Great sounds in the air

Allan Leibowitz samples Toontrack’s Hitmaker SDX pack.

Everything about Toontrack’s Hitmaker SDX pack is massive – from the names associated with its producer to the drum sounds and even the size of the package – a massive 94 GB.

What’s in the box

Of course, the box is virtual as the drum plug-in is supplied as a download. As mentioned, it’s a very sizeable download, so you’ll need decent internet bandwidth and a bit of time to grab it all.

You’ll also need Superior Drummer 3 to run the sample pack, and with Toontrack’s Product Manager, installation and registration are quick and easy.

The SDX consists of six meticulously sampled acoustic kits, and, in keeping with the ‘80s/’90s vibe, 11 drum machine samples.

The kits were recorded at London’s British Grove Studios, owned by Mark Knopfler, under the direction of Hugh Padgham.

When it comes to that era, there are few producers more influential than Padgham whose work spans Phil Collins, Genesis, The Police, Sting, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, The Human League, Paul Young, Melissa Etheridge and Paul McCartney.

As Toontrack boasts, Padgham was one of the first to blend acoustic and electronic drums and was responsible for the gated reverb effect on Collins’ famed In The Air Tonight drum solo – and yes, that sound is included in the SDX.

The sounds

Six acoustic kits were sampled for this pack, starting with a 1970s Premier Elite Concert (Center Stage) inspired by Collins’ concert tom-focused drum set.

The New World kit, a 1980s Yamaha 8000 Tour Custom, harks back to Manu Katché’s work with Sting and includes Manu’s signature snare drum and a set of cymbals that matched what he used at the time.

Another Yamaha kit, an ‘80s 9000 Recording Custom, forms the basis for the Red Hot Session kit, while a similar 9000 Recording Custom Concert features as the Red Hot Concert kit.

Sting’s other famed drummer, Vinnie Colaiuta, is the inspiration for the Storyteller kit, a 1990s Yamaha 11000 Maple Custom, while Stewart Copeland’s drumming hits are honoured with the Reggae Rock kit, a 1970s Tama Imperialstar augmented by four octobans, a huge gong bass drum and the typical array of cymbals.

The magic of Toontrack’s plug-ins is that those six kits are transformed into more than two dozen kits with the use of FX.  The Padgham presets, for example, offer six versions of the Collins Center Stage kit, ranging from a dry kit to the full-blown In The Air rendition. Then there are four additional Toontrack presets which again transform the kit into totally different sounds. And for the sonically adventurous, you can go even further, adding and modifying FX for each instrument in the Mixer pane.

Besides the acoustic kits, the pack features some iconic electronic drum kits, including

Roland CR-78, TR-707, TR-727, TR-808, TR-909 sounds, a LinnDrum, an E-MU SP1200, an Oberheim DX, a Simmons SDSV and a rare Simmons Clap Trap. Sure, all these are probably available from heaps of other sources, but it is convenient to have them all in the same pack, especially if you’re playing In The Air and need both the CR-78 for the main rhythm and the gated tom sounds for the solo.


Superior Drummer 3 already comes with a huge range of sounds which will probably have you covered for almost any genre, but if your repertoire includes lots of ‘80s songs, this pack will certainly fill any gaps.

I’ve heard many versions of some of the iconic kits reproduced in this pack, but none has been anywhere near as good out of the box.

The sounds are authentic and the sampling is deep and rich, so there’s plenty of dynamic range and no machinegunning.

There’s also a decent spread of kit sounds, especially when you delve into the various presets for each of the six basic kits – and you could easily pull off a whole 70s/80s/90s covers act without moving from the Hitmaker collection.

As mentioned, the Machines collection is less unique and you can easily find ‘80s drum machine samples online, often for free. And, unlike acoustic drum and cymbal samples, you don’t really need many sample layers for authentic performances as the original sounds had little dynamic variation – other than volume. But it’s great to have all the instruments on one screen rather than hunting around or loading one-shot samples. So, I see these instruments as a value-add to an already rich and versatile sonic collection.

Hitmaker SDX retails for around US$170, but it’s worth watching out for Toontrack’s regular promotions which usually mean generous discounts.


Hitmaker SDX is among the nominees in the 2022 digitalDrummer Readers’ Choice awards.