Are you looking to find the best drum VST plugins that sound great and aren’t outdated? Keep reading—I’ve got 25 great picks, both free and paid, for almost every genre to help you find what you need.
Drum VST plugins are becoming increasingly popular as sampling becomes more and more common. The term ‘drum VST’ is rather broad, so I’ll be focusing on all types, including virtual drum libraries, percussion libraries, beat machines, and even drum synthesis.
Toontrack Superior Drummer 3 is by far the best drum VST plugin available. The developers of the software went to extreme lengths to capture the level-of-detail contained in the massive 230GB library. But don’t write off all the others. I still have a tough time deciding between Addictive Drums 2, GetGood Drums Modern & Massive, and Superior Drummer 3. They are by far the best three libraries available.
The Best Drum VSTs at a Glance
Today’s big-name drummer/producers, like Steven Wolf, rely on sample libraries to create hits for artists. The purist mentality of recording real drums for every record has vanished. Sample libraries are the way of the future.
If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are looking for more organic options, be sure to check out my roundup of the best acoustic drum samples in a new tab and read that after.
I’ll be covering all different types of drum plugins for varying genres, so be sure to read through. Let’s take a look at some of the best drum VST plugins.
1) Toontrack Superior Drummer 3 (Best Drum VST Available)
The best drum sampler around boasting 230GB of sounds captured at Galaxy Studios by the legendary producer George Massenburg.
SD3 is one of the best drum VST plugins available. Superior Drummer 3 was meticulously recorded by George Massenburg at Galaxy Studios in Belgium—it’s an impressively massive 230GB in size.
SD3 includes six drum kits, additional percussion instruments, and approximately 350 vintage drum sounds. The drum sounds are phenomenal, especially in some of the expansion packs available from Toontrack. Read our full review of Superior Drummer 3 here.
Toontrack took this library a step further than it’s predecessor by recording an additional eleven separate room microphones set up in surround for a truly lifelike experience.
Superior Drummer 3 offers the most realistic drum sounds you can find in a drum VST plugin. It’s also a blast to use alongside an electronic drum kit.
When I work with bands, I use SD3 as my primary drum engine. In my Cubase session, I route the audio from Superior Drummer 3 out of the sampler and into my individual DAW channels.
Not only does this make mixing a breeze, I have full control over the sound I like when using SD3 for drum programming and samples. From here, I’ll use Slate Trigger2 on the kick and snare when necessary for additional sampling.
Superior Drummer 3 is also compatible with EZ Drummer 3 libraries. I use expansion libraries from both softwares, so good on Toontrack for making these compatible (SD3 libraries do not work with EZDrummer 3, so don’t think that this will work in reverse).
Of all the expansions Toontrack offers, the best ones by far are Alt Rock EZX, Big Rock Drums EZX, Pop Punk EZX, Custom & Vintage SDX, Fields of Rock SDX, Hitmaker SDX, Legacy of Rock SDX, and The Rooms of Hansa SDX—all of which I own and use on pop rock productions daily.
Superior Drummer 3 also has the best product installer I’ve used to date. The Toontrack Product Manager lets you download and activate both SD3 and any expansions you end up buying—the interface works great and I’ve never experienced a headache when installing libraries (I’m looking at you Native Instruments…).
2. Addictive Drums 2
Addictive Drums 2 offers sample packs that sound so realistic, it’s hard for me to imagine using anything else.
Addictive Drums 2 is my second favorite acoustic drum VST plugin on the list. The samples sound incredible, and XLN continues to add expansion packs. Be sure to check out my in-depth review of Addictive Drums 2 for more info.
The Custom XL bundle includes the Addictive Drums engine along with your choice of six ADpaks, six MIDIpacks, and six Kitpiece packs. My favorite kit currently is United Pop. It’s perfect for modern production.
While I use a multitude of different drum VST plugins (like GetGood Drums, for instance), I find myself coming back to Addictive Drums 2 the most.
The plugin includes a simple-to-use user interface complete with a mixer. Typically I don’t utilize the mixer included with sample libraries, as I route the outputs to Cubase, but the option’s there if you need it. I typically use AD2 when making quick demos of songs with my band.
The interface loads fast and it’s simple to choose a preset that works with almost any genre of music. Like SD3, Addictive Drums 2 also works great with your electronic drum kit.
3) GetGood Drums Modern & Massive (Best Drum VST for Metal)
Bands on the heavier side looking for big drums recorded in an incredible room, look no further. Modern and Massive has radio-ready drums for your productions.
I’ve raved about GetGood Drums in other articles. The sample libraries from Nolly and the guys are a go-to for me when working on demo productions for heavier songs. Modern and Massive is an incredible-sounding drum VST library, perfect for rock and metal production. Just like AD2 and SD3, GetGood Drums offers extremely realistic drum sounds.
The drum software plugin is built on the backs of the Matt Halpern packs, which to its credit, is also a wonderful library I own. Here are some of the features:
- Perfect for contemporary rock and metal
- 9 snares, 6 kicks, 14 toms, two sets of cymbals
- Minimally processed for full creative control
- One-knob “turbo” for instant radio-ready production
- Trigger via electronic drums or program your own MIDI
- Awesome GUI
- Blend close and far mics to taste
4) Steven Slate Drums 5
SSD5 is a high-quality sample pack perfect for rock, country, and metal. A plethora of expansions are available for the software, as well.
If you browsed internet forums in the late 2000s, there’s no doubt you’ve already heard of Steven Slate. SSD5 is the latest iteration of Steven Slate’s drum VST plugin library. SSD5 comes with a whopping 103 kick drums, 111 snares, hundreds of tom/cymbal/percussion sounds, and 1,000 grooves. Some features include:
- A streamlined interface — super easy to load your favorite tones
- Advanced playback algorithm
- Deluxe 2 drum library — 50 new instruments, 10 new kicks and 10 new snares
- Easier routing
- Fader grouping
- Live preview — quickly audition sounds by clicking an instrument in the browser
In addition, there are plenty of expansion packs you can download from producers like Chris Lord Alge, Terry Date, and David Bendeth. SSD5 is one of the best drum VST libraries around.
5) Momentum by Impact Soundworks (Best Drum VST for Cinematic Music)
Film, TV, and video game composers can rejoice—Momentum is the perfect plugin for your percussion needs in composition.
Created by Impact Soundworks, Momentum is a massive collection of 2,500+ unique and organic drum performances packaged into a drum VST. Each are categorized and tagged for simplicity while writing.
Note: you must have the full version of Kontakt (not the player). Here are some of the standout features:
- 2,500+ 24-bit rhythm performances
- 100+ instruments and kits sampled
- Both tonal and unpitched percussion included
- All loops also provided as WAV/REX2
- 120+ multisampled playable instruments and sounds
6) Drum Weapons 3
For all the hip-hop producers out there, look no further than Drum Weapons 3 by Music Weapons. The kits included in DW3 are very useable and it’s perfect for everything from trap to boom bap.
Drum Weapons 3 is a massive drum VST plugin library of 530 kits. You get 12 separate sounds per preset with 3,500 different sounds. Each preset kit has functionality for both the MP60 and SP1200.
The Touchscreen Optimized GUI makes it easy to navigate and use. The improved audio engine delivers excellent sound quality, while the accurate analog technology provides a classic console and tape machine sound.
Each kit includes variations such as MP60 & SP1200, and a categorized WAV collection is included for free. According to Modern Producers, these drums are “the illest ever made, period.”
And if you’re looking for more unique drum samples for your hip-hop productions, don’t miss out on one of my favorite sample packs from Real Drum Samples — Line of Legends.
7) Sync 3 from Audio Modern
Producers who love deep atmospheres and glitchy sounds look no further than Sync 3.
Who doesn’t like glitchy drum samples?
SYNC 3 is a loop-based sampler instrument for Kontakt — perfect for electronic, trip-hop, futuristic, and other genres. It’s perfect for sci-fi sound design in movies and video games, as well. The kit comes from the team at Audio Modern, the creators of Atom Riffer, Opacity, and other award-winning virtual instruments.
Sync 3 offers crystal-clear samples at 48kHz/24-bit, producing excellent sound quality. With 28 construction kits, 1.19 GB of sounds, and 250+ loops, there are plenty of options. In addition, the ten reverb types and simple 2 Tab GUI with FX and tweaking options make it easy to customize your sound.
Additionally, you have complete control over your mix with reverb, pan, solo, and mute options on every loop in every construction kit. There are unlimited mix-and-match combinations; all loops and kits automatically sync to your DAW’s tempo. Sync 3 offers professional-quality sound in a flexible module and is available in Kontakt, WAV, AIFF, and REX formats.
8) Xfer Nerve (Best Drum VST for EDM)
Xfer's Nerve is an excellent drum machine created by veterans of the dance music scene. Nerve has a massive 2GB library full of presets, kits, patterns, one-shots, and loops.
Producers, including myself, rave about Xfer’s excellent line of software instruments like Serum. Nerve is excellent, as well, as a drum VST plugin.
Sound designers/companies responsible for the creation of Nerve include SampleMagic, Richard Devine, Dom Kane, SampeSquad, Bitword, Noise Inc, and more. Nerve’s Step Sequencer is intuitive, allowing you to make adjustments with the mouse by either clicking rhythmically or dragging on the interface.
And if sound design is your thing, you’re probably always looking for new synth engines. I recently read a great article from Integraudio on kick drum design plugins—you don’t want to miss it if you’re an EDM producer.
- Powerful Internal Step-Sequencer
- Compact interface
- 2GB library of presets, patterns, drum kits, one-shots, and loops
- Drag-and-drop your own samples
- Slice and re-arrange loops
- Multiple outputs
- VST, AU compatibility
9) Tony Coleman Drums
Tony Coleman Drums brings both an exciting and extraordinary sound to your records.
Right off the bat on the more-affordable end is Tony Coleman Drums. For those unaware, Tony Coleman is a legend in the R&B scene, having worked with many artists including B.B. King, Etta James, Buddy Guy, and Albert King. The library captures his sound perfectly.
Tony likes a big and open sound to his drums; there are no dampened drum samples. I love the tonal quality of the kick in this library. Tony Coleman Drums VST plugin includes over 20GB of samples recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, TN.
The kit from the session consists of a Mapex Black Panther snare (maple), Mapex Saturn Series Kit with 10″, 12″, 13″, 14″, 16″ toms, 22″ bass drum, a Sabian 22″ AAX ride, a Sabian 18″ AAX crash, a 20″ Vault, a 18″ AAX Fast Crash, a Sabian 16″ AA hats.
- 20+ GB of meticulously recorded drum samples by legendary blues drummer Tony Coleman
- Recorded at Ardent Studios
- Certain kick and snare samples feature 2-inch Studer tape compression
- Studio-grade effects engine for reverb, compression, and EQ
- VST, AU compatible
10) Heavyocity DM-307
The DM-307 is derived from modular synth drums, percussion, and drum machines. You get a whopping 7.5GB of uncompressed samples and 1,500 presets.
Heavyocity has been making big waves with sample libraries recently. They’ve made some of my favorite Kontakt instruments, including Gravity and Forzo.
The DM-307 is a powerful drum machine that includes 3,600 unique sounds, including modular synth drums, live drums, processed analog drum samples. Oh, and you get 1,500 different presets to streamline your production.
Heavyocity’s drum VST is perfect for styles such as cinematic, electronic, industrial, and many more.
The DM-307 drum VST features your standard 16 step-sequencer with a massive feature: you’re able to program an additional eight bars of sixteen steps, effectively making the DM-307 a 128 step-sequencer.
- 3,600+ samples
- 1,500+ NKIs
- 85 kits, 180+ kit grooves, 55 loop menus, 1200+ loop presets
- 300 Performance multis
- Standalone, VST, AU, AAX plugin compatibility
11) FXpansion BFD 3
BFD 3 is the third generation of virtual drum software from FXpansion. BFD features ground-breaking realism, especially in cymbal swells and tom resonance.
BFD 3 contains seven new kits, a streamlined user interface, a faster audio engine, mix-ready presets, an improved groove engine, a rudiment tool, and tons of grooves played by famous drummers Steve Ferrone, Brooks Wackerman, Bobby Jarzombek, Peter Erskine & Stanton Moore.
The level of detail is remarkable, as many samples contain up to eighty velocity layers. The library’s total size is 160GB, but FXpansion has managed to create a lossless compression engine that squeezes the size down to 55GB.
- 7 new kits recorded in 2 locations
- Dedicated rock, metal, jazz, brush kits
- More detail, less disk space
- Tom resonance / cymbal swell modelling
- Streamlined browser workflow
- Faster audio engine
- MIDI grooves by Steve Ferrone, Brooks Wackerman, Bobby Jarzombek, Perter Erskine, and Stanton Moore
- VST, AU, AAX plugin compatibility & standalone
12) Beat Machine 2
Specifically made for producers who require the huge range of Hip Hop drum sounds made famous over the last 30 years.
Soul-Tastik Drums is no longer supported. We recommend Beat Machine 2 as an alternative.
Beat Machine 2 has 600 kits pre-mixed and EQ’d—they’re radio-ready. The library features three decades of hip-hop drums: 90s, 2000s, and 2010s.
- 600 Brand new pre-mixed quality drum kits that cover the entire spectrum of Hip Hop
- 300 Stereo kits
- 1200+ dope drum samples included, already EQ’ed and treated for instant use
- 30 years of drums in one unit inc Boombap, East Coast, West Coast, Trap and more!
- 50 Brand new MIDI drum patterns included
- Easy stereo or more flexible sub-mix output options
- Separate kick, snare, hi-hat & percussion volume and pan controls
- Much more
13) Drum Drops Vintage Funk & Disco Dual Kit
A total of 25,537 samples are included in the Vintage Funk and Disco kits combined, with many round robins and velocities maximizing realism.
I hadn’t heard of DrumDrops until recently when I stumbled upon these two disco kits. Lately, I’ve had a big love for kits from the 70s on records like Aja by Steely Dan and Storm at Sunup by Gino Vanelli. That’s precisely the type of sound you’ll get.
Those who like dry-sounding drums will love the Vintage Funk & Disco Dual kit. Both kits run off of the Kontakt player, so you won’t have to purchase Kontakt if you don’t have it.
- Samples recorded from Jan Kincaid’s Sonor Hi Lite Drum Kit
- Vintage cymbals and bonus percussion
- Recorded at Ironworks Studio in Brighton, UK by Mike Pelanconi
14) Synthwave Drums V2
For all the 80s lovers out there, you can rejoice. Synthwave Drums from BeatSkillz brings synth drum sounds from the 1980s right to your DAW.
A total of 63 kits are included with twelve sounds each. Both processed and dry samples are included with Synthwave Drums. There’s thirteen kick-snare combo kits, five clap banks, four cymbal banks, eight hi-hat banks, four drum banks, four reverse sound/cymbal banks, twelve tom banks, and a total of 1,356 one-shot samples. Here’s some of the features:
- 1300+ drum sounds, 73 multi-drum kits, over 100 presets
- Drag-and-drop your own samples
- Multi-out to your DAW
- Library relocate in the event of a different hard drive
- Volume, pitch, pan, and release per pad, equalizer and compressor included
- Save your custom kits
Free Drum VST Plugins?
For those on a budget, check out some of these free drum VSTs. My favorite on the list below is the MT Power Drumkit 2.
- ML Drums — incredible free drum kit
- DrumTROOP — basic drum kit rompler
- Spitfire LAB drums — great sounding free kit
- MT Power Drumkit 2 — acoustic drums, one of the best free drum VSTs
- SSD Free — basic version of Steven Slate Drums, one kit included
- Drumactic 3 — now Drumatic 4, free version only offered as a demo
- T.REX 606 — made from a Roland TR-606
- Djinndrum — free lofi drum kit
- Drum PRO — free drum machine for hip-hop
- Line of Legends — another hip-hop drum kit
- DrumMic’a — created by Sennheieser as a showcase of their drum microphones (huge library)
Obvious as it may be, free drum software is no where near the level of the paid options on the list in terms of tone and versatility.
Using a Drum VST Plugin VS Recording a Real Drum Set
Why, in the first place, would you want to use a drum VST plugin when you can record the real thing? There are several advantages which I’ll detail below.
Advantages of Using Drum VSTs
- Recording drums is arguably the most complex instrument to track – Recording drums is meticulous, and to do it properly, requires thousands of dollars of gear and an incredible-sounding room. Some bands get away with recording drums themselves, but usually, they sound terrible. Using drum VST plugins lets us get a radio-ready sound with a minimal investment when compared.
- Quickly find a kit sound you want to use – Rather than wasting time miking up drums, finding a good player, and capturing the performance on the spot, drum VSTs allow producers to work faster and focus on what matters most—the song.
- Not needing the space to record drums – Not only are drums hard to record, but they also take up a lot of space in the studio! You may want to set up more keyboards or have extra room for the band to hang out while working on an album.
- Producers in apartments – In my case, I make music out of my apartment, and there’s no way in hell I’d ever imagine setting up a drum kit and recording here. I already get enough complaints from my sub and mix monitors. Drum VSTs like Superior Drummer 3 make my life easier when working with bands.
- MIDI grooves are often included with software – If you’re not a drummer or need to learn how to program drums, preset rhythms are an easy way to get going in creating simple structures for songwriting. Whether just a source for inspiration or a MIDI preset that makes it into the final mix, drum VST plugins offer a way for non-drummers to write compelling music in the 21st century without the presence of a real drummer.
But just like everything, drum VST software has its cons.
Disadvantages of Using Drum VST Plugins
- Beware of Drag-n-Drop MIDI Loops – If this is your first time programming MIDI drums, you’ll mostly be limited to using the drag-and-drop loops provided by the software. Using MIDI loops is okay, but they will make your productions sound stale until you add variation and fills to your parts. Likewise, songs that start from copy-paste drum loops often only come to life once you go in by hand and change details.
- Snare Rolls and Buzzes are Not Realistic – Snare rolls and buzzes are tough to re-create without the correct libraries via programming. You’re limited to what the software gives you regarding how the library was recorded. What articulations are included will determine the parts you can program the computer drummer to play.
- The Major Learning Curve to Programming Drums – Even if you’ve got a good grasp on rhythm and writing in drum parts, mastering velocity and how the drummer actually would play is another thing. For example, a unison hit with the hi-hat and two crash cymbal hits is physically impossible since a drummer doesn’t have three arms. Learning how to write drum parts is like understanding the range of an instrument when writing a score; it’s complicated.
- Drum VSTs are Often a Money Pit – As producers, we constantly seek the next cool sound, and that’s a great thing! However, it’s easy to fall into the money trap of buying new plugins thinking they will improve the quality of your songwriting. Sure, some new and exciting sounds can inspire good ideas, but I often buy another piece of drum software only for it to sit in my unused plugins folder in Cubase.
Choosing the Best Drum VST Plugin
Which drum VSTs you choose relies heavily on what style of music your artist or client plays. Our comprehensive list features several options from rock, jazz, EDM, hip-hop, and cinematic.
Head over to YouTube and listen to the demos of each plugin to get an idea of how they will sound in your productions. Refrain from blindly buying something based on reading, especially when it concerns audio production.
I hope my article showcasing the best drum VST plugins has helped you in your quest for better productions. What are your favorites? Let us know down in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!
Looking for more options? Don’t miss my roundup of the best free drum kits and best metal drum VSTs of 2022. Also, for all the hip hop producers out there, don’t my article highlighting my five favorite drum machine VSTs.
“MT Power Drumkit 2 — acoustic drums, best free drum VST”
Have to disagree here. MTPD’s biggest strength is that it’s around 50MB. It’s pretty heavily processed and lacking in dynamics, but good for sketching out ideas and might be all you need for power pop or rock stuff, where hammering on a kit makes sense. But if you want to replicate the feel of a good acoustic drummer, especially with dynamic playing, you’re going to need a deeper, less pre-processed sample set.
Fortunately free alternatives exists, with the caveat that they’re much bigger, ranging from hundreds of megabytes to a dozen gigabytes.
Spitefire LAB drums — this is around 400MB, but has a much wider range of sampled dynamics than MTPD and is not processed. It’s a great sounding kit, but has some room noise you can’t dial out and has no routing options, just one stereo out.
SSD5Free — free version of Steve Slate Drums comes with just one kit, but it’s a full blown, industrial strength drum module with gigabytes of samples, multiple mics, full routing options, etc.
DrumMic’a — made by Sennheiser to demonstrate their mics, it’s another single kit that’s sampled to death with Sennheiser’s arsenal of mics (big library), and you have complete control over mixing them.
Thanks for the suggestions Eric! I will be sure to add these to the free options.
How about Realidrums from Realitone?
This looks really interesting because of the grove generator and complexity slider for real time jamming. Seems well thought out.
I loved your blog and thanks for publishing this!! Here you will come to know about the best drum vst . I am really happy to come across this exceptionally well written content. Thanks for sharing and look for more in future!!
Trax drum machine is another affordable drum plugin for making Trap, Hip Hop music.
Another freebie worth checking out is SM Drums, initially available via Cockos Reaper forums. It’s insanely detailed with loads of velocity layers for each drum.
Formats : Kontakt 5 (not player), SoundFont and the Reaper Sampler.
Or Google to see various discussions on the forums
All the best :)
Thanks for the suggestion!
I can’t seem to find a drum machine where you can just dial in a drumming pattern, and then just jam to. I want to rehearse a band when the drummer doesn’t show, so I want to find a drum/dance pattern, select the complexity and tempo press GO and have it playing in under 20 seconds. I don’t really care what it sounds like, a metronome would be better than noting, and a metronome would be better than a VST where I have to select from a million sampled kits grooves and fills program it, loop it and store to a template, whiule the band gets bored goes home, gives up till a drummer shows up. There seem to be a million Drum VSTs where you can program but not many where there are large numbers of pre-progammed rhythms to choose from.
Excellent and informative article, but it is absolutely incredible and astonishing that Drumcomputer /Sugarbytes) and Punch 2 (Rob Papen) have not been included. Unbelievable.
Mark, it sounds like RealiDrums is what you’re looking for. You pick a pattern, set the tempo, adjust the complexity and which kit pieces you want to use and go.
Enjoyed your article.
I’ve gotten quite a few of Spitfire’s freebies. Nice for the price! Spitfire offers a wide range of not-so-freebies, too.
Yeah, as you can see, it’s “SPITFIRE,” not Spitefire! Well, at least your link goes to the right place.
Just got NI’s Komplete (mostly with Kontakt in mind), so looking into any third party options of interest.
Whoops there’s a typo I didn’t see. Thanks for the heads up. :D
DrumComputer by Sugarbytez got SNUBBED.
I have toontrack superior 2.0 but i much appreciate and recommend https://hertzinstruments.com. Samples pack are umbelieved real and clean! you will find a 14-day version there. in fact it is not expensive at all!