Review: IK Multimedia MODO Drum

IK Multimedia's latest addition to its MODO family brings unprecedented levels of control over your acoustic drum sounds and patterns. Hollin Jones got behind the kit.  

IK Multimedia is not a developer that could be accused of resting on its laurels, releasing new software and hardware products on a schedule that outpaces much of the competition. Its latest release is MODO Drum, a standalone and plug-in drum instrument and the second member of the MODO family after MODO Bass. It uses a combination of samples and physical modelling to balance a reasonable install size of around 8GB with an incredible depth of customisation options. Let’s dive in.

Drum Room

The look and feel of the application is slick but friendly, and its interface resizable in real time to fit your screen. After a very straightforward audio and MIDI setup you’re into choosing a kit. There are 10 available though as we will see, with the customisation available you end up with far more options than simply 10 drum kits. They range from jazz and pop to rock and metal, so this is definitely a “real” drum instrument. Electronic drums aren’t involved.

After choosing a kit you can of course use MIDI input or any of the bundled MIDI grooves (more on these later) to audition the different drums. Click on Customise and you are into the main drum setup section. By pressing Edit Kit in this area you can add or remove elements, so even if your kit starts as a slimmed-down setup you can add a second kick, more cymbals and toms and so on, by right clicking on any part of the kit. By left clicking on any drum you audition it and also invoke the drum chooser, where alternative models of snare, cymbal or whatever else can be swapped in. So it’s possible to completely customise the drums in a kit and build any kind and any size of hybrid you like.

But MODO Drum goes much deeper than just building kits. Moving on to the Play Style section, the elements of the kit that in real life can be modified and tuned - snares, toms and kicks - can be further modified in the app. For toms and snares this means setting the left and right strike points as well as how wide the strike area is. For the kick you can set heel up or down playing as well as changing the material the beater is made from. The drum sticks can also have their volume and tip material changed. Since cymbals don’t feature any tweakable parts, they are omitted from this area. They are however controllable - as are snare and tom - via the MIDI preferences, where you can set them to respond to continuous controllers to create constantly varying playback styles.

Fast Drums

It’s worth pausing momentarily to mention a couple of things here. The first is how quick everything feels. Patch loading is super fast and switching between drums happens in the blink of an eye. This is on a once-mighty but now slightly ageing 2013 MacBook Pro 15 inch. A second, related point is how much the synthesis side of things - albeit invisibly - enables this to happen. The instrument is working with a great base of samples, but the very fine detailed changes you can make to the behaviour of the drums and playback is enabled by synthesis rather than loading a bunch more samples every time. As such, it performs very well indeed. Its sound is resonant and rich, the drums punchy and powerful.

Find Your Space

The next editable section is Room, where you get to choose from 9 distinct environments into which to place your kit. These are quite broad and cover studios, cathedrals, venues of different sizes and so on. A master amount control lets you set the amount of room that is included with the sound of your drums. For more detailed effect control you will want to move on to the next area, which is the Mixer.

In the Mixer you get up to 16 channels - or as many as you have elements in your kit. The plug-in version comes in multiple output options too, so you can have all 16 channels feeding directly into your DAW’s mixer for processing if you like. Each channel has identical controls including a graphic EQ, 4 insert and 2 send slots, panning and the option to subgroup using busses. The master channel has EQ, 4 insert slots, overhead / room, send and bus sections for working with the main output.

There are 19 effects to choose from and these are taken from T-RackS and Amplitube, covering dynamics, distortion, reverb / delay and modulation. Each one has its own set of controls and for each channel you can expand the inserts section to show all four effects complete with their interfaces. IK has wisely forgone cluttered skeuomorphism here, opting instead for a slick, clean and easy to use interface for the effects.

Into The Groove

Last but by no means least is the Grooves section. You get over 1400 pre-programmed MIDI grooves with a convenient browsing system as well as tempo options and BPM sync. These can be played inside the app, or dragged and dropped into a MIDI track in your DAW to quickly build songs. Once there they can be edited, though there’s no actual MIDI note access inside the instrument itself.


MODO Drum is a triumph of engineering that also manages to remain very easy to use and tremendous fun to play. Whether hooked up to a MIDI drum kit, triggered by MIDI keyboard or using its own internal grooves or drum tracks inside your DAW, it’s a very powerful way to craft and create unique acoustic drum kits. The combination of sampling and physical modelling synthesis in use means its footprint remains relatively small while also offering basically infinite tweakability of the way drums are hit and react to being hit, as well as the space they are in.

There are many drum instruments out there, some of which do also offer a high degree of flexibility with sound design. But MODO Drum is the easiest I have come across in terms of its design - there’s nothing here to baffle even a beginner. Everything just makes sense. And for those needing to craft very specific drum kits and sounds, you’ll find everything you need.

Price: 239.99 Eur inc.VAT

Pros: Very easy to use. Sounds excellent. Supremely flexible control over drum kits and playback styles. Great bundled grooves. Powerful FX section and mixer. Create unique kits. Seems very CPU efficient and snappy.

Cons: If your needs are modest and your DAW comes with a bundled acoustic drums instrument this could theoretically be overkill.


Learn more about drum programming and sound design:

Hollin Jones was classically trained as a piano player but found the lure of blues and jazz too much to resist. Graduating from bands to composition then production, he relishes the chance to play anything with keys. A sometime lecturer in videographics, music production and photography post production, Hollin has been a freelance w... Read More


Nice review Hollin. I was a beta tester..and artist for IK ModoBass. I use it to this day, though I play bass...sold my 58 Precisions years ago. A shame. Anyhow, I read your fine article regarding IK Modo Drums. I presently use SSD5.5.very good stuff overall. That said, I'm looking for less rock oriented midi phrases, and more of what EZDrummer offers...auditioning the 1400+ midi phrases. Do you feel Modo Drums offers similar sonic quality to Slate 5.5?

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