Laying the perfect sounding groove is an essential and logical first step when you indulge yourself in a songwriting process. Hence, this list will guide you to find the ideal drum machine for your creative project.
A drum machine is a module of drum sounds with a sequencer built-in to make performance easier. It can be considered a virtual drummer that agrees with you every step of the way. Furthermore, it includes various features that capture the traits of music genres, such as the stuttering effect in EDM.
Of course, the notion of making great sounds in your Digital Audio Workstation with a mere plugin makes us eager to dive into the sea of plugins and samples. And while it appears simple, finding the plugin that is the “right fit” can turn into a nightmare.
Keeping your genre and musical idea priority helps you see through the fog. Many of these plugins are related to a particular kind of music style and genre, so staying true to your original concept will make you confident and even refer you to all sorts of different flavors that you could use in your mix.
With that in mind, we have organized the list of the Top 9 Drum Machine Plugins for 2023. We hope that it will get you somewhere and help you in your future production endeavors.
The 9 Best Drum Machine & Groovebox Plugins
1. Algonaut Atlas 2
Atlas 2 is a sample browser, kit creator, and drum machine/sequencer by Algonaut.
It uses AI technology to analyze your countless samples and organize them into categories based on their common characteristics. It aims to speed up creating cohesive and interesting drum kits and make creating beats an easy process.
- Excellent user interface.
Atlas 2 uses AI technology to split your samples into categories such as kicks, snares, open hi-hats, closed hi-hats, toms, etc. If the sounds are not percussive but synth one-shots or vocals, they are in the “others” category. These categories are color-coded, and once you focus on one, you will see that there are further sub-groups of sounds with similar timbre and character. For example, if you zoom in the snares category, there will be multiple sub-categories with similar snares, making sound picking a very easy and fun process. You also can display the samples in separate maps based on genre, brand, style, etc. The interface is clean and easy to use and can save a lot of time wasted on mindlessly scrolling through hundreds of drum samples.
- In-depth editing.
Once you load the samples of your choice in a new kit, you can modify them in great detail. You get pitch controls for each sample and volume, pan, filter, resonance, and velocity controls. Another great feature is the time control, which will nudge a sample forwards or backward in time by a few milliseconds. This is a handy feature for creating more humanized sequences, as is the shuffle knob that works universally on the entire sequence.
- Easily save kits and sequences.
You can save a kit and a sequence to use them in future projects. Once you save a kit, you can load it in a new sequence by dragging and dropping it, or drag and drop an old sequence to a new kit for inspiration.
- Smart technology.
Atlas 2 is meant to cater to each producer’s needs. Its smart AI technology uses machine learning, meaning the more you use it and the more loops and kits you create, the more it understands and learns what sounds you prefer to use in your productions.
Atlas 2 is available on macOS and Windows, in VST3, AU, and Standalone formats, 64-bit only.
Atlas 2 is a smart and useful software for modern music producers. It helps organize your samples in a manner that sparks your creativity rather than slowing down your production sessions. Its AI technology will organize your samples in useful categories and learn what sounds you gravitate towards to suggest the most appropriate samples for your style. It’s a great tool to have if you own hundreds or thousands of samples and need a handy tool to organize them.
2. ADSR Drum Machine
More Info & Price (Trial Available)
Increment your beats with this revamped drum machine plugin.
Beatmakers are present in the music production world as one of the most common producers in recent years. If you fit into this category and want to count on a swiss army knife for beat making, ADSR Drum Machine may be the ideal choice for you.
- Sounds tab
This is where you can organize your sounds very easily. The light interface offers color-coded divisions that are easy to program, with assignable MIDI configurations and individual pad pitch tuning. You can also count with an envelope tailored for drums and percussive sounds.
There are multiple effects included, and they can be freely activated and deactivated. You can use a parametric EQ, distortion, phaser, compressor, limiter, and much more to alter your samples the precise way you want to, without ever leaving the plugin’s window.
The arpeggiator included can be a significant tool to get you inspired in no time. You can have up to 16 steps programmed into it, with a dedicated “Per Lane” view mode that helps you set each step carefully. You can add some extra functions to it, like “Repeat,” “Randomize,” and activate or deactivate the “Swing/Shuffle” option.
- Mixer control
You can have an extended view of every single sample slot shown as an audio channel. This allows for a better view of the entire drumkit but also permits specific adjustments to be made individually. You can mute, pan, and solo each channel and even create dedicated buses.
- Sounds tab
This plugin is available for macOS 10.14 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 10 or higher (64-bit only). It runs in standalone mode and VST3 and AU2 plugin formats.
Drumkits can be extensive, as well as economical. No matter which size you prefer, ADSR Drum Machine is a nice toolkit for any beatmaker that wants to have all the necessary tools to create punchy beats in a single window.
Do you need effects? You got it. What about a step sequencer? Here you go. You can even see the entire kit as multiple channels on a mixing console, ready for precise and individual adjustments.
3. ujam Beatmaker CIRCUITS
Ujam Beatmaker CIRCUITS is a virtual instrument designed to emulate the sound and style of classic analog drum machines.
The plugin features a user-friendly interface, making creating and customizing drum patterns easy. The drum machine includes ten drum kits covering various genres, including electronic, industrial, and hip-hop. Each kit contains 16 drum sounds that can be edited and manipulated to create unique drum patterns.
- Drum fx
In addition to the drum sounds, Beatmaker CIRCUITS includes many onboard effects, including a filter, distortion, compressor, and delay. These effects can add extra character and texture to the drum sounds or create new sounds. The plugin also includes many performance features, including a step sequencer, pattern controls, and a mixer, making creating dynamic and expressive drum patterns easy.
- Humanize your drums
CIRCUITS can create variations of patterns on the fly, using the built-in “Swing” and “Humanize” controls. These controls allow you to add subtle variations to the rhythm, giving the patterns a more natural and organic feel.
- Genre fluidity
The software brings classic electronic drums and grooves to any genre with 20 styles, 50 presets, ten drum kits, and 460 patterns. It is designed to be versatile and adaptable, allowing you to easily create drum patterns that fit your specific genre or style.
Additionally, CIRCUITS offers vintage samples that add punch and sparkle to drums in a mix without taking up essential space. That feature allows you to add a layer to their drums and enhance their sound, regardless of the genre they are working in.
You can use various preset patterns as starting points or inspiration for your patterns. These patterns cover a range of genres and styles and can be easily customized using the pattern sequencer.
- Intuitional & attractive GUI
UJAM’s Beatmaker CIRCUITS has a user-friendly and intuitive interface, making it easy to quickly program drum patterns and create custom beats. The interface is designed to resemble a classic drum machine, with individual pads for each drum sound, a pattern sequencer, and a mixer section.
- Easy programming
To program a pattern, you click on the pads to trigger the corresponding drum sound at the desired time in the sequence. The step sequencer allows you to easily create complex patterns by adjusting the timing and velocity of each drum hit. The mixer section provides controls for adjusting each drum sound’s volume, pan, and effects, allowing you to fine-tune the mix.
To run the plugin, you must have at least 4 GB of RAM and 720 MB of free disk space, a 1280x768px display, and an internet connection. Further, it is available in VST 2, VST 3, AU 2, and AAX formats, with the AU 2 version only compatible with Logic Pro X and newer. The plugin is 64-bit and compatible with Windows 10-11 and macOS Catalina (10.15) – macOS Monterey (12.5).
Ujam Beatmaker CIRCUITS is a versatile virtual instrument with a user-friendly interface for creating and customizing drum patterns. The plugin includes ten drum kits covering various genres, 16 drum sounds that can be edited and manipulated, and onboard effects such as filter, distortion, compressor, and delay.
It also features performance features such as a step sequencer, pattern controls, and mixer. CIRCUITS is genre-fluid and offers vintage samples, presets, and humanized controls for natural variations.
4. SugarBytes Drum Computer
SugarBytes offers a plugin that makes the drum programming process easy and allows you to treat your drums like a synthesizer.
Like the previous one, the focus of DrumComputer is on producing drums for electronic and dance genres. Many great features like the chain of patterns and options that can give you humanized performance make it an excellent choice for live performance.
You can choose a preset, choose a pattern from the library, even make your own, and start playing with it using various effects and modulation options. Run the instrument from each of the eight channels through the three main sound processing sections: The Resonator, Wavetable/Analog, and Resynth/Sampler.
As with every part of this plugin, the Resonator section offers you the most simplified way of drum processing. There is a Tone knob that represents a simple EQ adjuster and a Partials knob that helps you layer more harmonics over the existing tone. And the Pitch option represents the cutoff for the filter.
Wavetable represents a waveform of your sample. Experiment with the wave knob to find the desired waveform. Using the Analogue option on the top, you could get more analog, distorted sound. Similarly, the Frequency Modulator option could provide usage of the waveform from the Resonator to modulate it at the wavetable section.
SugarBytes came up with the great idea of putting the simple sampler as the third section. It offers you every control a regular sampler should contain: duration, time correction, looping, pitching, etc. But, the element that makes this section special is the library filled with harmonized samples with a percussion quality. Then, the color knob represents another option that could help affect and change your sound.
- Pattern chain
Make an order of the patterns any way you like. Start with the first one at the top, copy it to the Chain option, and make a playlist that you can use for the whole song. The Chain enables achieving a logical connection between each bar and keeps a constant flow.
Besides a simple EQ, gain, filter cutoff, and a single knob compressor, you can also have fun with the distortion knob. It provides two options for distorted sound. One of them is more oriented towards a digital sound, while the other has analog quality.
Under the Resonator is the Modulation section. Choose the Modulation Generator, a Destination for it, and create dynamic sounds over time. The economic way of space organization in the plugin almost makes it look like the multi-FX pedal.
On the Sequencer page, you can create and edit your rhythm. Similarly, you can also adjust each step’s velocity, probability, roll, offset, decay, pitch, and modulation. Interestingly, it also offers a Humanize option for a natural-sounding performance.
Drum Computer is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.
The plugin’s number of effects, modulation features, and different possibilities make it very desirable for producers and even live music performers. Although it’s programmed to work as a drum machine, it could be used as a sampler too. It’s a powerful tool in the songwriting process.
5. XLN Audio XO (Drum Machine / Creative Sequencer)
If you make beats, you know how time-consuming it can be to shuffle through samples until you find the ones that sound good together.
Well, XLN Audio’s XO plugin does impressive work by bringing all the samples on your computer into the interface. Unlike the previous plugin, the XO is more geared towards drums and offers a couple of unique features that make it more helpful with beat creation.
The XO has a terrific sequencer and some other exciting surprises that we’ll look at below.
The image below displays the sequencer section of the plugin where you can build beat progressions.
- Explore, Sort, Audition
The XO has a handy trick up its sleeve, it finds all drum samples on your computer, no matter where they are, and brings them together within the plugin. Not only that, but it also sorts all of them by similarity and color codes the different instances of audio (kick, hats, snare, etc.). XO also offers eight thousand samples and over one hundred presets which will get the creative process moving forward. This feature allows you to audition the samples and find the sounds that work best for your situation. Instead of going through hundreds of folders and sub-folders, you have everything you need right in front of you. However, if there’s something specific you want, just use the integrated filter and search functions. Finally, create playlists and sort your samples into organized folders from within the plugin.
- Sequence and Excite
The in-house sequencer, effects, and randomization functions provide an arsenal of generation and manipulation tools to get your beats on the go. As with most sequencers, you have complete control over the steps and rate of each channel as well as many other standard parameters such as swing and pan. You can affect individual steps or the entire sequence and trigger various FX and creative parameters with easy mapping and routing functions. The Accenuator adds feel, groove, and life into your beat by affecting dynamics, velocity, and adding swing. If you’re in a hurry or just need a creative boost, apply one of the many groove templates to do it for you and tweak settings where necessary. Another exciting feature is the choke/gate, which helps keep drums sounding realistic and clean.
- Random or Reckless?
XO has what is known as Playground Mode for you to explore. You’re able to randomize specific parameters or the entire interface, which is bound to lead to some exciting sounds being produced. Tap into the endless possibilities of randomization by triggering various effects or dialing in specific instances across the whole sequence.
- Standalone but easily Integrated
The XO can create beats in the standalone plugin or as a VST within your DAW. You’re able to export stems and drop them directly into your session for quick access. If you’d prefer, you can route audio from the plugin to your session as a direct input or send it through more FX processing. XO makes it easy to develop ideas and get them down before the creative spark dies out.
This plug-in is available for Windows 7 – 10 (64-bit only) and macOS 10.9 or later (64-bit only). It comes in VST, AU, or AAX formats.
All-in-all, XO is a great tool for drum sequencing, which has useful features and a straightforward interface that integrates everything you need for beat-making.
You can come up with interesting, original patterns and phrases by employing all the detailed features. XO is great if you’re working on the go or looking to dial in extreme precision.
6. Native Instruments Battery 4
Although mostly recommended for electronic and hip-hop music, Battery 4 is an undeniable gem with an extensive variety of sounds.
The global music community got introduced to Battery 4 as a part of the Komplete 9 bundle from Native Instruments that included more than 60 instruments and effects. Battery 4 is a giant step from Battery 3, introducing new features and a massive sound library.
Running this plugin is easy as it can be. Drag and drop a preset from the library into the matrix of drum pads and start rolling with it. By utilizing the Main page, Modulation option, and Effects option, enable tons of features that could affect the sound of your drums.
Battery 4 offers a type of color coding within the plugin. This type of visual organization makes the job easier. Kicks are shown in red, snares in yellow, claps in pink, and hats in blue. Each time you choose a preset, a waveform takes over the color of the preset. Adding the customizable matrix of drum pads provides freedom to organize the original, custom sample rack.
- Main page
It offers seven sample modes: Volume Envelope, Pitch Envelope, Velocity, Engine, Filter, Compressor, and Send section with Reverb and Delay. You can modify your sound in the Engine section. The Vintage option allows you to emulate analog-sounding amps. By changing the Sample option to Stretch, the plugin saves the original time of the sample without any time warping.
- Effect option
The Effect option on the bottom offers Solid EQ, Solid bus Comp, Transient master, Saturation, and Lo-Fi. Both EQ and Compressor could find it’s role as a stand-alone plugin. A great part of the Effect option is the Transient master slot. If there is a need for more “snap” on a snare, crank up the attack option slightly.
- Modulation option
Under the Modulation options, there are Twin LFOs and a Modulation Envelope. For instance, using the Modulation slot, you could modulate the panning of the sample, the cutoff of the filter, or emulate a vibrato by linking the LFO to the Tune element.
- Control over the waveform
One of the cool features of this plugin is all the ways you can control your sample. You can determine the duration of the sound, tune it, reverse it, or play with your Pan option. You even get a visual representation of the moves you are making during the process.
- Analog and Old school sound
Within the plugin, there are a few features that could offer you analog characters to the sample. To start, using Tape Saturation could give a little bit of bite and distorted quality. Then, the Lo-Fi feature has noise, reduces bit depth with the Bits knob, and downsizes the sample rate with the Hertz option. The sample rate can be decreased to 50Hz.
Using plugins like this one could make you tired of the “correctness” that comes out of it. That’s when the Humanize and the Articulation features come into play. You can use them to create a humane feel in the performance of your rhythm. In essence, they are real-time randomizers.
NI Battery 4 is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.12 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Considering all the enumerated features, we find Battery 4 a high-quality and easy-to-use plugin with tons of sounds. Although it may not be the perfect solution for natural drum sounds, it is a logical option for producing hip-hop and dance grooves.
7. UJAM Virtual Drummer SOLID 2
SOLID is ujam’s offering as a natural-sounding virtual drum, suitable for rock, pop, funk, and rock-and-roll.
This plugin tries hard to have the perfect balance between being practical and easy to use, and it pays off. In essence, it is a drum module with multiple drum kits and a library of midi loops. You can mix and match them to your liking. Further, you can drag the loops into your DAW for further editing.
We’d also like to shed light on ujam’s bundles that are worth looking into. First, we have the Virtual Drummer Bundle, which contains four plugins for acoustic music: Deep, Phat, Solid, and Heavy. Electronic musicians will love the Beatmaker Bundle, which includes nine drum machines ranging from hip-hop and trap to hard-hitting EDM. Of course, you can buy each plugin separately as well.
SOLID features five kits, each recorded meticulously and with over 1,300 phrases and grooves. Further, you can easily modify your sound using the various mix presets available. It offers Slam and Mix Amount as sliders for instant control. Not to mention the push and pull timing adjustments.
The drum machine lets you control the volume, pitch and add reverb to each drum element in your kit. Furthermore, you can also mix in overhead and room mics for a live feel. Finally, the master out has a reverb, saturator, and compressor. Unfortunately, none of them has detailed controls.
A significant improvement over the first version of these plugins, this feature lets you route each drum piece to a separate track or ‘send’ track to mix them individually. Hence, you can bypass the mix effects inside the drum machine and use your own effect in your mixer.
SOLID is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.12 or higher, both for 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.
In conclusion, we would recommend SOLID if you are after a quick and easy drum machine to add acoustic grooves to your tracks. It’s moderately priced and offers excellent sounds, and the new multi-out feature makes it considerably more usable.
8. Softube Heartbeat
Designed with the 80s drum machines in mind, Softube Heartbeat captures the heart of that era in software form.
Heartbeat is a software drum synth that recreates the sounds of famous Korg, Roland, etc. drum synths from the 80s. It comes with multiple drum engines for each drum sound like kick, snare, hi-hat, and percussions. In addition, it also has controls for volume, pan, and FX send levels in each channel.
Technically, Heartbeat can also be considered a hybrid instrument as it does use some samples to offer authentic sound. The synthesis may not be as detailed as one might find in more advanced software, but it provides all the controls necessary to customize the sound to taste.
- Analog Synthesis
Each drum engine for the kick, snare, etc., sounds emulates an analog synth. So, expect sounds similar to the famous Roland TR-808/909 or Korg Rhythm 55. However, that also means that achieving the modern EDM drum sounds we often hear nowadays will require some external processing.
- Audio Routing
Each channel or drum engine can also be routed out to different tracks in your DAW. As we mentioned previously, this feature is essential for the more processed sounds we hear in charts today. However, it also offers more flexibility, even in the analog realm of sound.
- Auto Layer Machine
You’d guess the Auto Layer Machine section to be a sort of engine to layer multiple drum sounds, and you’d be right! However, it does more. It can generate fills or rolls and add “chaos” to the pattern in four steps using the slider labeled as mentioned.
The plugin comes with modified versions of Softube’s much-loved Valley People Dyna-mite compressor, TSAR-1 Reverb, and a Filter Echo. The last is a filtered delay effect with adjustable cut-off frequency and resonance. Furthermore, it also features a master analog saturator.
The plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
If you enjoy flexibility with incredible sound, Softube Heatbeat is a highly viable option. We love the saturation and filters on the master output for quick controls, including automated movements. Further, it has velocity-to-pitch/attack/decay modulators for even more exciting outcomes.
9. iZotope BreakTweaker
iZotope has another winner with this innovative hybrid drum synth and sequencing software.
In essence, BreakTweaker is a six-channel drum machine with a 32-step pattern sequencer built into it. Furthermore, the sequencer has a per-note editing feature dubbed the “MicroEdit,” which lets you write melodic and rhythmic rolls with barely any effort.
The drum machine provides a synth engine and a sampler to generate drum sounds, which we will get into later. And finally, BreakTweaker prioritizes drum tone in mixing. So, you will find detailed distortion, filters, and chorus instead of reverbs or delays.
- Triple Generators
BreakTweaker employs three “Generator Lanes,“ each of which can be a dual-oscillator synth or a sampler. The sampler lets you load custom one-shots or even loops, change pitch up to an octave, and select a playback mode (forward, reverse, and ping-pong).
Next, the dual-oscillator synth is a wavetable synth, where you can control the wave shape, pitch, gain, and pan. If you use both the oscillators, they can function in four modes: additive (both playing together), ring modulation, amplitude modulation, or frequency modulation.
The MicroEdit feature lets you slice up samples into tiny bits creating glitchy textures or rolls. What’s more, you can lock the pitch of these samples to match them with your track. You can create unique textures for complicated stutter rolls, making MicroEdit a Skrillex-worthy tool.
- Sequencing Unleashed
The sequencer in BreakTweaker is advanced enough to be used for simple drum beats, basslines, and more. You can build up to 24 sequences, each with up to 32 steps. Furthermore, you can adjust the playback speed and the sequence length individually, unlocking polyrhythms and regular rhythms alike.
The plugin also features eight modulators, including four LFOs and four Envelopes. Every parameter in the generators (synth and samplers) is available for modulation. Furthermore, you can create unique LFO patterns to make your drums even more evolving.
BreakTweaker features a filter (high-pass, band-pass, and low-pass) and a dual-stage distortion plugin with these modes: Warm, Transistor, Hard, Digital, Raw, and Aliasing. You can also add and edit the chorus effect per step using the MicroEdit feature. Lastly, each channel can also be routed out to your DAW using the Multi-Out feature.
The plugin is available for Windows XP or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.6.8 or higher 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
As with any iZotope product, BreakTweaker is difficult to fault. It’s feature-rich and especially suited for EDM and dubstep music. However, you could also use it for any other genre and even film/game production for percussion and texture generation. It’s not at all beginner-friendly software, though.
The 4 Best Free Drum Machine Plugins 2023
1. MaxSynths DR-910
As the name suggests, DR-910 is a Roland TR-909 drum machine emulation.
The plugin attempts to recreate the original unit’s sounds by emulating each sound section (kick, snare, tom, hi-hat, and cymbal) individually. The result is a delightfully close reproduction. Furthermore, it adds to the legacy by including effects to make mixing easier.
- Mixing Effects
The DR-910 includes a reverb, compressor, and a Lo-Fi effect. Each channel has an individual send control for the reverb, whereas the compressor is tailored to work with drums. And the Lo-Fi effect includes three modes for convenience. Overall, they offer enough for in-the-box mixing.
- Four Outputs
The plugin includes four outputs for external mixing. They come in handy in real-world uses. Not only that, you can assign one of the outputs for the reverb channel as well. So, you can process the wet reverb signal alone with EQs or other effect plugins to achieve cleaner mixes.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit only. It comes in VST 2 format.
If you are a fan of the Roland TR-909 drum machine, you will enjoy this plugin. It captures the long-standing classic used in pop, hip-hop, electro, and many other genres. The multi-out feature also provides much more flexibility than one would expect.
2. Syntler Drumper
It’s an all-rounder sample-based drum sampler with multiple patterns.
You can consider Drumper a legacy plugin now because it’s on route to be replaced by a newer version that will only support 64-bit Windows. However, the plugin is quite feature-packed. The interface may appear quite rushed, but it does the job pretty well and requires very little menu-diving.
- Dual Pattern Engine
The plugin has two internal sequencers. And it can create a rhythmic pattern by morphing between them. It simultaneously plays two drumsets, where you can process and mix the sound in various ways. You can even use it to generate polyrhythms without complications.
- Sounds and Patterns
There are twenty drum kits built into the drum machine. And you can also load your samples using the Load WAV menu. Further, you can create up to twelve patterns per instance of this plugin. Unfortunately, you cannot create multi-outs.
- Built-In Effects
The drum machine includes basics like volume and panning for mixing, of course. However, it goes much further by including reverb, delay, saturation, two filters, and phaser in the plugin. While they aren’t enough for a satisfactory mixing experience, they can be helpful for tone shaping.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit only. It comes in VST 2 format.
Note: A new version supporting only VST 3 64-bit is under development.
Drumper is honestly a rewarding download, regardless of whether or not you are a fan of it yet. It includes many built-in drum sounds, and having more of those is never bad. However, the morphing engine also makes it a breath of fresh air in the free drum machine market.
3. Beatmaker SL Drums 3
SL Drums 3 is one of our favorite drum modules in the free market.
This plugin is simple. It doesn’t want to be a complete mix console or provide flashy effects. It is a convenient drum module with plenty of sounds, and just about anyone could figure it out. The only effects it includes are a distortion effect, which has a dedicated knob at the top, and a reverb layer.
- Built-In Sounds
There are 75 drum kits built into this plugin, making the download size just shy of being 700 MB. They include classic sounds like the sort you’ll find in Roland and Korg hardware to real percussions. Most of the sounds are relatively high quality.
- Mix Friendly
The plugin lets you assign an output per channel of the module. So, you can bypass the few effects inside this plugin and use your own instead. Admittedly, that’s what we would recommend too. The built-in distortion and reverb layers rarely prove useful.
SL Drums 3 is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2 and AU formats.
This plugin is handy if you are after some new drum sounds. However, the lack of the ability to load user samples is a huge missed opportunity. Overall, we would recommend it for people who don’t yet have an extensive collection of drum samples and are looking for a neat bundle that handles multiple genres.
4. Sampleson Analog Drums SUB
One of the few drum synths in the free market, SUB can be useful if you are into trap and hip-hop.
SUB recreates the famous sounds of analog drums in software form. There are altogether 16 drum sounds, each with a unique synth engine under the hood. While the sound is different, we could compare it to Rhythm 55 or Roland TR-707. Interestingly, the interface of this plugin is resizable.
- Exclusive Controls
Each sound type of the drumkit has unique individual controls for manipulating the sound. For example, you can control the tone and snappiness of the snare drum. On the flip side, the sounds like the rim shot, hand clap, and the cowbell do not have any tonal controls at all.
As the name of the plugin suggests, SUB features a subbass generator. It is originally for adding depth to the bass drum. However, by manipulating/automating the pitch and decay of the subbass, you can create interesting effects suitable for trap beats.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10 or higher 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2 and AU formats.
The style of sounds you can generate using this plugin is very limited. However, for what it does, it does laudably well. You could use it for percussions or a specific part of your song. Or, you could solely use it for subbass, too, of course. Overall, it’s worth checking out.
1. Roland TR-808
Sound effects such as a drum machine’s boom, snap, and sizzle are now available in your daw, thanks to Roland TR-808 Software Edition.
One of the most coveted and revered electronic instruments of all time, the TR-808 is the inspiration for the TR-808 Software Synthesizer. The plug-in version retains the original’s sound and behavior while adding on-the-fly hardware modifications for greater sonic variety and easier programming.
As soon as a few brave musicians and producers got their hands on the TR-808 and started turning those knobs, the world began to (quite literally) feel the influence it would leave on music forever. The blazing hi-hats, snappy snare, clicky rim shot, identifiable cowbell, and, yes, that booming bass drum have been staples of both mainstream and underground songs for decades.
Its sound is frequently reproduced with sample packs and knockoffs, and original TR-808 devices fetch exorbitant prices on the used market. The 808, however, is more than the sum of its components; it is a sophisticated beast. As the heart of the TR-808’s sound, the original analog circuits have been painstakingly rebuilt using our proprietary Analog Circuit Behavior technology.
They’re a result, our TR-808 plug-in is a faithful recreation of the original in terms of sound quality down to the finest detail, and it also includes some innovative new capabilities.
The Basic Repetition switch and the Basic Variation button allow you to select between two distinct pattern variations. When placed in the middle AB position, it will cycle between the two variations, thereby letting you make patterns with 60 steps.
The Fills consist of four patterns throughout each bank (eight as they have their Variation switch). Finally, in addition to the main dial, there is a second, larger dial that can instantly activate the Fill function.
The OS requirements for this plugin are Windows 7 or higher for PC and macOS 10.9 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/RTAS/AU/AAX formats and supports 32 and 64 bit systems.
The TR08, at first glance, is a replica of the original 808 in the very sought Boutique format. As far as sound goes, it nails the 808 vibes. It also functions and works in the same ways, leaving the user scratching their head as they try to go past the initial pattern-making stages.
After struggling with the most baffling parts of the 808, you will finally grasp how the machine works. The work allows the instrument to operate at its full potential: a highly dynamic and varied live set.
2. AudioRealism Drum Machine
The only one on our list, this plugin successfully brings three classic drum synths into one convenient software plugin.
AudioRealism Drum Machin (or ADM) has 25 drum sound generators built into it along with 4 sample players. It emulates the famous Roland TR-707, 808, and 909 drum machines’ engines and a pattern sequencer. Overall, it exceeds expectations at accomplishing its intentions.
- Pattern Controlled FX
You can automate each parameter in the drum synth per step in the drum sequencer. So, you could have varying volume, tuning, or even FX send every other step or however else you want. This feature was not available in the original hardware unit and is highly desirable flexibility.
- Open Connectivity
ADM natively supports patterns from Reason Studios’ ReBirth RB-338, so if you were a user of that old gem, you could have all of your grooves back. Furthermore, if you happen to own a Roland TR-909, you can transfer the patterns via SysEx to your computer using a provided tool.
The plugin has 11 separate outputs for each channel in your kit. The audio sent out is completely unprocessed so that you can add any effect to your sound without any limitations. We suggest a mix of internal and external processing for a CPU–efficient yet flexible workflow.
ADM is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10 or higher, for both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2 and AU formats.
If you are a fan of the classic Roland sounds, we highly encourage you to try this drum machine out. The sound is uncannily similar, and its sequencer is one of the best we’ve seen in similar plugins on the market. Further, the price is also relatively reasonable.
2. UJAM Groovemate ONE
Bring some percussive twinkle into your track with this intuitive plugin.
Groovemate ONE is a virtual percussionist with four percussions: shakers, tambourine, claps, and “one-shot” shaker. It includes midi grooves that can add movement and sparkle to your music fast and intuitively. As with any ujam product, the interface is simplistic and fun.
- Single or Combi
You can use a single instrument or multiple depending on your taste. Furthermore, it includes presets designed for a single instrument and various combinations of instruments. Both are programmed to sound natural and have flairs that real percussionists make when playing live.
Groovemate ONE includes multiple variations per preset. So, you can play a flair during a roll and a completely different style of pattern over the chorus part of the song compared to the verse. And you can also play each instrument manually, too, of course.
The instrument also includes nine mixes and four ambiance presets. You can dial in the mix of both the mixing effect (like filters) or the ambient reverb using the provided knobs. Automating the knobs create delightful effects to make your song dynamic and fluid.
Groovemate ONE is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.12 or higher, both for 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.
Overall, we think this handy percussion engine is well worth the price, which is undeniably smaller than one would expect. While the sounds are fabulous, the stylistic loops and flairs are even more enticing, especially if you aren’t a percussionist yourself.
3. Thenatan TRAX
This plugin is a spicy rompler with every drum sound you’d need for your next beat.
Thenatan TRAX has a noticeable lean towards the hip-hop and trap genre with its pre-EQed drum kits and effects (saturation, filter, and noise). Since it doesn’t come with a built-in groove library, it’s not a drum machine. However, it deserves a spot on our list for the sheer quantity of sounds and low price.
- 50 Kits
There are indeed fifty drum kits incorporated into this plugin. However, we must also mention a limitation: there is no way to mix and match drum sounds between the kits. Each kit loads two kicks, two snares, a clap/stick, a hi-hat, and two FX (cymbals, shouts, percussions).
- Analog Saturation
TRAX employs two knobs for saturation: Amp Low and Amp High. Each affects the frequencies mentioned. The Amp Low is rather subtle, whereas Amp High is overt and easily noticeable. The saturation sounds somewhat like tube saturation and would work well for the trap genre.
- Mixer Outputs
Despite having eight channels in the plugin, it features 16 audio outputs for some reason. Well, the more, the merrier! We should also note that the plugin’s global effects (reverb and filter) don’t affect the audio you have assigned to an output.
- Vintage Noise
Finally, the plugin features four vintage noise layers: tape hiss, hum, vinyl crackle, and cassette rolling. You can activate each using the Layer A through D buttons. We are all aware of Thenatan’s contribution to Lo-Fi plugins, so it’s no surprise to see elements of it coming into play here.
TRAX is available for Windows XP or higher and macOS 10.4 or higher, both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2 and AU formats.
If you are after a collection of drum sounds for trap, hip-hop, and EDM, you should undoubtedly look into TRAX. There are over 400 drum samples in it with basic effects built-in. However, we should point out that the interface can sometimes be frustrating, but the low price counters it well.
4. AudioThing SR-88
Evoke the 80s sound with this simplistic, sample-based drum machine emulation.
The SR-88 is, of course, based on the affordable SoundMaster Memory Rhythm SR-88 drum machine. It features five drum pieces, including a kick, snare, two hi-hats, and a cymbal. Similarly, there is a simple pattern sequencer that also supports midi drag-and-drop into your DAW.
The plugin features a low-pass filter, overdrive, plate reverb, and a compressor. As with the original unit, all of the effects affect the master output. Unfortunately, you cannot send multiple outputs to your DAW. Then again, being a minimalistic drum sequencer, you wouldn’t require it anyway.
The pattern sequencer is a 32-step sequencer. You cannot create multiple patterns. So, you will be using the drag-and-drop button quite extensively. However, it supports saving patterns and reloading them. Further, you can get some inspiration using the randomize button per channel and pattern.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
As a minimalistic, easy drum machine, the SR-88 feels just fine. It does what it set out to do, and the sound is genuinely nice. However, even after considering the price, it would’ve been much more helpful if it had multi-outputs and multiple patterns.
5. Mixed In Key Captain Beat
Captain Beat is a modern take on drum machines that takes inspiration from pattern-based DAWs.
If you are familiar with FL Studio, the interface of this plugin will immediately make sense. The look is similar, at least. The waveforms display the various samples you have loaded, and you can write/move them around using your mouse to create rhythms.
Captain Beat is loaded with preset sounds and grooves. You can mix and match various midi grooves and variations or even drum sounds to make your perfect drum track. Or, use your own drum samples by simply dragging and dropping. It also includes some effects for onboard mixing.
- Detailed Editing
Captain Beat has an intuitive interface with multiple tools and modes for recording, quantizing, and editing your rhythm. You can drag and drop the midi clip per channel or pattern straight to your DAW. Furthermore, you can switch samples and grooves per channel super quickly.
- Large Arsenal
On top of having a cutting-edge workflow, the plugin also comes with a large collection of drum kits and over 500 midi patterns covering virtually every relevant genre and style. Furthermore, mixing up the kits and patterns results in unique sounds each time.
- Onboard Mixing
The drum machine consists of a filter, reverb, and a delay effect. The per-channel filter can be both a high-pass or a low-pass filter. In contrast, the reverb and delay effects are global, but you can adjust the send amount per channel. Further, you can also route each channel to your DAW for external processing.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10 or higher for 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2 and AU formats.
We would suggest Captain Beat as a comprehensive drum machine capable of just about anything you could require. It includes plenty of built-in sounds and also supports user samples. Further, its midi library is highly inspiring for any music producer. Seriously, for its price, this plugin is undeniably a steal.
6. Native Instruments Polyplex
Polyplex is a drum module with built-in sounds.
This instrument isn’t quite a plugin as it’s exclusive for the Reaktor or Reaktor Player (free) engine by Native Instruments. However, despite the simplistic appearance, it has plenty of features and tricks up its sleeves. It’s fully capable of delivering basic drum sounds and can go way beyond.
- Extensive Processors
Polyplex includes just about every effect you could require in its arsenal of 18 effects. They include basics like compressor, reverb, and delay to stutter, AM-FM, sub-generator, and grain delay. However, you can only use four of them simultaneously, where two are inserts, and two are sends.
There are eight sound slots in total, and you can load up to four samples per slot. So, you can create unique sounds by mixing various samples with individual control over their pitch, volume, pan, starting point, envelope, etc. In addition, there’s also an EQ per layer.
Each sound can have its own modulation. You can modulate every available slider parameter except Samples in each sound’s edit area with LFOs, envelopes, and velocity. It gives your kit a more dynamic sound by adding unique sound variations throughout time.
Polyplex requires Reaktor or Reaktor Player (Free) installed. Reaktor is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.14 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Polyplex may not be as widely known due to it being an instrument exclusively for Reaktor, but the sounds and features it packs are highly considerable. You can also use the Randomizer feature to get inspiring ideas. Further, you can load custom samples using Reaktor’s sample manager.
We hope the sea of drum machine plugins has somewhat become easier to navigate by now. As we mentioned earlier, you almost always have to consider your music genre when it comes to picking one of these. So, we will be talking about some genres and relevant plugins next.
If you are into hip-hop or trap music, you can’t go wrong with Thenatan TRAX and AudioRealism Drum Machine. Also, we recommend you to check out the free Sampleson SUB for its subbass generator.
Next, if you are into electronic music, pretty much any on our list would be useful. However, we suggest Battery 4, iZotope BreakTweak, and SugarBytes Drum Computer if you are an EDM producer or just prefer louder genres.
As for people who are into pop music, Softtube Heartbeat and ujam SOLID are truly versatile and sound brilliant. And if you wish to include variety, ujam ONE is a fabulous percussion engine, whereas Captain Beat is unbeatable for grooves and styles.