ATOM and ATOM SQ have been taking the beatmaking and EDM production worlds by storm lately, and for no small reason. (Even though they don’t take up a lot of valuable desktop real estate.) The ATOMs are bus-powered and suitable for use with many DAWs, including Studio One and Ableton Live. And just like the atoms you remember from physics class: they’re little, but they pack a punch.
Not sure which one to get? Consider your workflow.
ATOM boasts a familiar 4×4 layout of 16 pads that will be familiar to hip-hop producers and beatmakers. With larger pads, it’s more well-suited to live finger drumming and clip launching, and its tight integration with Studio One’s ImpactXT drum instrument gives you an intuitive 1:1 relationship between the tactile instrument at your fingertips and the virtual instrument on your screen. It also costs less than ATOM SQ.
The ATOM SQ’s 2×16 set of 32 pads can be used as a TR-style step sequencer with Studio One’s Pattern feature, and their half-step offset from the first to second rows allows it to double as a MIDI keyboard interface for melodic applications—flats and sharps included! It also features an Arpeggiator, a user-configurable touch-strip, and an easy-to-read LCD screen.
Both ATOM and ATOM SQ feature pressure-sensitive pads, rotary controllers, and session navigation and transport controls for your DAW, meaning you’ll spend more time hands-on with your creation tools (and your groove) than with your mouse and keyboard.
Of course, both include Studio One Artist and Ableton Live Lite, so if you’re thinking of getting started in music production… well, there’s probably never been a better time. And you also get the Studio Magic Suite, which includes over $1,000 US-freakin’-D worth of production software: plug-ins, loops… even lessons!
So… of course we think these controllers are great. What about everyone else?
SoundBytes had this to say about the ATOM:
“A pure joy to use… if you own Studio One, just grab one of these and run.”
Alex Arsov, SoundBytes, May 2019
MusicTech thought highly of the ATOM SQ, and noted:
“The ATOM SQ’s integration with Studio One and Ableton Live is so tight that it makes us wish every company could model itself after PreSonus in this regard.”
Matthew Mann, MusicTech, September 2020
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Luke: I’m a producer / composer and mixing engineer best known for my remixes for Kylie Minogue (a Grammy-nominated Billboard #1), The Killers, Robbie Williams, Bob Marley and Amy Winehouse–to name but a few–I just produced Twenty Five Ten, an album in homage to my late mother.
It has sounds for here and now, rooted in decades of influences and experiences.
Featuring successful collaborations with Kevin Godley (10 CC, Godley & Creme), model Roxy Horner, Nick Tart (Diamond Head), Rachael & James Akin (EMF), Lucy Pullin (The Isle of Man, Robbie Williams), Melanie Taylor, Flora, Phat Hat.
My 18-track album was recorded in various places such as Brisbane (Australia), Tel Aviv, Mallorca, Brussels, Los Angeles, Dublin, Katowice (Poland), and Baton Rouge (USA).
Besides my emotional motivation to get this project done, I really wanted this record to connect genres, eras, and mix generations. Somehow connect the dots between timelines in a unified story, with its joyful and bonkers moments, with its own directions and contradictions, or more simply put: my story.
I have a rock-solid PreSonus eco-system based around a Quantum 2, FaderPort 16, and ATOM, nothing superfluous—they all have a purpose. The FaderPort 16 is giving me the gestures I’m used to when balancing tracks on a console; the vibe is based on even relationships between instruments.
It’s a different experience, and the decisions I’m making helped me to assign a more prominent role to sounds buried in a mix, with fingers on all faders I’m sorta painting a sonic picture based on my impression. With a mouse it’s also achievable, but it’s more cerebral; it’s laser focused, and less expressive.
The ATOM is perfect when I want to jam with drums or synth shots. It’s perfect for fortunate accidents! I come up with ideas I wouldn’t get from a keyboard. In some of my remixes I like to slice vocals that I then drop into impact to create what we call “vox lox” to build new lines, for example that was a centerpiece of my Kim Wilde Kids In America remix. The new chorus idea was all done with Impact XT and the ATOM.
Quantum 2 is just brilliant, it’s been my companion in so many tasks, it’s never let me down. As musical director for a Native American show I’m in charge of, I used this thing on stage in large venues with thousands of people, the sound was amazing and so stable. I also mixed a full season series for a TV network; a short film for Disney; sound mix for HBO; my album and remixes—it’s been so reliable and with a constant, pristine sound. It fits perfectly in my backpack, so I’m super mobile.
I usually work from home, and when necessary I just take my laptop to a commercial studio, plug my Quantum 2 to their system, launch Studio One, and I’m set. I can do the adjustments I feel are needed and go back home.
My album was also mastered that way, I’ve had a reliable listening environment there, and all songs loaded into the project page. The big plus was when I felt that I was doing too much tweak, I could just open the song, fix whatever was needed with one click and go back.
Lately besides my remixes, I’ve been asked to mix a couple of original songs from the ’80s/’90s on which I’ve been given the multi-tracks, such as Fine Young Cannibals, Shakespear’s Sister, or Bananarama to name but a few.
I could really set up Studio One to be ready at all time and nicely organized like a vintage console, and now with Version 5 Professional, I can switch between an SSL or Neve sound in just 2 clicks. That’s fantastic.
What led you to choose Studio One?
Studio One is just another part of me, it never gets in the way. It’s a companion standing in front of me that is always ready for war.
The interface is very clean and soothing in a way, it always feels like some quietness before the storm. It also sounds great, fully-featured and with the Project page, you can virtually do anything within ONE app.
These days as a musician you have to wear so many hats that the last thing you want is distractions and learning curves on different apps. With Studio One I can produce, compose, mix, and master with features located in familiar places.
What Studio One features have proven particularly useful and why?
The drag & drop concept, be it for sounds, presets, instruments, or FX. This thing is a home run. When I feel that I’m not going to be in a productive mood, I spend a lot of time organizing all of the above for future sessions.
How does Studio One compare to other DAWs you have used?
They can be the adult in the room in a world where feature lists to sell new major updates are prioritized over the quality of their achievement.
With backward compatibility, if something is poorly implemented from the start, then you’re stuck with it until the end of days. We all love new features, of course, but it shouldn’t come at that price.
So when I see something not yet available in Studio One, I just tell myself: “If you can’t make music with what Studio One has to offer today, maybe you should just quit.” The kid in me is not a fan of that sentence, but it’s a nice motto to move on.
Which Studio One feature or concept doesn’t get enough spotlight (or isn’t talked about enough) in your opinion?
Without a doubt I’d say macros, they can be really powerful, I remember doing one for a friend of mine, he was new to Studio One, he was looking after a way to slice and map samples easily.
So I came up with one that analyzed the loop, detected transients, sliced at transients and sent them to Sample One XT, it was so good that I’ve added it to a shortcut and ended up using it myself. I’m thinking of sharing it with the community.
Any useful tips/tricks or interesting stories based on your experience with Studio One that would be of interest to our user base?
During the lockdown with friends we’ve had some virtual sessions, we were sending ideas back and forth and it appeared that none of them used MusicLoops, they were saving their ideas or overdubs as songs.
I told them that I have a folder called ideas, so every time I try a new synth or jamming with a virtual instrument, I just drag & drop it to that folder, and it then becomes an asset for my future project. Everything is saved in a single file with an audio version, MIDI, presets, and FX used all in one go.
From time to time, I like to browse that folder to see if there’s anything inspiring or useful.
That’s basically the story of the opening track on my album, I’ve had this nasty groove made with Impact XT floating around for some time, and one day it was the right idea for the mood I was in.
Never lose your ideas, phrases and so on, don’t expect to remember anything two years or two months from now with random or cryptic names… Just drag and drop in a place, where you’ll find your sparkles of ideas at all times!
Any final comments about PreSonus and Studio One?
I always found the name intriguing, now that I see how powerful it’s become over the years, and on its way to become the ultimate DAW, I take it that it was not just a name… it was a plan.
It’s not surprising a lot of Studio One users also have Ableton Live, because they’re quite different. I’ve always felt Studio One is a pro recording studio (with a helluva backline) disguised as software, while Ableton is a live performance instrument disguised as software.
Fortunately, if you like working simultaneously with Live’s loops and scenes and Studio One’s rich feature set, Studio One can host Live as a ReWire client. Even better, ATOM SQ can provide full native integration with Ableton Live when it’s ReWired as a client—once you know how to set up the MIDI ins and outs for both programs.
Now ATOM SQ will act as an integrated controller with Ableton Live while it’s ReWired into Studio One. Cool, eh?
To return control to Studio One, reverse the process—in Live, set Control Surface to None, and toggle the MIDI Ports that relate to ATOM SQ from On to Off. In Studio One’s Options > External Devices, For ATOM SQ, reconnect ATOM SQ to Receive From and Send To.
Note that with ATOM SQ controlling Studio One, the Transport function still controls both Live and Studio One. Also, if Live has the focus, any QWERTY keyboard assignments for triggering Clips and Scenes remain valid. So even while using ATOM SQ in the native mode for Studio One, you can still trigger different Clip and Scenes in Live. If you switch the focus back to Studio One, then any QWERTY keyboard shortcuts will trigger their assigned Studio One shortcuts.
Note: When switching back and forth between Live and Studio One, and enabling/disabling Studio One and Ableton Live modes for ATOM SQ, to return to Live you may need to “refresh” Live’s Preferences settings. Choose None for the Control Surface and then re-select ATOM SQ. Next, turn the various MIDI Port options off and on again.
For those of you who are not familiar with Nikola (Nik) Jeremić’s work on the previous iteration of the Starpoint Gemini videogame soundtrack, you can find out about that here.
This will be a “deep dive” into how Nik used Studio One Professional along with the ATOM and our Studio 1824c interface to route audio and MIDI data to and from external hardware synths… his own words!
The most important thing about ATOM in this production is that it is used both as a playable instrument, as well as editing and mixing controller.
The layout was very simple in terms that it already integrates itself perfectly with Studio One, and I didn’t have to do much with tweaking it.
So far it completely replaced my old Classic FaderPort (which I still own and use it from time to time) in regards to transport commands, writing automation for track levels, panning, and the amount of signal being sent to FX tracks. I will surely upgrade myself with the current FaderPort pretty soon because I have worn out the buttons on the old one from years of usage.
After the transport tab buttons, the ones I used the most are Song Setup, Editor and instrument Show/Hide. It really speeds up my workflow, and it was especially helpful on this game. Since 80% of the game’s soundtrack was done in the box, browsing through instruments and editing their MIDI data was really easy and fast.
One of the things that really amazed me regarding ATOM was the fact that every pad is labeled with the corresponding default control in Studio One Editor. I rarely touched my computer keyboard for editing.
Whenever I wanted to make a quick edit of my parameters in Impact, or any other instrument that matter, I just hit that Show/Hide instrument button, and… voila! Everything is right there at my fingertips! I will talk more about ATOM and Impact XT later.
Studio 1824c Interface
I used FireStudio Project for over eight years, and it has been a solid workhorse of an interface for me throughout my career. It worked flawlessly until I had a power surge at my home, which fried some of my gear, including the interface, so THAT was the only reason I had to replace it.
It actually happened in the middle of my work on Starpoint Gemini 3, so I researched a little and decided to go with Studio 1824c as an upgrade. To be honest, it’s as if I never replaced my old interface, because PreSonus hardware is really great when it comes to communication with Studio One, so the only thing I had to do was to plug it in my PC and install the latest drivers, and that was it. My production of this soundtrack hasn’t stopped at all, because everything was so compatible, so I just had to re-connect a few audio cables. It took me only minutes and I was back on track.
Since 20% of the soundtrack to Starpoint Gemini 3 is done on hardware synths and instruments, Studio 1824C is a Godsend for connecting all four of my hardware synths:
My Yamaha DX7 was connected via splitter cable as a stereo unit to my inputs 5 and 6.
I also used my three analogue KORG synths: (Volca Bass, Volca Keys, Volca Kick) in stereo via another splitter cable which was connected to inputs 1 and 2, because these Volcas were used the most for this soundtrack.
All of the synths received their MIDI data via MIDI In/Out from Studio 1824c, and I am really happy I didn’t have to buy an external MIDI interface for this. The only thing I had to do was to plug and unplug the midi cables from one synth to another, depending which one I was using at that time, but it’s not a mood killer.
My inputs 3 and 4 were set up as mono. Input 3 has an external 1073 clone mic preamp attached to it, and Input 4 has an external DI for recording and re-amping guitars and bass.
Inputs 7&8 together with Outputs 7&8 were used as stereo FX loop send/return for my FX pedal chain with Pipeline Stereo plugin:
I also used sticky tags to label my front panel of Studio 1824C, and I mapped out my ins and outs inside song setup window, so I could save it as a default setting for all of my tracks for this game.
Regarding my FX chain loop, I used delay, chorus and shimmer reverb pedals in series, and I set them up to be used with Pipeline XT stereo plugin (which comes bundled with Studio One Pro) on an FX track. The reason I opted for this approach instead of connecting my synth output directly to pedals, is because I wanted to have an overall control of the amount of synth signal I am sending to any FX chain. Sometimes I wanted to automate the amount of signal being sent, and that is where those mapped knobs from ATOM came in handy.
I am pretty amazed by the build quality of Studio 1824c, having in mind the price of the unit. I absolutely love the front panel metering and big level knob for main out. Having two headphone outputs is really handy when I invite a session musician to record, because I don’t have a booth, then we both use headphones in the same room. Studio 1824c is a workhorse of an interface and it has improved my workflow ten times better than before.
I amhave yet to build my own Eurorack modular synth, so I can send CV signals via Studio 1824c outs to my synth. That is an AMAZING feature, and I am really looking forward to using it in the future.
Impact XT was an essential part of my beats and percussive materials for both action and exploration tracks, and the way ATOM integrates with Impact XT has been really helpful to my workflow throughout the course of this entire soundtrack.
One was for triggering 80s synth drums and transition fills that you can hear in synthwave all the time. The first bank (BLUE) was for elements of the drum kit, and the second bank (GREEN) was for triggering drum fills for transitions between parts.
I love the fact I can trigger loops and audio clips inside Impact XT and sync them to the BPM of my track. All you have to do is to quantize each trigger pad to Follow Tempo and Beats, and no matter what tempo you’re in, it will work flawlessly.
One more thing I like about Impact XT and ATOM is that all the pads can be color-coded the way you like for each bank, because it really helps during the performance to know which pad corresponds to which sound or loop. The bank button on the ATOM itself responds to the bank color of Impact XT, which is really cool.
My second instance of Impact XT was for deep ambient hits and various atonal noises and synth FX for background. I mean, you can’t have a space exploration soundtrack without some weird alien sounds in the background, right?😊
I love the option of multiple stereo and mono outputs in Impact, so that was really helpful for me to have different FX chains for various drum sounds.
SampleOne XT is featuring my main piano sounds for the entire Starpoint Gemini 3 soundtrack. I haven’t recorded actual piano samples, instead I re-sampled a piano VST I am using most of the time for my work. The thing is that this sampled piano uses up a lot of RAM and CPU, so I couldn’t use it in real-time with my other instruments inside my template, because the piano was processed with a lot of plugins, and then it was introducing latency after I had to increase the buffer size.
In order to use the sounds that I wanted, I re-sampled this piano in two octaves note by note with the processing included. It was more convenient for me, and it saved me a lot of loading time of the template itself.
SampleOne XT proved to be a great choice because it’s really user-friendly and convenient.
First, I had to edit and cut all of the individual notes and label them. That is the only tedious work I had to do here.
Basically what I did was to place all of the samples on the grid, select the audio input inside Sample One XT, choose the starting note and Play, Stop, and Record buttons in order to tell the engine to separate notes. After that, I only renamed the files, and that was it.
After that was done, I was able to play my piano instantly. I saved the patch as a preset, so I could recall it any time.
It doesn’t get any simpler than that, and this is the reason I love Studio One.
As I said, ATOM and Impact XT are all over my percussive tracks and beats on this soundtrack, but I also used another drum VST plug-in here in order to make things sound a little bit organic, and I used my 80s synth drum kit as a layer on top of those organic drum parts. Call it some sort of a kick and snare drum sample trigger like you have in metal production.
The option that really inspired me and got my creative juices flowing is the pattern editor in Studio One 4.6.
The way I sequenced my drums and percussion was to play them in at first, and get the most humanization out of them based on velocity, sample offset etc… But then I took those performances and improved them inside Pattern Editor, changed a hit here and there, modify the rhythm, etc…
Basically, I had a drum performance on a midi piano roll with all the notes labeled properly, and then I right-clicked on the midi clip to select the option to convert it to drum pattern for editing.
I could easily replace notes, create new performances, shift the beats and add some swing to them in order to make them sound more natural. The option for half-lane resolution is a really cool feature to add triplets and some odd hits, but it allows me to follow the pattern with precision. This is just one example of a pre-chorus pattern inside the action track, and you can clearly see the name of all the notes properly, and I love the way it integrates properly with third party drum VSTs.
It really is a beatmaking workhorse for electronic music. I have yet to test in on cinematic percussion with big drums and more elements.
MIDI FX in Studio One (the arpeggiator especially) can come in handy if you don’t like the fuss of setting up some complex sequences.
I used arpeggiator mostly on action cues where I wanted to create running sequences in order to have that sense of tension going on during combat. It was mostly set up in 8th or 16th notes, and then I played wide chords on percussive synths in order to get them running and the results were stunning! The arpeggiator is really easy to use, and it was my go-to MIDI effect on this soundtrack.
Repeater is a whole different beast, and this one is for people who actually like working with complex sequences of scales and melodies. I used Repeater also mostly on action cues for the same reason as the Arpeggiator, but I programmed it to play some aggressive melodies that would counter the chords of the Arpeggiator. I actually have a hardware analogue sequencer, but this was easier and faster to use.
The real fun starts when you place a Chorder in front of Repeater!
What I did with Chorder was to make it play intervals like fifths or octaves, and then sequence those with either Repeater or Arpeggiator.
The results I got were some really complex action sequences which made the game developers smile from ear to ear! I highly recommend trying this approach.
SURPRISE! For a short time, the following ATOM-enhanced loops are 50% off. This offer ends March 22!
You can save 50% on any of the following:
And while saving a few bucks on loops is always nice, let’s take a look at some ATOM developments for a minute. Now that the product has been out for a while, users have been discovering the instrument’s full potential. Combine the tips below with some of the loops above and add some new beats AND new techniques to your production workflow.
Want to become a finger-drumming master? If you bought your ATOM after October 20, 2019, you get free lessons from Melodics! Go to your MyPreSonus account to redeem them!
This Craig Anderton blog features a lot of tricks you can do with ATOM that have nothing to do with drums. Yeah, you read that right. Good ol’ Craig, always thinking outside the box.
Here’s our very own ATOM with Ableton Live playlist:
And our Studio One ATOM playlist:
This just in from Craftmaster Productions—a good look at the PreSonus ATOM workflow using SampleOne XT in Studio One.
CMP has been producing excellent Studio One content for years. Head on over to YouTube and give him a Subscribe for more!