Gearhead Gearhead Gearhead Gearhead Gear Gearhead Gearhead Gear
M-AUDIO KEY RIG
with modeled options, several filter types, envelopes for the filter and amp, multiple modulation options, and a surprisingly complete collection of effects.
The SP-1 could have stopped at just playing back a nice
piano, but you can layer (or split) two pianos, chosen from a bunch
of presets. And yes, there are a bunch of effects too.
There’s no sample playback module à la EXS24, but the GM module includes a good General MIDI set and should cover your, uh, general needs. The organ holds its own against the world of
“Beethreewannabes,” with virtual drawbars and a decent rotary simulation. All the instruments let you assign controllers to the various parameters for realtime control, with a simple “learn” option
so you don’t have to think about assignments too much, either.
The GM module and organ don’t have a bunch of effects, but there
is a master effects section with one effect chosen from a relatively
extensive menu, and each instrument has a send control for driving
it. A few other welcome touches include the ease of setting up splits
(you can set each instrument to its own keyrange, pan, gain trim,
level, and MIDI channel).
I’d give Key Rig very high marks for striking a near-perfect
balance of ease of use, cost, and editability. It takes a bit of a
hit on your CPU, but hey, it’s four instruments and you might
not need to load a bunch of other stuff anyway. Yes, it’s a
scratch pad — but with fine vellum paper, along with a pen that
doesn’t run and offers a choice of inks. Key Rig is an ideal
stocking stuffer that offers exceptional value for money.
(PS: And if you still have some disposable income, there’s an
equally cost-effective Drum and Bass Rig with a step sequencer
bassline synth, drum module, loop creator, and electric bass
guitar module.) —Craig Anderton
M-Audio Trigger Finger
Got an itchy trigger finger for great rhythm programming? Of course, you do.
by Mitch Gallagher
Programming drums can be a pain
in the ass. Plunking in little dots on
a grid with a mouse is painfully
tedious, and often results in lame,
rigid rhythms — which is fine, if
you’re into that sort of thing. But
if you’re after feel, mousing in
drum and percussion parts isn’t
going to cut it. Yes, you can use a
MIDI keyboard to play in parts.
But the black-and-whites aren’t
exactly designed for the task. It
works, but it’s not “natural,” especially
for non-keyboard players. For great-feeling
drums and percussion, my opinion says that
pad controllers are the way to go. High-priced
boxes like the MPC60 and its progeny do
the job, but they’re, well, high-priced. And they
do way more than just serve as pad controllers. That’s wonderful if your MPC is the
main instrument you build your tracks around.
But if you’re like me and you just want some
pads for playing in drum parts with some
feel, then an MPC is overkill. MIDI drum pads
are excellent if you’re a drummer or are handy
with sticks. But I’m not — I want something
I can bang on with my fingers.
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That’s where the M-Audio Trigger Finger
comes in. This affordable box has 16 velocity- and pressure-sensitive pads that you
can use for playing sampled drums, triggering loops, sending MIDI messages, or
doing whatever you want to use MIDI events
to trigger or control. As a bonus, there are
eight assignable control knobs and four
assignable sliders for controller parameters,
mixer settings, or anything else. You can
create 16 preset “maps” for accessing your
drum layouts, loops, or control needs, and
quickly switch among them as you move
from application to application.
It doesn’t get much simpler than the
Trigger Finger. Install the driver on your
Mac or PC, then connect the Trigger
Finger to your computer using the
supplied USB cable. Launch
Reason, Live, or a host DAW
running a plug-in instrument
such as Battery, Kontakt, or
MachFive — whatever you’re
using for your sounds —
and start smacking the pads,
cranking knobs, and flicking sliders. Alternatively, connect Trigger Finger’s MIDI out
to your keyboard or sound module, and
start playing. As the annoying TV ad guy says,
“It’s really that easy.”
The Trigger Finger can draw power over the
USB connection, or you can use it with an
optional 9-volt power supply. The MIDI out can
either send MIDI messages generated inside
the Trigger Finger to another MIDI device,
or it can serve as a MIDI output for a computer
that’s connected via USB, turning the Trigger
Finger into a 1-out MIDI interface.
Enigma
Trigger Finger can send out a very wide
variety of MIDI messages, from notes to
The free Enigma Editor/Librarian allows complete access to every programmable control in
the Trigger Finger control surface.
controllers to pitch bend to aftertouch. The
pads can all be on one MIDI channel or
each can send on its own channel. In short,
this thing has far more MIDI capability than
you’d think from looking at it — in reality, it
has more MIDI capability than most (if not
all) of us will ever use.
To harness all that power, M-Audio provides
a free downloadable editor called “Enigma,”
which actually supports a variety of M-Audio
control devices. With Enigma, you can address
every programmable parameter in the Trigger
Finger, and build up a library of presets.
Enigma is compatible with both Mac and
Windows. Install it on your computer, launch,
and it will automatically find Trigger Finger and
be ready for action. The user interface is simple; click on the control you want to change,
and make whatever settings you need. Or you
can drag parameters to Trigger Finger pads and
controls. There are parameter lists included
for a number of common instruments, which
makes it easy. Select Gmedia’s Oddity (for
example) from the library, and all the Oddity’s
controllable parameters are listed. Just drag
a parameter from the list to the pad, knob, or
slider you want to use, and you’re done.
For quick changes (especially of the notes
assigned to the pads), you can program
Trigger Finger from the front panel — just hold
the Memory Recall and Prog/Bank Change
buttons to enter Edit mode. Then, to change
the note assigned to a pad (for example), hit
the desired pad, then turn the first control
knob. The LCD readout will change to display
the note assigned to the pad. Easy. But if you
really want to use Trigger Finger to its fullest,
and you need to create highly customized programs, Enigma is definitely the way to go.
Using It
Trigger Finger is excellent for the obvious
application: playing drum sounds. It worked
great with Reason for playing ReDrum and
other samples, and for programming MIDI
tracks in Digital Performer, Pro Tools, Logic Pro,
and others. It also worked great for simply playing sounds; FM7, Pro-53, Korg’s Wavestation
plug-in, on and on, anything that could be
played by MIDI was cool with Trigger Finger —
PRODUCT SUMMARY
Type: Pad-, knob-, and slider-based MIDI
controller
Price: $249.95
Contact: M-Audio, m-audio.com
Connections: USB out, MIDI out, 9-volt
DC input
USB Support: Mac OS X 10.2.8 or higher,
Windows XP
Compatibility: MME, DirectX, Core MIDI
Presets: 16
Pre-programmed maps: Live, Reason,
GM Drum, XG Drum, iDrum
Assignable Controls
Pads: 16 velocity- and pressure-sensitive
Sliders: 4
Knobs: 8
Dimensions: 11" (w) x 10" (d) x 2-1/4" (h)
Power: USB or optional 9-volt DC
adapter
Software Bundle includes: Drivers,
Ableton Live 4 Lite, Enigma editor
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for more than just percussion. Bass lines
were easy to do with Trigger Finger, and the
fact that the pads are both velocity- and pressure-sensitive was nice. You can assign any
MIDI controller to be sent when you apply
pressure to each pad, so you can have a
very broad range of expressive possibilities
available to you — this worked great with
synths like Arturia’s Minimoog V. Of course,
you can also use the knobs and sliders to send
MIDI controllers, which is great. But being able
to dynamically apply pressure from the pads
can really bring a performance to life.
Above all, the Trigger Finger and its soft rubber pads makes programming — I really should
say “performing” — drum and percussion
parts fun. No more hours slaving over a grid or
typing in data. Hit the record button and play.
It’s a blast, and it makes a real difference in the
sound and feel of your MIDI drum and percussion tracks — just avoid he urge to click the
“quantize” button in your software!
Is It Cool?
Yes, it’s cool! In fact, at under $200 street
price, the Trigger Finger is an easy EQ
Exceptional Quality award winner — there
isn’t anything in its price range that comes
close. It’s very easy to use, has a free software editor and includes a “Lite” version of
Ableton’s Live 4. Just plug it in and go. I was
making tracks in Reason within seconds of
connecting the USB cable.
The pads feel good, they’re dynamic in
their response, and the eight sliders and
four faders are incredibly handy. Basic programming from the Trigger Finger itself is not
a problem, and for more in-depth programming, Enigma takes you as far as you want
to go. About the only thing I wish it had
was a power switch.
I’ve been waiting for someone to come out
with something like the Trigger Finger for a
while, and at this price, M-Audio has made me
and my drum and percussion parts very happy.
Trigger Finger is staying in my studio.
Strengths:
■ 16 velocity- and pressure-sensitive
pads
■ Can be powered from USB
■ Easy installation
■ Comprehensive MIDI support
■ Easy pad and controller programming
■ Free Enigma editor for Mac and PC
Limitations:
■ No power switch
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