Superior Drummer 2: Grooving With The X-Factor
Superior Drummer2 is Toontrack’s flagship professional multi-track drum sampler. It is an extraordinary facilitator of high quality drum track production within a professional grade virtual multi-channel mixing environment supported by a cool bundle of Sonalksis effects plugins.
Superior Drummer (SD2) has a first class sound engine combining an extensive feature set which greatly enhances the software as a superior digital music production unit. Most notable of Superior Drummer2′s advanced features include: Custom Envelopes per kit piece – an Advanced Velocity Control that change the response curve of an instrument – Pitch & Humanise functions – Midi Nodes/Mapping which allows the stacking of instruments on top of each other – customised Key Mapping – a detailed choice of Instrument Articulations – Advanced Mixer Channel Routing – Bleed Mixing – Sidechaining – multiple Microphone Assignments – and the sublime multi-faceted X-Drum feature.
Construct & Custom Kits: The path of custom kit design in Superior Drummer2 begins in the Construction View (pictured above) by choosing a kit from the Multiple Libraries drop down menu (Centre of top bar). Should you own a collection of Toontrack expansion drum packs including those released for EZDrummer, you will find them listed there. Superior Drummer2 loads, by default, the core drumkit – ‘Avatar’. The Avatar kit, recorded at the famous Avatar Studios in New York City, contains 528Mb of kit piece samples recorded as multi velocity sample layers at 24bit. Once the choice is made and a kit is loaded, Superior Drummer’s superbly rendered graphics display each available instrument of the kit in its Construction View window.
In the Construct drop down menu there are a host of presets (different from SD2 Combined Presets discussed later) which usually affect the number, size and type of instruments making up the kit based upon popular drum kit manufacturers such as: Gretch – Ludwig – Noble & Cooley -Slingerland and more. Similar to EZDrummer, options to change kitpiece sizes vary on a per instrument basis and are available from a list located in a drop down menu found at the tip of each instrument. Superior Drummer2 also includes the mercurial option to swap and interchange instruments from alternative drum brands using the ‘Next Load Selected Only’ option from the Construct drop down menu. Through a simple right click, highlighted instruments of one brand, say – the Toms from a pre-loaded Gretch kit, can be swapped for the Toms from a Ludwig kit, or any kit listed in the Construct presets menu. Swapping kit pieces using the ‘Next Load Select Only’ option is a great way to create custom drum kits. However, the barriers of customisation in Superior Drummer2 are pushed even further with the concept of the X-Drum.
X-Drums: Located in the upper right hand corner of SD2′s interface and by clicking on the X-Drum drop down menu then choosing ‘New’ – will load an instance of an X-Drum in the Construction View window. An X-Drum is a highly effective feature in Superior Drummer2 which extends the sonic range of a kit by adding diverse kit pieces onto the sound stage. X-Drums can host any kit piece from any Toontrack kit library which means that Superior Drummer2, rich in flexibility, can create colourful hybrid drum kits. When using X-Drums you may choose to combine electronic sounds with twisted percussive sounds or acoustic kits with syn-toms, hybridise the Toms rack or Cymbals even – there is a wide range of sonic possibility. Every parameter of an X-Drum is fully editable and each X-Drum provides a range of custom tools for sound variation depending on which kit library they are created from. Configuring different microphone assignments could also lead to creative uses of the X-Drum especially with room ambiences and effects. The creative combinations are exciting and there to be explored using X-Drums.
SD2 Combined Presets: – Under the Load/Save menu is a list of factory Combined Presets which offer a variety of fully editable pre-programmed project states. Combined Presets contain information relative to all instrument settings including; envelopes, velocities, pitch, mixer channel settings, channel routing, bleed, microphone settings, Sonalksis plugin settings and more. Presets vary in number depending on which library drum kit or library expansion pack is loaded. They provide a solid starting point when starting new projects and are great for reverse engineering when you need to get into how a certain sound is put together. When you save a project as a .S20 file using the ‘Save As’ option under the Load/Save menu you are effectively saving every project parameter in one preset. Once saved the newly created Combined Preset is listed under the ‘User Presets’ sub menu.
MIDI Grooves: A lot was discussed about the unmatched performance replication of Toontrack’s MIDI groove presets in an earlier review of EZDrummer. Needless to say, Superior Drummer2 supplies a vast array of Toontrack’s superb MIDI Groove files which are easily auditioned and accessed through SD2′s Intergrated Groove Player interface. The Groove Player in SD2 has the additional and somewhat unique feature of breaking MIDI grooves into constituent instrument parts that make up the groove, such as; kicks, snares. hats, toms, crashes e.t.c. This is a very useful feature for combining groove elements and making custom grooves with Superior Drummer2. The MIDI Groove Player is really well structured, easy to navigate with all MIDI Grooves subject to a simple drag and drop into the MIDI channels of a host DAW.
CPU & Performance: All kit samples in Superior Drummer2 load as 24bit. However, there is an option that switches SD2 exclusively into 16bit mode located in either the Settings tab in the top menu bar, and, in the Memory Status panel found at the bottom left of SD2′s interface. The advantage of working in 16bit in SD2 obviously means less work for the CPU while freeing up RAM. However, there is an option to convert back to 24bit audio when your drum track is mixed and completed using Superior Drummer’s Bounce options at the final audio rendering stages. Another well thought out performance improver in SD2 is the Cache option. When Cache mode (found in the Memory Status panel) is engaged all samples are loaded ‘as and when required’ which streamlines the size of SD2 and its impact on processor and RAM usage. Using SD2′s Cache dramatically reduces kit loading time too, further enhancing the software’s performance capability.
Outro: In the final analysis Superior Drummer2 looks slick, sounds fantastic and provides a multi-output channel mixer second to none! Complete with advanced Bus routing, Side Chaining, Bleed mixing and a high quality set of effects plugins – the SD2 mixer is a gem. As a flagship product Superior Drummer2 has an inalienable flexibility which bolsters and compliments its highly impressive feature set. Whether custom designed or straight out of the box, the combination of great sounding drum tracks with a speedy and comprehensive workflow is a sign of true quality and to this end Superior Drummer excels. For the producer looking to dirty her/his hands in drum music production Superior Drummer2 confidently delivers the many advanced features you would anticipate in such high-end music production software.
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