Thanks to the overwhelming popularity of FL Studio, Image-Line’s own range of plugins often fly under the radar. Drumaxx is a great reminder of why it’s worth paying attention to the rest of the company’s output. Like most of Image-Line’s output, this unique percussion instrument is available in the most popular Windows and Mac plugin formats; it’s not just for FL Studio users.
Drumaxx is the only physical modelling instrument on our list. The synthesis engine is based around what Image-Line describe as “good physics stuff” – in other words, complex mathematical models of the physical characteristics of percussion instruments.
In terms of their practical application, one of the big problems with physical modelling plugins is that they can all too easily fall into two apparently contradictory traps. Some prioritise recreating the exact physical characteristics of a real-life instrument at all cost, which is great if you want a perfectly accurate piano or string sound, but not much use if you want to experiment. Others lean too far in the direction of experimental sounds, justifying it on the basis that their sound is based on physical principles, no matter whether it sounds good or not.
It’s a tricky tightrope to walk, but it’s one that Drumaxx manages perfectly. You can certainly push it to do some weird and wacky things if you want, but at the same time you’re unlikely to lose track of the fact that this is a drum machine first and foremost. It can do realistic drum sounds as well as any plugin on this list without resorting to samples, but it can also be pushed into brilliantly hyperreal territory, creating synthetic tones somewhere in between real drums and drum machines. The best of both worlds.