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Compact & affordable!

Review: PreSonus Atom SQ - DAW controller, not only for Studio One

Published 8:56 am on Thursday 25th February 2021 by Beat Magazine

DAW Controller

In Song Mode, you have access to the classic mixer functions. You can arm tracks for recording, mute them or listen to them individually. Zooming and navigating in the arrangement can also be done via the controller, as are the transport controls for Play, Record and more. For this purpose, ATOM SQ uses the standardized Mackie protocols and is, therefore, compatible with all common DAWs.

In Studio One, the integration goes a good bit deeper; you can also set markers in the song or scroll through effects there. You also have advanced features in Ableton Live. Tracks are displayed with names, can be stepped through and adjusted in volume via the sliders, and clips and scenes can be started from the controller.

Pad and Keyboard Controller

In Instrument Mode, you use the pads as a keyboard to play drums and instruments. Various scales are available for this purpose. With the eight knobs, you control the parameters of the selected software synthesizer. In this mode, you can also use the integrated arpeggiator with different playback directions and swing option. Playing via the keys basically works well and is quite a useful alternative when there is no real keyboard within reach. However, we sometimes had to struggle with double triggers in the test.

In Studio One, you have direct access to the instruments and can load them via the controller; in Impact, the pads show the assignment with samples in color. In Ableton Live, you also have access to browsers and can load individual devices and edit them via the controllers. Unfortunately, however, this has one major drawback: the assignment is not shown in the display! So, you are flying blind and have to find out by trial and error which parameter is on which knob. This is something we hope will be improved in the course of an update. The same applies to the User Mode, in which you can freely assign DAW commands or MIDI-CC to the knobs to control external hardware in standalone mode. This is very practical, but without displaying the assignment in the form of parameter names, it is a constant mental task.

Step Sequencer in Studio One

For more in-depth editing of recorded sequences and patterns, the Edit Mode opens the appropriate editor in Studio One and provides access to common functions such as Quantization, Velocity, and Note Shifting and Transposing directly from the controller via menu and knobs.

Studio One users also have access to the step sequencer based on the DAW‘s own pattern editor, which you can use to program grooves in classic TR-X0X fashion. The controller lets you select drum kits, change the length of the pattern, select variations, quantize and access all other important functions, so you can create complete beats without reaching for the mouse. We would like to see similar functionality in other DAWs or even in standalone mode.

Verdict

ATOM SQ combines DAW and pad/ keyboard controller in a solid package. It is especially interesting for users of the Studio One DAW, who benefit from uncomplicated installation, deep integration and integrated step sequencer. It is also a compact and affordable alternative to Push for users of Ableton Live, where the small pads impress with a pleasant feel and polyphonic aftertouch.


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