The Best Drum Synth VST Plugins

The Best Drum Synth VST Plugins

Every young and aspiring audio producer should know that each piece of music consists of three integral parts – melody, harmony, and rhythm. Lose one, and you do not have music at all. But here is an interesting question – are they equally important, or is one more important than the others? Of course, this question is open for debate, but we believe that of those three parts, rhythm stands out the most. Because rhythm is where the heart of music lives, so to help you find the heart of your music, we prepared our list of the best drum synth VST.

Top 7 Best Drum Synth VST

  1. Rob Papen Punch-2
  2. AIR Drum Synth 500
  3. D16 Group Nepheton
  4. D16 Group Drumazon
  5. D16 Group Nithonat
  6. Sugar Bytes Drum Computer
  7. D16 Group PunchBOX

Drum Synth VST Buying Guide

There is something primal about our admiration of rhythm. Of course, clever harmonies and soaring melodies will definitely make you feel in a certain way, but this feeling will reach you faster if some pulsating rhythm is involved. And the quintessence of this notion is the drum machine. In the electronic music community, there is a whole culture that revolves around drum machines. Partly it is because some level of convenience is involved when you do not need to have a live drummer behind some bulky wooden drum set.

But the main reason why electronic producers are in love with drum machines, particularly with the vintage kind, is that every drum machine has its own personality. When you produce music using something like AKAI MPC or the infamous Roland 808, it feels like you are interacting with another musician. And a pretty capable one to some degree. Some people even take a mission of saving and preserving old drum machines upon themselves.

World-renowned electronic producer and musician Moby has one of the largest hardware drum machine’s collections in the world. He calls it his “Noah’s Arch” of drum machines. He sampled all of his drum machines and does not use them as intended. We strongly believe that he does so out of respect.

But what if you do not have such resources as Moby has at his disposal? Since vintage drum machines are highly valued, it is extremely hard to come by a working unit in pristine condition that doesn’t cost a fortune. Well, fortunately enough, we are living in the 21st century, where everything is digital, including drum machines. Since the hardware drum machines are pretty straightforward in their design and functionality, the market is literally oversaturated with digital drum machines. So how would one choose the best amongst thousands of great and capable options?

Few deciding factors

In compiling this guide, we took into consideration a few deciding factors. Firstly, the overall functionality and usability. It is important to have a tool that you can use without needing an engineering degree.

Secondly, the best virtual drum machine should either be a thorough recreation of some vintage hardware unit or something with modern and purely digital capabilities. It is definitely cool to have a vintage 808, but what if you could also turn it into a rhythmic modular synth? That would be a way cooler, right?

Finally, we believe that the best digital drum machines should also have their own personality as their hardware ancestors did. So here is our list of the best drum synth VST.

Best Drum Synth VST Reviews

Rob Papen Punch-2

Rob Papen Punch-2

Pros
  • Both drum sampler and additive synthesizer
  • Drag-and-drop functionality
  • 24 customizable pads
  • Resizable GUI
  • More than 2500 drum presets
  • More than 900 drum kits
Cons
  • None that we know of
See price @ Plugin Boutique / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Rob Papen Punch-2 is a pretty powerful virtual drum workstation that combines both drum sampler and additive synthesizer. This virtual drum machine offers you 24 simultaneous drum samples, which could be either arranged by a pattern sequencer or controlled by a MIDI input of your choice. In addition to its impressive library of drum kits, you can use your own samples.

User impressions

Users are quite impressed with Rob Papen Punch-2 master FX section and with the sound engine in general. Users also like that this drum sampler is very intuitive and usable. Some users find that synthetic samples are quite hard to be applicable in an acoustic mixing environment.

What we think

The inclusion of the master FX section gives another layer to this plugin’s usability since you can create and mix your drum patterns all in the box. It is suffice to say that it sounds magnificent, but this is not the most impressive part of this virtual drum machine. We found its resizable GUI to be a breath of fresh air. This would be very much appreciated by producers who use large screens and have short sight.

Bottomline

Rob Papen Punch-2 will be enjoyed by audio producers who appreciate versatility above else. With a bit of imagination and effort, you can make this drum machine sound exactly like your favorite vintage hardware or make some experimental modern groove.

AIR Drum Synth 500

AIR Drum Synth 500

Pros
  • Standalone application
  • A vast library of sounds and MIDI loops
  • 2 sampler channels
Cons
  • A bit complicated GUI
  • Only 8 channels
See price @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Unless you have just woken from cryogenic sleep, you know what AVID ProTools is. And if you actually used it, you know that AIR Music does built-in virtual instruments in ProTools. This literally is the case when reputation speaks louder than words. But imagine if the guys who make the things for ProTools team up with such industry legends as AKAI Professional and ALESIS Drums. The product of that collaboration would be AIR Drum Synth 500.

User impressions

Users like AIR Drum Synth 500 for the quality of the sounds and user-friendly design. Having a lot of menus conveniently put in groups, you can view and operate everything on the screen.

Some users don’t like that AIR Drum Synth 500 is taking a lot of CPU power, and also they found the price to be rather high.

What we think

If you can get past a rather complicated GUI, which quite frankly can take an effort, this is a mighty virtual drum machine. We believe that its randomization feature is the pinnacle of this plugin. If anything, it could be a great tool to overcome writer’s block.

Bottomline

The only downside to AIR Drum Synth 500 is that it has only 8 channels, two of which are reserved for a sampler. And since it has over 500 drum sounds, you have a choice between a rather minimalistic drum part or making your CPU work extra by loading several instances of this drum machine. Other than that, it is a great drum machine for a reasonable price.

D16 Group Nepheton

D16 Group Nepheton

Pros
  • 17 fully synthesized channels
  • MIDI input
  • Recreation of Roland 808
Cons
  • 808 only
See price @ Plugin Boutique / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Literally, no drum machine list would be completed without at least one Rolland 808 emulation. This vintage drum machine is considered to be one of the best and desirable tools to have in any audio production collection. Especially if you are very much into old school hip-hop. In a very probable case that you can’t own the original one, guys from D16 Group gave us the next best thing. D16 Group Nepheton is a recreation of Rolland 808 on such level of thoroughness that guys from D16 claim that even knobs on this plugin are scaled perfectly according to the original unit.

User impressions

Users say that D16 Group Nepheton has a very distinctive and pleasing sound, and they are fond of the variety and flexibility of sequencer modes. Users noted that the option of saving drum patterns and sound separately is very useful. Some users say that D16 Group Nepheton has become their go-to drum plugin for hip-hop, electro, and techno productions.

What we think

Clearly, every audio producer should have an 808 in his arsenal. And we strongly believe that D16 Group Nepheton is the one to have. If not for the excellence of the sound, then at least for the opportunity to feel how it was to work with 808 back in the day.

Bottomline

If you dreamt about having an excellent 808 at your disposal, do not look any further. D16 Group Nepheton is a reasonably priced and shockingly meticulous Roland 808 emulation. But the real question is would just 808 be enough, or would you eventually be disappointed by the lack of versatility?

D16 Group Drumazon

D16 Group Drumazon

Pros
  • MIDI input
  • Recreation of Roland 909
Cons
  • 909 only
See price @ Plugin Boutique / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

We all know that nature does not stand still. It constantly shifts, moves, and evolves into something better and more robust. So it is rather natural to assume that after 808 comes 909. And who else to recreate it perfectly than the guys from the D16 group? Their Drumazon is a perfect recreation of Roland 909 in which the behavior of the controls is emulated inhumanly precise.

User impressions

Users like D16 Group Drumazon for the user-friendly design and the overall quality of the sound. They like that it does not take a lot of CPU power, and the sounds could be saved separately from the patterns. Some users found this virtual drum machine to be rather complicated, so reading the manual is required.

What we think

We believe that it really comes down to the approach on music production. Do you prefer a tool that does one thing perfectly, or would you be more comfortable with the more versatile application? D16 Group Drumazon sounds great, looks great, and feels even better. But would you have it at the dispense of other drum machines? We know that we would.

Bottomline

A 909 drum machine is a pretty versatile tool on its own, and at this price, it does not feel that you are sacrificing anything in terms of having other options. And since D16 Group Drumazon offers you a few modern additions when it comes to controls and sequences, this one is really a no-brainer.

D16 Group Nithonat

D16 Group Nithonat

Pros
  • Classic 606 with additional features
Cons
  • 606 only
See price @ Plugin Boutique / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

You can call us prejudiced all you want, but we love what guys from D16 Group do. Originally, the 606 drum machine was considered to be a lesser sibling of the great 808. With fewer features, that is. But D16 Group Nithonat was made to correct 606’s misfortune. So with this virtual drum machine, we have a believable emulation of a classic 606 sound with quite a few additional controls on top.

User impressions

Users agree that D16 Group Nithonat is a great addition to every modern producer’s toolbox, especially when it comes to electro dance music enthusiasts. Although some users are disappointed with the absence of a standalone edition, most found its sequencing to be an improvement over the original 606.

What we think

 If you are a gear purist, having just one vintage drum machine does not cut it, does it? D16 Group Nithonat has a silky snare, round and tight kick drum, and tight, elegant hi-hats. What else do you need from a drum machine?

Bottomline

Sometimes, you do not need a complicated heavy-duty machine to do all the work. Sometimes having a simple and reliable tool is enough. Consider D16 Group Nithonat to be a hammer. So if you have some nails lying around, this one is definitely for you.

Sugar Bytes Drum Computer

Sugar Bytes Drum Computer

Pros
  • Powerful and versatile drum workstation
  • 3 layered synth engine
  • Deep modulation controls
Cons
  • None, really
See price @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Sugar Bytes Drum Computer is quite the opposite of your conventional drum machine. It is really more of a drum synthesizer with analog synthesis capabilities as well as a wavetable. It also has the Resynth feature, which is a sort of a hybrid sampler that lets you create truly fresh and unique drum sounds out of your own samples.

User impressions

Users say that Sugar Bytes Drum Computer is a good choice for audio production because of its intuitive sequencer and smart randomization. Some users are truly impressed with its automatic fill generator, but others think adding more parameters to the FX section would make this drum machine even better.

What we think

We were really surprised by the complexity that Sugar Bytes Drum Computer offers you in terms of flexibility and customization. This plugin is what it says it is – a drum computer. Where it shines the most is in its internal sequencer. You can spend countless hours tweaking all the parameters, or you can create a unique pattern in a matter of seconds. No matter what approach you might take, the results will be great.

Bottomline

There is no doubt that vintage drum machines are great, but having the option of spicing things up might be even better. Sugar Bytes Drum Computer lets you load up your 808 samples and leave it as is or put some unexpected and fresh twist on it with a built-in synth engine. The results would be magnificent either way.

D16 Group PunchBOX

D16 Group PunchBOX

Pros
  • Powerful kick drum engine
  • 1100 samples
  • 800 presets
Cons
  • Just a kick drum
See price @ Plugin Boutique / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

The main reason why we love guys from D16 is that they know their customers very well. In the world of electronic music production, crafting a signature kick drum sound is as important as a catchy and emotional melody. This is pretty reasonable since you can not explode a dance floor with only just a melody on itself. So D16 Group PunchBOX gives you an opportunity of crafting your perfect kick with the hybrid of sampler and synthesis. This plugin has 4 sound generators that could be blended in together and 4 precisely tailored FX.

User impressions

Users like D16 Group PunchBOX because of the possibility of crafting unique modern kick drum sounds, from punchy analog-style kicks to heavily layered house kicks and even distorted industrial hardcore kick drums. Also, they say that this plugin has simple but effective synth modules and a great library of effects. It is a good choice for electronic-based styles.

What we think

Since the engine of D16 Group PunchBOX is based on the awesome emulations of Roland 808, you already know that you are in for the treat. But be careful though, this mighty kick drum synthesizer is highly addictive. So don’t let it make you unhealthily obsessed with kick drum sounds as it did happen to us.

Bottomline

Considering its relatively low price and the features it is packed with, there really is no reason not to have D16 Group PunchBOX.

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