The $179 price for EZdrummer is well worth the investment if you are looking for a virtual drummer with great-sounding, multi-mic'ed, live drums. EZdrummer comes with two excellent sounding kits with a healthy number of variations of the sample sets (open vs. closed hats, rolled snares, rims, and great sounding cymbals), professionally recorded at Avatar Studios by Pat Thrall (Glenn Hughes, Black Crowes) and Neil Dorfsman (Kiss, Bruce Springsteen, Dire Straits, Sting, Def Leppard) with session drummer Nir Z (Genesis, Joss Stone). The main kit is the Rock/Pop kit, which has a great realistic sound in the mixer's default or "roomy" setting. The snares are crisp, the kicks are punchy, and you can truly hear the room. The second kit is called the Cocktail kit-which says it all. This kit features a nice collection of smoother, more laid-back, jazz-oriented samples. There's nothing fancy about this kit, it's very basic but perfect for that intimate small-sounding combo you might be looking for. Sonically, EZdrummer is fantastic. It drops very nicely and convincingly into a mix. I found this program was very easy to use-even more so than Digidesign's Strike. While the parameters and tweak-ability for the interface might not include as many options as other drum samplers out there, I found the mixer and two main toggle options (Humanize and Velocity) refreshingly straightforward and to the point. These drums just sound good. You can use four different presets in the mixer window (Default, Roomy, Dry, FlatMono)-all of which are great starting points. From there, it's just a matter of raising or lowering levels. Also, each element (kick, snare top, snare bottom, hat, toms 1-3, overheads, and rooms) can be routed to have its own output if you wish to do any additional processing. There is an overwhelming number of drag-and-drop Groove templates, which are very easy to toggle through and preview. Also, I found the Groove Library was very well organized-starting with a breakdown of Pop/Rock, Funk/Rock, Motown, Ballad, Sidestick, and Fills, each containing over thirty Groove options that each further break down into twenty different playing variations (hats on the 4s, 8s or 16s; closed, open, open/ghost). As you can see, you're given a hefty amount of options-ranging from the very basic to very human, rolled, and swung grooves. Additional expansions for the player-Nashville, Vintage Rock, Drum Kits from Hell, and Latin Percussion-are $89, with the exception of Nashville which is $119. I was only able to check out the Vintage Rock and Latin Percussion expansions, both of which are great. The Vintage Rock expansion has a great authentic feel and leans a little more towards an old-school, dry sound. The Latin Percussion set includes some of the best sounding and best grooving samples I've found for the genre. This expansion really captures the authentic feel of hands on drums, and there's a perfect flavor of intimacy where a lot of other percussion samplers or refills fall short. Overall, EZdrummer is an excellent, no-frills player with a fantastic-sounding base of samples and a great series of expansions. Another plus is that it also supports the three major formats (VST, AU, and RTAS). Stacked up against the other popular players (BFD, Stylus RMX, and Strike), EZdrummer is a great combination of all of their strengths. Its number one characteristic is the simplicity of the player, but it also has great sounding samples (much like some of BFD's expansions) and excellent groove options (like Strike). I'd be very surprised to find any disappointed users. Check out the Flash player on for a representative preview of how these drums sound. ($179 MSRP; $89-$119 for expansions;

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