M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro Review – Step Sequencer MIDI Controller

At the annual winter NAMM 2014 M-Audio introduced the Trigger Finger Pro controller. The represented device has replaced captured from production Trigger Finger which is a MIDI controller for virtual instrument Arsenal, which includes AIR Drums and Hybrid 3.0.

Trigger Finger Pro – pad controller with built-in sequencer, which is an improved version the Trigger Finger released almost 10 years ago. Trigger Finger Pro version has changed significantly compared to the previous model, the new product has a completely new hardware design, more convenient to operate with and has greater creative functionality focused on the performers and music producers. . The novelty has increased in size, acquired a large display and indication, and also got a step sequencer. However, the main difference of the device is a deep integration with proprietary software, adapted specifically for Trigger Finger Pro. Through this, the device has been transformed from an ordinary MIDI controller into a sort of hybrid instrument.

It is noteworthy that the Trigger Finger Pro uses the Macki Control protocol to cooperate with a computer. It guarantees a more stable operation of the device. This is especially important for using the controller at the performance, where any failure is unacceptable. Also, the more stable and trouble-free system is preferable at studio. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, so at the beginning of our review let’s start from looking on specs.

Secifications

  • 16 ultra-responsive pads (4×4 grid) are sensitive to velocity, with the RGB-backlit;
  • Built-in step sequencer with 16 keys with backlight and high-resolution screen;
  • 48 assignable controls – 4 faders, 4 knobs and 4 buttons (each with 4 banks), pitch, modulation, and other;
  • Software included: M-Audio Arsenal, AIR Drums, Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Tech, Toolroom artist launch packs and Prime Loops expansion pack;
  • Software Arsenal integrates DAW / VST with tactile control of parameters, also works as a stand-alone program with powerful presets and VI;
  • AIR Drums and Hybrid 3 includes two dynamic VST-tools, player / editor of drum samples, REX files compatible, and “analog” high-definition synthesizer;
  • Built-in tools – 8 GB of sounds, single shots, loops and exclusive content;
  • Adjustable control of pad backlit with instant mapping for popular DAW;
  • Chassis front panel made of brushed aluminum with a removable 3-position rack;
  • Powered VIA USB Cable, also can be powered by 6V 1A power adapter;
  • Package bundle includes M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro hardware with Metal Stand, USB Cable, User Guide / Manual;
  • Dimensions: [W] 337mm x [L] 308mm x [H] 70mm (13.2 x 12 x 2.7 inches);
  • Weight: 1.8kg (4.2 pounds)

Overall Build and Design

Another bright feature of the Trigger Finger Pro is a clear indication of the pads and buttons of the sequencer. Multi-colored illumination is also an integral feature of the tool for performance. The pads are featured with colored lights, which, depending on the settings, can dynamically be flashing and highlighted with pressing the pads. The buttons of the sequencer rhythmically and alternately light up, indicating a tempo and a filling rhythmic pattern. All this looks very bright and attractive, confirming a concert positioning of Trigger Finger Pro.

M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro

The case is made of plastic, but the bezel of metal. All pads, buttons, rotary knobs and faders made quite qualitatively in this controller. There is also high resolution screen which helps to concentrate on the perfomance as it shows all info you need, so you can not look at your DAW. For convenience, the bottom has a special stand. Depending on the fixing type, the stand allows to tilt the controller on yourself or to the audience watching the play on the controller. When operating the device with the computer, the power supply is taken from the USB bus. Working offline you need an external 6V power supply, which is not included in the kit.

As an optional accessory we recommend you to buy 6V 1A AC Adapter to DC Power Adapter. It will help you to power your M-audio Trigger Finger Pro if you don’t want to power it via USB Cable by connecting it to your PC or Laptop. Another great accessory for trigger finger pro is – CASEMATIX Travelling Case (for many types of devices), which will protect your controller from the damage while you’re travelling, you can also put this case in the luggage while you are travelling via plane, without worrying about it, as this case will take your instrument in safe (also you can keep it in studio, protecting your m-audio controller from dust, if you do not use it to often). Here is 5-Pin DIN to 5-Pin DIN MIDI Cable if you want to connect M-Audio controller via MIDI to your audio interface or another equipment (this cable can be useful in your studio, solving a wide range of device connection problems).

Software and Features

Trigger Finger Pro is designed to work with a startup software Arsenal. But at the same time nothing prevents to use the controller with any other virtual instruments or MIDI devices. In this case, you have to create your own mappings and setup the regulators which would perform necessary functions. A traditional five-pin MIDI connector is included to connect external MIDI modules and synths.

At the moment the Trigger Finger Pro has presets for all full sequencers: Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Cubase, Sonar, Digital Performer, Studio One. Working in these programs means automatic mapping of virtual instruments loaded into the Arsenal cloud. At the same time through the controller menu, you can choose what will control the faders, controllers and buttons. For example, the pads reproduce timbres of the instruments, buttons and faders control the mixer of the sequencer, and the controllers you can assign to control an external MIDI device.

Trigger Finger Pro can work without software sequencers. The Arsenal sampler has offline apps. In this case, you can use the sequencer built into the controller to create rhythmic patterns. A hardware sequencer is based on four bars of 16 beats each. This is the maximum length of sequence, which can be limited by the number of bars and beats in them. The device allows to create up to 16 different sequences and switch between them instantly, even if they have different tempo or size.

M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro Arsenal Software

The Arsenal app is very simple and does not require any special skills to learn it. The interface opens in one window and for convenience has separate and compact options for display, browser windows or adjustments of the controller. It is also worth mentioning that all software for Trigger Finger Pro was made by engineers from Avid / Digidesign Company, which created legendary Pro Tools DAW. 

All samples and presets of instruments Air Drum and Hybrid 3 are indexed and can be sorted by different tags. In fact, Arsenal is a graphic cloud with clearly derived settings that visually duplicate the elements of the controller. By default, the faders control the volume of samples of respective pads, the buttons perform the ‘MUTE’ function, and the regulators change the fading time.

When you open any preset, a tool with its more detailed and advanced settings becomes available.

M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro Air Drums

Air Drum sampler is equipped with different sets of sounds to create EDM music. Some kits use only single beats, some others have loaded drum loops or whole sentences, performed on synthesizer. In general, the sound quality of these libraries is good, but not widely applicable.

M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro Hybrid 3 Synthesizer

Hybrid 3 is a synthesizer with six oscillators of subtractive and wavetable synthesis. It has about 1200 presets of different timbres, sorted by type of sound. Sound samples can be heard on the official website of the manufacturer in section audiodemo or you can find it below.

Using the controller with a synth, the pads reproduce the notes of the chromatic scale from the note C of a small octave. As for the faders and controllers with buttons, the main parameters of the synthesizer, which most typically change timbre, are derived on them. For example, the type of filter, a frequency resonance of filter, an EQ and intensity of the effect.

When the complete libraries of AIR Drum sample and presets of synthesizer Hybrid 3 exhaust themselves, one can purchase special add-ons from different famous DJ’s. The list of additions is regularly updated and available for preview and can be purchased at special section on the manufacturer’s website.

By default, Arsenal uses only Air Drum sampler and synthesizer Hybrid 3. However, the Arsenal app allows to download not only virtual instruments from Air Music, but also any other, installed in the system. To add additional tools, it is enough to specify the directory in the settings with the installed VSTi and scan selected folder. Using third-party VSTi, the plugin window opens in Arsenal with all the available tool settings and the pads consistently reproduce the notes on the chromatic scale.

M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro Modes

Trigger Finger Pro has five modes, which have various available functions and settings of certain parameters. Native “Performance” Mode is started by default and allows to play the pads, use the step sequencer, to adjust assigned parameters with faders, rotary controllers and buttons. In short, this mode is intended purely for performing and does not have advanced settings. There is available only changing and loading of presets, as well as some minimal setup.

M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro

The buttons “PAD”, “CTRL” and “SEQ” activate other three modes, which have detailed configuration of the respective sections. The ‘PAD’ mode has settings for pads, ‘CTRL’ allows to change settings of the buttons, controllers and faders. The ‘SEQ’ mode opens the settings of the built-in sequencer.

There is also an additional “Select” mode that is active only with holding the “Select” button. This mode resembles the work of the “Shift” key on many other controllers. It opens various additional settings for the current sequence.

It is very convenient that there are separate buttons “Fixed” and “Roll” on the controller. Since the device uses the pads, which are sensitive to velocity, a function of a fixed value is necessary. Samples of many instruments have a single layer, and some parties should be withstood at the same maximum volume. “Fixed” button allows to change the velocity value instantly. A function of the beat fracting is also frequently demanded and to activate it you need just push the “Roll” button. This button can be very useful for trap producers to make beat repeats / beat fracting for example, when creating hi-hats or snare parts. 

In Conclusion

Trigger Finger Pro is a very interesting and unique device. Alternative controllers with pads are more difficult to learn and have no hardware sequencer. As for the pads, Trigger Finger Pro uses very high quality sensors. Separately should be noted their accurate operation and high sensitivity. Low-cost devices usually have those pads, which neither setting can change them. With Trigger Finger Pro, the tactical feeling is completely different. It allows to play with the intended articulation without resorting to excessive force. In addition, the pads of Trigger Finger Pro forgive inaccurate clicking. The pads successfully fix pressures, even if the contact point was not in the center of the pad.

Trigger Finger Pro can operate as a separate tool or be integrated in more complex one. But use the controller with virtual instruments, it is necessary to understand that you need a low latency value for a comfortable play. Trigger Finger Pro has no other disadvantages.

Pros

  • Well-designed MIDI controller (It has all the features needed to perform & create music)
  • Rugged housing construction / durability
  • High resolution screen allows you to not be distracted by looking at your DAW
  • You can use it without computer or laptop, since TFP has MIDI output, and you can manage all your setup: of synthesizers and drum machines with the integrated advanced step-sequencer.
  • Easy to use stand-alone Arsenal software (also integrates in any DAW), which comes in package bundle 
  • 8GB of sounds, single shots, loops and exclusive content from Toolroom and PrimeLoops

Cons

  • Nowadays it’s no longer produced by M-Audio, so it’s hard to find and the price is higher as it turned in rare device. But you can find already used or new controllers on Amazon.
  • There is no 6V 1A power adapter in package bundle
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Global M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro Rating
  • Overall Build and Features - 9/10
    9/10
  • Versatility - 9/10
    9/10
  • Design - 8/10
    8/10
  • Value - 6/10
    6/10
  • Ease of Use - 7/10
    7/10
7.8/10