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Looking for the best drum replacement/drum trigger plugins?
We run you through our top 6 drum replacement plugins.
Let us know your favorite below!
What is Drum Replacement?
Drum replacement refers to plug ins or software which analyses the sounds of a drum hit (a snare, tom or kick drum) and uses high-quality samples (within a DAW such as Pro Tools) to replicate that sound with a professionally recorded drum sample in real time.
The idea of using this technique followed on from the rise of drum machines which enabled producers to find the ‘perfect’ sound for their drum tracks.
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. This can be triggered from an mic’d up acoustic drum or from an electronic drum module.
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.
Drum replacement is a bit of a touchy subject, some see it as cheating whereas others embrace it as a staple of modern mixing.
Today, there are some fantastic pieces of software available, whether it be for a replacement of a recorded kit or even just a way of adding another tonal layer to your drum recordings. Software such as EZ Drummer or Superior Drummer can be really beneficial to not only mixing but songwriting as well.
Why Replace Drums?
Drum replacement software can one of the most useful plug ins 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.
Drum replacement can also be really handy at the mixing stage, particularly if there was only a short window of time to record drums.
However, there are 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 today.
6 Best Sample Replacement Plugins Of All Time
1. Addictive Trigger (Our Pick!)
Addictive Trigger by XLN Audio is an intuitive piece of drum replacement software which uses a unique process to analyze each hit from your drums tracks 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.
Drumagog, from Wavemachine Labs, is often referred to as the industry standard when it comes to drum replacement.
Drumagog 5 is the latest version of the Wavemachine Labs’ series of plug ins 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (sorry Pro Tools users!).
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!
If you’re looking for simplicity in a drum replacement plugin then this is it. In fact Massey themselves proclaim ”the beauty of the DRT is its simple and intuitive interface”.
Using one of the most accurate transient detectors allows you to replace your drums and get great sounds with minimal effort.
This is definitely an easy to use plugin but there is also a big level of customisation that other replacement software doesn’t offer. For example you’ll be able to delete triggers and modify velocities to really sculpt your drum sounds (great for adding a bit of character and depth to sections of your songs where you may want more of the ”human” element to come through).
The Learn function will allow you to detect individual drum hits and automatically set the remaining drum hits in line with the one it has already learned. This is great if there is background noise or if you’re trying to mix down with a bounce of the full drum kit. You’re also able to upload your own samples.
The one downside – this is a plugin for Pro Tools only, however if you are a Pro Tools user this is well worth investing in.