Sound Radix Drum Leveler Review


Drum Leveler by Sound Radix is a VST/AU/AAX/RTAS plugin for PC and Mac that is best described as a surgical gain tool, primarily suitable for use on percussive material.

If, like me, you have struggled a bit with compressors and similar dynamics tools, you may find Drum Leveler’s unique approach refreshing and empowering, both from a workflow and functionality perspective.

The Clue Is In The Name

The most obvious use for Drum Leveler is to home in on a certain type of drum in a loop or stem, and then, using look-ahead algorithms, 64-bit double floating point level detection, and transparent amplification, to modify its level positively or negatively. Inconsistent snare drum hits can be made uniform in level without compression artifacts, or you can dial the effect back for a more natural feel, or even send compression into reverse, pushing the gains away from the desired level, scattering them away from the central point.

Despite being transparent in normal use, it also has its own unique artifacts which can come about when you “abuse” the settings – it can add analog-style “pops” to certain hits, create volume swells leading into certain hits, and even get glitchy and stuttery at extreme settings. However, the default parameter values almost always work transparently, with little need for extensive tweaking.

Surgical Strike

So here’s how Drum Leveler works. Incoming audio levels are shown as a horizontally scrolling graph. There are three horizontal markers on the graph that you can move around – the minimum and maximum “catchment zone”, and the target marker. Drum hits falling in the range defined by the target zone are then pulled towards the target marker’s level. At 100%, you will have perfect hits, lined up like ducks in a row, and without any compression artifacts or hard clipping; but the compression factor can range all the way from 100% to negative 100% – in which case hits in the area are thrown AWAY from the target level, creating an expander effect.

Not only can you home in on the time domain, but also the frequency domain. Two filters at the bottom of the GUI (which can create a band-pass or band-reject response) allow you to focus on, say, a kick drum or snare, and this is made very easy by the ability to listen to the side-chain/filter signal and watch the rolling graphs.

The output from the plugin is also shown atop the graph of the input levels, and hits are coloured orange if they are being made louder, and cyan if they are being attenuated. This not only shows you the operation of the plugin, but shows you the time window for each hit, allowing you to tweak the hold and decay envelope of the amplifier, the re-trigger threshold (which can let ghost notes through without attenuation if they are close to a main hit), and the other parameters, all the while getting clear visual feedback.

Time and frequency are not the only ways to home in on a signal: apart from the default Stereo operation mode, you can switch into Dual Stereo and Mid/Side modes, where you can view and edit each channel separately, targeting or manipulating items in the field, locating and then sculpting or moving them, widening or contracting them, or even panning them dynamically with creative settings.

Beyond all this, no dynamics plugin would be complete without a side-chain mode, allowing you to use the level of one signal to dictate the changes to be made to another. There are also options for shaping the gain in-between triggers, allowing you to accentuate the air and quiet details in a beat, for example. All your pumping, ducking, whooshing and keying effects can be created here with ease, with minimal CPU usage.


I found it a bit confusing at first, but it didn’t take me long to feel I was comfortable in the driving seat. I produced a few audio clips shortly after I got control of the plugin, which I offer here for your consideration. The workflow was one of the biggest pros to me for this plugin. There are just the right amount of controls to do all manner of tasks easily and intuitively, and visual feedback is instant.

Paired before or after a more traditional compressor, you can get a massive amount of control over your percussive material with minimal tweaking. The GUI gives you a lot of information at a glance, without overwhelming you, once you learn to read it, which doesn’t take long.


Drum Leveler is almost perfect at what it does. You may feel you don’t need it, especially if you are better at using a traditional compressor than I am. However, it offers a level of control, convenience and transparency that make it very welcome. If you work with live drummers, it’s a no-brainer. The demo version comes recommended no matter what your rhythmic currency; just give it a bit of your time!

More info: Drum Leveler ($99 $149)
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Sound Radix Drum Leveler Review


Drum Leveler is almost perfect at what it does. If you work with live drummers, it's a no-brainer. The demo version comes recommended no matter what your rhythmic currency; just give it a bit of your time!

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About Author

Sendy has been making music in her bedroom since she was 14 using computers, synthesizers, samplers, and whatever else was at hand. She does not subscribe to any one genre but enjoys energetic, constantly changing rhythms, disorienting synthesizer manipulations, and heroic chiptune melodics.


  1. Drum leveler is a GODSEND!!. Ever recorded a wildy inconsistent drummer? Compressors won’t help… I dont care how good they are or how good you are at using them. Compressors cant fix bad drummers. In the past you would need to sample replace, but with drum leveler you can salvage the original tracks without resorting to samples. Recording a modern metal band with blast beats? No matter how consistent the drummer is he’s not consistent enough for the mechanical perfection demanded by this style which is dominated by sample replacement. Not anymore…you can use drum leveler to get similar results while using the original tracks. This is a game changer for folks who record live drums.

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