Drum replacement plugins can analyze a drum recording and replace it or layer it with a sampled drum track.
These can be incredibly useful if you want to beef up your drum mix, or if you want to completely replace it with something different.
They work with both acoustic drum recordings as well as recordings from electronic drum sets.
1. Addictive Trigger by XLN Audio
One of the most well-known drum replacement plugins is Addictive Trigger by XLN Audio. It’s a very capable drum replacer that uses a feature they call “Audio Fingerprints” to detect drum heads with a very good degree of accuracy.
It even does this quite well in cases where there is microphone bleed, which can easily throw off drum replacers.
This plugin also has a really nice “Superstart” feature, which automatically sets parameters on the plugin based on your source audio. This is a really useful feature because drum recordings can be very different from each other, depending on the mic setup, volume, and drumming style.
You do not need to use any other drum plugin in order to get drum sounds out of this particular plugin. Addictive Trigger uses a selection of samples from the Addictive Drums 2 library, which are very well known for their high-quality sound.
This also integrates very nicely with Addictive Drums 2. So, if you also own that plugin, then you can get quite a solid combination of virtual drum production and drum replacement.
2. Trigger 2 Platinum by Steven Slate Drums
Steven Slate Drums Trigger 2 Platinum is also a very popular professional drum replacer with a sample library included.
This is also a very capable engine that allows you to trigger up to eight stereo samples at the same time. You can mix, tune, and pan these as you require, along with a lot of different customization to the samples that you would expect from a standard sampler.
The drum sample library was created by Steven Slate, and it has been used by quite a few pros in the industry. The samples were created using high-end gear. The plugin can also be used along with other expansion libraries if you want to get more sounds out of this.
This also includes MIDI in and out. Therefore, you can just use the drum replacement features on this and trigger samples using another sampler or plugin on your DAW.
3. Beat Replacer by CGM Prods (Free)
Beat Replacer from CGM Prods is a free Windows-compatible drum replacement plugin. This nifty plugin does not falter on the performance radar despite being a free product. It basically transforms the beats of any source track into a MIDI track. You can use it in conjunction with SoundFont (SFZ) files (which can be widely found online).
It’s certainly not as feature-rich as some of the other options on this list, but it might do the job for you.
4. Drumagog 5 by Wavemachine Labs
Drumagog has been a well-loved replacement tool since 1999. If you look at any old forums, you will see this name show up constantly.
That said, the company has kept developing this plugin, and it is now on version 5. Drumagog 5 is very effective at replacing acoustic drum tracks with your choice of samples. It is a very good combination of drum replacement and enhancement tools, and it can really capture the dynamics of how the drummer originally played the track.
This is one of those tools that really minimizes the amount of work you need to put in when trying to replace an acoustic drum track, so it is definitely one to check out. It is available for both Windows and Mac.
5. KTDrum Trigger (Free Option)
KTDrum Trigger by Smartelectronix is a software program comprised of a custom editor that activates MIDI notes depending on the level of sound of source material in several frequency bands.
It enables the user to identify occurrences of percussive sounds in an audio stream and transmit out a MIDI event signal in almost real-time.
It might not be the most sophisticated drum replacement plugin, but it’s free, so why not try it out!
6. UVI Drum Replacer Modern Drum Software Instrument
The UVI Drum Replacer is a drum replacement tool with a really nice interface and a lot of features. You can separate up to five different components from your drum tracks, and eight layers can be used with your other instruments and samples.
There’s nice visual feedback on the waveforms to show what’s been triggered, along with good mixing controls and hit detection controls.
This software is compatible with PC and Mac in VST/AU/AAX formats as well as a standalone option.
What Is a Drum Replacement Plugin?
Drum replacement is the process of either augmenting or substituting the individual hits in a drum recording with samples to alter their sound or to enhance the recording.
What Is the Point of Drum Replacement Plugins?
It can be quite difficult to record an acoustic drum set to modern commercial production standards. Sometimes incorrect mic setups, mic bleed, badly tuned drums, or wrong cymbal selections do not sound right with the mix. This can all lead to your drum track sounding bad within your song.
A good drum placement plugin will be able to detect exactly when your drums are hit, and it should be able to detect different types of drums and cymbals being hit with great accuracy. With a good drum replacement plugin, you want to make sure that you only need to do minimal tweaking to get exactly the right sound you want. Some of these plugins also work in tandem with other drum VSTs, and others work right out of the box by themselves.
Can You Transfer Drum Track Audio to MIDI?
Yes, you can. Your DAW should have this option of converting audio to MIDI and recognizing drum sounds, especially if you are using Ableton Live or Logic Pro.
Can We Use Drum Samples and Drum VSTs for Beat Replacement?
Drum samples and drum VSTs that work with MIDI can be used together with a beat replacement plugin to achieve the desired outcome.
Moreover, if the song has basic beats, you can completely skip the beat replacement plugin and effectively just “draw in the beat” using MIDI or samples. You can use drum VSTs or drum samples for this purpose.
Drum Replacement in Ableton Live
Ableton Live gives you the option to convert your audio tracks to MIDI.
It has a drum MIDI option, which is best with standalone drum brakes and drum beats. This does not work quite as well as all of the more sophisticated drum replacement plugins that are in this article, but it might just be enough for you if you’re working with pretty simple beats.
You might still need to do quite a bit of tweaking. But, see if it works for you. The same applies to many other DAW, so check out tutorials on how to do this in your application.
Drum replacement plugins can be used to augment the sound of your drum tracks as well as to completely replace recordings with sampled drums.
The modern music industry now expects a very high level of music production quality, and drum replacement plugins provide a very useful tool for mixers and producers to speed up their workflow and to improve the drum tracks.
Most of these drum replacement plugins export to MIDI, so you can use it in conjunction with other drum VSTs you have, along with other samples.
If you want to go for an easier option, you can just get a drum replacement plugin that includes a sample library by itself, which will be an all-in-one option for your drum replacement needs.
However, keep in mind that you do not always need to overcomplicate things. For many forms of mainstream music, pretty quantized simple beats are used, and you could just use a MIDI library for these, or you could even draw them in yourself on the middie roll of your digital audio workstation.
What’s your favorite drum replacement plugin? Write it in the comment section below.