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Check out the 21 best free drum VST plugins of 2021

Is your bank account in a bit of a snare? Are you kicking yourself for inspiration? Here are the 21 best free drum VST plugins of 2021.

It’s no secret that for any producer in 2021, sourcing drums is a fucking grind. Flicking through huge libraries of samples in order to find that perfect sound — sometimes pulling one or two kicks or snares out of every hundred sounds. Or if you’re not as time-rich, you might find yourself just saying screw it, and regrettably sinking all of your splice credits into a single sample pack to save the effort. Something is to be said for the ways of the ’80s and 90’s when you picked out a sampler or drum machine and just used what you had in front of you, with the restriction sometimes forcing interesting new ideas to arise. Free drum VST plugins.

These 21 free drum VST are intended as a way of committing to that instrument mentality. Even though not every plugin on this list will work for everyone, what we’ve compiled is a list of tools that just might help unstick your production. Whether it be to add realistic drum sounds to your bedroom produced rock song, a replicated 909 kit for that classic house sound, or even a chiptune Game Boy sound engine — here are the 21 best free drum VST plugins of 2021.

best free VST drum plugins

Classic Hardware Emulation

These plugins take the iconic sounds of the past and bring them right into your DAW — everything from Roland to Linn to the Gameboy.

DjinnDrum – Simplerecorder

The Linn LM-1 is one of the most legendary drum machines in the history of music production, and the DjinnDrum VST is a free way of accessing these samples.

It defined the ’80s, being used on everything from Prince’s Black album to John Carpenter’s Escape from New York soundtrack — so if you’re looking for that classic sound, look no further.

Cassette Drums- Bedroom Producers Blog

BPB is a fantastic freeware site if you’re searching for versatile plugins, and Cassette Drums is great if you’re looking for that iconic Roland emulation.

Included in this pack are the world-renowned interactive libraries from the 606, the 808 and the 909, with three different ‘warmth’ levels providing levels of additional cassette distortion. These come highly recommended if you don’t want to sign up for the Roland Cloud.

SUB – Sampleson

This VST fits into two categories on this list — because while it is clearly modelled after the Roland TR-808, there’s actually a whole synth engine behind this unit.

As a result, the samples are interactive, adjustable, and feature a sub frequency oscillator to really hit that low-end hard. A great addition to your arsenal if you’re looking for that authentic sound.

BD808 & BD909 – Synsonic Instruments

This is my favourite plugin on this list. Synsonic has replicated the sub engines from the TR-808 and the TR-909 in as authentic of a way as possible and put them into their own standalone plugins.

The result is two of the feistiest kick generators on the market — and one which will slaughter your windows if you don’t monitor the gain on your speakers.

ESL110 – Electronik Sound Lab

The ESL110 is the electronic recreation of the BOSS DR-110, Roland’s first venture into creating more affordable and approachable drum machines.

It’s simplistic and easy, and if you’re looking for some classic drum sounds, they’re all in here.

Vintage Drum Elements – SampleScience

VDE is a drum VST with samples from Yamaha’s RX5 at its core.

It features the RX5’s kit 1, kit 2, ‘synthetic’ kit, ‘FX’ kit and ‘ethnic kit — as well as four of the unit’s instruments, amplitude controls, vinyl crackle knobs, and sample trimming effects. Another nostalgic and fun to use VST.

GB DrumBox – Bedroom Producers Blog and SampleSicence

A great collaboration from both BPB and SampleScience, the GB DrumBox is a VST that draws from a large library of Game Boy samples and uses adjustable cutoff reverb and LFO parameters to give them extra flavour.

You’d think that the crunchy bit-crushed sounds would be enough, but the versatility and way that each sample can be shifted is surprising and allows for great chiptune experimentation. If that’s what you’re after.

Synthesizers/Drum Generators

These plugins put sound creation at the centre of their design philosophy — focusing on generating new sounds rather than sampling.

MiniSpillage – AudioSpillage

MiniSpillage is really freaking cool. It is a plugin featuring three Synthesis algorithms, with each generating thick bass drum sounds, clicky wood drum sounds, and noisy high hat sounds respectively.

It is compact and has heaps of room for adjustment — a great tool if you’d rather generate your own samples than spend those splice credits.

EXD-80 – Third Harmonic Studios

Whilst the EXD-80 looks intimidating, it features a fully interactive interface with controls and parameters over each drum.

It’s deep, versatile, and tasty, and if the knobs seem intimidating there are several presets available to make the user experience more simple.

Bazz::Murda – DistoCore

Probably the filthiest thing on this list, Bazz::Murda is a kick generator that features three oscillators, modulation effects, several envelopes and filters, and a distortion effect module.

The onboard presets are enough should you want to add a layer of grime to your track, but gives you a ton of versatility by providing the synth engine alongside it should you wish to dive into the sludge. It’s the perfect tool if you’re looking to make Stereosonic history.

Curated Samplepacks with Interactive VST

These plugins primarily feature a bank of samples that can be accessed by an accompanying VST. Perfect if you need both the sounds and the sequencer.

DRUM – LoopCloud 5

In 2019, LoopCloud released a new piece of software alongside its looper browser, an audio sampler and drum sequencer named DRUM. From within this VST you’re able to access curated sample libraries from legendary electronic artists like MJ Cole and Breakage — and can begin to approach writing drum tracks in the artists’ style.

Whilst having an individual sound is important in production, using another artist’s samples is a great tool if you’re trying to get a grip on things like style and genre and DRUM lets you get stuck right in. There is a minor paywall for some of the more exclusive sound, but it’s still incredibly useful in its free form.

Drum Pro – Studio Linked

Studio Linked came out of the gate swinging big in 2015, claiming that Drum Pro was the solution to all modern producers needs. Within the sampler were enough kits to help you produce professional-level r’n’b and pop tracks. And were they right? Not really.

But it’s still a free drum machine, with some enjoyable tongue-in-cheek samples if you’re looking to replicate the sounds of 2015.

Beat DRMR – Beat

Beat’s interface is a bit worse for wear, with a confusing grid pad vs line mixer thing happening, but that’s not the reason it’s on the list.

Within Beat are 178 libraries of sounds, with over 2500 samples within. Pick this one up purely for the MP3s, because there are some great sounds in the mix if you’re willing to dive deep.

Drum Replacement

These VSTs focus largely on reproducing the most authentic and realistic drum sounds — for those who need that percussive touch but don’t own or don’t want to mic up a drum kit.

SSD5.5 – Steven Slate Drums

SSD5.5 is possibly one of the most realistic and dynamic sounding drum kit plugins currently available. With deep customisation over how each sample sounds, various velocity modes on each kit, and smart midi mapping, SSD is a fantastic tool for producing those realistic drum sounds.

Whilst the paid version of SSD5.5 gives you access to a huge library of kits and sounds, the free version keeps none of its functionality behind a paywall and lets you use some great sounding kits right off the bat.

Drums – Spitfire Audio LABS

As a part of their LABS series, Spitfire Audio has put together a beautiful kit for their homemade plugin- which features some sharp crash cymbals and punchy toms.

A great bit of kit for the talented finger drummer, or artist looking to add more realism to their drum sound.

Royotoms – AlanViSTa

In Royotoms, AlanViSTa brings a set of eight rototoms right into your DAW.

They have various velocity modes, adjustable knobs for independent reverb levels and sample punchiness, and are laid out in a chromatic, easy to understand format. If you’re looking for toms, this plugin is a great place to start.

Cymbalistic – AlanViSTa

And if you’re looking for cymbals, here’s another great place to start. Cymbalistic offers eight different cymbals, from hi-hat to 20-inch crash, which can be triggered in all of the various ways you could use a cymbal: with a mallet, with a choke at the end, or on the top/bell/side.

Having these options gives the user access to a very versatile set of cymbals, which is only backed up by how real and textured they sound.

MT Power Drumkit 2 – Manda Audio

MT Power is a fantastic drum sampler with MIDI mapping and a great library of sounds — but primarily has one of the coolest functions on this list: its drag-and-drop groove menu.

From within this menu, you can simply select from the library’s various loops and fills, line them up in any order of your choosing within the plugin’s bar visualiser, and create a dynamic arrangement of sexy drum flare. It’s a great bit of kit if you want to sound like you know how to drum.

Sean Pandy Drums – Chokehold

Used primarily as a drum replacement tool, or to add textures to your already recorded drum track, this rompler allows you to access some wonderfully punchy and exciting drum sounds more specific to the metal genre.

Each of its seven samples (kick, snare, four toms, and a sub blower) come with six velocity modes —which will allow you to add those double kicks to your song without it sounding like a machine gun.

Samplers/Sequencers

If you have your own samples and are looking to put them to use, and hate the way that your DAW treats them, here’s a couple of useful samplers with a focus on drum sounds.

TheDrumSource – Witech

TheDrumSource is designed to feel like a classic hardware drum machine, and as a result, is incredibly easy to use. With an inbuilt sample browser, and adjustable length/swing knobs, you’ll be whipping up some interesting beats in no time.

Each channel can be individually recorded to either audio or MIDI, and allows for a more old-school approach to drum sequencing.

BAT-S12

This sampler, whilst it looks old-school, is a fantastic tool should you wish to edit the samples you’re using.

There are a couple of onboard effects like a stereo delay and reverb, pitch adjustment knobs, and body controls — and comes with its own samples as well. The pad UI is very easy to use should you wish to route it to an external controller, and ultimately leaves us with all of our sampling needs covered.

For Free?

And there we have it! A concise list of the 21 best free drum VST plugins, should you need a hand in replicating real drum sounds, emulating classic drum sounds, or even generating your own samples. If you’ve found yourself in a creative slump, maybe give one of these tools a go. After all, it’s not like they’ll break the bank.