Audio / Hands-on Review

Addictive Drums Recreates the True Natural Nuance of Beats


Addictive Drums by XLN Audio isn’t a meandering cornucopia of exotic and unrelated drum samples; it’s a plug-in that’s dedicated to letting you easily create realistic drum beats that sound like they’re being played fluidly, as opposed to something that just sounds like a computer playing a sequence (which is all too often the case). If you insist on having tons of drum sounds, XLN Audio makes a comprehensive range of expansion packs (called ADpaks) that can be added as you need them. My hard drives seem to fill up very quickly these days, so this model really appeals to me. You just buy what you need when you need it, instead of paying a premium at the onset and taking on a mammoth library of sounds you don’t need. The fact that Addictive Drums and the ADpaks are all available as electronic downloads from B&H further streamlines the process. But what makes this percussion plug-in special?

The three drum sets that come with Addictive Drums cover an impressive range of sounds that suit most genres of music. It’s Mac and PC compatible and will run in any host program that supports VST, RTAS, or Audio Units plug-ins (such as Avid’s Pro Tools 9). A five-piece Tama Starclassic kit, a seven piece Sonar Designer Series kit, and a seven piece Drum Workshops Collector Series are the kits at your disposal, and they’ve all been painstakingly captured. You can bring out the sound you have in your head with the Addictive Drums compressor, EQ, distortion, tape saturation, filters, limiters and reverbs. The built-in effects and a formidable selection of presets are central to its design, and the presets run the gamut from Soft Rock to Electronica. However, the engine that really transforms these binary elements into a living drumbeat comprises the multi-samples, and the manner in which they’re used.

Imagine you’re standing in front of a real snare drum, and you whack it with a stick. You manage to strike it perfectly in the center and create the ideal “crack.” Then you hit it again, and the snare again produces a great-sounding tone. The thing is, if you sampled both of those snare hits and listened to them, they wouldn’t sound identical. An acoustic drum is a very dynamic instrument, and there’s no such thing as the “one perfect sample.” That’s why Addictive Drums features several drum samples for every level of velocity. When you program a beat there can sometimes be four unique “direct hit” snare samples played in a single bar, and every way you strike a drum or a cymbal is covered, from direct hits to side sticks to rim shots. The cumulative effect is that your work will sound like it’s alive.

If you read the phrase “program a beat” in the last paragraph and felt a hint of intimidation, I urge you to disregard the emotion. If you have no interest in programming beats with your DAW, there are over 3000 MIDI files included with Addictive Drums. When I say the term “MIDI files,” just think of them as included grooves. It’s a sizeable library of rhythms that you can apply to any drum set in the program. Need a quick 4/4 Swing beat? Boom, you have one. Navigating and auditioning the MIDI files is a breeze, which will really help you create songs. The mixer section of the software enables you to raise or lower the volume of each part of the kits, so you can easily customize the mix of each pattern. Plus you can swap out different drums and cymbals from the kits you own to get the sound you want, which is one of the reasons why the Addictive Drums plug-in is much more useful than regular sampled drum loops. You don’t have to be a master of MIDI programming to create the beat that you need for a piece of music, and if you're into creating your own MIDI sequences it's a great product for you as well.

The additional ADpaks supply you with more specific drum kits, presets and MIDI files that are geared toward specific styles of music. The Funk ADpak features a Pearl drum kit and 400 funk-flavored MIDI grooves. The Metal ADpak prepares you for Armageddon with an 18-piece Ludwig Maple drum set with Zildjian cymbals, and the samples were created by producer Ross Robinson (Korn, Slipknot). The Retro ADpak comes with three Ludwig drum kits from the 1960s and 1970s, plus 1300 MIDI files and more than 70 presets so you can effortlessly bring a '60s vibe to your work. And speaking of bringing an old-school vibe to your work, if you’re into electronic music, hip hop or any of the myriad styles of music that rely on drum machines, you should check out Reel Machines. It has classic drum machines like the 808 and the 909, but Addictive Drums went a few steps further to include the LinnDrum and the Simmons SDS-V. All of the sounds in Reel Machines were recorded onto analog tape before getting digitized.

If you’re looking for a rhythm and beat creation plug-in to get your creative juices going, or to compose and record some songs with, Addictive Drums offers a really nice solution that will give you the sound you’re looking for, whether that sound is a real human playing jazz drums, a post-apocalyptic mutant playing thrash metal or a robot laying down four on the floor. Thanks for reading this B&H InDepth article. We'd love to hear from you—please submit suggestions or questions in the Comments section below.