Slate Digital Trigger Review
Product: Slate Digital Trigger
Price: $99 (EX Version), $199 (Platinum Version)
Company: Slate Digital
Steven Slate’s Slate Digital brand has become renowned in recent years for the incredible sonic qualities their products bring to audio mixes. Their first ever release was Trigger, a drum replacement plugin that has garnered massive amounts of praise since its inception a few years back. Having used Steven Slate Drums and RC-Tube in some of my mixes to great effect, and having been frustrated in the past by competitors’ drum replacement offerings, I was excited to discover what Slate Digital’s offering brought to the table.
So how does Trigger work? Well, you open up an instance of the plugin on a drum track, such as a snare, toms or a kick drum. The raw audio is fed through Trigger, and it outputs either a 100% replaced or blended signal comprised of the included (amazing) drum samples. The Platinum version (reviewed) comes with more than 30 kicks, 45 snares and 8 sets of tom samples. Each drum sample set has up to 127 different articulations, up to 127 velocity layers, and up to 127 alternating hits to provide an incredibly punchy yet natural sound. Every instance of Trigger can utilize up to six samples, which can be comprised solely of close mic samples (which can be mixed and matched for unique sounds) or include stereo overhead and room mics. Every sample has customizable settings such as sustain, attack, and release, as well as velocity and dynamic control.
If for some reason you can’t find the drum sound you’re looking for in Trigger, the plugin can import WAV/ AIFF audio files as well as output MIDI data to other plugins. Using the Slate samples is highly recommended, however, due to the fact that all of these samples are phase-accurate to prevent frequency cancellation issues when layering samples.
The Trigger GUI is clean and user-friendly. Trigger itself is pretty easy to use, but you’ll probably need to play around with the settings a bit on complex fills or multitracks with an overly dynamic drummer (it also depends on how well the kit was recorded). That said, Trigger is easily the most versatile and simple drum replacement software I’ve used, especially compared to Wavemachine Labs’ Drumagog which I had used a bit previously. That program produced constant misfires and flamming, and didn’t have half of the customization options available here. If you are using Trigger with well-recorded tracks, it should work splendidly with hardly any knob-tweaking.
When you open up Trigger, you’ll see the waveform of the incoming audio signal shown in the plugin. It’s best to set the input gain so that the hardest hits are filling the screen to prevent misfires while retaining the maximum dynamic range. Trigger tells you what hits are triggering samples by marking them with an orange flag, and a red marking shows the overall retrigger inhibit time, which is controlled via the Retrigger knob to avoid flamming. The Detail knob allows you to set a line below which no hits will be triggered. There’s also a Sensitivity control knob to play with for total control over what hits are and aren’t detected. Users can set a high-pass filter, as well as adjust the wet/ dry mix for the samples.
There’s even a Leakage Suppression mode, which can be utilized for those frustrating times that a loud snare crack triggers a tom hit because of mic bleed. Leakage Suppression works remarkably well, and it’s relatively simple to set up. Users send the drum that they’re trying to trigger (for instance a snare) to Trigger’s left input, and the troublemaking instruments that are causing mayhem (hi-hat, toms) into the right input. The plugin will read what’s going on in both tracks and will essentially ignore the offending instruments when they are played in the triggered track, greatly reducing mis-triggers. In practice, it works incredibly well and can save a lot of time that might otherwise be spent tweaking knobs and punching in during especially chaotic drum parts. There’s also two tracking modes, Live and Accurate, which are pretty self-explanatory – one is good for playing live or monitoring in the studio, with a latency of roughly 2 ms, and Accurate is for mixing, with greater detail and a longer latency of roughly 11 ms. Combined with Leakage Suppression, Accurate mode can pick up even the softest ghost notes during complex fills with incredible accuracy.
Overall, Slate Digital’s Trigger is an easy-to-use, amazingly accurate drum replacement software that every audio engineer should have in their studio. It will undoubtedly save you a ton of time that would otherwise be spent fixing mis-triggers, and the included drum sample library is second to none. The innovative Leakage Suppression mode and razor-sharp triggering ensure that the life of a performance is preserved while adding clarity and punchiness to a drum mix. If you don’t already own Trigger, buy it now and thank us later.