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Let me tell you —
I love drum sample libraries. I keep coming up with excuses to get more.
Some of my favorite acoustic drum library makers of the last few years include GetGood Drums, Drumforge, Steven Slate Drums, and others.
They’re all fantastic, but I still search to find more drums for more applications.
Enter Addictive Drums 2.
Addictive Drums Custom and Custom XL Review
I picked up XLN Audio’s Addictive Drums 2 a while back — the version that comes with the sample libraries, three MIDI packs, and three add-on drums.
Since then, I haven’t (for the most part) used any other drum library on a production. The sounds are extremely natural and sound so realistic. And I should mention, that goes for most their libraries, but not all.
I love that I was able to choose what I wanted. First, many of the libraries I already owned were more suited to metal and rock production.
While not a bad thing, I lacked more organic and natural samples in my collection.
If you get Addictive Drums Custom or Custom XL, you’ll get to choose libraries, MIDI packs, and add-ons, as I did.
Upon purchasing, you’ll get to pick your libraries, also known as ADpaks.
My Choice of ADpaks
Fairfax Vol. 1 and 2 were obvious choices for my first two ADpaks. Both these packs were tracked at Fairfax Recordings in Los Angeles, CA.
For those unaware, Fairfax Recordings, now permanently closed, was formerly legendary recording studio Sound City.
If you haven’t seen the documentary, watch it. I almost recorded there with my band before it shut down in 2017 — totally regretting that now.
Sound City is the birthplace of so many legendary albums.
Nirvana’s Nevermind, RHCP’s One Hot Minute, Weezer’s Pinkerton, Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled, Queens of the Stone Age’s Rated R, all come to mind.
I almost forgot — the drums sound incredible in that room.
Fairfax Vol. 1 ADpak
XLN Audio describes Fairfax Vol. 1 as beefy American rock drums, and I have to agree.
The kit used was a vintage Gretsch “Stop Sign” kit. Those who know Gretsch understand that drums from the Stop Sign era sound incredible.
The Snares and Kick
Snares included are a 14×7″ Craviotto Custom Shop snare and a super-rare 14×6.5″ Tama Bell Brass snare nicknamed the Terminator.
My favorite between the two is the Craviotto. It has more body and weight.
The kick is a 24×16,” and, while it sounds massive as you’d expect, it’s a little thin somehow in the low-end. The sample is a bit too bright and clicky to my ears.
It’s mostly at the top end of the velocity range, and I’m picky (the other ADpak I’ll get into has an incredible Leedy & Ludwig kick I’m loving). I’m sure there are excellent uses for the drum on grungier rock recordings.
The Toms and Cymbals
Included are four tom samples (I assume they recorded the rack and floor at different tunings).
The toms are warm and punchy, though, in the overheads, the rack toms sound a little flabby. Maybe a bit more dampening could have worked, but that’s just my dumb opinion.
Tom sizes are as follows:
- 12×8″ Gretsch Stop Sign
- 13×9″ Gretsch Stop Sign
- 14×14″ Gretsch Stop Sign (low tuned)
- 14×14″ Gretsch Stop Sign (high tuned)
I was correct about the tuning.
One of the reasons I love Addictive Drums so much is the quality level of the cymbals. Lots of drum sample libraries attempt and fail at getting cymbals right.
Not in this case.
In all three of the ADpaks I picked up, the cymbals sound incredible.
Cymbals in Fairfax Vol. 1 are:
- 16″ Iveson’s Custom Hihat
- 18″ Zildjian K Dark Thin Crash
- 20″ Zildjian K Crash Ride
- 20″ Zildjian Low China
- 24″ Iveson’s Selection Dark Ride
The only additional samples included are a shell hit of one of the toms and a handclap sample of three people.
Fairfax Vol. 2 ADpak
I still haven’t decided if I like Vol. 2 more. The kit recorded is a late-60s Gretsch “Round Badge,” with 30 professional presets that are ready for productions.
Fairfax Vol. 2 is perfect for indie, folk, and pop. The presets are incredible! “Big OH and Room” sounds enormous!
The Snares and Kick
Snares included are a 14×6.5″ Ludwig Black Beauty and 14×5″ Ludwig 20’s Two-Piece Brass.
The Black Beauty has far more body, as you’d expect, though I somewhat like the sound of the 14×5″ more.
Although A/Bing them now, I keep going back and forth. They both sound fantastic.
The kick is a 22×14″ — it sounds very organic and not overly processed. With that in mind, I don’t exactly know how to load unprocessed samples into Addictive Drums 2.
I think you must load a preset, and then turn off the EQ, compression, reverb, etc. Please tell me I’m wrong in the comments.
The Toms and Cymbals
Again, I was pleasantly surprised with the toms and cymbals.
The toms sound warm and full, though I’m a little disappointed with the tuning between toms 3 and 4. There could be a little bigger gap in pitch.
Toms included are as follows:
- 13×9″ Gretsch Round Badge (low tuned)
- 13×9″ Gretsch Round Badge (high tuned)
- 16×16″ Gretsch Round Badge (low tuned)
- 16×16″ Gretsch Round Badge (high tuned)
I love the cymbals recorded for Vol. 2. They’re big and washy, not pingy and brittle like so many tracked cymbal pack libraries.
The cymbals included are as follows:
- 16″ Iveson’s Selection Hihat
- 20″ Iveson’s Selection Thin Crash
- 21″ Iveson’s Selection Crash
- 24″ Iveson’s Selection Dark Crash
- 24″ Iveson’s Selection Bright Ride
And finally, the extra samples are another shell hit and 2×4,” just, because?
I assume this is paying homage to Dave Grohl’s black 2×4″ in his setup.
In an extended interview with Them Crooked Vultures, he notes his “woodblock” for Interlude with Ludes, followed by chuckles from the interviewer and the band.
United Pop ADpak
Finally, onto my favorite ADpak I picked up with Addictive Drums 2.
United Pop features a vintage Leedy & Ludwig kit.
The demos on XLN’s website sold me immediately.
With two grungy and rock-like packs picked out, I figured I would need something cleaner for general production.
XLN calls United Pop the ultimate pop kit. The Leedy & Ludwig kit was tracked at United Recording, formerly known as Ocean Way.
Numerous chart-topping artists recorded here including Beck, The Beach Boys, Madonna, No Doubt, Weezer, U2, and even Michael Jackson.
Despite pop being in the title, it’s not just for pop. When I think of great-sounding drums, this pack comes to mind.
I don’t believe there is a more-versatile library from Addictive Drums.
The Snares and Kick
Snares included in United Pop are a 14×6.5″ Ludwig Nickel Over Brass and a 14×5″ Trump.
I’m not entirely sure what Trump refers to, but I doubt it’s political (it’s the snare to trump them all!).
Out of the two snares, I like the 14×5″ Trump a bit more, when soloed — it has less-ringing overtones, though, in some mixes, you may need that to help fill the lower mid-range.
In some of the presets, like Fat Sound, the Ludwig Nickel Over Brass is the winning snare.
The Toms and Cymbals
The toms included in United Pop have a little less body to my ears, but overall are cleaner and brighter.
Toms included are as follows:
- 13×9″ Leedy & Ludwig (Tuned High)
- 13×9″ Leedy & Ludwig (Tuned Low)
- 16×16″ Leedy & Ludwig (Tuned High)
- 16×16″ Leedy & Ludwig (Tuned Low)
United Pop features a massive 26″ inch ride cymbal that crashes rather well, surprisingly. It’s very washy and larger-than-life.
The other cymbals included are very useable, just as much as the other ADpaks.
Cymbals included are as follows:
- 14″ Zildjian Vintage K Hihat
- 20″ United Pop Thin Crash
- 20″ United Pop Dark Crash
- 20″ United Pop Heavy Crash
- 21″ United Pop Crash
- 26″ United Pop Ride
Packs To Watch Out For
Not all the ADpaks from XLN Audio excited me. Packs like Studio Pop and Studio Rock sound very dated, in my honest opinion.
Be sure to have a deep listen to each ADpak before deciding.
Addictive Drums 2 comes with an expansive library of grooves that makes adding grooves to your productions simple without needing to understand the complexities of drumming.
My picks were easy — American Rock, Loud Beats & Songs, and Indie Rock.
Loud Beats is an incredible MIDIpak. What shocks me is the number of usable MIDI loops just from this one pack. Have a listen to the demos and hear for yourself.
XLN offers some additional percussion and other drum samples for add-ons. Since I already own a lot of percussion samples, I figured I would get more traditional drums instead.
I settled with the Vistalite Bass Drum, the DW Solid Piccolo Snare, and the Ludwig Supraphonic 402 snare. All three sound great and are versatile.
The Addictive Drums 2 Sampler
With my opinions of varying packs out of the way, let’s dive into the brain of AD2 — the sampler.
Addictive Drums’ sampler is very easy to navigate. The UI looks incredible, and there are tons of options for customization of each preset or kit.
The Gallery menu allows you to navigate the packs you own, as well as some of the ones you can buy next.
The Explore menu allows you to demo varying presets from the ADpak currently loaded.
The Kit menu gives you access to each drum, allowing you to preview each with the click of your mouse. Depending on where you click will determine what velocity hit you will audition.
The Kit menu also gives you access to the mixer for adjusting levels.
The Edit Menu
I find most of my time in Addictive Drums 2 is spent inside the Edit menu.
The Edit menu allows you to control parameters like equalization, compression, pitch adjustment, tape saturation, microphone placement (a huge plus), noise, and distortion.
The FX Menu
Within the FX menu, you can add reverb and delay to individual channels via sends.
I mostly use this tab to turn off these effects, because I like to do them separately in my DAW later. The FX provided do sound clean, so I could see that changing in the future.
The Beats Menu
My favorite menu of all is the Beats menu. I love going through and auditioning grooves for varying ideas while working on songs. The MIDIpaks I picked out are fantastic and have a wide variety of genres included.
Transform took me a while to figure out. Say you’re working on a slower production, say 64 BPM.
Your grooves in Addictive Drums may sound very slow. To fix this, use the Transform tab on the right sidebar to Double time.
Routing Options in Addictive Drums 2
One of my required features of any sampler is the ability to route channels to individual outputs.
Instead of just using a stereo output from the plugin, I need the ability to process each channel individually in my DAW (otherwise, it’s impossible to sidechain the bass to the kick, etc.).
It took me a while to find, but underneath the faders is a little down arrow on each channel.
This arrow allows you to send each channel wherever you’d like, either pre-fader or post-fader.
Wrapping Up – Addictive Drums 2 Review
While I may not have experience with every sample library provided by XLN Audio, I feel that these three are some of the best.
You can never go wrong with more sample libraries, and I quickly realized that Addictive Drums 2 is now my go-to plugin for programming drums on the fly.
The customization is incredible, and the level of detail encompassing each library is superb.
I have zero regrets in picking up AD2, and I hopefully have helped you make up your decision if you’re looking to get it.
I believe Addictive Drums 2 is one of the best drum samplers available today.