Are there useful, great sounding drum synthesizer plugins which can stand up to modern hardware drum machines like the Elektron Analog Rytm? Let's find out!
This VST is probably the best drum synthesizer combined with a pattern sequencer. You can use it to play sounds with your own MIDI as well. It is purely synthetic and uses no samples at all. The GUI allows for easy sound manipulation without having to go through endless navigation pages. For us at PML, Microtonic is as close as you can get using only software to modern analog drum machines like the Elektron Analog Rytm and the Korg Drumlogue.
The company behind the plugin also made the "Patternarium" web app - it's a platform for browsing computer-generated patterns which can be downloaded, imported and edited inside Microtonic. It's one of the most interesting ways of creating drum patterns out there.
It was used by Daft Punk while making the soundtrack for “TRON Legacy”.
This plugin (available only for Mac OS) gives you 12 distinct models of drum sounds. You can combine and arrange them on the 16-slot MPC-style grid. The models use various types of synthesis: classic analog, FM, physical modelling - which makes this one sound incredibly rich, original and powerful. Our only wish would be a little bit more accessible interface for quick and easy sound editing.
3. Max for Live Drum Synths
Ableton Live Suite (version 10 and higher) gives you access to a collection of amazing drum synthesizer devices made with Max for Live. Accessible in the Instruments section, the Drum Synths include 9 devices which sound resembles the TR-808 drum machine. This isn’t an exact replica however, and allows for lots of customization - and keeps your CPU levels low. A definite must-have for Ableton users.
For maximum efficiency, try designing your own full drum machine by placing the DS devices inside Ableton’s Drum Rack and combine them with native effects.
4. Designer Drums by Ableton
This pack from Ableton includes almost 250 synthesized drum sounds in 16 distinct Drum Racks. It features very original, interesting sounding patches, all made with Ableton’s Operator FM synth. The pack also gives you access to 64 MIDI clips. Thanks to Operator’s big set of tools perfect for making drum sounds, this pack’s contents are great for detailed customization.
5. Sugarbytes Drumcomputer
This VST from Sugarbytes includes 8 different modules with a very wide palette of possible timbres. The modules are made of different types of components: classical analog, resonators and wavetables. It also features the original “Resynth” for creating cymbals, snares and synths, plus a sample playback feature. Built-in FX include a multimode filter, compressor, distortion and 2 kinds of send reverbs.
6. Air Drum Synth 500
Drum Synth 500 gives you full control of electronic drum sounds in an easy-to-use interface. It allows you to synthesize an endless variety of electronic sounds for all genres. Includes 500+ drum sounds, 500 samples, 50 drum kits and 500 MIDI drum loops.
7. Rob Papen Punch 2
Punch gives you access to both a powerful drum synthesizer and great sampler in a single plugin. It also includes a sequencer for maximum control and customization of your patterns. The grooves can be triggered in a live environment, which is great for improvisation and jamming.
Despite Tattoo being an older plugin (which is visible in the slightly dated GUI), its sound still proves high usability. It features 12 independent sound modules loosely based on the 808/909 drum machines, as well as a nice built-in sequencer. As for synthesis type, it features Audio Damage's custom D-Plane synthesis, rather than the typical oscillators found in other drum synths.
9. VCV Drums
This one sounds great, but has a learning curve (if you're new to modular gear). It's part of VCV Rack - the popular and comprehensive modular rack plugin. VCV Drums gives you drum machine modules for quick patching. They are analog models of vintage drum machines using "Vult DSP" technology. To trigger drum modules, you need to click the Trigger button or patch a trigger signal into the TRIG input. Drum sounds will be played from the modules’ audio outputs.
10. Roland Cloud
The company behind the most iconic drum machines of all time, Roland, has recently come out with their VST versions of their top devices - with modern enhancements. Their official emulations currently include 5 drum machines: TR-909, 808, 727, 707, 606. These are not drum synths, so the timbres are limited in each of the devices, but they are very faithful recreations of the timeless original machines - and a lot of fun to play around with.