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REVIEW: Toontrack's Superior Drummer 3

Laura  Barnes
REVIEW: Toontrack's Superior Drummer 3

“The future of drum production” is a pretty big statement from Toontrack regards to its latest software release. But with the Superior Drummer series already proving very popular by virtual instrument users, it may not be as outlandish as it first seems.

Superior Drummer 3 has been completely redesigned from the ground up. And as someone who hasn’t used the previous model, at first this very powerful piece of kit appears a little intimidating.

After spending some time clicking around, testing things out and getting familiar with my settings, the first thing I notice is how modern and clean the UI is. Navigating around is a synch too with very clear pathways to various functions.

The sheer volume of samples you have with Superior Drummer 3 is, well, superior. There’s more than 230GB of raw material to get lost in. And between the 6 impressive drum kits – Ayotte, Gretsch, Pearl, Premier, Ludwig, Yamaha – and the additional snares, kick and cymbals, getting lost is something you will definitely do.
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The six kits were specifically chosen to cover a wide range of musical styles, and all of these sounds have been captured in 11.1 immersive sound at one of the world’s most quiet and ideal sampling locations – Galaxy Studios. Their quality shines through when wearing your most trusted studio cans.

There’s also around 350 electronic drum sounds to work your way through too. And all the samples are presented at 44.1kHz/24-bit.

If what’s on offer isn’t enough, there is also the option to replace existing drums with custom samples, which can be added as a new instrument, or stacked onto an existing setup.

With four main tabs – Drums, Grooves, Mixer, Tracker – users can build their kits, create their beats and modify to their heart’s content.

The ‘Drums’ tab is where you’ll start on your journey, choosing your sound library and individual instruments. You’re presented with a virtual drum carpet where you add in the various parts of your kit.

Clicking on a part of the kit will highlight it in blue, bringing up the Property Box to the right of the interface will always correspond to the selected instrument or group of instruments.

Moving on to the ‘Grooves’ tab, this is where you start to build your full drum tracks.

You can start crafting simple beats at a surprisingly fast pace, and the ability to quantise notes helps you come up with sharp bars of beats in an instant.  

From there you can continue to layer, audition different instruments, and start diving deeper into things like timing and velocity.

The ‘Mixer’ tab is quite self-explanatory. Here you can take full advantage of the 35 new low-footprint insert effects such as route, bus, send, saturate, blend and mix. There’s enough classic compressors, creative filters, tape simulators and distortion options to satisfy any sound perfectionist.

Moving on to the ‘Tracker’ tab and you get into the area of the software that starts to make it clear why Toontrack are calling Superior Drummer 3 “The future of drum production”.

The ‘Tracker’ section of SD3 creates drum to MIDI conversions. It automatically detects what type of sound is being imported and replaces it with a similar sound from the software’s library.

And we’re not just talking individual drums here, we’re talking whole drum kits and full performances! Yes, really.

For a drummer like myself, this opens up a fantastic option. I can finally record music from any drum kit without it needing to be perfect at the start. Once, laid out and imported into Tracker, I can swap sounds around, adjust settings and make myself sound like I own a beautiful Gretsch.

Toontrack’s head of sound design Mattias Eklund hit the nail on the head when he described Superior Drummer 3 as a “bottomless well of creativity”. If you’re looking for a huge amount of impressively realistic drum samples, or a virtual studio space to spend hours upon hours in fiddling with the intricacies of your creations, this is the software to do it.

Superior Drummer 3 is distributed in the UK by Time + Space. For more information click here.

Tags: time and space , Toontrack , Reviews , virtual instrument , Superior Drummer 3

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