Presonus ATOM for Finger Drumming

Better read the manual before buying the Presonus ATOM

When the Presonus ATOM was announced a few months ago I was super-thrilled as it seemed to become a good alternative to the AKAI MPD218, the pad controller I deeply love and which I use for finger drumming most of the time.

The issue is: I didn’t read the Presonus ATOM manual before I bought two of them. Why two? Because my intention was to use it with the “xtreme” finger drumming techniques which I teach in the Core Program. If only I had read the manual before purchasing, I would have understood that Presonus did not want to make it a generic pad controller which would be useful outside of their in-house DAW “Studio One”.

Presonus ATOM

Presonus ATOM

I couldn’t believe that in 2018 a pad controller manufacturer would launch a product that has a hard-wired pad layout. This means that the MIDI notes the device is able to transmit to the DAW cannot be changed! I really don’t get it. Simply speaking, there are 8 pad assignment banks and each just reflects a chromatic scale starting at a different root note.

Impossible to create custom MIDI mappings for the pads

I’m not sure what group of people Presonus is targeting with the ATOM pad controller, but for me as a finger drummer using the XpressPads technique this device is next to useless. No matter how beautiful it looks, no matter how sensitive the pads are. If I can’t create custom pad mappings, the ATOM can’t compete with any other pad controller I own… and I own them all.

In a nutshell, the Presonus ATOM is a huge disappointment for me, ONLY because of the fixed pad mappings. Again, I’m writing this from a finger drummer’s perspective. Not giving finger drummers the chance to create custom mappings is more than a conceptual error: It’s embarrassing.

Presonus ATOM alternatives

I don’t care what the Presonus ATOM can do when connected to its mother ship Studio One. I don’t care how well (or not) it integrates with Studio One. I use Ableton Live, Cubase Pro and FL-Studio. In the next five years I certainly won’t switch to Studio One, so there’s no good reason for me to keep the two Presonus ATOM pad controllers I’ve bought. I’ll return them immediately. I have 10+ midi controllers at my disposal (direct competitors being: AKAI MPD218, Korg PadKONTROL, IK Multimedia iRig Pads, Keith McMillen Quneo) and on all of them I can change pad assignments.

Shall Presonus ever re-think their MIDI concept for the ATOM and release a firmware update that allows pad mappings to be changed, please let me know. Because then I’ll test the device in depth and re-write this article. For the time being I stick to my key message: For me as a finger drummer this pad controller is a huge disappointment.

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