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Slate Trigger Drum Replacement Plugin Review

Brandon Drury —  November 13, 2012 — Leave a comment

Steven-Slate-Trigger

The Global Implications Of Trigger

Most of us are chasing the dragon in a quest to find THE sound.  My life has been consumed by it.  Every last cent I own seems to have been pumped into expensive mics, preamps, compressors, consoles, converters, etc.  After all that stuff is relatively ineffective for the most parts a person gets serious about acoustics.  Better sounding rooms and more trustworthy monitoring system are always beneficial, but these mostly remind us that it’s the humans that truly make a recording.

Since I’ve got pretty much every link of my chain in high end land, it won’t be long until I have my super studio.  It’s the next logical step.  There’s only one problem.

Comparison Shop For Slate Trigger

Why do I need a room with 28′ ceilings?  What will the costs of construction, electricity, etc bring me that I can’t get by utilizing a modern tool like Trigger?  I’m recording drums in a 10′x15′x9′ room which I’ve made entirely dead (in a very methodical way).  The room doesn’t sound bad because the room doesn’t seem to be much of a factor anymore.  By utilizing Trigger on kick, snare, and toms and a good pair of overheads, I can’t imagine how my recordings (of drums, at least) are going to improve.  A combination of me, Slate Trigger, and a band with a decent drummer and a better song ends up with drums that I don’t feel I’d top with me at the helm at $1,000,000 studio.

A couple of broke college kids with $2 yard sale mics on kick, snare, and toms, Trigger, and a couple condenser overheads (the ADK Thor / Odin is the best bang-for-buck in recording land) the only thing that separates the men from the boys is the ability to make mega music and to mix it.  Drumagog 5 was really, really good.  Trigger moves us into a new world where there is no clear “home recording drum sound” verse pro drum sound.  It does it and still lets the creative/artsy drummer to do intricate “stuff” without compromise.  A power drummer has the edrum option with Superior Drummer 2.0 or Slate SSD4.  Trigger opens up these same kinds of sounds, realism, and flexibility to the real drummer doing his thing on a real kit.

You do hear the “No Samples” argument from those inclined to leave nature alone.  I admit that I can at least respect this point of view if it’s leading to music that is doing something for me.  On the other hand, I hear a whole lot of ideology and even more shitty sounding mixes that remind me a bit of those who reject modern science and medicine and their kids die from measles.  I feel that Slate Trigger combines a tremendously effective tool with the variety and quality of drum samples to convert quite of few of those over with maybe more ideology than musical impact.  I hope so.;)

Lastly, I’m a believer that people commit crimes, not tools.  Those concerned with the rabid onslaught of rigid conformity absolutely CAN NOT blame Trigger and the concepts of samples.  A person with any sense of self and the slightest ability in audio engineering is blessed with a tool that makes them insanely MORE creative and gives infinite opportunity for expansion into new sounds if a person put 3 seconds of effort into such venture.  Try it, get creative, and you’ll see.

Speech Over – Review Begins

There are only three things that really matter with a sample replacement/layering tool.

- It needs to be reliable.
- The process can’t take a year (and preferably a millisecond).
- The sounds we trigger need to get us where we are going.

Reliabilty

Up to about a month ago, Slate Trigger had been 100% reliable for me for the 8 months I had owned it.  No previous issues.  I started to get a warning saying  I need to buy it and will simply not run.  This blows during a paying client’s mixing gig.  It blows a lot!   This is a tricky situation.  It appears my ilok 2 (a USB piece of nonsense I purchased specifically to use Slate VCC…Trigger will run on an original iLok) was having problems.

In the past I cussed the Llok.  I now fully accept the ilok has a flawed piece of technology and I think we can all agree on it.  No mechanical engineer on Earth is going to ever recommend adding an additional link to the chain as this always decreases reliability.  Those who travel to 50 studios a year get the travel benefits of iLok.  Those of us anchored to our single studio have another potential point of failure to deal with.

There’s no doubt about it.  iLok makes Trigger less reliable than it should be.  There is no non-iLok drum triggering  substitute that rivals it that I’ve found thus far.  I don’t love the Slate decision to go with iLok.  The iLok unreliability made me look stupid in the middle of sessions (a trait I I need no help in ;)).  It’s cost me hours of work at a time.  I missed a mixing deadline by a week when the iLok2 bit the bucket.  That venture only cost me $20 for the forced-shipping of the replacement iLok2.

The strange thing is, I no longer feel I have the option to just not use Slate Trigger.  It’s a part of who I am as an engineer.  I’m skeptical of all tools and like to test and see if I REALLLLY need Trigger. The truth is Trigger always ends up being possibly the greatest valued tool I have in my arsenal.  If it I have to buy 20 piece of shit iLok2s, I guess it’s worth it although it is a dark side to an otherwise impeccable tool.

It could be that my iLok2 failing was a fluke and others may go years with no trouble.

Triggering

Slate Trigger is the fastest tool I’ve used for triggering samples.  I really liked Drumagog 5.  Then I got Slate Trigger.  ‘nuf said.

Sometimes I work with great drummers that balance their kits well.  In these cases, the sample is just there as an alternative to EQ, a different flavor,  or maybe a bleedless track which we can crush to death.   The process requires tossing Slate Trigger onto an insert of the snare track, selecting whatever sample we want, and…..well there is no “and”.  That’s it.  It takes about 10 seconds with a great drummer.  The stock settings almost always work.  If not, two knobs usually take care of it.  That will add 2 more seconds to the process.

Often I’m dealing with younger, not-so-great drummers.  They always get better after they learn what is expected from them, but the first session is often rough.  In the past, sample layering with these kinds of tracks was difficult and mind numbing.  Now with Trigger, a 5 minute song takes 10-15 minutes max.  I’m talking to fully nail the song on a level that the drummer won’t notice the samples are at work in the finished mix.  No double triggering.  Natural dynamics.  Natural rolls. The works.

In my world, time is THE thing.  A tool that saves it is absolutely indispensable.  Well done, Slate.

The Sounds

I’m not sure I need to sell you on the sounds.  The Steven Slate Drum Samples as found in previous Slate products and the current SSD4 are pretty much legendary in our home recording world.  It’s full-blown A-list stuff.  Now whether you are into Cindy Crawford, Jenny McCarthy, or the waitress down the street is your business.  (I apologize for even mentioning such estrogen dinosaurs.)  Tastes vary so use your own ears.  Don’t be afraid to have an opinion and don’t forget to be slightly humble about it, jerk weeds.  ;)

The included room mic options are pretty damn fun.  The ability to trigger JUST ambiance is a HUGE deal for us wimps recording in dead rooms.  (I was doing this trick with the Slate Black Album Metallica snare and a LOT of compression before I had Trigger.)

There’s one sound that I do miss.  It’s the sound of drums in a big room but maybe 5-8’ away.  High overheads would do it.  This kinda-close, kinda-not sound is what I would stupidly call a “realism” track.  I’m essentially talking about the overheads in Superior Drummer 2.0.  If I had a Slate version of THAT, I’d be in heaven.  :beerbangX:  Hold that thought….

So I took 4 minutes, rendered down a few of the solo’d overheads in Superior Drummer 2.0 to wav and imported them into the Instrument Editor (available for free download from Slate), I was impressed.  Very impressed!  It took seconds to convert my samples to Trigger ready files.

I don’t expect any such plugin to be all things to all people.  By giving me the option to blend in those quirky tastes  shows  maturity in the Slate camp.  By providing the Instrument Editor, they HAVE delivered all things to all people who are willing to render down their samples from other sources.  I tip my hat.  Now I can blend in that more-stereo, slightly distant overheads with the tighter, dryer sounds in Trigger.  This has been especially helpful with clients who are scared of sample layering and want to sound “real”.  Slate delivered and did so with phase coherence.

MIDI Out

The MIDI Out is also well implemented.  I had it setup in seconds with Battery 3.  I had a rock song I wanted claps in.  Not Queen claps.  More like Deadmau5 claps.  No problem, I fired up Battery 3 and did my thing.

If Slate would have forced me to use Slate samples, I would feel a little restricted.  That sort of thing makes me uncomfortable.  Knowing I have other options in the rare event I don’t find exactly what I want out of Slate is very comforting.

Blending Samples

The ability to blend in a bunch of different junk is hyper fun and the kind of thing that always seems to separate the Slate stuff from the others.  Blending in the AC (air conditioner) snare with the black (African American) snare is very fun.    (The air conditioner snare sounds a lot like AC/DC and the African American snare sounds a lot like Metallica’s Black Album snare.)

You can come up with some truly creative,  new sounds by  blending together multiple samples.  It’s a blast for those so inclined.

Slate Stuff In General

There’s a certain “real guy” in “real studio” recording “real music” who wishes he had X thing to this Slate stuff. (Except for that Iphone holder on the console.  I have no use for THAT.)    :p I’m positive I’m a real guy (not sure about the other parts) so getting well-thought out new features is always a blast.  You’ll see.

Learning Curve

You can hop into Slate Trigger, read the For-Best-Results paragraph in the manual and get something useful results in the first minute or so.

Conclusion

If you are into the kind of music that screams for sample layering (pretty much anything on the radio) just get Slate Trigger.  If you don’t do that kind of music, try Trigger anyway.

The iLok is a pain in the ass.  If you often think, you probably have  ideological i qualms with  the iLok.  Some of you will have similar reservations to the very concept of sample layering.  I think most of you will come out with ideological disdain for EQ, compression, and whatever else you used to do.  :eek:  We’ll see, said the blind man.

10 out of 10.  Grand slam product!

Brandon

Saved Comments


warlordpriest – 11-06-2012, 08:55 AM
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Thanks again Brandon for this info. The quality I know about. Pretty much unmatched. But “easy to use” seals the deal for me.

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paintballnsk – 11-06-2012, 09:52 AM
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So would you consider this a leap ahead of using Cubase’s built in hit point detection and editing? I used DrumTracker for a long time, and it was time consuming. Cubase 6.5′s new stuff is much faster and much more accurate with its detection. Plus having it built into the DAW seems fairly convenient.

What no sampler has been able to do yet, is give a simple users description on using their sampler with your own samples. BFD2 does it, supposedly Kontakt does it. But it’s a bit of a pain in the butt.

I want a drum triggering program that will very intuitiely say “load samples snare_1 to snare_x” where 1 is a lite rattle and x is a full blown slam. then let the trigger slightly vary and humanize those samples, even if I’m using my intensity detection in cubase. I think BFD2 can do that. But I don’t know what else can. I also want a sampler light enough that I can run many many instances without any issues.

Plus I’m interested in seeing what SSD Trigger can do, because I’m still on 3.5 and haven’t felt the need to upgrade yet, though Kontakt kind of sucks.

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willj – 11-06-2012, 10:01 AM
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Quote Originally Posted by paintballnsk View Post
So would you consider this a leap ahead of using Cubase’s built in hit point detection and editing? I used DrumTracker for a long time, and it was time consuming. Cubase 6.5′s new stuff is much faster and much more accurate with its detection. Plus having it built into the DAW seems fairly convenient.

What no sampler has been able to do yet, is give a simple users description on using their sampler with your own samples. BFD2 does it, supposedly Kontakt does it. But it’s a bit of a pain in the butt.

I want a drum triggering program that will very intuitiely say “load samples snare_1 to snare_x” where 1 is a lite rattle and x is a full blown slam. then let the trigger slightly vary and humanize those samples, even if I’m using my intensity detection in cubase. I think BFD2 can do that. But I don’t know what else can. I also want a sampler light enough that I can run many many instances without any issues.

Plus I’m interested in seeing what SSD Trigger can do, because I’m still on 3.5 and haven’t felt the need to upgrade yet, though Kontakt kind of sucks.
Not 100% sure what youre doing so forgive if this reply is a bit offf the mark.

This plugin (and im assuming it operates pretty much like drumagog) you just put it on a trck and choose your sample. Thats it no editing needed. Uless the engineering or playing is pretty sloppy. Youve been at this long enough to not have a problem like that.

I want a drum triggering program that will very intuitiely say “load samples snare_1 to snare_x” where 1 is a lite rattle and x is a full blown slam. then let the trigger slightly vary and humanize those samples, even if I’m using my intensity detection in cubase. I think BFD2 can do that. But I don’t know what else can. I also want a sampler light enough that I can run many many instances without any issues.
Drumagog absolutely does this. I would think the slate plug has a similar setup.

brandondrury’s Avatar
brandondrury – 11-06-2012, 11:01 AM
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So would you consider this a leap ahead of using Cubase’s built in hit point detection and editing? I used DrumTracker for a long time, and it was time consuming. Cubase 6.5′s new stuff is much faster and much more accurate with its detection. Plus having it built into the DAW seems fairly convenient.
I didn’t buy Cubase 6.5 so I can’t comment on its features. I’ve played just a bit with Cubase 6.0′s transient detection, but not enough to “get it”. I’ve found most of those new features that pushed into Cubase (like the Melodyne style pitch correction and such) to be rather clunky and it’s clear the work didnt’ go into the user interface like it did on the rest of the program. Maybe I’m expecting too much.

I do know that Slate Trigger is a 2 minute read and 1 minute of practice and you are done. You officially get it and any playing that doesn’t work in this application needs to be chopped up a bit. That usually takes seconds.

It’s my understanding that Cubase will output MIDI from its hit detection. That means we toss phase coherence out the door. A huge issue? Probably not, but I definitely prefer it when I don’t hear the drum phasing with the overheads or snare top microphone track randomly.

What no sampler has been able to do yet, is give a simple users description on using their sampler with your own samples. BFD2 does it, supposedly Kontakt does it. But it’s a bit of a pain in the butt.
Slate Trigger doesn’t nail the descriptions. They don’t even try, unfortunately. Of course, this is only useful when you are brand new to Trigger. It does take some tinkering to get a feel for the samples that are going to be useful and when. I probably only really use 4 or 5. I may be missing out.

The Tag System by Native Instruments (used perfectly in Massive and Absynth) would be incredible in this case.

I want a drum triggering program that will very intuitiely say “load samples snare_1 to snare_x” where 1 is a lite rattle and x is a full blown slam. then let the trigger slightly vary and humanize those samples,
The velocity and dynamics curves are independent for each sample you load which makes this totally possible.

Brandon

 

Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of RecordingReview.com and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.
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