Toontrack EZdrummer lets you customize the instruments in your kit, and you can use the Multi-Channel option to send each instrument to its own track.
EZdrummer ($179) is a software drum module that offers high-quality samples in the tradition of Toontrack's flagship dfh (Drums from Hell) Superior. Sporting drum kits recorded at Avatar Studios in New York City, EZdrummer has an intuitive interface and a mixer to tweak individual drum and cymbal levels. The plug-in supports VST, AU, and RTAS and comes with 8,000 MIDI files. A number of expansion packs will be available by the time you read this, including Latin Percussion, Drumkit from Hell, and Vintage Rock Brushes & Sticks.
Mix and Match
As the name suggests, EZdrummer was designed to be an easy-to-use drum plug-in — and it is. Just create an audio track and select EZdrummer from your plug-ins menu. Click on Open Grooves to select from a large menu of MIDI files (including fills and variations) in a variety of styles, tempos, and time signatures. You can use the Play button to audition each beat in real time. Velocity Sweep lets you dial in dynamic Velocity control of the MIDI track before you drag it into the sequencer. The Humanize control introduces small variations into each rhythm pattern.
Drag the pattern of your choice from the menu into a MIDI channel on your sequencer, and select EZdrummer as the destination of the MIDI channel. As your groove is playing, you can view the RAM Counter to see the amount of computer resources being used. (It won't be much, because the program uses memory resources efficiently.)
Although EZdrummer includes preset kits, it also lets you assemble your own (see Web Clips 1 through 3). Click on any drum or cymbal to hear how it sounds. If you don't like what you hear, you can swap that instrument for the trap of your choice. The sample list includes drums from GMS, Rogers, and Slingerland, and cymbals from Sabian and Zildjian.
Overall, the drums sound good. The snares all rattle a bit, giving the collection a live feeling, which is good if you want a loose, country/blues-rock vibe. However, a nice addition to future expansion sets would be a hard rock, AC/DC-style cannon snare. I was least excited about the sound of the cymbals, and the collection contained none of those elusive breathy, airy tones I like.
In the Mix
The Mixer pane lets you tweak the volume and stereo placement of each drum or cymbal and includes a dedicated Room fader to set a reverb level over the entire drum mix. Three Room presets are included: Roomy, Dry, and Flat Mono. The effects are serviceable and are a welcome extra.
One of my favorite features in the mixer section is the Multi-Channel option. This allows you to bring the drums into your sequencer as seven individual tracks.
Finally, once the drum pattern is in your sequencer, the module will automatically convert your MIDI file to audio at mixdown, saving you the step of having to record your MIDI tracks.
The Last Rim Shot
Overall, this plug-in is fun to use and visually attractive, and gives you a pleasing amount of sound-sculpting control without being too technical. It offers a fast and easy way to add grooves to your recordings, and I give it a big thumbs-up.
Value (1 through 5): 4
Toontrack (distributed by EastWest)