A while back we reviewed Toontrack’s superb Roots SDX pack of stick, mallet and brush samples. To do that though, we first had to upgrade our version of Superior Drummer to version 2.3.0. I thought it would be worth mentioning because I’ve always gravitated towards SD over the years when I’ve needed to put together any sort of beat, and the update isn’t simply a bug fix (although it goes clear up a couple of things which we’ll discuss in a second) – there’s also a huge extension of functionality too. In particular, it builds on already-impressive technique emulations, and while they might seem like subtle changes, a listen through of a drum track you’ve previously built is very clearly a smoother, better-produced experience in general.
One of the big deals, which has long bugged me about any drum program out there, is that Superior Drummer 2.3.0 now deals with multiple hits properly, the theory being that when you crack a cymbal you want your stick’s attack blended seamlessly, so it feels natural. Quick multiple cymbal hits have always been one of the most irksome giveaways that a track has been programmed, so this might well fox even the most intent listener.A welcome update.
In terms of pure convenience, the preview page is incredibly handy – it simply allows you to click through samples and audition everything on the spot. It’s position-dependent as well, which makes more sense than one over-arching map of samples, because you’re automatically able cast a quick eye over the samples that are specifically relevant to the position you’re addressing. This becomes second nature for making fast changes in no time at all. As a quick aside to that, it’s now clearer in terms of which presets you’re using for your kits, and you can very quickly tab through them. Again, once you’re used to that it’s nice to be able to be stepping from preset to preset and listening to the differences as speed, especially if you’re simply browsing for the right sound and don’t know what you want.
Cymbal choking – which in fact I’ve often shied away from in the past due to it being more than a little unconvincing with sample packs – is now a more useable prospect in the form of mute tail articulations. They’re an important development in terms of being able to use the samples you like best and adding in a natural-sounding enough choke that for my money is the best way of achieving that sound as possible. Yes, you can get actual samples of this happening, but if you want to use them a couple of times in a track it’ll quickly become apparent that the sounds are identical and it’s hard to make it all sound real. No longer a problem, and it feels good to be sneaking in some chokes into the breakbeat or complex little prog rhythms you’re creating.
MIDI brush triggers are a nice touch too – we talked about the SDX Roots pack being the best brush pack we’ve ever heard, so it’s nice to be able to use them in a properly-contextual arrangement. Note that for this, and the chokes too, only certain libraries are able to interact with 2.3.0 – including the aforementioned Roots SDX, N-Y Legacy and Avatar, but there are updates on the way for all the rest of your favourites.
There are a huge number of fixes too, which are all documented here – most are courtesy tweaks but a fair few add to the compatibility possibilities depending on the DAW you’re using, so take a proper look.
Overall this is a very welcome update, and more than anything it addresses problems that have always made people looking for an authentic reproduction uneasy. For that reason alone, SD 2 just became a much, much better product, and it was already solid in the first place, so this is a bit of a no-brainer.