Superior Drummer 2.0 - MIDI Drum Production Module
Amazing for recording real sounding drums when you dont have the room or skillset to recrd acoustic drums.
MIDI drums and getting them to sound both good and real has always been a hard task for most people, particularly when it came to things like Rock and Metal music where authentic sounding drums are of the utmost important. The benefits of using a V-KIT coupled with some form of digital drum module that can be called from your computer are vast, the main being the ability to quantize each individual drum hit- something that is just not possible using audio. Imagine if you will the minor inconsistencies you would experience in a blast of double kick drum pedaling over a 16 bar break. With MIDI you could easily quantize each of these hits to their exact timings i.e. 1/16ths ensuring that every hit of every drum is technically perfect from a timing perspective.
There is a plethora of options to chose from when it comes to this type of software but the problem is that most of them need a NASA super computer to work with no audio latency problems. This was kind of the case with Superior Drummer too which provided terrible latency problems on the Dual Core 3.2 GHz PC with 2.0 GB of RAM we tested it on which was working with Sonar 8.0. The same software used on a MAC using Logic however yielded latencies that were almost non existent which allowed us to record the way we wanted to.
I used Superior Drummer to record the drums of an entire Death Metal EP by Welsh band Kryophere and although, I needed to produce the audio output of these MIDI drums once it had been bounced, I was able to manipulate them to the point of not sounding like MIDI drum at all. In fact I am pretty confident that if I hadnt just told you then you probably would never have guessed.
Out of the Box
Superior Drummer comes in a DVD sized case and is simple enough to install. You will however need to have a MIDI interface to get the movements and hits from your V-KIT into your computer to be manipulated and used by Superior Drummer- that is of course in case you plan on programming all the hits. Simple MIDI interfaces are cheap enough to get a hold of I am just pointing out that the full realms of this software cannot be achieved without one and Superior Drummer 2.0 does not come shipped with an interface.
Now as mentioned above I had problems trying this on a high spec PC using Sonar in that there was such latency between hitting the V-KIT and Superior Drummer triggering that it was impossible for the drummer to play. This was only resolved by getting a Mac and using Logic which hopefully doesnt mean that this only works well on Macs. I mean I use my PC to record 40+ audio tracks with shed loads of buses and effects and it handles it all fine with no audio recording latency. I even experimented with ASIO4ALL which helped a little but did not make it work.
There was not really enough time to troubleshoot the PC problem, we just needed to get it to work and to get on with the recording of the Kryophere EP. I will also note that Superior Drummer and these issues actually cost us one day of recording time so, if you are on any sort of time constraint make sure you set everything up the day before you start.
The default kit wont really be much cop for anyone to use however there are lots of great drum kit add-ons which work with all styles. We used the Drumkit From Hell addition during our tests which contains actuall samples of the Meshuggah drummers setup so as you can imagine this was great for metal drum sounds - although they did need beefing afterward through production techniques as by default they came out a little thin.
When you load up Superior Drummer 2.0 and The Drum kit From Hell drum set it really is just as it says on the tin, a drum kit from hell.
5 toms, 12 cymbals, double pedal and snare drum all face you and slightly intimidate you; that is of course unless you are used to playing a kit like this. You get all sorts of options for each drum and cymbal (including a bunch of different snare drums and cymbals), you can also adjust the mixes and the mic usage (down to the amount of bleed from other mic!) and all sorts of other great tech geek based stuff. There is literally as much control here as you would get if you were micing up a real kit. Mix that now with the fact that each of these drums come into your DAW (in our case Logic) as separate tracks and you start to realize the greatness of Superior Drummer 2.0 as almost a replacement for live drum recording.
In our instance we were playing a V-KIT to trigger the drum sounds that we wanted but if you were to have MIDI loops of real drummers playing real beats you could easily just import them and away you go. Imagine Superior Drummer 2.0 if you will as being completely useless on its own. Without some form of input the software actually does nothing so you are either going to have to have a V-KIT, something like a Korg Pad Kontrol or be really good at using the MIDI grid of your choosen DAW.
The Bottom Line
Superior Drummer 2.0 is an excellent choice for producers that are looking to incorporate real drums into their recordings but dont have the right room or skillset to record live analogue drums.
The deafult Superior Drummer 2.0 drum kit is pretty blah so in all honesty when buying this I would advise buying at least one drum kit addon, in this instance we used and would highly recommend Drumkit From Hell which is EXCELLENT for metal music. I would advise you to own a MAC before purchasing this software as even my beastly studio PC had latency issues making Superior Drummer 2.0 unusable for actually playing beats in live triggered via a V-KIT.
Superior Drummer 2.0 wont replace acoustic drum recording in modern music because although excellent, the final sounds are a little thin on their own and still need that expert production ear to make them commercially acceptable. However, for uping your production game without having to spend years honing in on your acoustic drum enginerring and production Superior Drummer 2.0 is a definite must buy.