Steven Slate Drums’ Blackbird Expansion – The Gear Gods Review

Steven Slate Drums recently released the Blackbird Studio Drums expansion for Steven Slate Drums (SSD) and Trigger, Slates drum replacement and enhancement plugin. I got to check out the new library on SSD and really wanted to spend a lot of time with it before gathering my thoughts and writing a review. New drum libraries tend to impress at first listen but after sometime that opinion tends to change. I felt this way even more so when it came to this new expansion.


Here is a quick summary of what Blackbird is and its significance for those who have never heard of it. Simply put, it is one of the most famous studios in the world. Its owner, John McBride, has a reputation for being uncompromising when it comes to the studio and getting the sounds he needs. If you are interested in seeing exactly what John and his studio are like then check out the video below. It will give you a pretty good idea of the kind of caliber this place is.

It is my understand that this library is practically unprocessed, save for some small things in the recording chain. I bring this up because when you load up a kit just for a listen, it sounds good. Like, really good! At first I was convinced these were processed samples, not that there is anything wrong with that. But alas, after asking around at Slate I found I was mistaken. In my time with the expansion I tried it on a variety of different material. Everything from country and pop to jazz to metal. And what’s there is certainly versatile and varied enough to work in any of those genres. I recently used it on a Jazz piece that you can listen to below. Jazz tends to be pretty raw in terms of production, so what you hear is one of the blackbird preset kits and a bit of processing on my end. It should give you a good idea the level of quality of this library. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I think this is the best sounding library I have heard to date, not just from Slate, but in general. Like I mentioned earlier I wanted to spend extra time to see if that impression would wear off but it hasn’t.

Now you might be wondering, well Alex, what DON’T you like about it? Well, there really isn’t anything I don’t like about it, but there is one thing a person interested in this should be aware of – this library is pretty big. At almost 6 gigabytes its one of Steven Slate Drums’ largest. But the bigger issue is the loading of an entire kit using the Blackbird expansion. In the Jazz piece below, a blackbird kit loaded fully into memory took up about 2.6 gigabytes. That is pretty massive, and seeing how big it was its no surprise this expansion has ended up sounding so good. Does this mean you might not be able to use this expansion on your computer? No, you most certainly can. I have a pretty beefy computer so I had the luxury of turning off SSD4’s disk streaming option, meaning it loads the entire kit into RAM for me. If your computer has 4 to 8 gigabytes of RAM on it you will need to turn that feature on. It doesn’t negatively impact the sound, it just means it caches parts of the library and calls upon the samples as needed by your project or session.

If you are looking for what is hands down the best sounding drum library, you will be hard pressed to find one better than this. Especially considering how versatile it can be, you can’t really go wrong with this one.

Written by

Alex Nasla is a keyboardist, producer and mixing engineer. He keeps busy making audio plugins for Rosen Digital, is audio director at multimedia company Toxic Creativity and is involved in 3 different musical endeavors. 

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