Steven Slate Drums 4 Review

Acoustic drums are tricky to record, but Slate Digital reckons it might have the answer. Hollin Jones rocks out with SSD 4.

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Drums were one of the first instruments to be successfully re-created in virtual format, though today’s multisampled, realistic kits are much improved on early models. Real drum kits are one of the hardest things to record live – and that’s assuming you are a decent player. There’s therefore a big market for authentic-sounding drum instruments that can run on a computer. Steven Slate Drums 4 is the developer’s latest version of an instrument that has featured on hit records and contains 100 drum kits.

Sample This

The product is available as a download only, and although it’s split into separate files, the total content is around 10GB, so you’ll need a decent internet connection. Also, the various plug-in format installers are all downloadable separately and must be run separately. Some people might prefer that, but on a system where you want to install VST and AU, and 32- and 64-bit versions, it’s a little fiddly, and it would be better if they were all consolidated into a single installer. It makes sense to offload the sample content onto a secondary drive, which is easy to do. Once you start the plug-in, you can point it at the content and it will all show up. You also need to point it to your downloaded license file, which needs to remain somewhere on your system in order for things to run.

With the instrument loaded, you will probably start from the Kits menu, loading up any of the provided kits. These range from rock and metal to indie, funk and jazz, and are beautifully sampled. A display shows you how a kit is loading and you’re told how much RAM is in use. In the Inst menu you’ll find all the constituent drum hits, and you can replace any part of a kit with a new sample, or double-up samples so that a kick drum, for example, has two samples assigned to it.

In the Samples view you can drag and drop your own samples into cells, which correspond to the 32 drum slots available, so it’s easy to either replace sounds or blend them. Drums are playable from your keyboard, though it’s worth noting that the mapping seems to be set up more for electronic drum kits, so trigger notes will be spread out over the 88 notes of a MIDI keyboard. In the Mapping section you can remap any drum hit to any MIDI note, and leading electronic kits are supported.

Pick Your Route

Enter the Edit Instrument section and you can alter each drum element individually. Drums can be tuned, have their volume changed, and have various different virtual mics moved around to alter the sound. Dynamics, velocity and range can also be set, and there’s output routing per-channel from inside the instrument. This makes it simple to process one or more drum mics externally in your DAW’s mixer for greater flexibility. There’s an onboard mixer as well, enabling you to set levels, pan, output routing, solo and mute. This is straightforward to use, though level meters are omitted.

Separate mixer settings for bleed level and route give you unparalleled control over the way different mics interact. Last but not least, a Grooves section lets you use pre-prepared MIDI parts and drag and drop these straight into your DAW.

Drumming Up A Storm

Steven Slate Drums 4 perhaps lacks the polished look or detailed audio-editing features of some other drum samplers, but it’s undeniably a player’s tool, aimed more at drummers than keyboard players. If you can see past the slightly workmanlike appearance, however, it’s a powerful and flexible drum programming instrument that sounds great. The acoustic kits are powerful and clean, and the electronic kits also sound excellent. You’ll be using this in your DAW, but a few onboard effects wouldn’t go amiss.

Having said that, its lack of complexity will be a plus point for many of the people it’s aimed at: drummers and percussionists. There are plenty of drum samplers out there for keyboard wizards, so it’s good to see one that caters more specifically for stickmen. That’s not to say it isn’t usable for many different applications, and the MIDI mapping is quite easy to figure out, so keyboardists and programmers will find much to like as well.

Great-sounding kits
Load your own samples
Flexible bleed controls
Easy MIDI mapping

Set up for MIDI drums rather than keyboards by default
No onboard effects


A solid virtual drum instrument with excellent sounds and advanced bleed control. MIDI drummers take note…



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