M-Audio’s first Trigger Finger might be the most ubiquitous controller in laptop music. Pads, faders, knobs. It was almost a stupidly simple equation, but it caught on.

The Trigger Finger Pro is something different. It takes on three roles:

1. It’s a controller for included software. If you want hands-on control of software right away, M-Audio has bundled tools that integrate directly with the controller: there’s Arsenal, a kind of drum sampler-style tool M-Audio calls a “production hub,” AIR Drums, a dedicated drum module, and Hybrid 3, a very lovely synth, plus loads of sample content. But what sets Trigger Finger Pro apart from things like Ableton’s Push, Native Instruments’ Maschine, and Arturia’s SparkLE is that the controller isn’t just for that software.

2. It’s a flexible controller for anything. Each bank and each pad can control something different, if you like. Every fader, button, and pad can be configured to work with software or hardware of your choice. You can route MIDI to the external device alone, to the computer alone, or to both. And you can do all of this while tethered to the computer or (if you get a power adapter) standalone. Also, unlike past M-Audio hardware, all the editing is available right from the front panel – no editor software needed. The only bad news, really, is that you lose the dedicated eight knobs on the original Trigger Finger.

3. It’s a step sequencer. It’s actually a reasonably advanced step sequencer. You can play on the pads, or use x0x-style buttons on the bottom, as on the original Roland TB-303. (And, notably, something absent from the AIRA follow-up to the 303 original.) Because it’s able to work in standalone mode, this is fairly powerful.

And as both a controller and a step sequencer, if you connect it to a power adapter, you don’t need the computer connected at all. It functions as true standalone hardware, which Push, Maschine, SparkLE – and the original Trigger Finger Pro – cannot.

It’s all something that’s easiest seen in action. M-Audio quietly released some videos to do just that, showing the basics of each of these features.

The user interface walkthrough is essential, as otherwise it can be unclear (even from the Quick Start documentation in the box) just how things work. You can see how Arsenal integrated out of the box with the pads,

The control setup video shows how the controller layouts work. What’s worth noticing: this is a whole lot more flexible than what Push or Maschine offer, and you’re doing all the editing right on the front panel – no editing app needed.

But the video you really want to watch is the sequencing video, as it’s the most powerful part of this hardware, and it’s not immediately evident how it works. Also especially significant: while here they’re using M-Audio’s included software, that’s something you could do with Maschine or Push or the like. But those tools aren’t nearly as flexible when it comes to controlling other software. And neither of them works standalone.

So take everything you can do here, and assume you might use it to work with other software tools and gear. I’ll be messing around with it with MeeBlip, for sure. And oh, yeah – changing pattern length or step length doesn’t screw up the sync, my major frustration with the cheaper, more compact, but really not-quite-finished Arturia BeatStep.

You’ll notice in the videos that there’s some menu diving required to get at the different layers and modes; in early testing, I found a couple of these workflows to be a bit slower than I might like. But overall, there’s some real promise. And while I don’t like the pads as well as on the Push and Maschine, it all feels reasonably good, the layout is definitely welcome, and the step sequencing functionality could really win users over.

Trigger Finger Pro Product Page

I’ll do a proper review soon, having already made a couple of tracks with it; there’s a lot more to say. But as I work on that review, that’s all the more reason to ask readers what you want to know in advance. So fire away in comments.

I definitely have some criticisms along with the praise, and some more details on how you can get the most out of this. So let us know what you think and what you’d like to learn.

  • Helvetica666

    damn, this thing is clicking like cheap keyboard

    • Gary

      i’ve used one. its not that loud in person, in fact, the feedback is appreciated.

    • Peter Kirn

      Yeah, buttons feel solid and click nicely – sound is misleading in the video.

    • stumm

      only the function and step sequencer buttons have the tactile/click touch. the drum pads do not.

  • itchy

    definitely poops mcgee

  • wetterberg

    I’m so happy that guy had his modular for that production… hehe. Joking aside, are the lights and such midi controllable? Even the sequencer? Because I have a feeling I’d prefer to roll my own.

    • Peter Kirn

      No, the sequencer function is internal – that’s rather the point; that’s what allows it to function standalone, without any connected computer or other MIDI input. So to modify this, you’d have to modify the actual firmware – and you can’t.

      I’m assuming we see the modular in a different video; they allude to future episodes.

    • wetterberg

      yeah, I mean can we access the buttons, outside of using them for the sequencer? Like, can I send it a midi cc and light up step 9, for instance.

  • Laszlo Zizics

    the most powerfull over the step seq with real midi connector is it can control 4×16 midi note!!!!! so it is more the a simple step seq. if you need you can break up the 4 pad bank to any combination of midi tracks without a computer.!!!!!! im wait for 10 years now to someone see this hole in the market. Thank you Maudio!
    i grab one for me as soon as possible

  • DB

    So could you use this like an MPC and have multiple projects containing multiple patterns on it?

    • Peter Kirn

      Yes. 😉

  • Laszlo Zizics

    one thing i want to know:
    – It can be record the onboard controller tweaks to the built in seq?
    thank you

    • Peter Kirn

      No, doesn’t appear to be possible.

    • Laszlo Zizics

      neeeh thats a shame,. but probably i buy one of these

  • DOG

    x0x like a 606/707/808/909/etc, but not like a 303 😛

    303 just had the octave keyboard, which the TB3 has as well, only in touch screen form.

    regardless of that, very glad to hear that the sequencer works standalone. 64 step x 16 tracks is great, but I haven’t seen how many total patterns? I see him go up to 16 in the video, which is still nice if that’s the max.

    I’ve wanted a pad controller for a bit now to make sequencing my Jomox Airbase on various sequencers a bit more organic, and I’ve also wanted some type of x0x style sequencer (tr8, ER-1, or DIY mbhp mb808 seq) to avoid drums taking over the midi tracks on my octatrack, so this might make me change my priorities as it’s a nice balance between the various things I’ve wanted lately, and at a very fair price point. It’s a nice next step over using a Korg ER-1 as a midi sequencer, as well.

  • bluebear

    What’s the price point for this?

    • DOG

      $400 retail

    • Mutis Mayfield

      cheaper nowadays…

  • SimonLacelle Farsight

    Can each pattern contain more than one MIDI note, chords etc or is it purely for controlling one pad?

    • Mutis Mayfield

      Every pad has its own sequence so you can grab chords if the pads are harmonically set. It was your question or I missunderstood it?

  • heinrich zwahlen

    ‘But what sets Trigger Finger Pro apart from things like Ableton’s Push, Native Instruments’ Maschine, and Arturia’s SparkLE is that the controller isn’t just for that software.’
    And that’s exactly where the conceptual flaw : musicians need more preconfigured software integration for better workflow, not less. Still too much mousing around.
    The clicking is quite obnoxious too, just not a nice piece of hardware judging from the video at least. It better be really cheap.

    • wow

      i guess real musicians do not use hw anymore, right?

    • heinrich zwahlen

      No, to the contrary, software specific hardware controllers are the beat of both worlds. They are hands-on and easily upgradable, making also full use of generic computers with cpu, visual fb, file management and storage.
      For a system like that to work best, it is important that hardware and software be designed together. That was my point of skepticism with Trigger Finger. I think with universality there will always be a tradeoff in
      ergonomics and workflow.

    • stumm

      The flaw in your factually stated opinion, is that many people disagree with you 100%. Those products do what they are built for and they’re good at it. Products like this do whatever you want to use it for. It is still self contained. The configuration from the h.w instead of through s.w. makes integration much easier with hardware or a computer. It’s pretty well thought out as far as I can tell. The real MIDI port and true standalone capability make it extremely worth while to those that don’t want just another restricted software controller. MIDI only step sequencers have also been high in demand for years.. its taken the industry too long to get on it.

    • heinrich zwahlen

      They will do whatever after you mouse (ouch) you’re way thru the many options. While this is great for some instrument builders it will also take time and involve some setting up. Many people would rather just get started with making music with a well designed system like Maschine. The future lies in hardware that is designed specifically for a certain software. Less options are better than more and we had attempts of universality before e.g Novation Automap. The success of Maschine is a healthy poll that supports my view and i’ve been teaching Ableton and Maschine to hundreds of people so i can tell what people like, it’s not just my opinion. However i respect your view even though i don’t known how you can back it up.
      I know that programmability is exactly what many people want. In the end most producers would rather just use a well designed pre-made instrument, a system using hardware that ergonomically controls software.
      The proof will be in the sales figures of this controller in the end.

    • stumm

      I also respect your factually stated opinions even though i don’t know how you can back it up.
      To further my non-factually stated opinion, you are comparing apples to oranges.

    • Guest

      Hate to spoil the party, but with one button-press, Maschine Studio is easily be switched into “MIDI Mode”, which allows all the pads, knobs, buttons, and wheel to send MIDI notes and any MIDI messages to any app. And quite well at that.

      If Push doesn’t offer that as well, it’s a plain rip-off in my opinion. Maschine HW/SW integration is an amazing improvement, but I would be severely disappointed if I could ONLY use it in Maschine software, which isn’t always the best tool for the job.

    • Nathan Rightnour

      I’d like to clarify to everyone that with one button-press, Maschine Studio is easily be switched into “MIDI Mode”, which allows all the pads, knobs, buttons, and wheel to send MIDI notes and any MIDI messages to any app. And quite well at that.

      If Push doesn’t offer that as well, it’s a plain rip-off in my opinion. Maschine HW/SW integration is an amazing improvement, but I would be severely disappointed if I could ONLY use it in Maschine software, which isn’t always the best tool for the job.

    • stumm

      Push is a stand alone sequencer and pad controller. That’s the only difference being put forth here.

  • Yanakyl

    It’s just for triggering right?

    I mean you can sequence a synth but it’s made for triggering drums or samples more than anything else.

    • Mutis Mayfield

      Not really… it comes with harmonic scales presets and every single pad is fully customizable for note, toggle, cc… a beast.

  • Sclr

    Its lookin great. One important thing tho: does it have swing?

  • Scott Kilpatrick

    I would really like to know how the controller integrates with ableton drum racks and if midi from the sequencer will show up in clips

  • Trapdoors

    One question I have after viewing the videos and reading the manual…are you able to set the number of steps (1-16) in one bar of a sequence independently for each of the 4 banks (A-D)? I.e., can you setup polyrhythms (in a small way like Tanzbar or Rytm)?

    • Mutis Mayfield

      I think is not possible due it saves the patterns as secuences with general prefs…

  • ZX81

    I bought one as soon as I found out it had poly pressure. This is something they don’t talk about in the promos for the device, but for me it’s hugely important, not to mention incredibly rare in gear at any price point these days. The TFP pretty much perfectly replaces my trusty PadKontrol as a pure pad box for playing parts into the computer in real time (I was initially concerned that it wouldn’t be able to match the high sensitivity of the PadKontrol pads – after some tweaking, it easily did), but the inclusion of poly pressure is huge. It means I can do all sorts of expressive things, like modulating MachFive 3 parameters in real time with different amounts of pressure on the various pads, and it works brilliantly. I don’t need the sequencer section as I tend to use the Cirklon or DAWs for that, but the addition of the DAW control section is a nice aspect as well. So far, great results and no headaches, and I was surprised how inexpensive it was – Thinking about getting another one. Best thing M-Audio have ever done.

  • kel

    Can someone help me run arsenal through stand alone mode? Or can it not be done. I’m lost. I don’t have any DAWS yet

  • Art Love

    Is there a way to chain sequences together to form a song? I’m looking through a lot of documentation and not seeing anything about it. How do you make a song (Verse/Chorus/Bridge, etc)?