Made for people like me who hate playing drum parts or triggering events on a MIDI keyboard, the Trigger Finger gives you sixteen velocity and pressure-sensitive rubber pads with user-selectable velocity curves. Plus, there are four programmable faders and eight knobs. The Trigger Finger can work directly over USB or MIDI, it has on-board editable preset memory, and without a doubt, it's the most solidly- built controller M-Audio makes-period. I was so curious about its sturdy construction, I actually opened this thing up to see what made it so special. There's a formidable metal plate positioned under the pads that gives the controller its noticeable heft and reinforces its most crucial element. I suppose M-Audio figured that with a controller literally designed to be beaten, it would do them no good to cut corners on its build quality (although the four fader knobs do pull right off... whoops). What they spent on metal reinforcement they saved by providing hardly a scrap of print documentation in the box (you'll need to check their website for that) or an external power supply. That's becoming fairly common these days. I guess manufacturers presume that if their customers are savvy enough to compose music with their computers, they should have no problem downloading a PDF document from their website and will likely power their devices over USB. My computer was able to recognize the controller right away over USB-no drivers necessary. There were only two times where I really had to look up some crucial info in the Trigger Finger's "missing" manual. The first time was when I wanted to change the note assignments of some of the pads. It's not intuitive how to do this, but after I consulted the PDF, I learned the secret ninja-death-blow button combination and was able to change note assignments very easily. The other item I had to look up was what audio programs each preprogrammed preset was designed for. There are sixteen of them (including ones for Live, Reason, GM Drum, XG Drum, iDrum, and more), and they're worth familiarizing yourself with if you plan on using this with a few different programs. There's also a free software editor called Enigma that can be downloaded from M-Audio's website. The software, which works with many of M-Audio's controllers, allows you to access and edit the presets and note/controller assignments by dragging and dropping parameters onto an on-screen graphic of the Trigger Finger, making it much easier to customize and flip between the presets. The knobs and faders are assignable to any MIDI parameter-as is pressure sensitivity-extending your expressive control beyond what's possible with standard control surfaces. Even with some of its shortcomings, for me, the Trigger Finger is one of the most useful, affordable ($200 street), and unique MIDI controllers released in years.

($249 MSRP;

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

Or Learn More