Whether you are a recording type trying to avoid the cost of a real drummer, or a drummer looking for a way to make electronic drums sound as real as possible, Addictive Drums has probably come across your radar at some point. As a Superior Drummer 2 user watching SD3 on the horizon, I’ve decided to turn around the other way and see what one of their closer competitors have to offer.
Addictive Drums 2 is the software front end to XLN’s large collection of Adpaks; Each one representing a full kit built to match a certain sound or style. There are 21 Adpaks as of 2017, ranging from 60s rock, heavy metal, to auxiliary percussion. Addictive Drums 2 comes with 3 Adpaks out of the box, with each new one costing about $80 a piece.
Some of the more immediately apparent updates to Addictive Drummer from the last rendition, is a rehaul of the beats library manager, the introduction to ExploreMaps, and a great deal more presets than before.
On the topic of presets, it seems like a lot more thought has gone into the variety of setting this time than the last rendition. It is truly impressive how many sounds the original designers were able to wring out of a limited selection of processing tools on each kit. Strange sounds I’d have never had the idea of crafting myself are scattered amongst the more processed presets.
While Toontrack keeps their advanced MIDI player separate in their EZ Drummer software, Addictive Drums 2 comes with a similar MIDI loader built in. While genre specific MIDI packs can be purchased for about $20 each. Beats you have purchased come with a multitude of different variations for quick little tweaks live cymbal choice and accents. On top of sorting by library, tempo, or style, the grid searcher at the top of the “Beats” tab will allow you to find the beat you are looking for by separating out only the beats including hits you’ve set on the basic grid. After you’ve selected your beat, the transform menu can quickly adjust the velocity of hits, the intensity of accents, and quickly reassign a drum.
The 5 primary volume knobs on the explore screen is a feature that makes Addictive Drummer 2 a little more approachable than Toontrack’s counterpart. The full featured mixer is still included, but changes pre-FX volume of samples can be quickly adjusted without concern for grouping or routing.
While I was initially impressed by the velocity curve feature in Superior Drummer 2, allowing ideal samples to be played in a live context, I much prefer the functionality on Addictive Drums 2. The curve is fully variable with two points, as opposed to the sliders that do not allow all possible shapes.
Addictive Drums will wither down to minimal CPU usage when the plugin isn’t sounding. Once it is active however, AD2 can be a little hungrier for computing resources than your average plugin; usually not an issue if you are only running a single instance, but can get cumbersome if you plan to run multiple instances.
The snapshots option is a handy function to go beyond A/Bing, and hit the rest of the letters. A click of the floppy icon at the bottom right of the UI will add a numbered box, which can be clicked to recall the settings at the time of capture.
Drag-and-drop functionality of the beats library can speed up workflow tremendously; especially if you are just looking create a quick mock track, or something to jam to. Just drag the beats out of your plugin menu, and into your DAW arrange screen.
For those looking to use Addictive Drums as a live MIDI module for live and practice purposes, a standalone client is included.
It is quite impressive the amount of sounds the presets come loaded with. With each channel coming with Compression/Distortion/EQ/Tape/Shape for effects, each one is pushed to its creative max to get some really unique, modulated, and desirable sounds. For all of the work put into trying to make AD2 realistic sounding, it certainly excels in the role of electronic or hip-hop drums.
While you might expect the FX units included within the software to be a bit lackluster in comparison to dedicated FX units, I found a lot to like. The distortion unit in particular can be pushed to create some unexpected tones. (Combining the Bitcrush and Zap distortion shapes on a snare can give the background noise and decay of the snare an appealing vinyl-scratch sound)
The ExploreMap interface will appeal to some, and turn others off. Reminiscent of the GUI of some of the newer Apple software, a highly visual guide with samples and presets. Each kit corresponds to a display page for each kit allows you to quickly digest what each ADpak can accomplish.
When you are setting a more moderate setting to the drums, the software does a good job at sounding Realistic. From the way overlapping hi-hat hits sound, to the ring of the snare, Addictive Drums is convincing.
Though it can get pricey to start loading up on multiple AdPak expansions, the software doesn’t quite feel complete without owning a large portion of the software. The initial three kits have a solid sound to them, but will only do for a handful of genres.
In the shadow of Superior Drummer, it can be easy to overlook the seemingly similar product XLN is best known for; but I’ve found that it holds its own in sound, and has a quicker workflow for customization. Between that and the unexpected quality of the built in effects, I would say this one is worth a look.
A big thank you to XLN Audio for the NFR license, allowing me to evaluate their software.