. There are some free plugins like the MT Power Drum Kit which can run on a Linux based machine.
Where can I buy VST plugins?
VST plugins are software that you won’t be able to buy on your traditional eCommerce websites. However, many vendors deal in such applications like Sweetwater.com and pluginboutique.com.
When it comes to VST drum plugins, there are many choices available in the market. Some are suited to modern genres while others are perfect for classic genres like blues or psychedelic rock. However, not every plugin might be for you.
Some of these applications require a specific skill set and expertise to operate. If you think you have what it takes to master a VST plugin, then, by all means, take your pick.