5 Best Drum Replacement Plugins & Software (2020)

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Drum replacement is a bit of a touchy subject, there are some who see it as cheating, some who see it as a quick and easy way to get a great sound without spending hours EQ’ing and compressing and some who are indifferent and simply accept it as the norm in modern production.

In 2020, there are some fantastic pieces of software available which can be a great asset to your production whether that be a complete replacement of a recorded kit or even just a way of adding another tonal layer to your drums.

What is Drum Replacement?

Drum replacement refers to a plugin or software which analyses the sounds of a drum hit (a snare, tom or kick) and uses high-quality samples to replicate that sound with a professionally recorded drum.

The idea of using this technique followed on from the rise of drum machines which enabled producers to find the ‘perfect’ drum. In fact, one of the very first incarnations of drum replacement was pioneered by Roger Nichols (arguably most famous for his work with Steely Dan) who created The Wendel which was used on Steely Dan’s ‘Gaucho’ album.

Modern software works live within your DAW and processes each drum hit individually in order to replicate the volume and tone of each drum stroke with a pre-recorded sample. 

Depending on which software you use, you’ll usually have tweakable parameters to create a custom sound such as a ‘wet/dry’ option which lets you blend your sampled snare with the original. You’ll also have a range of samples available from classic acoustic kits through to electronic 808 style drums.

Why Replace Drums?

As we’ve mentioned, sometimes using drum replacement software can be seen as cheating – in an age where music is commonly autotuned and compressed to reach a commercial standard, replacing your drums is often seen as an artificial way of producing music. 

However, drum replacement software can be a really useful tool in your workflow.

For example, triggering drum replacement hits can eliminate the need to spend time trying out different combinations of drums when starting a recording session. Particularly with snares, it can be difficult to find the perfect sound before even beginning tracking.

Rather than physically swapping out different snares and mic combinations, flicking through a sample library takes up much less time.

This can also be particularly useful for bedroom producers, or anyone who programs drums into their DAW.

Using drum replacement software immediately gives you access to a professional library of drum sounds that otherwise would be difficult to get.

Drum replacement can also be really handy at the mixing stage, particularly if there was only a short window to record drums. 

There are pros and cons of using drum replacement software, and we would, of course, suggest learning proper mic techniques as well as EQ and compression in order to produce a quality drum sound. 

However, there is bound to be situations where drum replacement becomes applicable to your session, so whether you’re considering investing in software for producing at home, or even just as a way of adding extra dimension to your drums, we’ve compiled five of the best plug-ins available in 2020.

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5 Best Sample Replacement Plugins In 2020

1. Addictive Trigger (Our Pick!)

Addictive Trigger by XLN Audio is an intuitive piece of software which uses a unique process to analyze each drum hit to produce an accurate hit detection.

XLN themselves conducted extensive research whilst developing the software and found many triggering technologies required a lot of additional editing and correction. Addictive Trigger provides a simple and easy way of replacing your drums in real-time.

The software has a selection of drum pad samples and is designed to pick up even the slightest of ghost notes to replicate the human element of drum playing. If you’re just starting out then Addictive Trigger also includes a SuperStart function which listens to your source material and suggests suitable detection settings.

You can also set your own threshold which is great if you have any issues with bleed in your drum mic and you also have EQ, compression and options to layer several drums at once.

Check the best price of Addictive Trigger on PluginBoutique.

2. Drumagog

Drumagog is an intelligent piece of software from Wavemachine Labs which is often referred to as the industry standard when it comes to drum replacement.

Drumagog 5 is the latest version of the software and is one of the only plug-ins that can capture hi-hat’s open, half-open and closed articulations.

A unique feature of Drumagog 5 is the use of its Auto-Align feature which adds complete phase coherence across your drum tracks which can be an issue when aligning based on initial transients alone. The Auto-Align algorithm phase-aligns with overall sound in mind, rather than just transient matching.

Drumagog also allows you to change and automate pitch, level, articulation, and other parameters and the Stealth mode allows original audio to pass through until it reaches a designated level, meaning only the louder hits trigger the sample.

Drumagog 5 is currently available for $99 and is available from https://www.drumagog.com/store

3. Steven Slate Trigger 2.0

The ‘not so secret weapon’ to getting pro-sounding drums in mixes, Trigger 2.0 allows you to layer up to eight stereo samples in one plug-in.

Once installed you’ll have access to a huge library of sounds created by Steven Slate. Trigger 2.0 has even been used by top mix engineers such as Chris Lord Alge and Jay Baumgardner. The plug-in gives you access to 46 snares, 33 kick drums and 8 sets of toms making it easy to find the perfect sound.

The samples used in the software are professionally recorded on analogue gear to two inch tape and you’ll also be able to load in expansion libraries such as Steven Slate Deluxe, Chris Lord Alge, Terry Date, Blackbird studios, and David Bendeth.

As we’ve mentioned, mic bleed can be an issue which causes mis-triggering, however, Trigger 2.0’s leakage suppression feature allows you to send spill tracks to the plug-in. This allows the software to ignore the spill, meaning even at very low velocities you can still accurately replicate your drum hits without the spill causing a mis-trigger.

Trigger 2.0 is currently available for $149.00 here.

4. Superior Drummer 3

Superior Drummer 3 from Toontrack contains over 230gb of unprocessed samples, approximately 350 electronic drum machine sounds and the ability to import your own samples. The software also includes a built-in MIDI grid editor making it great for bedroom or home producers.

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Each sound was recorded at Galaxy Studios in Belgium which enabled the team to capture quality and immersive audio in the 330 square meter drum room there. With only 14dBa of noise in the studios, the main hall at Galaxy claims to be the quietest of its kind in the world.

Not only that but each sample was recorded by award-winning engineer George Massenburg so you can be assured each one will be of the highest quality.

With an easy to use interface, Superior Drummer 3 is a great choice for those audiophiles looking for easy access to the highest quality samples.

We did a more in-depth look into EZ Drummer & Superior Drummer in this post here, check it out: EZ Drummer VS Superior Drummer.

Check the best price of Superior Drummer 3 on PluginBoutique here.

5. Logic Pro X

While not exactly a ‘plugin’, Logic Pro includes some great features and the drum replacement function is a good place to start if you are unsure about parting with your cash and already own the software.

The drum replacement function is easily accessible by clicking Track > Replace or Double Drum Track.

From here you will be able to audition Logic’s collection of drum samples before replacing your recorded signal. Once processed a software instrument track is created using drums from the EXS24 mkII.

Arguably these aren’t the best sounding samples available, but it’s another impressive feature of Logic which only adds extra value to the purchase price. If you’re using a Mac then investing in Logic may actually be cheaper overall than some drum replacers on the market!

Logic Pro X is available from the Apple Store for $199.99.