The best drum VSTs we’ve gathered run the gamut between $89 all the way up to $700! Thankfully, this means there’s a variety of choices to suit any budget. Of course, there are free options as well so you can first decide whether virtual drums are right for you!
What to Look for in a Good Drum VST
The number one thing you want to be sure of in a drum sample instrument is that the sound is right for your music. As we know of drums in the real world, different kits are particularly suited for certain styles of music. A three-piece jazz set isn’t going to be the best choice for black metal. You’ll notice that some drum VSTs are very versatile and come with a ton of samples to fit any genre. Others are more genre-specific.
Next, you’ll most likely want to check out cost. Fortunately, the bulk of drum VSTs are pretty affordable! Only the most massive collections (Superior Drummer, Addictive Drums) get pricey, with the average cost sitting around a hundred bucks. That means that anyone can get access to incredible sounding drums right in their DAW.
Finally, check out the plugin interface and see how you like it. Make sure it’s understandable and intuitive to you; if it looks daunting, clunky, or otherwise un-enticing, it’s not going to inspire you. There’s plenty of variety out there, so find a drum plugin that works best for you.
Best Drum VSTs to Purchase in 2021
On the very affordable end of the spectrum is Room Sound by The Blasting Room! For just $89, you can piece together the perfect drum kit for your needs by selecting from 25 different pieces. It includes all of the key features that make a great drum VST, including an intuitive 16-channel mixer, MIDI groove library, and customizable key-mapping.
One of the newer drum VSTs out there, GetGood Drums is the result of a collaboration between the members of Periphery, including guitarist Misha Mansoor, drummer Matt Halpern, and former bassist/current studio guru Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood, as well as Good Tiger guitarist Derya Nagle. The four have created drum software very popular amongst modern metal bedroom guitarists/producers.
GGD is also very affordable, with packs ranging from $89 to $119.
GGD currently has 4 different drum libraries: Invasion, Modern & Massive, Matt Halpern Signature, and GGD Lite (which is free!). The libraries are made for Native’s Kontakt player and all run on the free version of Kontakt. Unfortunately, the free GGD Lite library actually requires the full version of Kontakt, so you’ll have to pay for something somewhere.
GGD has attempted to make drum programming intuitive and simple, with record-ready sounds out of the box.
EZdrummer is scaled down, user-, and budget-friendly compared to Superior Drummer. Prices start at $129 and go up to $179. While not cheap necessarily, it is absolutely competitive.
Toontrack’s EZ line was designed with no-fuss functionality in mind and is the best-selling virtual drum kit in the world! EZdrummer 2 comes complete with a full library of MIDI grooves, drag-and-drop templates, and pre-made song structures. You can structure an entire song by dragging in MIDI loops or by making custom grooves. The “Song Creator” window will suggest similar grooves to ones already dropped in, meaning you can create a whole song easily. This particular drum software was built for guitarists trying to complete ideas on their own!
EZdrummer 2 comes with five drum kits divided into “Modern” and “Vintage” categories. Toontrack also offers 40+ expansion packs with fresh samples and grooves for a variety of genres, include hip hop and jazz.
Steven Slate’s plugins are incredibly popular, but he actually got his start in 2006 with his drum samples. SSD5 is the latest and greatest, with a brand new user interface redesigned from the bottom up and a reworked routing/mapping system with a price of $149.
SSD includes 77 snares, 84 kicks, 58 toms, 11 hi-hats, 14 crashes, 6 rides, 4 splashes, 3 chinas, 9 percussion instruments (clap, tambourine, cowbell), and 4 sound effect instruments.
Superior Drummer is designed for in-depth, ultra-realistic drum programming. SD3 comes with a daunting 230 GB of raw samples, so get that dedicated hard drive ready! It also sits on the higher end of the best drum VSTs at prices between $319 and $419.
One of the really cool features with SD3 is the inclusion of an extra 11 room mics used to record the samples. They were arranged in a surround configuration for an “immersive” sound. Engineered by George Massenburg, SD3 comes with 7 different drum kits and over 350 electronic drum sounds. Of course, you can also import your own samples as well.
If you need the utmost flexibility, SD3 can do it all.
Addictive Drums 2 comes with three drum kits including both of XLN’s celebrated Fairfax kits (recorded at the legendary Sound City), as well as the Black Velvet drum kit.
Addictive Drums sits at the very high end of the best drum VSTs at $700 for the complete collection. A basic pack will run about $179, with scaled down collections sitting at $330.
Addictive Drums also includes 130 presets “ranging from super-clean to highly polished and radio-ready to heavily processed and distorted.” The extra Core MIDI Library has over 5000 inspiring beats and grooves in a wide variety of styles and genre. Just like other drum software available, you can use MIDI grooves as-is or customize them to your song.
The onboard sampler comes with EQ, compression, transient shaping, distortion, reverb, and delay for complete control over your drum’s sounds.
Nerve by Xfer is a powerful plugin designed by dance music producers. It’s labeled as a tool for “beat manipulation and creation,” meaning it’s best suited for electronic music production. Nerve comes with a formidable 2 GB library of presets, one-shots, loops, and more. A built-in step sequencer makes programming a beat quick and easy.
BreakTweaker is iZotope’s forward-thinking take on a classic drum machine. At the core of the instrument is the ability to blend drum samples with synthesis features to create one-of-a-kind “hybrid” sounds. It allows for extremely hi-res editing so you can chop, slice, splice, and otherwise manipulate every drum hit with ultimate precision. This is another great drum VST best suited for electronic music.
Trax offers 400+ drums for producing modern hip hop, trap, R&B, EDM, pop, and other electronic style beats. The several hundred samples neatly fall into 50 different drum kits which come pre-EQed for squeezing into a track instantly. Built-in effects include reverb and saturation, so you can further tweak the sounds.
BFD3 offers detailed acoustic drum sounds with unique modeling technology for tom resonance and cymbal swells. The wide range of drum sounds contains samples recorded by Andrew Scheps and others, and even features mallet and brush sounds. BFD3’s collection is seven drum kits recorded in two locations, best suited for rock, metal, and jazz.
Best Free Drum VSTs
Avid’s Boom plugin is a virtual instrument for programming drums. According to Avid, “Boom is an easy-to-use and effective virtual drum machine and sequencer that enables you to quickly add and customize beats for your music.”
If you own Pro Tools you have it, and if you don’t, you can download a free version of Pro Tools which includes Boom!
Drummer lets you add virtual drummers to your music using dedicated Drummer tracks. Users can choose drummers from different genres, including rock, alternative, songwriter, R&B, electronic, hip hop, and percussion. Each of the individual “drummers” (they’re also named, by the way) comes with his/her own acoustic kit or electronic drum kit and a unique playing style.
“The MT Power Drum Kit is a free drum sampler offering the high-quality sounds of an acoustic, realistic drum kit. Samples have been specially recorded and processed to make them ideally suited for use in pop, rock and metal productions.”
Targeted to EDM/hip hop producers. With Nasty Looper, you can build up to 64 beat steps over 16 bars. It also has a built-in brickwall limiter to get crunchy, loud drums without clipping.