Review: UJAM Virtual Drummer Series

Get instant drums with these three software packages with different talents
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Building grooves from multiple samplers, drum machines and groove boxes can eat up hours (and deadlines) before you are satisfied. UJAM’s Virtual Drummer series plugins (AAX, AU, and VST) offer balanced, great-sounding drums, a modicum of tone-shaping and time-bending tools, supple grooves, variations, breakdowns, and fills at your fingertips.

The series comprises three software packages with distinct musical directions, but with enough stylistic breadth to cover related genres: Heavy serves up powerful, metal-oriented drums and grooves; Phat targets funk, R‘n’B, and urban-tinged jazz; and Solid covers a wide swath from Pop to Country.

WHAT IS HIP?

Fig. 1. UJAM Virtual Drummers present a choice of five drum kits with preset processing and grooves

Fig. 1. UJAM Virtual Drummers present a choice of five drum kits with preset processing and grooves

Despite genre-specific timbres and styles, there’s room for experimentation. The left-hand side of the GUI, offers five drum kits, named mostly for their subjective sonic characteristics (See Fig. 1). For example Phat offers you Dry, Fresh, Deep, Hip, and Fat. To the right of your selection the Slam dial turns up the compression from polite through thoroughly squeezed. The Character dial offers a half-dozen presets comprising compression, EQ, tape saturation, and more. The presets provide no access to the effect details; as with all of Virtual Drummer’s controls, there are no parameters to mess with — only levels. For instance, Solid's choices are Smooth, Edge, Retro, Big, Power, and Crush, and a knob to dial in the intensity of the aggregate effects.

UJAM has taken on the brainwork of assigning busses to the various kit pieces and treatments therein, so (for instance) the reverb that makes the snare sound huge doesn’t muddy the kick. Naturally, these settings differ with the three packages. In the Mix panel, you can adjust levels for kick, snare, toms, hi-hat, ride, and crash, dial in a bit more room and overhead perspective, adjust the reverb level, and tweak the overall output.

IT’S A FEEL THING

You load your preset — a style, mated with a kit and its settings — from a pull-down menu. You can then play your own drum grooves from one-shot samples, using the keyboard map at the upper left as a reference, or trigger groove patterns along with variations and fills arrayed on consecutive keys. You can latch patterns, which will play until you hit another variation. A pair of keys at the top of the kit-sound map let you mute and unmute individual kit pieces in a pattern, so you can edit your groove subtractively. Feels are reasonably adaptable; you get switches for half-or double-speed playback, and knobs that add swing, push of lay back on the beat, or tighten or loosen the feel. The latter two controls range from imperceptible to subtle, but never sloppy or stiff.

UJAM’s Virtual Drummer series is terrific for laying out tasty, well-played, genre-appropriate sounds and feels quickly. Still, with three libraries, there’s room for more bases to cover. I’m hoping they will add percussion to the line, and delve into more styles. Even if these may not replace my preference for playing my own grooves, these libraries can help me follow my muse without distractions, and they will show up in my final mixes more than I had anticipated. Download any of UJAM’s virtual instrument libraries for a free 30-day trial.

STRENGTHS
Great sounding drums with easy, one-step processing, wide variety of malleable grooves and feels. Set-and-forget drum programming.

LIMITATIONS
No access to parameter details, no percussion parts.

$79 each,
$149 for Drummers Bundle (Download Only)
ujam.com

Francis Preve has been designing synthesizer presets professionally since 2000. Check out francispreve.com for more info.