Toontrack Superior Drummer 3 Review – When An Apple Loop Won’t Do It

When you start out creating music, as a guitar player, the drums are probably not the first thing on your mind. You’re thinking about writing a great riff, how to capture your guitar and get a great tone. 

So when you’re at this beginning stage, having drums that exist is usually good enough. Going to an Apple Loop, or Logic Pro’s Drummer is usually where most people start off - even the built in drums in Logic Pro are great for getting started. 

But when you want to take your music and creativity to the next level, you need the tools that will take you to the next level. Superior Drummer 3 is that tool - it’s the ultimate digital drum production studio.

Superior Drummer 3: An Overview

Superior Drummer is the leading drum sample library in the music industry. Not only can Superior Drummer create great sounding drums for your musical projects, it can also act as a “drum DAW”, allowing you to mix, EQ and add built in effects to your individual drum “mics”. It can also import custom samples so that you can build your own drum library and has a powerful audio to MIDI conversion tool, that will take your drum audio, analyse it, and turn it into a MIDI file, allowing you to augment and replace different parts of the kit.

It can even use your electronic drum kit to run it’s samples, so that your electronic kit sounds more realistic.

This really is the ultimate drums production tool.

Superior Drummer 3 key features:

Sample Library

Superior Drummer 3 (which I’ll abbreviate to SD3), comes with 230GB of sample drums, including but not limited to 7 kits, 25 snares and 16 kick drums. The samples cover direct mics, room mics, and you can even add bleed to the mics. 

Easy and Powerful Grid Editor

Don’t worry, when it comes to SD3 you won’t have to write your music using drum notation, a keyboard, or use an awkward piano roll interface. 

SD3 comes with a simple to use grid editor - simply click on the grid for the piece of drum that you want to use at that point in time. Underneath the grid there is a “velocity” editor which allows you to easily control how hard the drums are hit. 

Superior drummer 3 comes with an easy to use grid editor

The grid editor is great. Click, hold and drag to enter a string of hits, like the hihats shown. MIDI velocity is easily editable below the grid.

The velocity controls have features that allow you to increase or decrease the velocity smoothly over time - great for creating snare rolls and cymbal rolls.

The grid editor includes a “song builder”, where you can drag and drop MIDI patterns (which we will cover in a minute) from the MIDI library onto the song builder (effectively a track for MIDI patterns) and quickly build out drum parts for an entire song.

Audio to MIDI Conversion

If you want to take your recorded drums and augment or replace parts of the kit, then SD3 will allow you to do that. 

You can load an audio recording of your drums and SD3 will analyse that file and create a MIDI file of your recording. 

You can use this MIDI file to augment your original recording - maybe you want to layer a snappier snare drum onto your recording? Or add a kick with more depth? SD3 allows you to do this. 

Mix Presets and 35 Sound Processing Effects

SD3 is a “drum DAW in a box”, that you can run within your actual DAW. As you might expect, it comes with a lot of built in effects, just like any DAW would. These effects are all tailored for drums, with EQ, compression, delays and reverbs tailored to give you great sounding drums. 

Now, having all these options can be overwhelming. Fortunately, SD3 comes with mix presents, where all these settings are setup for you. These presets are a great way to quickly get a great sound, and also act as a starting point for your to work on creating your own mixes.

Import Your Own Samples

If you’re a drummer (or know one), they might have a particular piece of kit that you love the sound of. Maybe it’s a great snare, or an interesting sounding cymbal or piece of percussion?

SD3 will allow you to import recordings of that instrument into the library, allowing you to use it in the SD3 library. You can even go as far as sample an entire kit and creating your own custom sample library. 

Huge MIDI Library Included

Writing your own drum parts from scratch can be daunting, especially if you are not familiar with writing drum parts. Fortunately, SD3 contains a huge library of prewritten MIDI drums, that you can play back through any of their kits / sample libraries. 

The MIDI patterns are broken down by genre and song section. For example, you have options for country style verses, thrash metal bridges, funk choruses, and more. 

You Want More Drum Libraries?

If everything that’s included in SD3 wasn’t already enough, there are also expansions ranging across multiple genres. Superior Drummer has a range of add ons they call “SDX Expansions”. Each add on includes new samples that have been recorded with different kits in a unique location. The add ons can be anywhere from 20GB to 70GB of new samples. 

Some SDX Expansions come with new MIDI grooves, and some come with new mixer presets.

The expansions are as comprehensive as most standalone drum libraries!

There are also MIDI grooves available. These are collections of MIDI files, often performed by a real drummer so that you can get a natural feel. 

Which is better EZ Drummer vs Superior Drummer?

If you’re browsing Toontrack’s website, you may see they have a cheaper drum library option called “EZDrummer”. So which is better?

Let’s start with the similarities. Both libraries come with a player and a range of samples. They both come with a grid editor, pre-written MIDI grooves and mixing presets. 

The main difference is the difference in the amount of options and samples. EZDrummer comes with 15GB of samples, Superior Drummer comes with over 230GB of samples. That is a bit difference! 

Another big difference is in how the drum samples are treated. In EZDrummer, the library is “treated”, and in Superior Drummer the library has “raw” samples. What this means is, if you want something that sounds good out of the box, EZDrummer is probably a good option. If you want total control over your sound, Superior Drummer is going to be the program for you. SD3 allows you to sculpt a sound as if you had recorded the drums yourself in a studio. 

Immersive 11.1 Sounds

SD3 also has what they call the “11.1 surround sound”. Now, this doesn’t mean that you need 11 speakers in order to benefit from it, the 11.1 system is recordings from additional studio microphones to give more ambience and life to your sampled drums.

More Articulations

SD3 also has many more articulations than EZD. Articulations are different ways of hitting a piece of the kit. If you listen to a real drummer, you will hear that they don’t hit the kit the same way every time. For example, with cymbals, they could hit the edge of the cymbal, the bell of the cymbal, or mute the cymbal after hitting it. All of this, and more, is given to you in SD3.

Let It Bleed

Part of the reason that the SD3 library is so big compared to the EZD library is that SD3 also models what is known as “bleed”. When you record a drum kit, you use quite a of lot microphones to mic up different parts of the kit, the cymbals and usually the room. Microphones on one part of the kit will pick up sound from another part of the kit. For example, a microphone on the kick drum will pick up the snare drum. Microphones on the snare drum will pick up with cymbals. The microphones picking up different parts of the kit is known as “bleed”.

And SD3 allows you to add bleed into the samples, creating ultra realistic sounds for your drums.

SD3 bleed control

The top right window has a small mixer that allows you to custom mix bleed from each microphone. You can adjust this for every microphone in your mixer, giving an incredible amount of control.

Custom Mixer Effects

We mentioned before that SD3 is not just a drum library, but a drum DAW. SD3 comes with 35 mixer effects that you don’t get in EZD, modelling all sorts of classic effects from music technology history. 

All these effects come with presets from Bob Rock, Andy Sneap, and others; so that you don’t have to work all this stuff out from scratch.


Here we’ll cover some questions that people frequently ask about Superior Drummer:

What Is Superior Drummer?

Superior Drummer 3 (SD3) is a drum sample library and drum DAW combined into one. It comes with recorded drum samples, a mixer with effects (and presets), grid editor, pre-written MIDI grooves, augmentation AI and facilities to create your own drum sample library.

Is Superior Drummer 3 Free?

No it’s not. You can “crossgrade” from EZDrummer for 289€, or buy Superior Drummer for 379€. 

Is Superior Drummer 3 Worth It?

If you want to create album quality drums from your room, or avoid hiring a studio and real drummer, then it is easily worth it. A studio with a drummer will cost at least $600/day. Superior Drummer 3 is half that price for life.

Whether you want to create great sounding backing tracks, or do the drums for your latest album, it’s a great tool to have.

Is Superior Drummer 3 The Best?

Not only does it come with great samples, but it also has great software supporting those samples. It is the industry leading drum sample library.

Is Superior Drummer 3 Compatible with Big Sur?

Yes it is! SD3 works with Mac OS 10.11 or higher. Big Sur is Mac OS 11.6, so SD3 will work with it. 

Superior Drummer 3 System Requirements

Toontrack give the following system requirements for SD3:

64 bit Windows 7 or newer. 4GB RAM (8GB recommended).

Mac OS 10.10 or higher. Intel or Apple Silicon. 4GB RAM (8GB recommended).

Storage: 41GB for basic library and an additional 41BG for installation. 236GB for complete library and 55GB for installation process.

Here are my thoughts on those requirements after using SD3 for a few weeks:

  • The basic library for SD3 does not sound that great, SD3 really comes into it’s own with the full libraries. If you are only going to install the basic library, it’s not worth bothering with SD3 at all. 
  • In my opinion, 4GB RAM will not cut it for SD3. In one song I have with simple drums and SD3 alone uses 4.1GB of RAM. I have 8GB of RAM and the RAM that isn’t used by SD3 is used by the operating system, recording program and all the recordings in my recording program. 
  • I would consider 8GB of RAM the minimum is you are using SD3 with your songs, and even that is pushing it. While I can work with 8GB of RAM, playback will semi often stop from memory running out. 
  • I would consider 8GB to be the minimum (it works), ideally you want 16GB of RAM.

Processor wise, I use a 3.2GHz Quad-Core Intel i5, this is in a 2015 iMac and this is fine for recording, running SD3 and having a few plugins running. Any modern processor should be fine. 

Superior Drummer 3 Alternative

There are a few alternatives to Superior Drummer. If you want something that sounds good out of the box, EZDrummer is a great solution. It’s also a lot cheaper than SD3. 

EastWest do a collection of libraries called “Ministry of Rock”, there is a MoR 1 and 2. These libraries contain guitar, bass and drums.

Native Instruments have a huge collection of different drums here:

And there is a site called “Getgooddrums” that has a lot of sampled drum kits, but requires Kontakt player to use:

Does Superior Drummer Work With Garageband?

SD3 works fine with Garageband. Once SD3 is installed, open Garageband and create a new software instrument track. Click on the track header of your software instrument track, then look at the bottom of the screen where there are two tabs, “Track” and “Master”. Select “Track”, open “Plug-ins” then click on the arrow next to E.Piano. This will open a menu. Goto “AU Instruments > Toontrack > Superior Drummer 3” and you will now have SD3 in your Garageband file.

Where is the Super Drummer 3 Library Path?

If you open the Toontrack Product Manager, you can goto each library and see where it is installed. Alternatively, if you open SD3, and goto Settings > LibrariesPaths, you can see the paths there. You can also change the paths from this menu. 

Can You Use EZX In Superior Drummer?

Yes - all your EZX extensions can be loaded in SD3 and should appear in the library. If they do not appear, open SD3, goto “Settings > Libraries/Paths” and under “Additional Libraries”, make sure the path to your EZDrummer and EZX libraries is correct.

Superior Drummer Can’t Find Sound Library

First, go into the Toontrack product manager and check that your libraries have been installed. Next check the path that these libraries have been installed to. Then, open up Superior Drummer, goto Settings > LibrariesPaths and check that the path in SD3 matches the path in the Toontrack Product Manager. If they are different, update the path in SD3 to match that in the Product Manager.

How To Install Superior Drummer 3 Library

Open the Toontrack Product Manager, goto “My Products” and click “Download Product” under the library that you want to install. After the product has downloaded, an installer will open to install the library. Note that each library is just over 40GB, so they will take a while to download.

The Toontrack Product Manager gives you an easy way to download, install and manage your libraries.

How To Install Superior Drummer 3 Library On An External Drive

Download the library(s) you want to install as above. When the installer appears, you will have an option for where you want to install the library. Choose a folder on your external drive.

How To Mix Superior Drummer 3

There are a lot of options available for mixing in SD3. I recommend that you start with some of the packaged mixer settings to start off with, this will give you an idea of what can be achieved with the mixer.

The mixer can be accessed by opening SD3 and clicking the “Mixer” tab at the top of the window. To access the packaged mixer settings, click the box with “Default” in blue (this is at the top of the screen), and you will be able to find drum and mixer presets.

If you want to learn how to mix drums in general, then a good place to start is by:

  1. Load the presets and play around with changing settings. Solo an individual drum and experiment with changing the preset and seeing how it affects the sound.
  2. Find songs you love with great sounding drums. Buy a CD (CDs have higher sound quality than MP3s). The use the presets in SD3 to find something that is close to the drums you like.
  3. Then experiment with the settings to try and get your drums sounding close to the drums you like. Professional mixers keep libraries of reference tracks for recordings of instruments they love the sound of. 

If you do that, you can also try finding drum mixing tutorials on YouTube, there are plenty of them! 

When going through step 2 and finding drums you like the sound of, consider finding out who mixed and recorded those drums. Find them online, and offer to pay them for a few lessons on how to recreate the sound they created. You would be surprised at how helpful people can be when you offer to pay them.

Bob rock preset for superior drummer 3.

Superior Drummer 3 mixer, with the Bob Rock Preset 1 loaded. The preset selects the drum kit and also loads custom effects for each part of the kit. Here you can see the EQ setting on the kick in microphone.

How to Export Superior Drummer 3 Tracks

The SD3 window has a section at the bottom where you can build your song. Immediately above that on the left side of the window is a button that says “Track” with a drop down menu. At the bottom of that menu is an option to “Export Song as Audio File”. 

You can then choose the bit depth, bleed, and whether you want a single audio file of drums or “stems”, where each microphone is exported as an individual audio file.

Screenshot showing how to export drums from SD3 to audio files.

Exporting drums to audio is easy in SD3

Superior Drummer for iPad / iOS

SD3 does not run on iPad or iOS. However, if you want to use the results from SD3 in tracks that you are mixing / recording on your iPad, you can create your drums on your desktop/laptop, then export the drums to a WAVE file, and add that to your mixing/recording program on iOS.

Superior Drummer for Mac

SD3 works great on a mac. I’ve been using it on my old 2015 iMac for weeks and it runs great. SD3 comes with an AU that you can run inside Logic Pro / Garageband, VSTs for other programs, and also a standalone application that you can run. 

Superior Drummer for Logic Pro X

Superior Drummer 3 comes with an AU that will run inside Logic Pro X (LPX). To use it inside LPX, create a new Software Instrument track. This will create a track with an electric piano by default. Click on the drop down arrows by the electric piano, goto Toontrack and choose Superior Drummer.

To open SD3 in LPX, simply goto E Piano > AU Instruments > Toontrack > Superior Drummer 3

Superior Drummer with Electronic Kit

You can use the SD3 libraries with your electronic drum kit. The SD3 libraries have incredibly detailed sampling at multiple velocities (up to 25 velocity layers per instrument), which will help give you realistic playback through your electronic kit. 

SD3 includes presets for a variety of electronic drum kit brands and even allows you to edit the velocity curves for each instrument.

Superior Drummer in Reaper / Ableton / Cubase 

When you purchase SD3, you will be able to download it as a AU, VST or standalone application (or all three!). By downloading the VST, you can use SD3 with Reaper, Ableton, Cubase or any other DAW that supports VSTs. 

Superior Drummer Legacy of Rock

This is an expansion library for Superior Drummer (SD expansions are abbreviated to SDX). The LoR SDX were recorded by Eddie Kramer. Eddie Kramer has worked with the best of the best throughout the history of modern music, including Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Kiss, Santana, Whitesnake, Anthrax and many more. This guy knows what he is doing! 

Eddie recorded these drums in Studio 1 in AIR London, UK. AIR is a legendary recording facility in London, often working on filmscore productions, such as Elvis, Stranger Things 4, The Northman and No Time to Die. So with LoR, you get a legendary engineer and a legendary recording studio. 

The library itself has 5 full kits, some instruments having multiple articulations (including drumsticks, brushes, mallets and hand/finger), taking up a massive 180GB of space - that’s 180GB of raw, unprocessed drum samples. Each kit in the library represents a significant point in Eddie’s career. 

This library even includes a 60” gong!

It comes with mixer presets and a new collection of MIDI grooves. This is an incredible expansion for SD3. 

You can find out more about LoR and hear samples and see some details on the recording process here:

Superior Drummer 3 Orchestral Edition

This is a bundle offer, combining Superior Drummer 3 with the Orchestral Percussion SDX (expansion library). In total, you will have nearly 300GB of raw drum files (231GB for SD3 and 65GB for Orchestral Percussion SDX). 

This bundle offer includes over 120 orchestral instruments, seven drum kits, 25 snare drums, 16 kicks and nearly 350 electronic drum sounds. 

The Orchestral Percussion library was recorded in the same studios and to the same quality as the SD3 core libraries. Orchestral Percussion is so in depth, it will be run as two independent SDX expansions pithing SD3, Volume I and Volume 2. 

Both volumes cover taikos, timpani, boobams, congas, toms, bass drum, snares, bongos, tam-tam and a collection of addition instruments (shakers, blocks etc). Each instrument has been recorded with with experienced percussionists, giving different articulations at a variety of velocities. 

As with all SDX expansions, Orchestral Percussion comes with a range of mixer presets and MIDI grooves, so that you can get started right away.

You can read more about SD3 Orchestral Edition and download your copy here:

Superior Drummer Basic Sound Library

SD3 comes with 5 core libraries, each of which are roughly 40GB: 

  1. Basic Sound Library
  2. Room mics
  3. Surround setup
  4. Height surround
  5. Additional bleed

The basic library is ok, but nothing exceptional. Where SD3 really comes into its own is when you add the rooms mics and additional bleed. Adding the surround setup and height surround adds that final bit of realism, but you’ll want to make sure your computer has enough RAM if you are going to run all 5 libraries at once. 

I find 8GB is enough for the basic sound library, room mics and additional bleed; while working in Logic Pro X with a rock song (so a few guitar tracks with effects and AU running on them). If I was going to run the surround setup and height surround on top of that, I would want to have at least 16GB. 

You can download, install and manage the core libraries from the Toontrack Product Manager. I would recommend installing the Product Manager first and managing everything through it - that’s what it’s designed for.

Superior Drummer Hi Hat Control

SD3 comes with four different hihats:

  • 14” top Bosphorus Traditional Series
  • 14” Zildjian K Constantinople
  • 17” Masterwork Custom Series
  • 15” Paiste 2002 Extra Heavy

Which can be performed with brushes, rods and felt mallets. 

Each hi hat comes with 15 different articulations:

  • Closed Edge
  • Tight Edge
  • Open Edge 0
  • Open Edge 1
  • Open Edge 2
  • Open Edge 3
  • Open Edge 4
  • Closed Tip
  • Tight Tip
  • Open Tip 1
  • Open Tip 2
  • Open Tip 3
  • Open Tip 4
  • Closed Pedal
  • Open Pedal

and are also velocity sampled. All of this can be controlled from the grid editor.

You can see some of the hit options here:

hihat options in sd3

The four main hihat options in Superior Drummer 3

hihat articulations in superior drummer 3

Superior Drummer 3 grid editor showing hihat articulations. There are so many articulations they don’t fit on one screenshot!

Superior Drummer 3 Metal Presets

SD3 comes with a ton of different metal/hard rock presets:

  • Atlanta Plate
  • Aussie Rock
  • Black Metal
  • California Punk
  • Djent Style
  • Hard Rock
  • Heavy Rock Plate
  • Into the Mosh
  • Iowa
  • Magnetic Tape
  • Man of Sand
  • Massive Ludwig 76
  • Metal Ayotte
  • Metal Confusion
  • Metal Dirty
  • Metal Organic
  • Metal Pearl Comp
  • Metal Pearl Tape
  • Metal Premier
  • Metal Room Comp
  • Metal Snap Stacks
  • Metallic
  • Modern Metal Dark
  • Modern Metal High
  • Modern Metal Low
  • Nocturnal Pheonix
  • Punch
  • Rock Brass
  • Slow Heavy Pearl
  • Small Snare Punch
  • Super Compressed
  • Texas Metal

Each preset will have different drum kit parts and cymbals, combined with different effects on the mixer, and each effect will be custom tuned to that setting; so you are truly ready to roll, or at least use them as a starting point for creating the drum sound that works for your music.

Here are two examples of the different mixer presets for Modern Metal Dark and Metal Dirty:

Metal Dirty mixer presets in superior drummer 3

The Metal Dirty mixer presets for Superior Drummer 3

Modern metal dark mixer presets in superior drummer 3

The Modern Metal Dark mixer presets for Superior Drummer 3

Superior Drummer Standalone 

When you purchase SD3, the standalone comes bundled with the AU/VST version, so you can run SD3 inside your DAW or by itself. All your settings are stored in the same place, so you can seamlessly switch between the standalone or AU/VST versions.