PreSonus Blog

10 Not-Hitting-Drums ATOM Tips

It’s easy to assume ATOM is an MPC-type pad controller, and ignore it if that’s not of interest. But ATOM is tightly integrated with Studio One for navigation, editing, and more, and also works with third-party software—which even applies to third-party software (like virtual instruments) running inside Studio One.

1. The Auxiliary Keyswitch Keyboard

The problem: you have a 4-octave keyboard, but you’re using a program like SampleTank or Kontakt that uses lower-octave keys for keyswitching. The solution: Add ATOM as an auxiliary keyboard for triggering keyswitches (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: IK SampleTank’s lower keys trigger loops (as identified with arrows), while the upper keys play one-shots. You can set up ATOM to play the lower, keyswitched notes, and play the one-shots from your main keyboard.

1. Select the Instrument track and set it to All Inputs, so it receives notes from the main keyboard and from ATOM.

Figure 2: Use Pads 15 and 16 to cover the desired keyboard range for keyswitching.


2. Tap Pad 15 to transpose down an octave (Fig. 2). Each tap transposes down another octave. To keep track of how far down you’ve transposed, Pad 15 is orange at the default octave, tan = -1 octave, purple = -2 octaves, and red = -3 octaves.

3. Tap Pad 16 to transpose up an octave. Each tap transposes up another octave.

Considerate Bonus Feature: ATOM remembers the octave settings for different instrument tracks, even if they’re not instruments bundled with Studio One.

2. “Feel Factor” Changes

Leading or lagging rhythms by only a few milliseconds can make a major difference in the “feel,” the mix, and therefore, the music’s emotional impact (for more about the “feel factor,” please check out this article on my educational site, But how can you do that with Studio One, whose highest resolution goes to 64th notes? It’s easy with ATOM—and frankly, this feature alone justifies ATOM to me. The following works with both note and audio data.

1. In Studio One, turn off snap.

2. Select the notes (or audio Events) whose timing you want to shift.

Figure 3: You can lead or lag events in 1 millisecond increments with ATOM.


3. On ATOM, press and hold Nudge (Fig. 3).

4. Tap the Left button to move the selected notes or Events ahead (lead) by 1 ms, and the Right button to move the selected notes late (lag) by 1 ms (Fig. 4).

Figure 4: The timeline shows seconds. The note outlined in orange has been nudged 5 ms later.

This is huge. Try moving percussion a few milliseconds ahead of the beat to give a more “urgent” feel, or a snare a few milliseconds after the beat for a “bigger” sound.

3. Don’t Panic!

Stuck notes? No problem—see Fig. 5. (Note: the upper left Setup button needs to be off.)

Figure 5: It’s easy to nuke stuck notes with ATOM.

1. Press and hold the Quick Setup button, and select the track with the stuck notes.

2. Tap Pad 4 to send an All Notes Off command.

4. Tap Your Tempo

This is one of my favorite features for songwriting, because it’s a lot easier to tap a tempo (Fig. 6) than tweak it when you have a song idea.

Figure 6: It’s easy to capture a song’s “feel” when songwriting by using tap tempo.

1. Tap the Song Setup button in the upper left.

2. Tap Pad 2 at the desired song tempo; this sets the tempo in the control bar.

3. To fine-tune the tempo, turn Knob 2.

5. The Hands-On Instrument Browser

You can call up instruments and presets quickly with ATOM (Fig. 7).

Figure 7: ATOM plays well with the Browser.

1. Press Setup, and it glows orange.

2. Toggle the Browser show/hide by tapping Pad 13 (Browser).

3. When the Browser is open, use the Up  and Down buttons to go up and down through the list of instruments and presets. Use the Right button to open a preset list, and the Left button to close the list.

4. When you have the preset or instrument you want, press Select. This creates an Instrument track with the currently selected preset, or the instrument itself if no preset is selected.

6. Wicked Fast Exclusive Solo

There are many times—especially when proofing tracks before mixing–that I want to be able to select tracks quickly, and go into exclusive solo mode (i.e., only that track will be soloed—even other tracks that are soloed will be muted). It’s super fast if the Arrange View or Console has the focus (Fig. 8).

Figure 8: Step through tracks quickly, and “exclusive solo” them, with ATOM.

1. Tap Setup, and it glows orange.

2. Use the Up button or Left button to step up through tracks, and the Down or Right button to step down through tracks. (That’s kinda cool that either one Up/Down or Left/Right works, because it’s natural to use Up/Down in the Arrange view, and Left/Right on the Console).

3. Tap Pad 3 to mute the selected track.

4. Tap Pad 4 to solo the selected track, or Alt+Pad 4 for exclusive solo.

7. Control FX Chain Macro Knobs

Figure 9: Want hands-on control over the various FX Chains I’ve presented in these Friday Tips? ATOM can do it.

This is an easy one. Call up an FX Chain. Move the ATOM knob you want to assign to a Macro control. Right click on the Macro control. Assign it to the ATOM knob (Fig. 9).

8. Faking Studio One as a Third-Party Application

ATOM is happiest when playing with Studio One, because of the tight integration. But I still use Cakewalk’s Rapture Pro in a lot of tracks; I sampled a ton of Gibson basses, and made what I think are some really cool instruments with them. Unfortunately, in theory you can’t use ATOM’s aftertouch or knobs as a generic control surface when running in Studio One…but hey, we laugh at theory around here! You can, by faking Studio One into not recognizing ATOM as ATOM.

1. Go to Studio One > Options > External Devices, and remove ATOM.

Figure 10: How to fool ATOM into thinking Studio One is a third-party application.

2. Click Add, and choose New Keyboard (I named it Faux ATOM; see Fig. 10). You don’t need to Send To anything. ATOM’s status light at the top will glow green to indicate ATOM isn’t under Studio One’s control.

3. If your instrument has MIDI learn, assign the four controls or aftertouch however you want, and record as you would any automation from a control surface (Fig. 11).

Figure 11: The screen shot shows the results of recording ATOM’s Macro Knob 3 as a control source for a third-party synthesizer.


Don’t worry, you haven’t lost ATOM. Go Studio One > Options > External Devices, and remove Faux ATOM. Click on Reconnect; Studio One finds ATOM, and lists it as an external device. Another option is to close and re-open Studio One (ATOM gets added automatically).

9. Cool Event Editor Stuff

The documentation seems to imply that you can do cool event editor things only with the Instrument track, but that’s not quite true—you can do plenty with audio tracks as well.

1. Press the Editor button (in the left side, under Event). It doesn’t matter if Song Setup is on, because if it is, hitting Editor turns it off. The Edit view appears.

2. To hide the Edit view, hold Shift and tap Editor.

While in the Editor (or with audio tracks, the Arrange view):

The Left/Right buttons step through either MIDI notes or audio events.
Pad 9 Duplicate and Pad 10 Delete work as expected with notes or audio events.
If you opened Edit view from an Instrument track, then Pad 11 Velocity- and Pad 12 Velocity+ change the selected note’s velocity; Up/Down move the selected note up or down in semitones.
If you opened the Edit view from an audio track, then the Up/Down buttons step up or down through the tracks to select the track of your choice.

10. The More Ways to Undo, the Better

Figure 12: No one will ever know you made that horrible mistake if you undo.

Hold Shift and tap Undo (Fig. 12) to undo your last mistake…because there are never enough ways to undo!

  • B. Landry

    Craig, Different topic – Is there a seamless was to transfer X3 file to Studio One 4.5?

  • GrimeyNeedle

    This isn’t about Impact XT but I can give quite a few so here goes…
    1) Shift 15/16 – to change the sample.
    2) shift 14 – tempo > toggles follow tempo on and off
    3) shift pad 9 – duplicate > copies the last pad then paste it to the next pad touch.
    4) shift 11 > Toggle reverse
    5) shift 12 > Toggle Normalize
    6) shift 1-4 > Trigger (One Shot, Loop, Normal, Toggle)
    7) shift + knobs = 8 total customizable control knobs (including the added ability to control the start/end flags)
    8) Shift 13 > Open/Close Macro controls (That’s 8 more knobs and custom buttons)

    Hell 7&8 combined would give you massive control over synths.

    But that’s just Impact. I could’ve wrote the guidebook on Atom input workflows for the team. Patterns, Midi/Audio Editor, Step Sequencer. They all require their own functions and more… I could go through the areas with solutions if you want. But I’d need assurance that it won’t just fall on deaf ears. Answers forum doesn’t work for me. There aren’t enough people that provide feedback.

  • How would you have it interact with Impact XT? Maybe trigger a sound in a different bank?

  • GrimeyNeedle

    Yeah I tried that day one lol…

  • GrimeyNeedle

    Hoping one day they’ll give us more customizable functions. I’d prefer a lot more than 8 pads. I mean if they’re dead set on just those 8, allow us to shift with the pad giving us 16 functions. Just like the knobs should shift + knob for 4 more. Just these 2 options alone doubles the functionality of the atom instantly

  • Trips

    Definitely save yourself the time! lol. Unless of course you know something I don’t. I mean, Im certain you know a lot that I don’t, but in this case, I’m referring specifically to some Atom functionality I may be missing! haha!

    As for the recommendation on the BLE footswitch.. thanks I appreciate the suggestion. I’ve actually come across that device recently when shopping for a footswitch as a gift for a friend. Interesting device for sure. However, I keep BT, and sometimes even WiFi off when Im working in S1 as I notice I seem to get less occasional cpu spikes on my Mac without those things at play. But again, thanks for the suggestion!

    I just really hope Presonus manages to add some more basic browser functionality to the Atom!

  • The reason you didn’t get a reply is I’m trying to figure out a workaround, but haven’t been able to do so. But since you said it’s not possible, I’ll stop and save myself some time 🙂

    This is a bit off topic, but you might be an ideal candidate for the pok BLE footswitch from x-tempo. It’s 8 footswitches you can map to any keyboard shortcuts. I not only use it for Studio One, but it has an editor where you can create mappings, so I also created one for Microsoft Word 🙂

  • Trips

    Well, now I see why I didn’t receive an answer. LOL.
    Because what I asked is NOT possible, sadly. It’s beyond me how all of these other steps are possible, but something as basic as being able to navigate the entire browser from the Atom is NOT.

    I got as far as figuring out how to map specific custom to controls to the pads. I was able to map the browser tabs “Effects”, “Files”, and “Pool” to pads on the Atom. I was even able to map “Send Sound to New SampleOne” to a pad on the Atom.

    However, while the pads with “Effects”, “Files”, and “Pool” do work to load those tabs, highlighting a sound and selecting “Send Sound to New SampleOne” function from a pad does nothing. Alternatively, doing the same thing and using Up/Down/Left/Right to highlight a sound, and then hitting the “Select” button also does nothing and actually closes the browser entirely.

    I’ve found a user request for this functionality on the Presonus site, and upvoted it. My vote makes three thus far. Sad. I can’t understand how such simple functionality is missing from this device.

  • That would be great. If you, I can reference them in a future Friday Tip!

  • Johnny Geib

    I so agree!!

  • Johnny Geib

    Awesome info. I may have to do a couple videos on these.Great tips.

  • Trips

    Thanks! Definitely some helpful tips here. Im wondering though.. in regards to step 5…

    Can you switch between the browser tabs from Atom?
    Say I access the browser [Setup/Pad13] then want to jump between Instruments, Effects, Loops, Files, etc.. access the “Files” tab, use [Up/Down] to locate and select a sound.

    Then once there, how would I open the context menu to access “Send Sound to New Impact” or “Send Sound to New SampleOne” and so on? (I’ve always right clicked w/ mouse)

    Providing all that’s possible, once said sound is instantiated, I could access the browser again, tab over from “Files” to “Effects” to begin inserting those on the same track.

    I seem to be missing how to access and control the main browser tabs and the options available in sub-menus when normally using a mouse. I would love to be able to do these things from Atom, as the point for me is to minimize using the mouse as much as possible.

    Thanks in advance for the help, and thanks again for the tips above!

  • Jeff Evans

    Thanks so much Craig, you are a gem! This is fantastic. I love ATOM as well. ATOM and Faderport make a pretty compelling combination as well.