Addictive Drums 2 Sounds Like a Real Drummer, But How?

by Dan Gonzalez

Every once in a while there are some plugins that come along and completely change the way we do things. Sometimes it’s a different look on processing, or maybe a utility that increases workflow ten-fold. Drum plugins have become all the rage recently, and Addictive Drums 2 is at the forefront of this revolution. There are a few reasons why Addictive Drums 2 (now available in SONAR Professional and SONAR Platinum) sounds like a real drummer, so let’s check those out.

Extensive and sophisticated velocity scaling

Within Addictive Drums 2 there is a powerful Map Window that exposes some of the more sophisticated elements of the XLN’s engine. Here you can choose to do various things to customize the way you interact with Addictive Drums 2. But within this window there is a dedicated velocity curve stage for every single sample that XLN audio supplies.

Select one of your kitpieces from the neighboring section and you can use this menu to choose how you want to control the way Addictive Drums 2 individually treats every drum or cymbal hit’s velocity. You can even grab one of the existing velocity presets and adjust it to your liking.

Customized and pre-designed velocity curves

When you strike a note on your MIDI controller or play a MIDI drum pattern Addictive Drums 2 analyzes the incoming velocity, applies the velocity curve, and then outputs another velocity in response. This ever changing mechanism has a nice display that shows you (on the right) the initial velocity along the y-axis getting applied to the curve, and then where it lands in response on the x-axis. Previous velocities are ghosted in the background as each hit passes.

The hard velocity setting scales incoming velocities that are very low in value to higher velocities. For example, you can see that the 1st and 2nd nodes are set to make the velocity curve bow outward. This outward bowing means that even the lowest incoming velocities get a hard response from Addictive Drums 2’s engine.


The softer velocity setting is set in a way that makes any incoming velocity information automatically softer in sound. The topmost node is slightly lower in value, but below that the curve is a straight line. This type of curve will interpret your patterns or MIDI velocity info as they are, but then drop them by a few values equally.

This curve is the exact opposite of the first one we described in this list. Across the board, incoming velocities are mostly kept somewhat quiet once they hit this curve. Rarely will only a few get through that are loud. This curve scales velocities down in value, hence it being called a soft curve.

This velocity setting is called harder because no matter what the incoming velocity data is, this curve will scale it up in value, much like the softer curve scales everything down in value. For the most part it’s an equal power curve and just adds hard velocity for data that passes.

Multi-stroke sampling

Within Addictive Drum 2’s key mapping you can see all of the different types of snare, high hat, and tom hits that XLN Audio sampled in order to create these kits and make them sound as real as possible. For example, the Fairfax drumkit contains up to 8 different styles of hits for the snare drum alone. This type of flexibility opens up your drum production massively by giving you the freedom to program MIDI passages full of finesse and subtle detail – just like a real drum would.

The guys at XLN Audio outline how they do this with various image of the hits and their definitions:

The Snare and Tom Open Hit samples are hit directly in the center of the snare – capturing all of the tonality of drum heads and resonating heads. Next to it they outline a classic Rimshot technique which involves hitting the center of the drum and the rim of the drum concurrently. Including the rim in the snare hit adds more attack to the overall sound of the hit,

The Shallow Hit gets it’s name from striking the drum closer to the rim where the tension is greater. Differing tensions reveals differences is tone. They are subtle, but they are there. The Shallow Rimshot is the same idea, but it actually includes the rim of the drum adding another level of variation to each drums sample set.

Sidestick and Rimclick are cut from the same chord, but differ in that the Sidestick is played by placing the stick on the drum and then lifting and dropping it on the rim. Rimclick is simply striking the rim with the shaft of the drum stick.

For hats, rides, and cymbals XLN Audio sampled Shaft, Hit, Bell, and Tip hits. Shaft hits on a high hat are the hardest type of hit that you can perform on a high hat using the shaft of the stick. For cymbals, this is just considered a regular Hit. Bell hits mean that the drummer strikes the cymbal’s bell with the shaft of the stick. Lastly, Tip is a lighter hit used on hat and ride cymbals using only the tip of the drum stick. This is usually a brighter sound.

Humanized MIDI Patterns played by real drummers

It’s pretty eye-opening when you take a listen to the various patterns supplied with Addictive Drums 2. These patterns are recorded by real drummers with real-groove. The last and most important reason why Addictive Drums 2 feels different is because of these grooves. The best way to show you what we mean is by importing some grooves into SONAR and checking out how they align to the grid.

Take a look at the grid closely, you’ll see that these MIDI notes do not line up directly to the grid. They are humanized and fall just short of each exact beat. This is done on purpose by XLN Audio to give the user content that is more realistic and less robotic. Throughout their vast supply of MIDIPaks you’ll start to pick up on these small differences in groove. They make for a better sounding production and a much better sounding drum pattern.

Wrap up

Now that you’re armed with some of the knowledge that goes into Addictive Drum 2’s underlying technology you’ll have a better scope on how to to take advantage this massive instrument’s capabilities.