Slate Digital Trigger Drum-Replacement Plug-In Review

Jan 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Kevin Becka



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All of Trigger’s operations are performed on one screen.

All of Trigger’s operations are performed on one screen.

Trigger by Slate Digital is a cross-platform (Mac/PC) drum-replacement plug-in supporting VST, RTAS and AU formats. It offers dual operating modes: Live for near-zero latency, real-time performance triggering; and Accurate for studio use, which offers 11 ms of sample latency.

Trigger comes with the Steven Slate Drums library, which includes 29 kicks, 44 snares and 26 toms that are each broken down further into layers by subsets labeled Z, NRG and SSDR, resulting in a dizzying number of available choices. For example, within each drum, subsets Z1, Z2 and Z3, respectively, have some overheads mixed in, a slightly compressed attack and enhanced decay, and are straight, close-miked samples. The NRG samples were recorded at NRG Studios’ A Room in North Hollywood using unprocessed stereo room mics, and the SSDR samples are ambient stereo options that were recorded in a concrete warehouse and processed with EQ, compression and other effects. Trigger also includes a Deluxe set with a Black Beauty snare, DW kicks (hard beater and soft beater) and a Heuer Crank snare. All samples were recorded directly to 2-inch tape through premium mics, preamps and processors, and they sound like it—they are excellent.

Getting comfortable with Trigger is an easy matter, with its one-stop GUI being its greatest asset. All operational tasks are performed within one window; there are no tabs and there is no need to leave the interface. This was a great time-saver, allowing me to load, audition, mix and adjust my samples quickly. Each instance of Trigger will hold six unique samples. Simply click on one of the six Empty buttons, and browse to the drum of your choice.

Each sample has its own mixer, with volume, panning, solo, mute and polarity controls; ASR (attack/sustain/release) controls; tuning (±100 cents); and dynamics and velocity curve controls. Dynamic curve settings let you set how far the sample’s loudness will vary when triggered. This is great if you have an inconsistent drummer and you want the kick or snare hits to sound more even. The Velocity control sets the linearity of the sample, where you can make a soft trigger’s sample louder and vice versa, or keep it linear. The user’s manual has some handy starting points for these values should you get stuck. Once you have a group of samples you like, you can save them as a preset for later re-use or recall. The drum library comes loaded with some presets if you want to grab and go, but I had more fun making my own.

Trigger’s main display shows the waveform, main mix control (0 to 100 percent), highpass filter and Suppression amount (more on that later). You can also audition selected samples or the output of all samples by clicking respectively in the display’s left or right quadrant. I used this feature over and over; it’s a valuable way to quickly get an idea of which of my mix elements needed tweaking. The main window also toggles to a Settings window to set the Detection mode (live or accurate); MIDI options (in/out, on/off, note selection); Articulation controls (more on those later); and the Browser Preset Path.

Below the main display you can set the incoming trigger’s volume and the plug-in’s master output level. Other essential controls include Sensitivity, which sets the engine’s responsiveness to low-level input—aka noise and leakage; Retrigger, which sets a “dead zone” after a trigger input to keep the engine from flamming a sample; and Detail, which is the gate that allows the incoming trigger into the engine for re-sampling.

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