Toontrack has added another expansion pack to its already huge drums VST range – Superior Drummer Gospel EZX. digitalDrummer loaded it and tried it out.
THE NAME OF the new pack is somewhat misleading – its application goes way beyond Gospel music, as we quickly discovered.
What’s in the box
As usual these days, there is no box: the samples are delivered via digital download, and thanks to the Toontrack Product Manager, download, installation and authorisation is a walk in the park.
Also, because this is an EZX (as opposed to the more detailed SDX packs), it is a modest-sized download that can be completed pretty quickly with a decent Internet connection.
Once everything is installed and authorised, you can access the pack through your DAW or through the standalone EZDrummer or the more sophisticated SD3 standalone player.
The pack consists of four drum sets “from the ‘40s through to today” – specifically, a Pearl Music City Custom Reference Pure, a 1940s Leedy Broadway, and a 1960s Rogers Hollywood, recorded twice – once in a jazzy tuning and then again in a tight, “retro soul” tuning.
All kits feature optional kicks and a bunch of snares, which you can, of course, mix and match.
There are also various cymbals, percussion, handclaps, snaps and foot stomps to create a versatile sound palette.
But, the choices don’t stop there – the kits can be further honed with a collection of more than a dozen presets by seven-time Grammy Award-winning engineer/producer Danny Duncan. These range from ‘basic tight retro’ to ballad and ‘modern live’, all very distinctive and, in effect, giving you more than 65 unique kit sounds that go far beyond “happy clappy”.
I used a Pearl mimicPro to trigger the VST, through a Macbook Air with the new M1 processor.
To fully explore the pack, I used the SD3 player which has a fairly accurate mimic MIDI preset that only required calibration of the hi-hat.
Interestingly, there is no mimicPro MIDI map for EZDrummer, which is surprising as Toontrack could easily import the SD3 version.
The sounds, sampled by gospel drummer Calvin Rodgers and recorded at Paragon Studios in Nashville, were lush and detailed.
Even without digging into the SD’s advanced editing options, the choice was astounding. The deeper into the EZX I dug, the more the diversity of the kits, the tunings and presets shone through. As I flipped through the options, I was struck by the versatility of the sounds, finding perfect kits for a range of songs, from rock to alternative. Heck, I’m not a gospel player, but I’m pretty sure I could pull off a diverse covers gig using only this EZX – and I wouldn’t even use half of the presets.
There are, obviously, some shortcomings with this pack – the most obvious being the limited kit size. But even with EZDrummer, you can expand the sound palette by running copies of the instruments and retuning them. For example, you can tune the high tom up a bit to add a “smaller” hanging tom, and then tune the third rack tom down a bit. Same with the floor toms – tune the included tom up or down a bit on the extra instrument and voila – five toms from two!
The other ‘limitation’ is the lack of alternative stick articulations – specifically brushes and rods, but for most drummers, their absence will hardly be noticed.
Of course, I didn’t bother to try the Calvin Rodgers MIDI tracks – and have only heard them on the Toontrack demo samples. Most readers won’t use these, but they will certainly come in handy for non-drummers looking for some solid beats to add to their songs.
The bottom line
Gospel may be an under-rated genre – and probably not one associated with e-drums, but Toontrack has excelled with its Gospel EZX pack.
The release notes for this pack point out that Gospel is a broad church, if you’ll pardon the pun, with “branches arching into anything from R&B and soul to rock, hip-hop and fusion”.
Even with that broad definition, the name of the EZX does a disservice to a versatile and diverse collection of kits and an impressive array of variations achieved by applying Danny Duncan’s presets. And, of course, you can go even further with the stock SD presets, before digging into the more advanced sonic editing tools.
After a few hours with this pack, it’s going to be hard to switch to anything else: the presets continue to surprise me, and the more I play, the more options I see for them.
Sure, at EUR75/USD79, the EZX is not exactly a give-away, but it packs a big punch and offers a lot of sound options. And, of course, these packs are often discounted or bundled in special collections.
So, ignore the name, listen to the sounds of the Toontrack website and treat yourself to some great-sounding kits – regardless of which genre you normally play.
Check out some of the sounds here.
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