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VST plugins have revolutionized the way that musicians can compose and produce material. In previous years, there was a noticeable gulf in quality between the sounds that most plugins produced and the sounds of real instruments.
However, modern VST plugins have gotten so good that it’s often hard to tell them apart from the real thing. One of the main areas that have seen a drastic improvement is drum VST plugins, which can be used to replace the need for an acoustic drum set in your recordings.
Metal drums are notoriously complex and powerful, so they require high-quality drum samples and a versatile plugin to work with your DAW. If the samples don’t sound realistic, this will minimize the overall power and quality of your metal tracks.
In this guide, we’ve searched for the very best metal and rock drum plugins so that you can make the ideal choice for your specific needs and taste.
- What are the Best Metal Drum VST Plugins?
- In-Depth Metal Drum VST Plugin Reviews
- Metal Drum Software Buyer's Guide
- Things to Consider When Buying a Metal Drums VST
- Key Aspects & Features of Drum VSTs for Metal
- Metal Drum VST FAQs
What are the Best Metal Drum VST Plugins?
In-Depth Metal Drum VST Plugin Reviews
Toontrack’s flagship drum VST is the ultimate tool for metal and heavy rock musicians to create professional drum tracks.
With a wide-ranging MIDI library, Tap2Find function, Bandmate feature, and Power Hand controls, it’s easy to capture the groove you’re looking for quickly, ensuring a natural and realistic feel.
The “Advanced Play Style Editor” allows you to easily tweak parameters like velocity and micro-timing, while the Amount Editor adds complexity to ghost notes.
The Core Library consists of 7 stunning drum kits recorded at Hansa Tonstudio by Grammy-winning engineer Michael Ilbert, captured in 3 different rooms with unique sounds and a massive selection of mix-ready presets.
The graphical user interface is also very intuitive and easy to use, allowing you to input and alter your metal drum tracks with ease. The array of effects and processing tools make shaping the sound of your drums straightforward and hassle-free.
Furthermore, EzDrummer 3 is compatible with all popular DAWs, and it offers you the option to load in more metal and rock samples in the future by exploring Toontrack’s many expansion packs.
- Library contains seven core drum kits
- Samples recorded in three different rooms
- Advanced play-style editing
- Great for metal, or any other drumming style
- Very easy to navigate
- Creates realistic sounding grooves and rhythms
- Requires 18GB hard drive space
With its phase-accurate drum replacement, you can get consistent sample triggers even in the most complex metal and blast beat style rhythms. The multitrack functionality and various latency settings make it ideal for both studio and even live performances.
One of the most interesting features of the Steven Slate Drums Trigger 2 metal drum plugin is the AMG Humanization Algorithm, which allows you to dial in a level of realism and natural feel that comes incredibly close to a real metal drummer.
This realistic sound is also down to the fact that all the included samples were tracked through 2″ tape on first-class equipment at NRG Recording in California. This makes this VST perfect for metal and heavy rock production, as well as any other style that requires a realistic sound.
The Leakage Suppression feature is also a great addition, blocking out any false triggers while still allowing the accurate expression of quite drum hits and slight nuances of a metal drummer’s playing.
- All drum samples recorded onto 2 inch tape
- 127 alternation hits and articulations
- Multimode functionality for live and studio use
- Samples sound exceptional
- Wide range of kick, snare, tom and cymbals for metal
- Great for mixing drums
- Requires you to sign up for an iLok account to authorize
Considered by many to be the greatest drum VST ever created, XLN Addictive Drums 2 isn’t confined to one single musical style. However, thanks to the array of metal drum samples and tweakable features, it performs brilliantly as a virtual metal and rock drummer.
This Custom Collection includes three drum kits – Fairfax Vol. 1, Fairfax Vol. 2, and Black Velvet – plus over 5,000 MIDI grooves to help you create drum tracks in any style.
You also get access to the Transient Shaper and Tone Designer for fine-tuning the character of your metal drum sounds as well as a range of delay and reverb effects and powerful EQ tools for sculpting the finer details of the metal drum sounds.
With Addictive Drums 2: Custom, you can also link kit pieces together for beefier or less conventional sounds.
You can also add depth with specialty “Trigger” pieces like white noise and sine waves, make any MIDI groove fit with Beat Transformer, and find the right groove with Grid Search.
Plus, you can drag and drop finished metal drum parts directly to DAW or desktop to accompany your crunching guitar parts.
- Over 5,000 MIDI grooves
- Range of delay and reverb effects
- DAW drag and drop for easy integration
- Allows you to fully customize drum sounds
- Great for inputting MIDI metal drum beats
- Intutive user interface
- Works best with extension packs that are sold seperately
For users of Toontrack’s EZDrummer software, there are several excellent metal plugins that can be run through that VST. If you want the very best metal drum kit samples and sounds, it’s worth considering investing in EZDrummer and this Metal Bundle.
EZmix 2 Metal Bundle is a native plug-in optimized for metal music. It’s loaded up with everything from compressors and reverbs to guitar amp simulators and stereo enhancers—allowing you to mix in the box from one user-friendly interface.
The bundle also includes six expansion libraries created by a selection of big names in metal production. You can easily tweak individual processor settings to optimize for your style of production and songwriting, resulting in a crisp-sounding mix every time.
The plugin works on both Mac and PC systems and is available in AU/VST/RTAS formats. This makes it easy to integrate into any existing system or use alongside other plugins.
Some of the samples and effects included in this plug-in are so good that they are very difficult to tell apart from a genuine metal drummer.
- Includes seven metal sample and mixing packs
- Compressors, reverb plugins, and amp simulators all included
- Simple preset management
- Includes everything you need to create metal music
- Caters to all specific sub-genres of metal
- Drum samples sound incredibly realistic
- Only usable with Toontrack EZdrummer or Superior Drummer
XLN Addictive Drums 2 offers its users the opportunity to expand the options they have available when composing using the plugin by installing one of many specifically designed extensions to suit their style of music.
It was recorded by Ross Robinson, one of the most famous metal producers in the world, and engineered by Steve Evetts for a thunderous sound that is sure to make your tracks stand out.
With its 18-piece Ludwig drum kit, heavy kick drum, and savage Zildjian cymbals, this expansion pack will give you all the powerful sounds you need to get your metal and heavy rock tracks sounding huge.
The 30-odd mix presets have been fine-tuned by well-known metal musicians, such as Roberto Laghi and Bjorn Gelotte, and Martin Preikschas, so you can guarantee the quality of this software.
- Produced by Ross Robinson
- Includes a range of metal drum sounds
- Easily integrate with Addictive Drums
- Zildjian cymbal samples sound excellent
- Diverse mix of snare sounds
- Ideal for loud, aggressive metal
- Must be used with Addictive Drums
With its wide range of excellent kick, snare, tom, and cymbal samples, this is one of the most popular VST plugins on the market and is arguably the best drum software for metal.
Toontrack’s Superior Drummer 3 features 230GB of raw, unprocessed sounds recorded at Galaxy Studios by the legendary George Massenburg using 11 surround microphones for stereo and up to 11.1 surround playback.
You can also drag and drop or import individual or third-party samples and control mic bleed, routing, sends, and groups just as you would with a hardware mixer.
Furthermore, you can use the Tap2Find function to match the metal rhythm that’s in your head, no matter how complex. With the built-in grid editor, you can refine timing, velocity, and more.
The software also allows you to build and arrange entire drum tracks without leaving the program and supports keyboard shortcuts and DAW automation, which can help to streamline the process of creating life-like metal drum parts for your compositions.
- 230GB of drum samples
- 35 insert effects
- Intuitive grid editor
- Incredibly vast range of drum samples for metal, rock, pop and other genres
- Endless possibilities for mixing and processing sounds
- Many variations provide a human-like playing quality
- Can be quite complicated to use
With its straightforward and intuitive layout, AIR Strike 2 Virtual Drummer makes it easy to lay down realistic, professional-sounding drum tracks for any type of music.
Especially suited for metal and heavy rock, the plugin offers advanced sample switching, which gradually adjusts dynamics to avoid an unnatural, robotic tone that sometimes occurs when using drum samples.
Furthermore, AIR Strike 2 Virtual Drummer lets you control intensity, complexity, timing, and groove for an incredibly organic metal sound.
You also get full control over the drum kit sound with a built-in virtual mixing console with dedicated EQ and two insert effects or processors per channel so that you can tweak the tonal and dynamic aspects of your metal drum parts to suit other instruments in your music.
AIR Strike 2 Virtual Drummer is also great for creating your own custom kits from WAV and AIFF files from other sample libraries. The plugin also comes with MIDI Learn functionality, allowing you to map it easily to any MIDI controller.
- 19 onboard drum sets
- 30GB of high-quality drum samples
- Advanced behavior controls
- Simple layout and easy to navigate
- Vast range of drum samples suitable for metal
- Allows you to mix every aspect of the samples to your liking
- Requires 56GB of space on your hard drive
As the name suggests, UJAM Heavy 2 is the perfect choice for hard-hitting rock and metal musicians looking for a realistic-sounding VST plugin.
Whether you’re looking to add heavy grooves to your classic rock tracks or complex rhythms to your heavy metal compositions, Heavy 2 will provide the goods.
The plugin offers five incredible-sounding drum kits, 60 styles, and more than 1,300 grooves for you to choose from. This makes it easier than ever to find the perfect beat for your metal tracks.
You’ll also appreciate the 200 presets and drag-and-drop MIDI editing, which ensures you can create the type of drum sounds you’re looking for.
Metal drums require power, and Heavy 2 certainly packs a punch. The plugin is easy to use, with an intuitive user interface. It’s, therefore, ideal for those who don’t want to waste time messing with complicated settings when creating their metal drum parts.
- 5 diverse drum sets
- 200 presets and 60 styles
- 1,380 ready-made grooves
- Limitless possibilities when shaping rhythms
- Drag and drop MIDI editing is very easy to use
- Compatible with any DAW that supports VST plugins
- Lacks the onboard effects that some VSTs offer
Metal Drum Software Buyer's Guide
When it comes to choosing a VST plugin to produce metal-style drum tracks, there’s plenty to think about. Although most of the options we’ve covered are designed for similar purposes, their capabilities, layouts, and other aspects vary.
VST drum plugins can be pretty hit-and-miss in terms of quality. Some possess powerful features but lack sample quality, while others boast incredibly realistic sounds with limited tools. The key is to find a balance between these attributes.
There are some options available that are suitable not just for metal drums but also for other styles and genres. These may be the best option if you plan on broadening your music production style in the future.
There’s also a chance that you may want to add to the samples and tools that are included in the VST plugins at some point, which is why extensions and sample packs are worth looking into.
Let’s take a look at some of the key things to bear in mind when trying to determine which VST drum plugin for metal you should choose.
Things to Consider When Buying a Metal Drums VST
- Consider the sample quality: As we mentioned earlier, sample quality is key when it comes to producing metal and rock drums. Poor samples can ruin an entire track, so make sure you’re satisfied with the sounds before you commit to buying a plugin.
- Think about the onboard effects: Although having access to high-quality samples is essential, having built-in effects, and processing tools can help you to get your drums sounding exactly the way you want.
- Consider functionality: Some VST drum plugins are pretty complex, which might not be suitable if you’re just starting out. If this is the case, look for something that’s easy to navigate and understand so that it takes less time to learn.
- Think about compatibility: It’s worth checking whether a VST plugin is compatible with your current DAW before buying. Compatibility can often be an issue when it comes to plugins, so make sure you do your research.
Key Aspects & Features of Drum VSTs for Metal
The most important part of any drum VST, whether it’s designed specifically for metal musicians or other styles, is the quality of the samples it contains.
Sample quality is determined by the amount of effort put into recording the samples, as well as the type of equipment used to do so.
For metal drum VSTs, in particular, it’s important that the samples are recorded to a high standard in order to produce realistic-sounding metal drum parts. This means they should be recorded using top-of-the-line microphones and preamps in professional recording studios.
The more samples there are included in the VST, the more options you will have when it comes to creating realistic metal drum sounds.
However, quantity can sometimes mean there has been a lack of quality in the recording process, so be sure to assess whether higher amounts of samples mean better quality.
Many samples used in drum VSTs for metal are recorded by world-renowned producers and engineers, as opposed to amateur or inexperienced ones.
These tend to produce the best-sounding metal drums, so it’s worth looking into who was involved in creating the samples you’re considering.
User Interface & Layout
The way the user interface has been designed can have a big impact on how easily you are able to use the plugin and, thus, how quickly you are able to learn its features and create music.
When it comes to drum plugins for metal, there is a wide range of user interface and layout designs available. Generally speaking, more experienced producers may prefer plugins with detailed displays that allow them to really dive into the finer details.
Alternatively, simpler interfaces can be preferable for beginner producers who are just trying to learn the basics and get up to speed with their production.
If you’re mainly a metal producer, then it’s worth seeking out plugins that have been designed for the genre specifically.
These will usually be more intuitive and easier to use than generic VSTs, meaning you can spend your time making music rather than getting frustrated trying to figure out they different features of the plugin.
Compatibility with DAWs and Other Software
Another important thing to think about is whether the VST plugin is compatible with any existing software that you use to produce your metal tracks. Most VSTs will work with all of the popular DAWs, such as Logic Pro, ProTools, or Ableton.
Some of the extension packs and sample packs may be designed to be used with a specific VST plugin, so make sure you check that you have all of the required software to use them before buying.
Metal Drum VST FAQs
How Much Should You Spend on a VST Plugin?
The amount that you should ideally spend really depends on your individual needs and budget, but it’s a good idea to put some of your funds aside in case you want also to purchase extension packs for your plugin.
Can You Use Drum VSTs with any DAW?
This varies depending on the plugin in question, so it’s always important to double-check the compatibility with your DAW before buying. Many plugins are compatible with a range of DAWs, but it’s always worth checking just to be on the safe side.
Do VST Drum Plugins Sound Like Real Drums?
Thanks to the advancements in sampling technology, VST drum plugins can sound very realistic. This is especially the case if they come bundled with high-quality samples and onboard effects.
With that being said, some plugins can still sound a bit artificial, so it’s important to do your research beforehand.