Competitor Research: Toontrack Part 2: Superior Drummer 3
Continuing the analysis of Toontracks’ drum sample solutions in this post I will cover their flagship software, Superior Drummer 3. While EZ Drummer offers a useful tool for producers seeking high-quality drums with little work out of the box it is somewhat limited in customisation and tweakability of raw drum sounds, restricting the user to pre-processed drums with some basic mixing and additional processing features. Superior Drummer however gives the user a huge amount of flexibility when achieving their ideal drum sounds.
Superior Drummer offers many of the same features as EZ Drummer, a visual representation of the drumkit allowing the user to audition and swap between drums, a groove library offering a wide variety of pre-recorded midi files for different genres, a arrange view for arranging songs in the plugin itself and a mixer section. Superior Drummer however allows for far more in-depth mixing and processing options. The mix section allows the user to mix, pan, adjust bleed of each instrument individually on each mic, bus and group tracks, and further process the raw sounds using 35 included effects inserts. This gives the user a huge amount of freedom to get the exact drum sound they desire.
Superior Drummer offers a massive drum library with the core software with 7 different kits with different head and tool options (sticks, brushes, felt mallets, etc.) as well as over 250 electric drum sounds sampled from classic vintage drum machines combining to over 230GB of raw samples. All these samples were recorded by Grammy award-winning engineer George Massenburg at Galaxy Studios in Belgium with 11 room mics set up to offer up to 11.1 surround sound. In addition to the impressive library supplied with the base software, Superior Drummer like EZ Drummer offers a range of expansions or SDX as well as being compatible with EZ Drummer EZX expansions as well as 3rd party samples. This gives the user access to an enormous pool of source drum sounds.
Another unique feature new to the latest iteration of Superior Drummer is the Tracker. The tracker is a powerful tool that uses machine learning to convert existing multitracked drum audio to midi files. The tracker automatically works out what the source drum is by analysing over 500 frequency bands and transient shapes. The user can however change this if needed. In addition, the tracker will detect different articulations to replicate the drummer’s performance as accurately as possible. The user has access to a wide range of editing tools and features to ensure as accurate conversion as possible. Once the user is happy they can export either individual instruments or the whole mix as a single midi file either into the song view or onto their computer for use in DAWs.
Superior Drummer offers unrivaled drum shaping flexibility and absolute top quality raw drum samples allowing the user to achieve the best possible drum sound they can. One drawback however is that it can require a lot more work to achieve a finished drum sound compared to pre-mixed and processed drums and the amount of customisation can seem overwhelming. Less orthodox drum recording techniques such as the Glyn Johns method are also not supported meaning more experimental drum sounds may be harder to achieve. The super polished hi-fi drum sounds may also seem out of place with some genres of music where a more grungy “raw” sound may be more desirable.
In conclusion, Toontrack is an industry leader for a reason, they cater to various levels of producers and songwriters of all genres with the ease of use and creative inspiration or EZ Drummer and the deep dive customisation of Superior Drummer with world-class drum samples recorded by some of the best producers, engineers and drummers around.