A review on Superior Drummer 2, a piece of software I’ve been using for a while now!
Hi, I’m Dave from boyinaband.com and today I’ll be reviewing Drum Sampling software Superior Drummer 2 by Toontrack.
Features + Versatility
The first feature to mention is the sample variety – the pack comes with one kit, the “N.Y. Avatar”, which is a good all round kit and is frickin’ massive. I can easily test out the samples for you on this convenient representation of the kit that is a nice centerpiece to the software – there’s a tonne of cymbols, toms, kicks, snares and the all important cowbell, for when you need moar of it.
Now with one kit, you might feel it’s a bit lacking – you can… splash …out on other kits they have available, but the avatar kit is very customizeable and with a bit of tweaking, you can get some radically different sounds – from really live sounding, roomy kits… to more modern in-your-face metal kits.
The Mixer is great, with EQ, Filter, Gate, Compression and Transient modelling available as inserts, meaning it’s really easy to call up an edited kit and keep all the processing for the drum kit in one place, rather than sloppily all over your DAW. There’s a huge variety of mics used and you can control the bleed values for each, so for instance if you wanted a more clinical sounding kick, make sure it’s not in any of the ambient room mics.
Now some of you might have computers where, like an underachieving child, no matter how hard they process – their best isn’t quite good enough. However, unlike parenting such a child you don’t have to pick up a violent alcohol addiction to get over your crushing disappointment. Simply use the Pre-mixer bounce to free up processor space for other parts of your production.
All samples can be changed in pitch, have their volume envelopes modified, and the humanize settings are pretty cool, allowing you to introduce minute timing and velocity differences to make for a much more authentic and realistic sound. And for those of you that noticed that authentic and realistic are synonyms and I didn’t really need to use both, lighten up – you’re being too pedantic and punctilious.
The main page is quite good at hilighting useful features for quick access, and the aformentioned massive interactive drumkit graphic is so much fun to play with, though you can also switch to classic view’s MPC-ish pads if you’re a hipster and want to prove how old school you are. Samples are easy to switch between with the nicely obvious drop down arrows on each instrument and as I mentioned, there’s a lot of choice.
Some of the useful features are the ability to try different velocities on the pad in the bottom right, though you have to select the part of the kit from this drop-down menu in the “Instrument” section, which isn’t that intuitive – I’d've assumed it was a case of clicking on the part of the kit you want to modify in the big ol’ drumkit image.
Other pages go more in depth, the mixer has various routing options and you can show and hide different elements pretty easily.
There are quite a few presets too, both for individual channels and for the overall kits – some of the channel ones are really useable. However, for me being primarily interested in using it for heavy metal and rock kind of sounds, none of the overall kit presets were really usable for a pro sounding heavy drum tone; which was kinda disappointing, however a bit of research and tweaking and you can pretty easily remedy that. Or for more variety in your heavy tones, that’s what they made the metal foundry add on pack for.
One thing that’s a little frustrating, by default it only loads up the samples you trigger – meaning the first time you trigger anything it has this slight clip – on occasion I’ve forgotten to load the cache before bouncing a song down and had to do so again when I realise there are these tiny clips throughout it. I see why they’ve done it though, to reduce processor overheads, and there is a “Force Cache” mode available, but I thought it was worth bringing up since it provided me with a few frustrating moments.
The multisampling is great, there’s more samples here than there are contradictions in the bible, so combined with good velocity-conscious drum programming, you’ll have a hard time distinguishing this from a well recorded live kit.
The program is stable, hasn’t caused any crashes I can think of, about twice in the half a year or so of intensive use the samples don’t load when loading a preset, but I’m pretty sure that’s ’cause Sonar 8.5 isn’t very friendly when it comes to plugins, and simply closing and opening the project fixed that.
The cymbols in particular are fantastic. Even if you aren’t a fan of the inbuilt kicks and snares, you can use it in conjunction with another sampling program for different kick and snare sounds for a more modern forefront to the tone, with the room sound and cymbols from superior drummer blended in to make a really realistic and customiseable kit sound with no recording whatsoever.
You can pick up superior drummer for around £150 so it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than real kits and at this moment in time is pretty much a similar price to most of the other drum replacement software out there, but with a much nicer look and a ridiculously versatile default kit.
Apart from a few tiny niggles, it’s a great product – a brilliant alternative to live kits, especially for home studio owners. I give it 90% because of the lack of a modern metal-ready preset, even though there’s a metal add-on you’d've thought there’d be one preset on here, but the kit there can be modified as many videos will show you so with some time and effort you can fix that no problem.
Superior Drummer is an awesome bit of kit for modern computer musicians looking to add an authentic live kit sound to their songs without having to spend money on expensive mics, learn mic placement technique for arguably the hardest instrument in the world to record, and… uh… learn to play drums. If you’re looking for live drum emulation – in my humble opinion you can’t go far wrong with SD2.