Superior Drummer 2.0 is the professional drum sampler flagship from Toontrack Music.
With its excellent sounding sample-engine, its phenomenal realistic room sounds and its unrivaled extensive feature-list, it truly sets the industry standard in contemporary digital drum production.
20 GB of excellent drum sounds for professional music-production. Recorded with extensive and adjustable microphone-bleed and the unique room sound of legendary recording studio Avatar New York.
Mixer presets by top producer Neil Dorfsman (Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Dire Straits, Kiss, Joss Stone, Genesis, John Mayer and Chris Cornell).
AVATAR STUDIO SESSION 1
(DS = Drumsticks, HR = Rods , BR = Brushes, FM = Filz Mallets, NS = Sticks ohne Snares, ALL = Alles)
CYMBAL SETUP 1
CYMBAL SETUP 2
CYMBAL SETUP 3
CYMBAL SETUP 4
** Upgrades for registered users of DFH Superior or Superior Custom & Vintage
*** Crossgrades for registered users of EZdrummer
Toontrack has led the way in the development of sample-based drum modules, with its EZdrummer and dfh Superior modules finding
fans in all sectors of music production. Initially conceived as an add-on for the original dfh, these drum sessions, recorded in top-end
studios in New York, quickly became too big for that purpose and instead served as the foundation for a new version of the instrument.
Described as a ‘multi-microphone drum sampler’, it comes in VST, AU and RTAS plug-in formats for Mac and PC, spread across 5
DVDs. You have a choice of four custom install modes that eat up 4-20GB. The larger installs include the complete sample set and the
full range of ‘bleed’ options, which we’ll look at in a moment. Authorisation is via challenge-and-response online.
The instrument’s interface is well designed and easy on the eye, defaulting to the Construct window on launch. This is where you view
your kit, but you can switch to Classic view if you prefer an old-school pads-style display. Kits are loaded from the upper toolbar (SD 2.0 can read earlier soundbanks if you set up their locations in the Preferences).
You’re initially presented with a full kit set up for you, but click on a drum and you can select an alternative, choosing from clear or
coated tom heads and various cymbals. Clicking on a drum will cause it to sound, so you don’t have to use MIDI keys as triggers when building a kit. >From the Tool Settings menu you can choose what you’re actually hitting your virtual drum with; options include
sticks, rods, brushes and carious types of bass drum beater.
Many of the hits are multi-sampled, with some having up to 25 hard and 25 soft hits plus 15 gradient hits, so a tremendous degree of
expression can be achieved by playing at different velocities. Helpfully, the sound engine is able to randomise samples based on velocity ranges and ensure that the same sample is never played back twice in a row (unless you want it to). This prevents the ‘machine gun’ effect that can be a shortcoming of drum samplers.
Along the bottom of the main window are several boxes for managing various settings. The Memory & Status section displays the
current RAM load as well as enabling you to toggle between 16- and 24-bit modes and manually flush the memory. The EZ Mixer box
enables you to select a mic and alter its level/ pan and bleed parameters, while the Voices and Layers section is used to control the strain on your system. Finally, an Instrument box enables you to switch between articulations for any given drum – bell or ride for a cymbal, centre, roll or rimshot for the snare and so on.
The kits recorded for the sessions are top-notch and Envelope and Pitch controls are provided for each should you wish to adjust them.
The mixer in SD 2.0 is considerably more flexible than those in previous versions and now enables you to fully sub-mix a kit before it
leaves the plug-in. Each mic has a dedicated channel strip and can be routed to any of 16 outputs or 16 busses. Channels can also be
grouped, and although the mixer has a lot of controls, they’re well labelled and easy to follow.
Interestingly, SD 2.0 has built-in effects powered by Sonalksis, including an EQ, filter, gate, compressor and transient designer, up to five of which can be applied to any channel. Better still, there are channel presets for quickly applying multiple effects chains.
Let it bleed
Anyone who has recorded real drums knows that bleed between mics is inevitable, but it’s also a fairly key part of getting a good drum sound. If you install the relevant sound set, you have the ability to control this bleed. Unlike recording real drums, though, you can
specify which drums leak into which other drums (and by how much). When you factor in all of the available channels, the result is an unprecedented level of control over the effects of leakage on the sound of the kit.
Drum it out
The graphical representation of a drum kit on display may initially suggest that this is somehow a toy rather than a serious instrument,
but nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, SD 2.0 is a very powerful drum sample playback module, with a well-designed
interface and in-depth controls. It’s geared towards acoustic drums, of course, and implements clever ways of capturing human variations
in feel and velocity. For maximum playability you’ll probably want to hook up a MIDI drum kit rather than a keyboard, but that’s
minor issue. For a live drum sound and feel with great flexibility, it’s hard to beat.
Easy to change playback style, drum types and implements
Mix and match with other Toontrack sound libraries
Powerful onboard effects and mixer
Well-designed and easy to use
Replicates the functionality of a full drum studio
Comes with EZ Player Pro
Walk on by
No built-in reverb
A very authentic-sounding, playable and powerful drum sampler that’s about as close as you can get to real drums without recording
It’s been four years since Toontrack released their original dfh Superior drum ROMpler. Since then, other similar instruments have
appeared (BFD2, Addictive Drums and Strike, for example), and Toontrack have even released their own affordable, more intuitive
alternative: EZdrummer. However, there have been no major changes to the original plug-in, and it’s fair to say that it definitely lost its
edge somewhat. So maybe it’s appropriate that Superior Drummer 2.0 not only marks the first phase of Toontrack’s New York Studio
Legacy Series library, but also the release of a completely overhauled program.
The big news with SD2.0 is that it follows the now industry-standard layout, with separate drum kit and mixer views. If you do feel
nostalgic for the original version, the ‘main’ super-pad screen or ‘classic view’ can be selected instead, though they’ve done away with the convoluted construction pages. All kit-building now takes place in the main interface, with microphone bleed levels handled on a fader-by-fader basis in the mixer window – clicking the Bleed selector next to a fader opens up an additional Levels tab.
In terms of kit construction, SD2.0 includes a few basic layouts, and beyond that you can also augment kits with so-called X-Drums.
These are essentially extra instruments that you define and allocate samples and mics to – they then appear in the main kit window with
a graphic. You can have a total of 45 kit positions, including those in the presets list, which is pretty impressive and enables truly
New York, New York
SD2.0 ships with the first volume of Toontrack’s New York Studio Legacy Series library, which was recorded at NY’s Avatar Studios
(formerly The Power Station) by Pat Thrall, Neil Dorfsman and drummer Nir Z. It’s a 60GB library, reduced to 20GB on disk using
lossless data compression. There are also three slimmed down installs available, 4GB being the smallest.
With the full install, you get to choose which sticks (sticks, brushes, rods or mallets) and kick beater (wood, plastic or felt) to use. The
basic kit comes from US company GMS, but is augmented by additional pieces. You get three kicks, seven snares (including a Ludwig Black Beauty), three hi-hats, four rides, five cymbal sets, two types of tom and cowbell. For added variety, the kit sample recordings include some additional microphone options. These were processed at source to retain phase coherence, and include an 1176-processed snare mic and another with Sure Green Bullet-recorded room ambience, processed via a Boogie amp.
Finally, as well as overheads, there are five room mic options, recorded with Coles, U67 and C24 mics, among others. However, given the additional memory required, not all of these load automatically, even when you fire up the full kit. Once we got the hang of this, the level of variety available – even before we reached for the onboard effects – became apparent.
In use, although the window itself is dominated by either the drum kit or the mixer, the bottom quarter of the screen remains constant at
all times. Here you’ll find memory status, master volume, and detailed parameters for each instrument, including velocity parameters and key assignments. The instrument section in the right corner is the best place to audition kit sounds, as it’s context-sensitive – alas, the main kit graphics aren’t.
SD2.0 is fully compatible with previous Toontrack libraries, including dfh Superior and EZdrummer, although you can’t mix and
match kits freely. You can, however, add X-Drums to combine elements of different libraries.
Out of the box, SD2.0 is as easy to program as any other drum ROMpler, and with extra snare and hi-hat articulations on separate notes, in time, you’ll learn to create convincing drum parts from scratch, However, if speed is of the essence, the included EZ Player Pro plug-in instrument includes a large library of MIDI grooves. It also has its own multi-layer arranger, and it will even convert its MIDI
mapping to match other popular drum ROMplers, such as BFD and Addictive Drums. Its drag-and-drop functionality enables you to
simply import grooves onto SD2.0 instrument tracks for instant results.
In addition to being used from programming realistic percussion tracks, drum ROMplers are also employed as instruments to be
triggered live by drummers playing electronic drum kits. Although designed primarily as a plug-in, SD2.0 includes a standalone host
app called Toontrack Solo, and this is your best bet when using an electronic kit. Select the E-drum preset from the MIDI/controller list
and you’ll get mapping suited to most mainstream digital drum hardware. If you have electronic hi-hats, you can even fine-tune the
response with the CC offset option.
Operationally, SD2.0 is much slicker than its predecessor, and this isn’t just down to the more logical workflow – the engine also
seems to have been improved. With instruments of this type, shifting such large amounts of data sometimes results in the odd buffering
click or pop, but we experienced none of that with SD2.0.
Ultimately, if we do have any criticism, it’s that there is a ‘sameyness’ to the sound of the library, no doubt imparted by the studio room itself. Even so, with Volume 2 available next year, you’ll be able to add the sound of Allaire and the Hit Factory to the mix.
Overall, then, SD2.0 is considerably better than its predecessor, and arguably the best in its class.
Library sounds fantastic
Useful included MIDI library
Top quality mixer and effects
Good standalone option for e-drummers
Library sounds a little samey
MIDI patterns not integrated into plug-in
Easy to use, slick as you like, and with a ‘superior’ sound, SD2.0 has beaten back the competition to claim its place as perhaps the best drum ROMpler going.
Awarded Computer Music’s Performance Award
Plug-in drum sounds can often sound flat and cold. With no modelled sounds whatsoever, and a wealth of recorded live drums courtesy of Pat Thrall, Neil Dorfsman and Nir Z at some of New York’s finest studios, Superior Drummer 2.0 intends to put this right.
Ostensibly seeming like the best all-encompassing drum plug-in of all time, this package is loaded with some of the fattest drum sounds you’ll hear on any plug-in. Let’s take a closer look…
Packed with over 150,000 sound files, including three kickdrums, eight snares, four hi-hats, five toms, five cymbal set-ups, four rides
and cowbells, this is one comprehensive drum kit. And that’s just for starters!
The software features two windows: construction and mixer. The construction window is a graphical display of your drums and
cymbals, and allows you to quickly audition sounds and kit set-up options before you mix and match instruments from the Toontrack
libraries. Envelope, pitch and humanize all have their own windows within the construction window, and allow you to customise all
your individual drum sounds. The advanced mixer offers 12 routable buses with 16 stereo outputs as well as a wealth of mixer presets to
get you set up with ease. There are also five built-in effects: filter, gate, EQ, compressor and transient filters. What’s more, you have
complete control over the instrument bleed levels in the mics. Toontrack have also included the MIDI engine EZplayer Pro. Ideal for
multi-track arranging, with simple drag and drop functionality into any sequencer, this is a multi-track MIDI arranger with unlimited
layers. For standalone operation, Toontrack Solo is also included.
Whether you’re a beginner or pro, Superior Drummer 2.0 has something for everyone. Possibly the most powerful drum sample plug-in you will ever buy, it will add that big live drum sound you would normally have to pay a fortune for if you had to book a live studio and drummer. Highly recommended.
Sound Quality: 19/20
Build Quality: 17/20
Ease of Use: 16/20
Value for Money: 17/20
Feature Set: 18/20
IDJ Rating: 87% - Beginner or pro, this library has something for everyone. If you’re looking for a serious drum sampler then your
search ends right here!
For most musicians, getting a great drum track for their recordings is one of the trickiest production tasks they face. Even if you have (or are) a great drummer you’re going to need a big mic collection and a superb-sounding room just to get your drums in the right ballpark to compete with professionally produced recordings. To make things easier Toontrack has been sampling drums in one of the most incredible studios in the world. They also provide you with the tools to manipulate these samples into your recordings, so that they not only sound great, but also natural as if played by a real drummer, live in the studio.
Superior Drummer 2.0 builds on the unprecedented level of control provided by its predecessors, providing you with a huge selection of
drum pieces to play, and the ability to control exactly how the kit sounds in your recordings, as well as providing a means to compose
and arrange you drum tracks, either using pre-supplied MIDI drum loops played by Nir Z, or by playing in your own drum parts with a
MIDI controller or e-Drums kit.
Subtitled The New York Studio Legacy Series, the tracking for the Superior Drummer 2.0 samples was done at Avatar Studios in New
York by producer Pat Thrall (Black Crowes, Beyoncé), and engineer Neil Dorfsman (kiss, Bruce Springsteen, Dire Straits and Sting)
with session drummer Nir Z (Genesis, Joss Stone and Chris Cornell). The collaboration of these three individuals with Toontrack has brought some of the finest sampled instruments we’ve ever heard. However, the final say on how the instruments sound is entirely down to you, and controlled from within the Superior Drummer software.
The mixer engine has a staggering amount of mic’ing options for each instrument. There are four direct mics on the snare drum,
including both top and bottom, a side mic and a separate channel for the top mic through a Neve 1176 compressor. You can also control
how much bleed from other instruments comes through into each microphone, as well as routing the channels in the mixer through their own busses and adding effects either directly to the channel or to busses. One of our favourite discoveries from the mic’ing options was the Bullet Mic, a Shure 520D placed about a metre from the kit running through a Messa Boogie amp, which gives a crunchy, filtered sound without any of the phasing issues commonly associated with post-processing through distortion.
Within the mixer you have five effects from Sonalksis alongside the traditional five-band EQ. These include High-pass and Low-pass
Filter, Gate, Compressor and Transient Designer, which enables you to emphasise or hide the attack phase of each instrument. The
effects have a great sound all of their own, and are far more advanced than many of the built-in effects we’ve seen in other plug-in
instruments. While the EQ and Compressor don’t have quite the flavour of an SSL or Neve desk, we’d be happy to mix the drum
sound on one of our recordings entirely within the Superior Drummer environment.
With so many different options to choose from, Superior Drummer 2.0 can be a little overwhelming for anyone new to drum mixing. If,
however, you have the time to invest in learning your way around it, or you already know your way around a professional studio, SD2.0
offers the flexibility to produce everything from incredibly clean, tight drums, to big, pounding roomy sounds or dirty, biting hits.
And if all this does seem a bit too much for you, Toontrack’s EZdrummer has a similar amount of quality in a less-advanced and
easier-to-use package. EZ also offers a great way in SD2.0 at a later date.
Massive creative potential
If you like to stay on top of your drum sound, this is the software for you. Superior Drummer 2.0 gives you control of every facet of your
drum track, from the rhythm itself to the kit used and the tone of each piece.
Although a recent development, sample-based virtual drum programs (or ROMplers as they’re often known) have developed into more
and more sophisticated and realistic pieces of software. Toontrack’s Superior Drummer was in the first wave of these programs, and the
time has come for a much-needed update to version 2.
Spanning five DVDs, installation is nice and simple but be aware that you’ll have to install the standalone version of the plug-in (if you
need it) separately. Loading the hefty sound library is always a drag with these programs, but thankfully Toontrack has made the job as
automated and pain-free as possible, This includes the option of choosing between four installation of differing sizes, from the basic 4Gb install to the full-monty 20Gb – which tool around half an hour on my test PC.
Fire the program up and the first thing that’s noticeable is the new user interface, split between two main screens: a kit view, seen from
the drummer’s perspective and loosely based on Toontrack’s other, simpler, drum ROMpler EZ Drummer; and a mixer screen. It’s a
vast improvement on the first version of the program and brings the program graphically up to date with its competitors. The kit view
screen is used to select and build your kit from the supplied sample library – the first part of Toontrack’s snappily named New York
Studio Legacy Series.
The majority of these samples are based around a GMS kit, with cymbals by Sabian and some additional snares. With the full 20Gb
install the final kit tally is three kicks, seven snares (including a 70s Slingerland and a Ludwig Black Beauty), three hats, four rides, two
tom sets, five cymbal sets and a cowbell. Also there’s a choice of sticks, brushes, rods, mallets or kick-drum beater – in wood, felt or
plastic. Kit selection contains a few basic presets, but extra pieces can be added using the X-drums feature to customise a virtual kit.
The mixer screen is also logically laid out and straightforward to use, even if it may look a touch daunting to first-time users of this type
of software. In addition to faders for each piece of kit, the mixer screen contains overhead controls as well as five additional room mic options, multiple outputs and mixer busses.
Five good-quality effects are also included: gate; filter; EQl; ‘transient processor’ with compression; and Toontrack’s microphone bleed system. This basically allows complete control over how much (if any) microphone spill you wish to include, like the kick being
picked up by the snare mic, for example. Again, this might all be a bit much for novice users but there are some useful presets to get
Icing on the cake
The icing on the cake comes in the shape of EZplayer Pro, a separate MIDI player and arranger that comes with a large library of
ready-to-go grooves, courtesy of drummer Nir Z.
From a programmer’s point of view I settled into SD2.0 very quickly indeed. The new interface is much more user-friendly and it’s easy
to get good-sounding results quickly and with minimal fuss. Spend some time to delve deeper into all of the routing, microphone and
other options and you’ll be rewarded with much more control over your drum sound.
Moving on to a drummer’s perspective, I found Superior Drummer equally enjoyable to use – even with my limited chops. Triggering
the program from a Drum Kat MIDI controller (with kick and hat pedals), SD2.0 responded well and, once again, sounded great to my ears.
Toontrack has upped its game in the production of SD2.0 It’s easy to use while having some heavyweight sound options to tweak
under the bonnet. Although the stock sounds may be slightly restricted in number, they sound great and more sound libraries are
currently in development.
In a market already containing some heavyweight contenders, SD2.0 easily holds its own and could well become your next drum
ROMpler of choice.
Full installation requires a recommended 25gig hard drive space, modern G5, Intel or AMD multicore CPU with 2GB RAM or more. It
wasn’t long ago when this meant selling your granny and investing in the latest greatest memory monster but these days we barely bat
an eyelid, armed as we inevitably are with 500 gig internal hard drives and a plethora of external ones. But if you’re a bit too fond of
said elderly relative you have the opportunity to choose between four (4) different custom installations - from the 4 GB basic install to
the full 20 GB Sound Library.
When you load SD2 there is a 25 second wait whilst the 580mb drum kit is loaded. This was probably made longer by the fact that
mine was installed on an external drive. Mmm... what should I do while I wait – read the PDF manual?
Greeting you is a 6 piece kit comprising Kik, snare, two toms on the kik drum and two floor toms. There are five different cymbals not
including the hi-hats. All the drums and cymbals have a triangle which when clicked on reveal a choice of different makes and sizes
including the type of head. Attention to detail is what SD2 is all about. On closer inspection there is a ghost tom on the kik drum.
Clicking on the triangle reveals Tom 3 14” GMS coated heads. Another triangle reveals a cowbell. There are also five ghost cymbals. When you have gone click crazy you are surrounded by a seven piece drum kit, cowbell, hats and eleven cymbals. Well that should keep us going for a bit. Our ram count has now gone up to a whopping 905mb. As well as this you can add X-drums from the library of
The sounds are what we have come to expect from Toontrack – awesome. (More can be added from Toontrack libraries as well as the ability to read and combine all dfh Superior and EZdrummer sound libraries.) This is thanks to amongst other things Automatic
Velocity Mapping. Hits are separated into three categories for velocity mapping purposes: soft hits, gradient hits and hard hits The
intensity levels for all soft and all hard hits are the same in their respective categories. They’ve sampled up to 25 soft hits and 25 hard hits on selected instruments and around 15 groups of gradient hits, increasing gradually from soft to hard, each populated with up to 25 hits. Through the unique system developed by Toontrack Music the sampler automatically maps these hits to the appropriate velocity range. By default all soft hits are mapped between MIDI velocities 1 and 20 and played in a random manner. Hard hits are triggered by a MIDI velocity of 127, again in a random manner. Finally gradient hits are triggered between velocities 21 and 126. This can, of course, be changed to suit your taste.
The SD2 is full of features that eliminate the dreaded “machine-gun effect”. For example, while playing or programming, the same
sample will never be played twice in a row, unless you want them to. All hits can be randomized which makes it impossible to hear a
certain hit sequence or pattern... just like a real drummer never hits the drum exactly the same way twice.
The SUPERIOR instrument not only gives you full on leakage, but will also let you specify which drum leaks into which microphone,
a feature useful to keep memory usage low while programming or previewing sounds. In addition, the SD2 goes one step further with its unique “Mic leakage control”, allowing you to set the exact level you would like to hear for each drum in any one microphone. You can just select the microphone that you wish to edit and lower the level of the drum that is causing you trouble. And since this operation can be performed with any microphone in relation to any instrument in the drumkit, the net result is unprecedented flexibility over your virtual session.
The default standard view is that of a drum kit from a slightly elevated viewpoint as roles out in the first endeavour EZ drummer. This is also known as the construction window. But for the die hard traditionalist used to Superior Drummer 1 there is the classic view
revealing 19 square boxes not dissimilar from small black and white TV sets. They have exactly the same functionality but just don’t
look as appealing and doesn’t software have to look good as well as sound good these days?
Gone is the rather nice midi player from EZDrummer and in its place the excellent new EZPlayer Pro – billed as a multi track MIDI
arranger with unlimited layers. This comes as a separate application but loads into your DAW and is far more flexible. You can drop in
any midi file you wish and layer one upon another. It comes with a pile of midi files played by Nir Z amongst others. With the loop
feature you can decide exactly which section you want to loop resulting in some amazing multi-rhythmic mayhem. You can also drag your own midi looks directly into any of the tracks. The creative potential is enormous.
If you’re familiar with EZDrummer you’ll be aware of the mixer. SD2 has a far more advanced mixer with the ability to add 5 FX on
each channel or drum/cymbal. Effects are provided by Sonalksis and have the usual high quality associated with the name. They include
EQ, fliter, Gate, Compression and Transient designer with the last two offering the ability to sidechain. These come with some
interesting presets to get you started.
I tried triggering the software from the keyboard, the Korg Kontrol pad and the Roland V-Drums and I have to say you cannot
distinguish this from a real kit. The end of the session drummer is nigh!
by Phil Heeley, Teaching & Learning Manager for Music
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