Categorized as both Modern and Vintage, the various pieces may be easily mixed n’ matched for “custom” kit configurations. These new kits are samplings of DW, Yamaha, Gretsch, Sonor, Tama, and of course, Ludwig. Taking a cue from vying drum VI contenders, EZD2 now hosts great-sounding percussion components as well: tambourine, cowbell, maracas, shakers and handclaps.
EZD2 is not merely a pretty face with fancy-schmancy bells n’ whistles slapped on top – its audio engine has been completely overhauled and is now refitted with a much greater degree of AI and expressiveness. The new “Tap2Find” feature enables a user to quickly beat out a groove via a midi-controller or mouse; the software then takes off on a gallop to retrieve appropriately matched patterns.
ToonTrack have proven themselves to be leaders in their field – ease of use, audio excellence, and innovation are but a few of the ToonTrack product-line attributes. Their well-established EZ Drummer product has broken even more barriers with this ponderous, 2nd generation version. EZD2 still rings the till at a comfortable $179 for new customers, while existing supporters can upgrade for a reasonable toll fee of $99.
However, the question remains: "What can EZ Drummer 2 do for you?"
A welcome new facet of EZD2 is its ability to operate in stand-alone mode. This, married to the new sequence timeline, facilitates song ideas on-the-fly. Borrowing the principle from its “EZ Keys” cousins, EZD2 lets your creative juices flow, unconstrained by typical DAW workflow. As we saw in “EZ Keys”, convenient drag n’ drop midi-blocks can be easily arranged on the Song Builder time line, situated along the bottom of the interface. Feel free to whip up a good drum track without even opening your DAW and having to load the program as a standard plug-in.
Which brings me to my next point: Load times.
Taking into account that EZD2 makes itself at home on approximately a 4GB lot of hard disk space, the samples load quickly and efficiently – *typically within 20 seconds on my Intel i5. The larger of the new kits, “Modern”, hits your PC up for about 700 to 800 MBs of RAM. While this number is not negligible, it isn’t nearly as resource-demanding as a behemoth such as Native-Instrument’s “Studio Drummer
Keeping an element of continuity interwoven throughout their current product line, ToonTrack have now implemented a subset of their “EZ Mix” effects into EZD2. Variations of the effects change depending on which kit (or preset) is active. User-control over the various effects parameters is conservative at best, but the good news is that ToonTrack have carefully tweaked and tuned them in advance. You’ll notice that some of the effects are courtesy of Reverb & Amp modelling experts, “Overloud”.
Mic bleed is adjustable via tunable knobs, in contrast to the previous “OFF or ON” switches found on the original EZ Drummer’s Mixer panel. This feature alone permits a user to tailor the sound more to his/her liking beyond that of the EZD predecessor.
ToonTrack’s method of copy protection is of the “challenge/response” variety, but since ToonTrack have a proven, well-established reputation, I won’t hammer them too harshly about it. Personally, I’m an anti-dongle and anti-CR advocate. Fussing with dongles is no fun; especially for laptop users. C/R protection often limits the number of valid activations, or can leave you DOA if the company goes out-of-operation. Nevertheless, I greatly appreciate that a few companies, such as ToonTrack, Moddart, FXpansion, and EAReckon, make their implementation of C/R protection as customer-friendly as possible.
ToonTrack products may be activated on two computers simultaneously, with a total of four activations before a license is exhausted. Online license management does allow a license owner to deactivate a license slot. It should be noted, however, that a license may only be activated twice on the same computer.
Although it isn’t publicized, so as to discourage occasional or “mild” piracy (aka license abuse), ToonTrack will asses a valid customer’s need for an extended number of licenses on a per need basis. Each authorized item will always be listed in the customer’s “My Products” area of the ToonTrack web site.
Creative application of 3-D light/shadowing effects, in conjunction with detailed graphical textures, deliver a convincing virtual environment; not unlike immersive 3-D game graphics. The user will enjoy looking at “EZ Drummer 2”. The striking visual attributes and quality audio elements synergistically provide a very satisfying user experience.
The knobs can be manipulated in any one of three modes: Linear, Circular, and Circular-relative. My personal preference is the Linear mode since it grants more dependable mouse control for my workflow style. I actually find Circular and Circular-relative modes to be a little bit tricky to operate.
A welcome GUI redesign feature is the implementation of TABs-based application management. This revamped system makes for easy-breezy switches between the four main sections of the program. These being: Drums, Browser, Search and Mixer.
[ Drums ]
This is where the GUI is the most fun to look at. Subtle, yet effective, details dress-up the interface. These are seen as a slight carpet bulge, lighting glints on faux chrome cymbal stands, and other nifty little dramatic visual flairs. The graphics are appealing and inviting; however, a nice degree of functionality is hidden underneath their charm.
Each kit piece has a drop-down menu whereby other similar items may be selected. The original “EZ Drummer” had a basic utilization of this feature, but EZD2 takes it much further. Now, a user may select components from any core or (installed) EZX kit. Individual drum volume levels and pitch may also be modified here. You can audition the sound of each kit piece by simply clicking on it or the corresponding key/pad on a connected midi controller.
The inclusion of a tidy little bevy of percussion instruments adds some sugar and crème to the cup o’ drums. These are found along the right side and similarly feature drop-down menus to access the varying iterations and/or components.
À la custom kit configuration. Kool, huh?
The layout of the Browser is similar to the orginal EZ Drummer’s “Grooves” panel, or more concisely, it shares the intuitiveness of EZ Keys’ midi browser. Each core library, EZX, and/or midi pak is listed and then (left-to-right) sub-divided into Styles/Time signatures, Song Elements (intro, verse, chorus, and etc.) and finally, Pattern Variations. Each pattern may be auditioned by clicking on the small “play” button in front of the variation title. The patterns are all drag/drop usable directly into a DAW (VSTi) track or into EZD2’s own “Song Builder”. The Song Builder is actually an integrated, simple midi sequencer. *More about this later.*
[ Search ]
It is also on this UI tab page where we find EZ Drummer’s new “Tap2Find” feature.
** Stick n’ stay, please - more about this krafty, kool feature a little later as well.
[ Mixer ]
Last, but certainly not least, is the Mixer tab. The original EZ Drummer’s mixer panel was certainly functional, but in direct comparison to its younger, more powerful sibling, it paled. I really appreciate that the new mixer is larger and easier to manipulate. The new mixer is not only larger; it’s crisper and makes good use of contrast.
EZ Drummer is a true multi-out capable plug-in. Each channel can be assigned to its own output within most DAWs. This is especially handy for controlling levels/mixing within the DAW itself, or for inserting 3rd party effects per channel.
The most notable advantage the new mixer offers is its own, built-in smart effects. Depending on which preset is loaded, appropriate effects parameters are available for tweaking. Clicking on any effects knob will cause affected mixer channels to become high-lighted. For example, here we see that the High EQ knob is affecting the Kick, Snare, Toms and Cymbals channels.
I noticed that rack-mount toms and floor tom(s) are no longer assigned individual channels. Unlike the original EZ Drummers’ mixer, EZD2 groups all toms together on one channel. Again, this is not necessarily detrimental in that the kits are very well-balanced “out-of-the-box”. In this reviewer’s opinion, ToonTrack are deliberately emphasizing the “EZ” attributes of the software, but not at the expense of sound quality or performance capacity.
Within many of the factory presets, grandular mic bleed and “tuning” controls are available. I won’t discuss the sound quality of the new 24 bit samples and pitch/time shift virtues just yet; that’s best left for the “Sound Quality” section of this article.
[ 5 Drum Kits? ]
That’s right, ToonTrack now give you even more for your money! EZ Drummer 2 is outfitted with a full complement of five drum kits. The Modern kits are DW (Non descript), Gretsch USA Custom, and Yamaha 9000. Their Vintage counter-parts are a pair of Ludwig kits: Vistalite and a more generic Ludwig 60s kit.
A cool feature found in the original EZ Drummer was the option to swap drum elements within a library. Now, EZD2 extends this functionality and the user is free to swap out drum elements (both drums and cymbals) from *any installed ToonTrack library. Even component articulations can be edited; for example, choosing Tip or Edge or a hi-hat or cymbal. The customization options can be potentially dizzying.
Volume level and pitch are adjustable for each kit piece by unfolding its properties drop-down box. You can audition the sound of each piece, in all available velocities, by clicking on the waveform display at the bottom of the drop-down box. The intensity of the waveform display color gets darker and more pronounced as the velocity level is increased.
[ Song Builder & Track Timeline ]
EZ Drummer 2 now hosts the “Song Builder”, a self contained, integrated midi-sequencer. An immediate and obvious advantage the Song Builder offers is the ability to construct a drum track, or simply assemble drum track ideas, without relying on a DAW.
A secondary benefit is that the individual parts can be easily edited within the application itself. For those whom have had to manually edit midi drums tracks by hand within a typical Piano roll editor, this is a greatly appreciated feature. Basic zoom, cut, copy, paste and delete tools are available. Each midi segment can be shortened or dragged back out via its “drag handles”. To complete the convenience and functionality, handy undo/redo buttons are neatly tucked into the Song Builder’s upper left corner.
From the Song Structure results pane, simply drag one of the song structure templates down into the timeline. Of course, a user is free to reorder, edit, and otherwise tweak the track to his/her liking.
*Density refers to how frequently and/or how aggressively that particular kit piece will be used within the midi clip.
When you’re satisfied with the resultant drum track, you can easily export it as either a wave file or as a midi clip. Optionally, the entire project can be saved as a project file. This action will save drum configuration, mixer settings and song builder data. A project file can easily be reopened if adjustments or tweaks are needed.
Exporting, saving, project loading, application updates, and etcetera, are all readily accessible from the “Menu” button, located in the upper right corner of the GUI.
Très convenient, n’est pas?
[ Tap2Find ]
On the “Search” screen, we find ToonTrack’s krafty, kool, new Tap2Find utility. Go ahead – give it a try. This is a smart and handy aspect that allows us to tap (with metronome) a rhythm pattern. This is accomplished using either a connected midi controller or mouse. I highly recommend using a midi controller, but the latter does permit simple patterns to be approximated.
I generally find that Tap2Find does a good job and achieves dependable results. It doesn’t always perfectly if I am trying to generate an unusual time-signature pattern, but then again, I haven’t bucket loads of EZXs and/or midi packs installed on my system at present. Perhaps taking a cue from online shops such as the famous “Custom Shop” by IK Multimedia, ToonTrack have thoughtfully (Read: coyly) implemented their own subtle interpretation of an online shop.
You can include midi packs that you don’t yet own in your searches – these are conveniently displayed and may be auditioned. If the search results are to your liking, and you don’t yet own the midi pack that the pattern belongs to, you can easily purchase it In App. It’s a convenient feature, beneficial to both ToonTrack and also the customer. Kinda reminds me of “Google Play” and Apple’s “App Store”.
**It makes sense that the program will have higher success rates when additional midi packs or EZX libraries are installed.
I’ve been a faithful EZ Drummer admirer and user since quite some time now, and generally speaking, I have always been very pleased with EZ Drummer’s sound quality. This is especially true of my favorite EZX add-ons: Vintage Rock, The Classic, Americana, Jazz, The Blues, Indie Folk, and etcetera. Admittedly, the default kit, “Pop/Rock” was certainly functional, but a wee bit vanilla and blasé for my tastes. It lacked . . . ummm . . . “character” in my opinion.
This is no longer the case.
EZ Drummer 2 comes straight from the factory with HUGE, characterful drum sounds right out-of-the-box! Five distinct, capable drum kits are express-shipped straight to your desktop or DAW when you buy EZD2. These kits are anything but blasé or vanilla. Rather, they are fairly dripping with vibe, class, and koolness in absolute cornucopia.
Across the board, er, around the kits, each component maintains strong articulation, character, and distinctiveness. EZD2 can amply dispense a deluge of lively snap, crack and pop. Far from being a one or two trick pony, EZD2 bestows fine-quality smooth, dulcet tones as well – perfect for ballads or those mellow-yellow times.
The samples load quickly, and favor your tracks with very convincing drum sounds. It seems to me that there is increased dynamics and velocity-range now as well. Adjusting the pitch of any kit piece does not induce unwanted chirpiness or gurgling; instead, we just have pleasant tuning control. This is a welcome feature – a single drum kit can be used on multiple tracks and can be configured to sound a lit bit different on each one. Other times perhaps, a lower pitched snare suits a particular track; or visa versa. In any case, you get the idea. EZD2 offers reams of tonal flexibility.
The Modern kit offerings generally exhibit well-controlled, tighter sounds, while the Vintage fares produce more spacious, ringing resonance. EZD2’s samples were recorded using the finest of studio gear. The Modern kits were recorded through Neve 88R and TG12345 consoles, while the tasty, old-skool vibe of the Vintage kits was captured using an Über rare REDD board - all courtesy of Mark Knopfler’s British Grove Studios in London, England. The main chappy responsible for these pristinely-recorded samples is none other than world-class engineer, Chuck Ainley.
Sample decay is smooth and full. I’ve not found any samples that abruptly cut off. To my ears, very little, if any, 3rd party EQ tweaking is needed for these samples – they sound very, very good. Did I mention how *good they sound?
Oh, and by the way, remember my comments about the old EZ Drummer’s default “Pop/Rock” kit sounding too vanilla and blasé? Well, I’m pleased as punch to let ya’ll know that the latest adaptation of it actually sounds purdy durned good. The *new “Pop/Rock” kit also benefits from EZD2’s stellar new audio engine. The good ol’ GMS kit now cuts through with much better presence and tone.
I never found any of ToonTrack’s plug-ins or virtual instruments to be particularly demanding on system resources; this one is no different. To keep things relative, EZD2 consumes around three percent of the CPU on my Intel i5 (laptop) while operating in stand-alone mode. Loaded into an instrument track in Studio One Pro 2.6, the 64bit VST registers between 10 – 17 percent in the S1 performance monitor. I take this with a grain of salt because the Windows Task Manager reports Studio One only consuming a total of five percent of available CPU.
Reviewer’s Revival awards 5 Stars to ToonTrack for this powerful, EZ-to-use drum VI. This new rollout of EZ Drummer parcels a grandiose collection of highly intelligent and useful new features. It is this reviewer’s opinion that ToonTrack have definitely raised the bar with this one. The lengthy wait for EZ Drummer, version 2, was absolutely worth it. EZ Drummer (original) sounded really good, especially when using EZX expansion packs. EZ Drummer 2 smokes its predecessor off the rails and delivers tremendously EZ-to-use and even more authentic-sounding drums.
The features are comprehensive and enthralling. The graphical interface is inspiring and spurs one’s interest and creative juices to reach higher. EZD2’s core libraries will carry you a long way and they capably cover a broad range of musical genres.
Be sure to check out my accompanying video review/guide too!
- Winning interface design.
- Hyper realistic-sounding drum libraries oozing with character.
- Ginormous value vs. Cost ratio .
- Flexible and super EZ-to-use.
- Unrivaled drum track construction tool-set.
- Full range of *intelligent effects & features.
- Extremely fluid workflow.
- Modest system requirements.
- Honourable, customer-oriented company.
- Available for both MAC & PC (32 & 64 bit, including AAX)
- I appreciate that ToonTrack emphasize ease-of-use in their products, but I would like to see a greater degree of end-user control regarding the built-in effects.
Brother Charles is a freelance writer, Gospel music artist and minister. Charles was a professional touring musician during the nineties; working primarily as a lead guitarist in the Canadian country music industry. Brother Charles is also involved with music production and quality home recording.
Intellectual Copyright - 2014 - All rights Reserved. This review may not be copied or reproduced in whole, nor in part, without express written permission from the author.