One could say that with the release of Superior Drummer 2.0 – virtual drum instrument – the godfather has returned. For Toontrack’s previous version, Superior Drummer (1.0), was the first drum rompler of its kind and spawned a whole industry of similar plugins such as Addictive Drums or Strike.
And while spawning an industry isn’t necessarily an indicator of quality, it shows that Toontrack had done some things right with Superior Drummer (1.0). In this review, I’ll argue that with respect to Superior Drummer 2.0 those things haven’t only been preserved but greatly enhanced.
I’ve constructed this review as though you were using Superior Drummer 2.0 yourself. This helped me not to get lost in any of the rabbit holes that the host of features built into Superior Drummer 2.0 provide; and I think it will be equally useful to you to actually see how you could go about producing awesome drum tracks without ever leaving your desk.
Prerequisites: Running Superior Drummer 2.0
Considering that Superior Drummer 2.0 comes with a huge sound library, its system requirements are actually quite modest: the full sound library requires 20GB of hard disk space, but you can also opt for a trimmed-down version that uses only 4GB.
Apart from that, Superior Drummer 2.0 will work on Windows 7, 8 and 10 and also on Mac OS X 10.6 or higher. Your computer should also bring 2GB RAM to the table. Finally, Superior Drummer 2.0 runs on all the major DAWs (paid and free) such as Ableton, Logic, ProTools or Reaper.
Using Superior Drummer 2.0: the Construct View
Upon opening Superior Drummer 2.0, you’ll find yourself in the construct view which does exactly what it’s called after: it enables you to put together the drum set of your CHOICE. Simply click on one of the rectangles on the cymbals / drums of the kit and you’ll see a dropdown menu with all instrument options for that particular element. In my opinion, this looks sleek and is as straightforward as it gets.
And I capitalized CHOICE, because Superior Drummer 2.0 comes with no less than 52 drum instruments on board. To give you a taste of this variety, consider the range of snare drums:
- 13″ GMS Piccolo (DS)
- 4.5×14″ Rogers Wood (DS)
- 5×10″ GMS (DS)
- 6.5×14″ GMS Maple/Ash (DS)
- 6.5×14″ GMS Nir-Z Custom (ALL)
- 6.5×14″ Ludwig Black Beauty (ALL)
- 6.5×14″ Slingerland 70’s (DS)
I think this is about as large a range as you can cover on a drum set! And even if you disagree, you still have options – albeit paid ones.
You can purchase one of Toontrack’s sound library extensions for Superior Drummer 2.0 or, if you happen to own the previous version of Superior Drummer, you can use its sound library too. It’s fully compatible.
- Plus: you can make your drum set literally as large as you want. So no matter if you want to create a drum track for Jazz or Metal – Superior Drummer has got your back.
Now that you’ve made your choice in terms of instruments, you can zoom in and modify how a particular instrument is supposed to be played.
The first option is to change the type of sticks that the drums should be played with. Looking at our snare drum choices above again, you’ll notice that some of them show “ALL” in brackets. This means you can choose from the following range:
- Felt mallets
- Drumsticks with snare wires off
This variety should cover everything from Metalcore to Film Music.
To top off the huge variety of drum sounds inside Superior Drummer 2.0, each instrument has also been recorded when being hit in almost any possible way. Those include:
- Center, Edge, Rimshot, Sidestick, Rim Only, Muted, Flams, Roll, and Ruffs for the Snare Drum
- Center, Rimshot, Rim Only for the Toms
- Closed Edge, Closed Tip, Tight Edge, Tight Tip, Seq Hard, Seq Soft, Open 1-5, Closed Bell, Open Bell 1-2, Open Pedal, Closed Pedal for the HiHat
- Crash or Mute for the Crash Cymbals
- Ride, Bell or Edge for the Ride Cymbals
A further option is to modify the velocities of individual notes you play on your drum set. Each sound of Superior Drummer’s library has been recorded at least 60 times at different volumes to give you the full range of MIDI velocities from 0 to 127.
I’ve found that it’s particularly useful to slightly change the velocities of the same notes played in rapid sequence (+/- 3) to make a groove sound less electronic and more realistic.
Finally, you can change the number of triggered instruments through playing one and the same note on your MIDI device. The feature that allows you to do this is called “XDrums” and you could, for instance, take 2 of the snare drum options from above and put them on top of each other.
This would give you a more variable and dense drum set sound and can even be used to combine instruments from inside Superior Drummer 2.0 and one of the compatible libraries I’ve mentioned above.
A Note on Sound Quality
The sounds inside Superior Drummer 2.0 have been recorded at Avatar Studios, New York by engineer Neil Dorfsman (Grammy-winner), his colleague Pat Thrall and drummer Nir Z.
And while this doesn’t guarantee that Superior Drummer 2.0 produces “superior” sounds, in this case, drummer and producers have hit the mark. I’m impressed by what comes out of Superior Drummer’s sound library! Yet, my ears aren’t yours, so please check out the audio demo over here yourself.
Ease of Use
The visual representation of your drum set keeps the most important piece in the center of attention – and only the most essential tools (Memory & Status, EZ Mixer, Master Volume, Voices & Layers, Instruments) are arranged around the periphery.
So to my mind, you can get used to Superior Drummer 2.0 in about 5 minutes and start laying down your first tracks. Of course, that won’t make you a master of all the nuanced features, but I’ve found that you can discover those easily and playfully in due time.
A drum set is an instrument with many parts and lots of sonic nuances. So to recreate this in a virtual environment is certainly no small task. And Superior Drummer 2.0 has exceeded my expectations in this regard:
When it comes to creating and fine-tuning your drum kit, the sound library gives you a range of choices that is far greater than those open to many studios and producers on a budget. And at the same time, Toontrack has managed to make the interface of Superior Drummer 2.0 simple enough to start creating first tracks after only a few minutes of use.
As such, I find that Superior Drummer 2.0 is a perfect tool to either create a drum track from scratch or supplement existing ones recorded in a studio with an acoustic set or at home with an electronic drum kit.
Have you used Superior Drummer 2.0 and want to share your experience? Do you have any questions left? Let me know in the comments!