M-Audio is one of the most well known brands in the music industry. I am sure that everyone of us has had at least one of their products in their studio, (some possibly under their old brand name, Midiman, founded in 1988). Since then, the music industry and the needs of modern musicians have both changed, and in 2006, M-Audio released the Pad controller Trigger Finger as a competitor to the highly successful AKAI MPD series. Now nine years later, the Pad controller market has become highly competitive, and in these times of Ableton Push, the Novation Launchpad, and the Akai APC 40, M-Audio introduces a new revised version of the Trigger Finger, the Trigger Finger Pro.
- 16 RGB velocity- and pressure-sensitive pads, each with 4 banks for 64 pads
- 12 assignable controls for interfacing with virtual instruments, plugins, and DAWs
- Onboard 64-step sequencer for quickly building grooves and melodies
- Large display for easy programming, sequencing, and performing
- USB-MIDI connectivity with 5-pin MIDI output
- Step sequencer is also standalone and can sequence external hardware over a MIDI connection
- Mackie Control and HUI for further DAW integration
- USB-powered and class-compliant; no power adapter or drivers required
- Slimline design and detachable 3-position metal stand for maximum portability
- Road-ready chassis with a brushed aluminium faceplate
- M-Audio Arsenal software (download) with preset library and automapping templates – runs standalone or as a plugin
- Production software package included: M-Audio Arsenal, AIR Drums, Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Tech, Toolroom artist launch packs, and Prime Loops expansion pack (downloads)
- Price tag: 149 Euro
- Macintosh: Core Duo or faster, 2GB RAM, Mac OSX 10.7.5 or higher
- Windows: Core Duo or faster, 2GB RAM, Windows 7 or higher
Available USB Port
- Storage: Software install: 500MB; Arsenal patches: 1GB per 1000 patches; Sound content: 8GB
My first impression after unpacking is that the Trigger Finger Pro looks and feels very good in one’s hand. The surface is brushed aluminium, while the rest of the body is matte black plastic. It still looks very “noble” and compact. There is also a mountable stand to support the Trigger Finger Pro and provide very good looking perspective to the display. The stand can be mounted at the top of the Trigger Finger Pro for a better display angle, or at the bottom for a better playing/tapping feel, which is good idea I had never seen before. The dimensions of the Trigger Finger Pro are nearly the same as the Ableton Push, and it fits comfortably on my IKEA Bräda custom stand.
Installing the software
Before starting to work with Trigger Finger Pro, you will need to install the Trigger Finger Pro driver. The latest version is 1.0.8 from 11-12-2014. This looks a bit weird to me – software for a modern controller that hasn’t been updated for nearly a year? I personally get wary when I see such things, but if the software and driver works well (which it does in this case), then there’s no issue.
With the installation, you get the Trigger Finger Pro driver and the Trigger Finger Pro software, which contains Arsenal, AirDrums (with three expansion kits), and Hybrid. After having installed all the software, you can switch on Trigger Finger Pro. It is USB Bus-Powered, so there is no extra power cable needed.
Trigger Finger Pro Surface
The surface of Trigger Finger Pro is clearly structured. There is a large display on the top where you get all the information you need. Below it you will find the 16 Pads (4*4) on the right side, and four faders with four endless rotatry encoders and buttons on the left. Further down, you will find the DAW control and the operation mode switches – Pad, Sequencer, and Controller. At the very bottom is the 16 step sequencer.
The Pads are velocity and pressure sensitive, and can be used to trigger samples or launch sequences. The pads feel very good and react very well. Velocity sensitivity and curves can be set via several presets. Like on an MPC, the pads are also organized in banks so that, in the end, there are 64 triggers available. The Pad Bank button to the left of the pads steps through the banks and always leaves you knowing exactly where you are.
The sequencer is as essential as the pads in the Trigger Finger Pro. The sequencer can be used in several ways: you can load pre-prepared sequences or create your own via the step switches.
The most exciting feature of the sequencer is the fact that it doesn’t need to be connected on a computer. The created sequences themselves are stored on the hardware – not in the software. This is great for use as an external synthesiser hardware or drum machine.
The Software – Arsenal
Arsenal is the brain and heart of Trigger Finger Pro and will help unleash its full potential. The additional delivered sampler Air Drums and softsynth AIR Hybrid 3 are included here as well. As a nice additional feature, both virtual instruments are also available as VST plugins. An interesting aspect here is that the Trigger Finger Pro (hardware) can run without Arsenal and vice versa. Arsenal delivers a whole bunch of pre-configured mappings for lots of other software (Native Instruments, Arturia, FX Pansion, D16, Audiorealism, and so on). Arsenal showcases a really great browser with an intense search function, making it easy to find a sound within seconds. The sounds can be transferred (after having manipulated them in the software) with one single click to the hardware, where you then can use it again in standalone mode – perfect!
Trigger Finger Pro comes with an additional 8GB library of sound samples that are very useful and sound great. It includes drums, bass, synth, percussion, and tons of other sounds, essentially offering you a compact production centre without the need for external sounds (which, of course, you can still use without a hitch).
Daily work and Conclusion
It takes some time to dig into the Trigger Finger Pro. However, if you get to know all the features and become used to them, it really is a usable workhorse in studio production as well live performance. I personally most enjoyed working with my external hardware and the Trigger Finger Pro in standalone mode. Another very good point is that the introductory price point was once over 400 Euro, and many retailers in Germany now sell Trigger Finger Pro for 149 Euro. For this price, you are offered a very well designed hardware/software solution, including a well crafted 8 GB sound library. That’s a pretty great deal.