It’s hard to refuse the charm of a great VST plugin, mostly when it’s completely free! To make this list, I chose only free and completely functional software. Even the few VSTs that have paid versions offering extra features can be used for a lifetime -they don’t have an expiration date-. I hope you find these plugins so great that you can spend your money on something else.
Drum Synthesizer | Drums
Drumart SLD looks like a classical drum machine. Its interface resembles a vintage drum machine and it’s a great choice for beginners, hobbyists, and professionals who need a quick solution for their project’s drum section.
This is a very simple and practical VST. It’s like a pocket sample pack that you can easily install and use. It sounds awesome and it’s a great choice for when you just need drums but don’t have enough time to spend hours using more complete but time-consuming tools. Drumart SLD comes with 84 kits with outstanding sound and allows you to make some small adjustments like the decay, pan, and volume of each pad. Simple but effective. It works with 32 and 64-bit DAWS and is Windows and Mac-compatible, which makes it a very practical tool.
It’s also great for when you are in a hurry and you need a cool set of drums to work on a new song’s sketch. Then it’s up to you if you want to tune these drums using your DAW’s EQ, some plugin effects, or if you want to replace it for a more complex VST.
Drums | Percussion
AudioSonic DigiDrum Pro is a great plugin. Although it has a few years on the market, (it’s a 32-bit VST), it’s worth the effort to make it work in your 64-bit DAW.
It has an amazing vintage electronic sound, but it’s easy to create more realistic sounds by tweaking a few knobs. It has 5 waveforms, which might seem not enough, but it’s so light that you can open as many instances of the plugin as you need.
Another great feature of this software, like all the ones you will find on this list, is that it’s absolutely free and it never expires. DigiDrum Pro comes with 27 free waveforms, but if you want to create more complex sounds, you can import your own wave files.
This plugin also enables full VST automation of every control in the program. This makes it a very complete software and the best is that it’s… completely free!
Drum Synthesizer | Drums
EXD-80 Drum is a synthesizer emulator that uses subtractive synthesis to produce its sound. This gives this synth an incredible vintage, fat, and electronic sound.
Although it’s a program that was launched a few years ago, it’s still one of the best drum synths available. It’s a great tool to create your own and unique beat sounds. The EDX-80 possibilities are endless; it comes with a set of integrated effects that are an invitation to explore new sounds. It comes with 16 preset drum kits and it has a storage capacity of 128 programs.
Each percussion module has an oscillator with 7 waveforms (sine, saw, ramp, triangle, square, white noise, pink noise) plus an FM oscillator.
The synth has 8 mono outputs or 4 stereo pairs. The MIDI note mappings are user-customizable. It’s a great VST to have in your drums’ collection.
Have in mind this is a 32-bit VST but you can make it work on 64bit-only DAWs such as Ableton 10.
SSD5 Free is a fully functional demo of Steven Slate Drums 5.5. Steven Slate’s drum kits are well known for the ultra-high sound quality of their samples, thoroughly recorded from real drum kits, played by professional and even famous professional drummers. A VST can’t replace a real drummer, but it can sound very realistic.
To make it even better; the user can set an almost infinite number of parameters as if the drums were being recorded in a professional studio. It lets the user choose even where the microphone that is supposedly recording each section of the battery would be placed. The full version of this software costs u$d149.- and the difference with the free version is the sound and kit libraries, which are way bigger.
However, the free version comes with a fully functional Deluxe 2 drum kit and more than a gigabyte of high-quality samples to customize your drumset to suit your needs. This non-expiring demo will give you a lot of time to create your own drum kits and to see if you really need to go for the paid version. Meanwhile, you will have a blast with this professional product forever free!
Drums | Percussion
Drum Pro is a 64-bit VST made by Studiolinked. The plugin is 100% free and it comes packed with 20 classic drum kits. For example, it has great sounding versions of the Roland 909 and 808, the most wanted instruments to make techno and house music. Every drum kit is based on drum machines that made history and having this plugin is a must for anyone who wants to replicate all those classic sounds of the beginnings of House, Acid House, and Techno music styles. Apart from these kits, Studiolinked offers 12 expansion kits for 9,99 u$d each. Drum Pro is easy to use, you just choose a preset, set up your ADSR levels, pan, and volume of each pad and you are ready to go. This VST also comes with an integrated reverb effect; it doesn’t let the user choose which section to the battery will be applied, but it’s a nice detail. Overall it’s a great plugin for people wanting to add classic drums to a project with a great sound and without having to think too much, just pick a drumkit and go.
MT Power Drum Kit 2 is a great alternative to SSD5. It’s considerably lighter and, for being free software, it sounds really well. It’s optimum for recording demos and for low-budget productions. The good thing is that it doesn’t sound cheap at all. It has 8 independent outputs, an integrated compressor, and a mixer that, combined with other plugins, can deliver a great final result. Some work is needed but it’s not impossible. The samples of this drum kit are made of high-quality sounds recorded from a real acoustic drum kit. Its big library of MIDI grooves and fills can be added quickly to your project if you are looking for some inspiration. Many professionals have rated this VST higher than many paid software, and if you have the chance to compare, you will understand what they mean. MT Power Drum Kit 2 is a great choice to start working with acoustic drums.
Drums | Sampler
Grooove BPB is a comprehensive professional-level drum sampler. It has six dual pads, which means that each one can hold two samples simultaneously; an interesting feature for building layered sounds. This VST has many advanced controls that allow users to create professional sounds. These sounds can be “brought to life” if they are assigned to a midi note and played on a keyboard or MIDI-compatible pads. The sounds change depending on how much pressure and velocity the “drummer” applies on each of the pads.
For impatient people, the instrument includes 14 preset drum kits and 150 drum built-in samples, expandable with external samples. It’s not an easy-to-program tool but it’s at a professional level. That’s why it deserves a place on this list.
Drum machine | Drums
DrumTROOP comes with a great library of 20 kits with 16 to 20 sounds each. The layout and the look and feel of the software are different from anything ever seen. This instrument requires low hard disk space considering the number of high-quality samples it offers. This plugin is made for loading it and start composing. It has only a quite annoying con: it uses a single channel for each pad, which means it needs 16 audio channels to work properly. There is a quick solution for this: saving an empty song with all the channels and the VST previously set up. There are some voice samples that suit each kit perfectly. Once you are familiar with the app, it’s very straightforward to use. It’s something different and cool to have in your VST folder.
Daw | Drums
Akai MPC Beats is something really interesting. It’s a DAW that can be used as a VST inside another DAW. At the same time, it can also load VSTs.
Having a free full Akai product is great, and the drum kits that come with this software are awesome. You can also use some of the loops that come with it as percussion instruments and, if you need to finish a project super quickly, you can just open the standalone version and use it right away! The sound quality of this product is great and it offers many possibilities that can open up your creative mind when you need it the most.
Line of Legends is on this list because it’s light, practical, easy to use, and it’s incredible what you can do with so little. It comes with 47 high-quality samples.
It’s a must if you are looking to record a Hip-Hop track but by tuning the sounds you can have interesting results using it for other music styles. This VST needs 8 audio outputs to work. That’s a bit annoying, but worthwhile nevertheless. It can be upgraded with a massive amount of great quality samples for only u$d 47. If you don’t want to buy the upgrades, you are still going to enjoy this plugin; it’s going to make you beam.
This ranking was made trying to look for completely free VSTs, not just demos with an expiration date. With these plugins you should be able to cover your drumming needs for a while, no matter what kind of music you are creating.
It’s remarkable that these companies that took so much time to make this software are giving their products for free. It’s hard to choose a winner on this list, for every program has its own characteristics that make it unique. Some would prefer simple software with amazing sound and others both. There is a bit of everything on this list from the more than 100 percussion software that can be found online. These 10 VSTs are great and prove that it’s still possible to work at a relatively high level on a budget. In this case, for free.