Pearl malletSTATION Review – Read This Before You Buy

Pearl Malletstation Review
Image courtesy of Justin Higuchi via Flickr.com

Not too long ago, I made a YouTube video detailing the differences between Alternate Mode’s malletKAT and the new Pearl malletSTATION.

Unfortunately, that video was taken down due to my use of video footage from Pearl. I mistakenly figured it was fair use.

That being said, it sure is interesting that the same type of product from two different companies is stylized in the exact same way.

An affordable mallet controller

Zildjian K Series Cymbal Pack

Pearl malletSTATION

The malletSTATION is a great alternative to Alternate Mode’s malletKAT. You will need a dedicated sound source.

Quick overview of Pearl

Pearl Drums was founded by Katsumi Yanagisawa in 1946. The company first began as a music stand manufacturer, but soon began making drum kits, marching drums, timpani, Latin percussion, cymbals, stands, and accessories.

In 1957, the company first began exporting instruments worldwide to meet the demand for drum sets following the big splash rock and roll music had made on Western culture. Today, Pearl’s Taiwanese five factories supply the entire worldwide market for Pearl products.

My first drum kit was made by Pearl: it was an Export Select Series in Cherry Red Wine. I’ve refinished it twice now and it still sounds great for a drum set from the late 1990s.

I have no doubt in my mind for Pearl’s quality standards when it comes to making great products.

What is the malletSTATION?

The malletSTATION is an electronic mallet controller, similar to that of a percussion instrument like a xylophone. It functions as like a standard MIDI controller. You are able to play pitched notes with your sticks or mallets as long as you have some sort of sound source.

Electronic drums function in a similar manner. The only difference here is that the malletSTATION has no internal sounds or sound module.

Overview of the malletSTATION

On November 8, 2017, Pearl uploaded a video to their YouTube channel announcing the Pearl malletSTATION. The model EM1 is a full-sized three-octave mallet controller designed for players of all genres and of all skill levels.

This product is intended to directly compete with Alternate Mode’s malletKAT.

The malletSTATION is the “Next-Gen Mobile Mallet Percussion Controller “

The Keith McMillan-powered Pearl EM1 malletSTATION is a MIDI Marimba that is USB bus-powered that works in conjunction with your phone, tablet, or laptop.

It boasts an all-weather silicone playing surface; perfect for marching band pits when playing outdoors. This is a solid feature, one that can’t be said about Alternate Mode’s MalletKat.

In terms of I/O, there are three expression pedal ports, giving you control over sustain, expression, and MIDI control changes. The malletSTATION features a rugged aluminum steel chassis and works both with a traditional keyboard stand as well as a concert stand.

Overall look and design

Malletstation Profile

The malletSTATION looks incredible. The design is sleek and modern-looking. The body is a hybrid aluminum and steel chassis.

It’s also very thin, measuring in at a slim 1.6 inches. The pads also look awesome, which are made from soft silicone.

There are no internal sounds

The big issue I see here is that the malletSTATION does not contain internal sounds, something the malletSTATION potentially can win on here, depending if you bought the correct one.

I don’t see that being a total game changer, but I could see kids in marching band not wanting to use their iPhone or Android for the malletSTATION outside on the field.

It will drain their batteries, limit the use of their phones, and isn’t as convenient as just plugging a cable into an amp.

I guess it kind of bugs me that this thing is just a glorified MIDI controller. Maybe I am biased because I actually own a malletKAT.

Mine does include the internal sounds and I find that it is far easier to setup and play this way, rather than hooking it up to a computer and DAW with virtual instruments.

malletSTATION’s price point

The malletSTATION is much more affordable than the malletKAT.

That being said, it does seem that Alternate Mode is trying to lower the cost of their new instruments, as the malletKAT 8 was recently released at a far lower cost than what it was in the past.

Programming is simple

The malletSTATION is also far easier to program since there are multiple buttons on the front panel.

With the malletKAT, you have to plug in a sustain pedal to one of the back inputs, and program it with a tiny display. It’s actually infuriating.

I feel like you may be limited with the Pearl, but it’s a great entry-level option for something like this. Serious players will still use the malletKAT at the pro level, but finally, there are more companies actually pursuing the idea of electronic keyboard percussion.

No traditional MIDI in / out

Another bummer with the malletSTATION for me, at least from what I can tell, is the lack of traditional MDI inputs and outputs.

I understand that we are now in a USB world, but it would have been awesome if I could have linked this to say, my Roland SPD-SX