Comparin drum sounds: Groove Agent SE, BFD, Toontracks, etc.

Hi - I have MIDI loops that I route to Groove Agent SE kits for my drum sounds. I was wondering if those drum sounds are on par with the more widely used ones like BFD, DFH, Superior Drums, EZ Drummer 2, etc.

My music is band-type, no EDM, etc.

Does anyone have any thoughts on how good Groove Agent SE sounds are compared to those other ones - is there a night and day difference, or are they all fairly comparable?

Thanks for any thoughts!

BFD and Superior are more realistic, but they’re harder to use and I found that the difference isn’t very noticeable in most mixes.

If you’re looking for some nice drums, take a look at the expansions for Groove Agent 4, specially Simon Phillips Studio Drums and Nashville. They work on GA SE 4 too, and they give you more flexible mixing options than the Acoustic Agent SE kit:

Go for EZdrummer if you want something easy to use and awesome sounding. They are miles ahead from any drum library from Steinberg.

Addictive Drums 2 is very easy to use, the presets are setup good for tracking/practice. And for further production there is a decent amount of tone shaping, effects, and a channel strip for each kit piece.

I would say AD2 is ahead of GA and EZD with sound quality/ease of use and BFD and SD are a notch above in overall sound and realism.

Personal opinion: I have used and still own EZD and Superior Drums. I find SSD4 much better in regards to the quality of the cymbal and HH samples. This is where I find GA, EZD, and Superior fall short. EZD room mics may as well not exist…

For myself BFD3 is BY FAR the most realistic and flexible system out there! It’s also DEEP but well worth the investment.

I’ve spent A LOT of time looking at all of the virtual ‘real drums’ programs out there and sonically i don’t think there’s anything else close.
working with just the dry sounds (completely dry, no processing AT ALL unlike most of the others) is the closest thing to working with a full live kit in a very nice studio… insane routing options, pretty decent effects suite included, works great with electronic drum kits or midi loops, HUGE amount of very high quality library available… SUPERB tech support (Steiny you could learn A LOT from FX here!!)… it was simply a no brainer from my own point of view.

Again for my own tastes, the GA kits are just too processed, i think it limits what you can do with them in a ‘real’ sense, also, i’m not sure how it is in the full version of GA but the toms come as a stereo pair so it’s impossible to process them individually outside of the plugin… great if you’re new to the concept though!!!

I gather many people use BFD for the sounds but actually use superior drummer for its midi patterns and groove functions etc… thought about doing this myself but i used to play drums so that would just be lazy :wink:

In the full of version of GA4 you get full control over every mic they used: Mics for each individual tom and cymbal, and multiple snare and kick mics.

EZ Drummer is great. Lots of expansion kits to put into it out there too

“how good” is sort of a loaded question. :slight_smile: Since you said traditional non-EDM, yes I would say “night and day” just based on the drum kits available for acoustic kits in anything but Groove Agent.

How deep do you want to go?

Unlike a reply above, I think Toontrack Superior is by far way ahead of anything else when it comes to flexibility and overall sound. But keep in mind it depends on your drum objectives. Also you should do a search at Gearslutz unless you want only a comparison with Groove Agent. IMO I would compare Groove Agent SE with Battery3 or 4. But it’s a different world when comparing with 3rd party drums.

I use EZ Drummer with most expansion packs and Superior Drummer with a few expansion packs. As I said, with that combination, nothing else comes close IMO. Sometimes I start a project with an EZX pack but later load the EZX pack inside Superior for further processing because I want a feature or sound not available in EZ.

Do a search. One of the best things about EZ is you can tap in a groove and EZ gives back grooves close to what you tapped in. It’s great for production ideas.

How important is drum miking for your non-EDM projects? Drum miking when applied to natural acoustic drums in any space makes a huge difference. The drum bleed options and how they relate to miking are what makes Superior so real and stand out among the competition. Look how bleed is achieved in Superiors mixer. Nothing else I know of comes close.

I think in all scenarios, EZ and Superior, you can achieve total dry unprocessed samples with the exception of whatever room, processing, and actual tracking which IMO is very minimal. With each EZX and SD pack you can read how the samples were tracked. But remember the objective of EZ is quick, relatively good, and fast so that is going to include some processing.

With Superior it’s much more powerful and flexible…even building a drum kit from scratch. If you want a isolated more dryer drum sound common from the 70s…Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan etc…buy the custom and vintage SDX. Keep in mind you will spend more time with Superior because of the many options. Going past the kit building stage, you are dealing with a much more complete mixer with effects, mic bleed, aux’s and integrating that with Cubase. This is why some choose EZ instead of Superior. EZ has a mixer, but not nearly as complete as Superior. Clicking on Cubase’s “show all outputs” works fine with both EZ and Superior.

Superior is due for a upgrade soon so be aware of that.

Ultimately, ask yourself how easily your drums fit in the mix. There are endless demo examples for sound.

I didn’t know that.

But when was the last time you saw an engineer put a mic on every single cymbal?

That’s just for flexibility. In most presets for example most of the sound of the cymbals and hi-hat comes from the stereo overhead mics. The individual mics for cymbals/hi-hat are set to a low level, if they’re not muted.

I own GA4 and while there are a slew of options and a few good kits and patterns I find it a bit of a resource hog. EZ Drummer with expansions is quick…easy on CPU resources and excellent audio quality!

It’s probably a good idea if you just go and grab yourself a bunch of demos at this stage and just make your own mind up… hyperbole is no substitute for experience innit :wink:

Hi Alexis, I can only speak about GA, AD and BFD but here goes:

GA: Never liked it, the sounds are lacking but my main gripe has always been the layering - or lack of it. The transition between velocity layers is far too abrupt, without any blending.

AD: Always liked this, the layers transitions are great, sounds good in the mix, easy to use with plenty of sculpting options. Perhaps a bit on the processed side…

BFD: I was on the point of getting AD when I heard the BFD demo. Sold! It sounds like a real drummer sat in a real room hitting a real drum, which AD didn’t for me, not quite. I was doing some very gentle stuff and BFD got me that in-the-room presence, especially the kick. The articulations are great, you can make hats shuffles really sizzle. But herein lies its drawback - it’s bloody complicated. The other thing is the size of the library, which you really need a separate drive for - I’m having trouble with glitching…

I’m glad I’ve got BFD for its realism. I think if I’d gone out and got just AD I’d still be wanting BFD. But I think I probably need AD too, just for the sake of being able to get on with the job, as much as anything, but also because the two are really quite different sounding.

Hope that helps,
C :slight_smile:

HH and cymbals are really hyped in GA. I was just testing this last night. Not enough round robin, not enough variance, too robotic.

I have sample libraries that would do better, but I really like the format of GA.

One thing about the GA kits. When you disable ALL effects, the kit really falls apart and sounds very bad and thin. It sounds like they recorded a bad kit and tried to make it big in the mix. I still think under certain circumstances, it can be useable, and I’m going to be testing that.

The trouble with asking people how they think various vsts sound is that you’re getting a range of subjective judgements about how different things sound and how important these differences end up being once in a mix. I have BFD 3 and GA4, and I am perfectly capable of mangling a BFD drum track in a mix, as I am mangling any other vst drum mix.

I love using GA4 (in the general context of not really enjoying the detail of building drum tracks);I find the approach of GA4 to be intuitive and very encouraging/useful for building a rhythm track.

It seems to me that any assertions of superior audio from any particular vst would be more useful if accompanied by a link to an audio example.


Just for clarification are these mic bleed presets or are these controllers assigned to each mic?

An individual mic for example a crash cymbal mic or overhead should pick up the kick drum depending on how high your setting is unless it’s all the way off. And most importantly, it will sound like a kick drum from a far away distance.

Also there are mics for snare top/bottom and kick out and inside the kick drum. These things make a difference if you are after a “realistic” acoustic kit.

The approach is absolutely intuitive and fun to use and play around with. That’s what disappoints me the most. It’s a nice piece of software.

I am basing my thoughts off of which sounds the most realistic. Like being in a room with the drummer. Not whether or not it can work. Anything can work as drums, I think that goes without saying. I’m not really even judging too much the actual ‘playing’ as much as the actual sound. The swing and quantize do a decent job as long as your not really featuring the drums up front in the mix. I suppose as a back drop, a simple groove can work, but the machine gun hi hats, and as someone else mentioned the steep velocity curve forces you to plan the arrangement around the kit. It reallt does depend on your goals for drums, so no one is wrong.

For me, it needs to be either a darn good emulation (or a recording of course)… or you go all the way and make the drums artificial or larger than life. There is not a lot of in between for me. It’s kinda like that for a lot of things VSTi. If it doesn’t really sound realistic than I try to accentuate the virtual or abstract aspect. I learned that lesson the hard way over the years, listening back to my old rompler mixes!

Thanks, guys, that was a very helpful/interesting discussion.

I’m coming in at the ground floor on this stuff. I think I’ll start off feeding Jamstix’s MIDI into GA4 SE, and see where it goes from there. If I need to move on, I will reference the good advice given on this thread.

Thanks again!

I agree with you there. However like most things, the complications are what makes it more usable ultimately. To begin with I used the presets, but as I learn more about BFD3 I began to experiment with the processing. I began to create my own setup with different channels in the Cubase mixer for each kit part - compressors - eqs - tape emulation - reverbs - parallel compression etc. etc. Thank God for templates. I have loved every minute of the journey, albeit terribly frustrated at times. Like anything you start small with what you can cope with and then if you persist you grow. I have had friends show me new techniques, found out stuff online or read about ways of doing things in Sound on Sound or such-like.