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Not too long ago, I made a YouTube video detailing the differences between Alternate Mode’s malletKAT and the new Pearl
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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 and then from there I hit my DAW.
This now means I have to use two USB cables going to my computer rather than just one MIDI cable like with my malletKAT and SPD-SX.
Issues with Mallet Dampening and Velocities
Marimbalogy is a YouTube channel run by Charlie Nesmith that features lots of great content for marimba players and enthusiasts.
In his breakdown video of the malletSTATION, he demonstrates the following problems and spends a ton of time trying to fix the issue to no avail.
If you’re a marimba player I highly suggest checking out his channel for more awesome content.
The malletSTATION features technology that is supposed to allow mallet dampening, like you would do on say a vibraphone or marimba.
This is the act of physically muting the bar with your mallet.
Unfortunately, the instrument is pretty unreliable when it comes to dampening with the mallet.
When you go to perform a mallet mute, sometimes you’ll get a soft note canceling out the other note, sometimes it works, and sometimes nothing happens.
When playing soft across the entire spectrum of notes, some of the velocities are way off from each other.
Initially I had thought that maybe it was inconsistency of the recorded samples, but this isn’t the case.
Alternate Mode recently released the malletKAT 8 which is significantly less expensive and, although there is no USB I/O, does seem to perform better in professional situations.
By using the Pearl
I was originally a little cynical about the instrument, but as the weeks have gone on, I’ve realized that this is a strong competitor to Alternate Mode and that this is the future of mallet controllers.
The mallet dampening and the velocity problem are two giant issues Pearl must work hard to remedy before the instrument can be taken seriously at a professional level.
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.
This is the most affordable entry into MIDI mallet controllers, so I think it will be a successful venture for Pearl. What do you think? Leave a comment below and share the article if you enjoyed reading it!