If you want the sound of a top‑notch acoustic drum kit but don't have the drummer, kit and studio environment within which to record it, virtual drum instruments such as Toontrack's EZdrummer or Superior Drummer provide a cost-effective alternative. And, to stop you getting bored with using the same samples or drum grooves you can always add one of the many expansion packs. If rock is your thing, then the Rock! EZX is a case in point. With Toontrack favourite Neil Dorfsman at the helm (his credits span 30+ years and include Dire Straits, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Idol, Tina Turner, Kiss and Bjork, amongst many others) mean that you can rest assured that he could afford the drummer, kit and high‑quality recording environment that you aspire to!
The Rock! EZX pack includes 2GB of samples that are organised into eight preset kits whose titles describe their main characteristics; bright ambient, vintage punch, tight punch, ringy, high and dry, '80s rock, classic dry and woody. While there are a few kit pieces that seem to appear in more than one of these kits, you actually get samples from a very good selection of different drums as part of the pack; you could, therefore, easily combine the various kicks, snares, hi‑hats, toms and cymbals in any number of different ways should you so wish. That said, the eight presets are expertly crafted and there is something here that would suit almost any classic or modern style (perhaps with the exception of metal). They go from dry and restrained to big and boomy but they are always characterful.
As with most of Toontrack's expansion packs, the quality of the samples is excellent and most certainly worth the entry price. However, don't ever let that make you underestimate the value of the included MIDI grooves. Played by Martin Kristoffersson, there is a diverse selection of mid‑ and up‑tempo performances that, as usual, are divided into 'song'-based groups. There are straight, swing and double‑time performances and plenty of variations including patterns for intros, verses, bridges, chorus and fills. It is, frankly, ridiculously easy to build an entire drum performance for a song using these grooves and, given the quality of the aforementioned samples, your top‑notch drum track can be done and dusted before the first cup of tea of the day has gone cold.
If you already own either EZdrummer or Superior Drummer, and are looking to expand your options, this EZX is a very cost-effective addition. It will obviously most suit those about to rock but, with a little tweaking, both kits and grooves could easily stray into pop‑rock territory if required. Top‑notch stuff at a very good price. by John Walden