Best Drum VST Plugins in 2022 (Free & Paid)

by Alex.   Last Updated On September 30th, 2022.
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Anybody who’s owned a real drum kit knows how much effort and space they need. Let alone having to apologize to your neighbors and flatmates for being loud or the cost of soundproofing a drum room. Luckily these days, you can get equally as powerful results from a drum vst compared to a real kit.

This guide looks at the best drum vst plugins, showing you which offer the best value for money in terms of sound, features, and quality.

Looking for other instruments to pair with your drum tracks? Check out my reviews of other killer VST plugins.

Table of Contents
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Comparison of the Best Drum VST Plugins

Best for professionals who need to sculpt diverse drums with precise detail and control.See On Amazon
photo of the Toontrack superior drummerToontrack
superior drummer
Best for anybody needing to build realistic drum sounds for their beats. It's beginner friendly but also has the depth a professional would need.See On Amazon
photo of the XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2 Custom CollectionXLN Audio
Addictive Drums 2 Custom Collection
Best for producers who need a comprehensive and powerful drum plugin with additional midi loops for inspiration.See On Amazon
photo of the Steven Slate Drums SSD5.5Steven Slate Drums
SSD5.5
Best for people looking for an affordable but powerful drum machine plugin with built-in effects, mixer, and sequencer.See On Amazon
photo of the Loopcloud Plugins DRUMLoopcloud Plugins
DRUM
Best sound of vintage samplers and drum machines, TAL-Drum offers a nostalgic yet modern take to drum software.See On Amazon
photo of the TAL DrumTAL
Drum
Best for producers who owns Kontakt and needs a classical acoustic drum kit sound will be pleased with the VQ drums plugin.See On Amazon
photo of the Wavesfactory VQ DrumsWavesfactory
VQ Drums

Reviews of the Best Drum VST Plugins

An impressively deep and powerful virtual drum studio. Superior Drummer 3 is easily one of the best drum vst plugins on the market.

See On Amazon

Owning this drum vst plugin is like having a cutting-edge drum studio on your computer. This is an incredibly powerful, professional drum plugin that is capable of producing an entire drum track with the most realistic drum sounds on the market.

This plugin gives you a huge range of drum samples spread over 230GB of content. It’s broken down into seven iconic kit sounds composed of 350 unique drum sounds. Each drum sound has a large range of velocities and articulations with round robin for even more realism.

The drum samples in this drum vst are truly capable of producing some truly incredible sounding drums. I will say that it’s generally more suitable for acoustic styles of music rather than electronic music, although it still has a few electronic drum kit sounds.

Many of these incredible drum sounds include different stick options like mallets and brushes. Some kits even have multiple drum head options, giving you complete control over your drum sounds.

This huge library has impeccable sound quality and is easily some of the most comprehensive drum software going. All of the drum samples were captured in Galaxy Studios which is a state-of-the-art environment.

SD3 has one of the best interfaces out of any drum vst plugins. The window can be split into different tabs and resized. It has a quick searchable browser for navigating the drum libraries, and it’s super easy to select and modify sounds.

Superior Drummer 3 has a full sample control for editing each individual drum to craft your perfect sound. This provides controls for attack, sustain, decay, tuning, and all the other parameters you’d expect in a drum machine/sampler plugin. Moreover, it featyures a built-in mixer with effects to balance the individual drums and tweak the mix of your kit.

Each kit also includes multiple microphone positions and types, which lets you create a sound that fits perfectly with the rest of your track.

This drum vst offers more than the sounds alone. It can also create arrangements and beats directly from the plugin with the grid editor which is perfect for programming drums. This arrangement section also provides swing and groove controls for creating more humanized beats, which we all know is important for the best-sounding drum tracks.

This is one of the more expensive drum vst plugins on the market, making it more suitable for professionals or producers with a large budget. I would say feature and sound-wise, this is the best drum plugin on the market.

What We Like

Includes free drum loop MIDI pack.

350 editable drum sounds.

Over 230 GB of professionally recorded samples.

Multiple mic options for each kit.

Know Before Buying

Daunting for beginners.

Expensive.

Massive hard drive requirements.

See On Amazon

XLN Addictive Drums 2 is one of the biggest names in the drum vst scene. This is a modern drum machine with a huge sound library and powerful sampling features.

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This drum plugin goes above and beyond in terms of flexibility, customization, and sound. It provides a killer collection of drum hits, kits, and MIDI files.

XLN Addictive Drums 2 features a familiar pad-style interface that is accessible enough for beginners but also provides a level of depth that professionals need.

The Addictive Drums 2 plugin lets you build custom kits with 18 drums, cymbals, or percussion slots. It’s laid out to mimic the setup of a traditional kit, which helps to make sure you’re creating a realistic drum setup.

It features an intuitive kit and drum piece browser which lets you instantly load new sounds into the pads. The sound library comes with more than just standard drum sounds, and also gives you a large array of ethnic drums, percussion, shakers, cymbal swells, and more unprocessed sounds.

The Addictive Drums engine, interface, and design make it super easy to blend drum samples and match sounds to build your own custom drumkit. Another useful function is the ability to link sound slots together, letting you quickly trigger multiple drum pieces from the same midi note. This is powerful at many stages in production where you need to thicken up a drum track or give an arrangement a bit of a switch-up.

This drum software is decent overall, with little to criticize. My only real gripe is the interface which is a little bland in comparison to the above. Try out the free version for a demo!

What We Like

Easy interface, beginner friendly.

Large drum sound library.

Powerful editing and drum blending features.

Know Before Buying

Slightly outdated interface.

Some sounds are too heavily processed.

No drum programming or arrangement features.

See On Amazon

Steven Slate Drums is another classic drum vst plugin with a comprehensive set of features and an extensive drum library. The interface is clean and fun to use, and the editing tools are incredibly powerful.

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Anybody who’s worked in music production will know how annoying and time-consuming it can be to work with real studio drummers and record an acoustic kit. With a plugin like the Steven Slate Drums, you can kiss goodbye to that stress and say hello to one of the quickest, most powerful drum vst plugins.

This plugin has a large set of samples and drum sounds. You get over 148 different kits covering a range of musical genres. Each of these kits is multi-sampled and velocity enabled, letting you create super realistic drum performances from the plugin alone.

Besides the samples, it also includes over 2000 midi drum loops for kick-starting your inspiration. These loops are ideal for people who are new to drum programming, or even experts who just want access to a bunch of production-ready drum beats. In conjunction with the rest of the plugin’s features, these loops make you feel like you are working with a real drummer (without the annoyance of real life…)

The interface is one of the better ones out there. It features a resizable GUI so you can see the controls in as much detail as you need. It provides all the controls you need for shaping your drum’s sound with critical precision and flexibility. The raw sound is great sounding drums on their own, but with the additional sampling, you can create pretty much any drum tone you can imagine.

The samples have wide velocity ranges, so you can create some very natural-sounding performances that don’t have to be at full aggression all the time. It literally comes with all the sounds you need for a drum kit. That’s bass drums, snare drums, toms, hats, rides, crashes, splashes, chinas, percussion, claps, tambourine, cowbell, sound effects, and more.

I love the external triggering functionality. This smart feature listens to another audio track (perhaps a recording of a real drum kit) and then automatically layers in the matching drum hits with the original. This sample replacement/enhancement tool can save a tonne of time in the studio compared to manual arrangement, and quickly lets you improve the sound of a real drum recording or your own beats.

Besides using the internal library, you can load it with any of your own samples. This is a nice feature as it means the plugin can be used as a general sampler, rather than a simple drum plugin.

What We Like

Powerful sampling controls.

Highly customizable.

Works well with electric drum kits too.

A diverse range of high-quality drum sounds.

Know Before Buying

Cluttered interface.

Overcomplex for beginners.

See On Amazon

This affordable plugin offers a surprisingly extensive set of tools for building drum beats and kits. It also comes with a full drum library of high-quality sounds.

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Don’t let the affordable price tag put you off. This is actually a pretty decent plugin that offers users a range of drum sounds and sampling functionality. Made by industry leaders Loopcloud, the Loopcloud DRUM vst has a bunch of useful tools and intelligent features.

It’s not quite as advanced as the other plugins here. It also doesn’t have quite the same diversity of samples and kits. That said, you still get 1000 sounds and 30 drum kits.

The plugin is built around 16 configurable pads. Each of these pads has independent controls in the style of a classic sampler. This gives you control over volume, pan, pitch tuning, filters, and more. You also get a mixer to set the balance between each of the pads. It features a whole range of built-in effects including reverb, delay, lo-fi, distortion, a DJ filter, a limiter, and others.

One neat feature of Loopcloud DRUM is its 16 separate output channels. This means you can route each pad to a separate mixer track in your DAW, giving you better control and distinction in the final mix. This is a professional function that lets this affordable plugin keep up with the big boys.

One of my favorite features is the automatic kit generator that instantly builds you a custom kit. This uses artificial intelligence to choose a selection of samples and configures them to the pads. This instantly gives you inspiring new kit selections and is a fun way to find new sounds for your beat.

Another cool part of this plugin is the drum machine-like 16-step sequencer. This lets you create drum patterns directly in the plugin itself, and is intuitive and easy to use. The sequencer features both velocity and swing, which helps to create more human-sounding beats.

A final element worth noting is the audio and MIDI export functions. You can drag and drop the full MIDI arrangement or master audio from the plugin directly to your DAW. This saves a lot of time compared to manually bouncing it out and is a feature not found in many other plugins, even 5 times the price.

What We Like

A bunch of intelligent, time-saving features.

Decent range of drum sounds.

Affordable.

Smart audio and midi export/import functions.

Know Before Buying

Included sounds are a little lackluster.

Better for electronic sounds than acoustic.

See On Amazon

A simplistic drum sampling plugin inspired by drum machines from the 80s. Tal-Drum is a beast for electronic drum sounds and old-school beats.

See On Amazon

This plugin is another hidden gem. While the price is relatively low, the power and functionality of this plugin are high and offer great value for money.

This low-cost drum sampler is quick and easy to use. It provides a simple workflow that helps to speed up drum production while also creating high-quality beats.

It’s built around a drag-and-drop workflow and can be run in either 16 or 32-pad mode. You can customize the appearance of pads by changing the color and name to personalize the plugin to your needs. Like the Loopcloud plugin above, this also offers 16 independent outputs to give you more control when mixing in your DAW.

It features a bunch of built-in effects, particularly focusing on achieving a lo-fi sound. This plugin is highly inspired by early drum hardware and samplers, so it helps you to achieve an authentic old-school sound by using similar downsampling algorithms to the original 80s hardware. You can choose from a range of algorithms that mimic the time-stretching styles of classic sampler units.

The sample features are pretty decent, and let you quickly chop and edit samples to your liking. It isn’t as in-depth as other plugins, but still offers all the core controls you need in drum software.

A cool unique feature is the ability to record audio directly into the plugin. This is a lot of fun to play with and makes it easy to get creative by experimenting with new sounds. The fact that each pad has velocity gives this even more usability.

You also get access to a modulation matrix. This has a built-in ADSR envelope, LFO, spline envelope, and other sources which can be used to control the filter, tuning, pan, and other variables. The modulation matrix lets you spice up your sounds to create more interesting textures.

It has a small library of drum sounds and drum machine hits. It’s nowhere near as comprehensive as some of the other best drum vst plugins on this list, but that’s a blessing in disguise as it doesn’t use as much hard drive space. That said, you still get over 20 kits made from 600+ samples. These samples are designed and recorded by some of the biggest names from across the music industry, and offer excellent quality.

What We Like

Lightweight, minimal CPU and hard drive use.

Easy to use.

Retro feel and tone.

Know Before Buying

Minimal drum library.

Limited sampling ability.

Sometimes confusing interface.

See On Amazon

VQ Drums is a sweet Kontakt library based around pristine recordings of a vintage 1964 Ludwig Hollywood kit. This gives you the sound of epic organic drums within Kontakt’s powerful interface.

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If you know your drums, you’ll be able to appreciate the beauty of a luxurious 1964 Ludwig Hollywood kit. This VQ Drums plugin is an expansion for Native Instruments Kontakt, which is an incredibly powerful sampling tool. It’s worth noting that you need the full version of Kontakt to run this pack, which makes it unsuitable for producers without access.

It’s simple but it sounds fantastic. It’s recorded in a wooded room with high-quality microphones and preamps. The interface is basic, but it gives you everything you need.

It gives you an extensive sampling of the kit, with 6 velocity layers and round robins for each drum, resulting in 36 recordings for each part. You also get a range of articulations and can choose between two snare drums and two ride cymbals.

It’s a relatively minimalistic drum setup, but still has all you need to build a killer groove. It has a kick, snare, 3 toms, hi-hats, and 5 cymbals. Each has a customizable velocity ramp to find that sweet spot in your performance.

Because it’s built into Kontakt, you can use all the effects and mixer capabilities which is a bonus.

A nice element is a fact it’s recorded with 8 individual mics, each with a separate mixer channel for tweaking the balance. This helps you blend the sound to match the accompanying instruments.

It’s also got a pretty small install size at just under 3GB of drive space required. This is relatively small, but still gives you a nice range of samples for a single drum kit.

What We Like

A sweet and versatile Ludwig sound.

Wide range of articulations and velocity.

Round robin for more realism.

Built-in mixer for each drum.

Know Before Buying

Requires full version of Kontakt.

Limited range (1 kit).

See On Amazon

Bonus Free Best Drum VST Plugin

MiniSpillage Compact Drum Synthesizer – Free!

This is easily one of the best free drum VST plugins going. The MiniSpillage drum synthesizer lets you create electronic sounds with ease and precision.

Lots of people turn their noses up at free plugins, but this free drum VST is actually very powerful and fun to play with. As far as free drum VSTs go, this is one of the better ones out there. It is definitely more suited to electronic-style drums, like electro, hip hop, or synthwave drums, but it still sounds great.

Unlike other drum software on this list, this plugin revolves around using synthesis to create electronic drums, rather than using recorded samples. This is a different approach from the other plugins on this list, but it has a specific purpose that it achieves well.

This drum software gives you full control over all the elements you need to synthesize drum sounds. It’s also worth noting that this is the free version of a full plugin, so check out the paid version if you enjoy it and want more functionality. It does feel a little limited, only offering 3 sounds per instance of the plugin. But because it’s so CPU light you can run a bunch of these in your project.

Benefits

  • In-depth electronic drum synthesis.
  • Powerful and unique synthesis abilities.
  • Resource efficient (low CPU and hard drive usage).
  • Free!

Buyers Guide for the Best Drum VST Plugins

Because there are so many drum VST plugins out there, it can be hard to know which is the best type for your needs. This buyer’s guide outlines some important factors to consider to help you find the best pick!

Sound and range

Each drum plugin will have a unique sound based on the samples (or synthesis) it uses. Different drum kits are more suited to different styles of music, for example, a kit that works well for jazz might not be ideal for metal and vice versa.

Some of the above drum plugins come with a wide range of drum kits and sounds built in.

Samples or Synthesis

This is a sub-consideration of the sound. Some drum plugins are built around recorded samples of real drum kits. Other plugins use synthesis to digitally generate the drum hits. These both have different sounds, with sample-based plugins having a more realistic, acoustic tone, and synthesis being more electronic like classical drum machines.

The best choice depends on your own preferences and the type of music you make. Synth-based drum kits might be more suitable for those working in electronic genres like techno and house. Sample-based plugins are better if you need ‘real sounding’ drums for genres like rock, metal, blues, jazz, and others.

Level of customization

Every drum plugin has a different approach to its layout and flexibility. Some plugins have a relatively sound and are limited to a single drum kit. Other plugins offer a huge range of different instruments and drum pieces. They can also let you construct your own kits out of your favorite selected pieces.

Having a higher level of customization and flexibility is a desirable feature in most cases. That said, it usually comes at a higher price. Larger drum samplers also take up more hard drive space which can be a bit of a pain.

FAQs

What are the best VST drums?

The best drum VSTs are Superior Drummer, XLN addictive drums 2, and Steven Slate Drums. These all offer a huge range of samples, functionality, and performance. With a little effort, you can use these to arrange drum beats that sound just as good as a real drum kit performance. These might be a little expensive for beginners, so check out the rest of this guide for my full range of suggestions.

What is the best drum sampler?

The best drum-based sampler would be something like Superior Drummer 3 or Kontakt. These quickly enhance the ability of your digital audio workstation with quick and powerful access to drum sampling and sculpting.

What is the best virtual drummer?

The best virtual drummer would be Superior Drummer. This is an expensive plugin, but nothing else comes close in terms of range, quality, functionality, and groove. This plugin is an absolute beast and is a solid replacement for using a real drummer. I actually know many producers who use this to replace or layer in extra drum sounds over the top of a recorded performance.

Final thoughts!

Best for professionals who need to sculpt diverse drums with precise detail and control.
Best for anybody needing to build realistic drum sounds for their beats. It's beginner friendly but also has the depth a professional would need.
Best for producers who need a comprehensive and powerful drum plugin with additional midi loops for inspiration.

Good luck choosing your new drum vst. All of the plugins above will help you to achieve a killer drum sound from your computer alone. Having realistic drum sounds can make a huge difference in the overall quality of a song. Not everyone can afford (or has a suitable space for) a drumkit, so using a drum vst plugin can be a real lifesaver.