Toontrack Superior Drummer 2.0 - The New York Legacy Series Vol. 1 (Reviewed by John Verity)
What is it?
Superior Drummer 2.0 is a collection of multi-microphone drum samples designed for realism when sequencing drum tracks. Superior drummer works either as a stand-alone system, or as a virtual instrument/ plug-in inside your DAW of choice. For the purposes of this piece I used it inside Steinberg’s Cubase, and Harrison Mixbus with successful results in both packages.
Getting started... Installation is from the supplied DVD’s, though a check for updates is advisable once the programme is up and running correctly. Superior Drummer uses a library of samples, and during installation you are prompted to choose from a 4GB basic install to the full 20GB Sound Library. I wanted to get the best performance possible from the package so chose the 20GB version. Installation was quite time consuming so let’s hope it’s worth the wait!
Superior Drummer was automatically installed in my VST plug-in folder ready for use within both DAW packages. A custom groove library is also available – useful when reviewing, so I downloaded this at the same time as running the update from the Toontrack website. So far so good... The final stage is to register Superior Drummer & authorise your computer - there is a range of licence packs – 5/10 & 25 licences which allow for multiple authorisations in schools and colleges. On first launching the programme you are prompted to authorise the software using a response code – there is no hardware protection device/ dongle with Superior Drummer, with all your registration details retained on your own special account on the Toontrack server, quite a long process, but copy protection is important to ensure the longevity of the companies providing these advanced educational/production tools for us all to enjoy...
Shown, is the ‘Construction Window’. It is here that you can choose different samples/ sounds for each drum and cymbal in your drum set. A small menu drops down, from which you select and audition from a choice of sounds. Simply click on the drum or cymbal to hear a preview. Superior Drummer comes with an extensive library of exceptional sounds – but if you are still not satisfied there are further packs of samples available on the Toontrack website.
Many instruments were recorded using a variety of utensils to experiment with sounds – use the ‘Tool Settings’ in the top right corner of this screen to change a hand tool/ beater etc.. Superior Drummer uses ‘Intelligent Playback’ to eliminate the mechanical effect that can sometimes occur when sequencing drum tracks – the same sample will never be played twice in a row, with all hits randomized if so required by the user. When recording real drums in a studio there is ’leakage’ between microphones - for example there will be a certain amount of hi-hat heard on the snare drum microphone and so on. With Superior Drummer this leakage can be controlled – the user can choose the amount of leakage on every microphone, or no leakage at all if that is what is required. Sounds impressive...
The Mixer Window (shown) allows you not only to control the balance of the microphones on the drum set, but also to utilise various ambient microphones spread around the studio, each with its own fader. Each channel strip within Superior Drummer includes effects sends, 5-band equaliser, hi/low pass filters, a gate, compression and more - totally independent to the facilities in your DAW.
At first I decided to utilise a MIDI drum track that I had already recorded for a previous project, where I had used the standard samples available in the DAW. The difference when changing to the sounds in Superior Drummer was quite stunning. Totally realistic - I had a real drummer in the room! I was particularly impressed by the ambient microphones available, which really did allow the drums to ‘breathe’. Once I had edited the drum sequence to my satisfaction, I decided to use Superior Drummer’s ‘Off-line Bouncing’ feature to create audio files from my MIDI drum track thereby enabling the drums to appear in the project as if they had been recorded as a set of audio files. This worked perfectly – I was then able to work on the drums inside each DAW mixer utilising the same EQ and effects as the rest of the project as if they had been recorded as live drums in the studio.
Superior Drummer really is an amazing programme which will add realism to MIDI drum tracks or when triggered from a MIDI drum kit. Its advanced features –not really covered here simply due to lack of space – will stretch the imagination of the most inquisitive student and can lead to amazing results.