Comparisons: More than meets the Eye
Ever since the Malletstation was announced last November, many comparisons with the malletKAT were posted on social media. It’s amazing that comparisons were made even before the instrument was released! Now that the product is on the market, it’s time for a more thorough investigation.
The Malletstation is currently priced for just under $1000 for a three octave unit. The malletKAT price starts at $1399 for a two octave unit. At first glance it appears that the Malletstation is clearly the winner because of the price. But there are many more things to consider than just the base price. Playability, Expandability and Feature Set are just a few things that need to be understood before a true evaluation can be made.
Since the malletKAT is available as an expandable two, three, four or five octave controller, the prices vary considerably. Add the fact that the malletKAT
is offered with an external Ketron SD1000 sound module, these factors all add to the confusion as to the overall cost and value of instrument.
So let’s dig in a bit deeper to help you decide which instrument better suits your needs.
OUT OF THE BOX
The Malletstation provides no USB to MIDI expander kit, no MIDI cables, no foot switches or pedals, and most importantly - no 5-pin MIDI port. You cannot directly connect the malletstation to a MIDI-compliant device without purchasing a separate module. What does all that cost?
The malletKAT, out of the box, comes with a sustain pedal, a footswitch, a 5-pin MIDI cable to connect to standard MIDI compliant hardware, and a USB to MIDI cable to connect to your iPad or computer. Connect to any device and start playing immediately. No software downloads, no additional purchases.
With the Ketron sound module, there are hundreds of sounds available. The malletKAT and vibeKAT include 127 preset User Kits for this sound module. That means immediate playing with no editing! Just grab your mallets and start enjoying new sounds to play on.
A NOTE ON USB
Using the provided cable from the Malletstation to the computer, your latency (how long it takes the computer to generate the sound), is difficult for any kind of serious work. There is an unacceptable delay. Pearl makes note of this in their provided manual, and recommends you get a AUDIO/MIDI Interface. This just added another cost that you must incur.
The Malletstation’s USB jack connects it to your computer or iPad for editing. Most programming must be done this way. In contrast, the malletKAT v8, does not rely on an external editing for programming All editing is performed directly on it’s pads, easily and quickly accessible.
EASE OF USE: PROGRAMMING
The body of the Malletstation has three faders, a pair of octave up/down buttons, and four finger buttons that can be pre-assigned to modify MIDI settings.
If you need to change any other settings, you must first do so on your computer or tablet, and then send these changes back to the Malletstation.
Does that sound like “ease of use”?
With the respect to the malletKAT, every “white key” on the body is a function that can be instantly accessed. Nothing is faster than stepping on a footswitch and accessing these function keys to make your changes with the mallets in your hand
We believe THIS is ease of use.
EASE OF USE: REAL-TIME PERFORMANCE
While the ability to use a computer monitor or tablet for editing the Malletstation might appear convenient, it is not practical for faster, “on the fly” changes in real time. Nor is it’s design layout conducive to quick octave switches or instrument changes with a pedal.
While both instruments allow you to split it’s range to use two sounds, it comes at the cost of greatly reducing total available instrument range for either sound. Only on the user kits on the malletKAT can be configured to:
- Instantly switch between two sounds with footswitch for passages that require a quick change in the same measure (like a single glockenspiel, chime, or timpani note). Hold the footswitch down for sound patch #2, release to return to sound patch #1
- Execute a part that is doubled by two instruments by yourself
- Layer the two sounds together melodically when the malletKAT detects either a chord or single note
- Create note reassignments to access additional sound patches and channels re remapping (or combining a remapped note) to individual pads. These note mappings are especially useful when needing different sound effects or when multiple sound patches and channels are needed on one keyboard
And speaking of real-time performance, only the malletKAT has special “gate” modes that allow rolls to sound like rolls, and keyboard runs to sound clean without the note bleeding that can be prevalent when using a sustain pedal. The instrument can even make subtle changes to the sounds’ overall length by how hard or soft you are playing.
These performance features profoundly affect how expressive and realistic your musical performance will sound.
All of these features many others are explained in detail and visually demonstrated on YouTube. Visit the Alternate Mode website to learn more.
USER KITS: SAVE AND RECALL YOUR FAVORITE SETTINGS
The Malletstation allows you to store and recall up to a total of four presets using the four assignable finger buttons.
The malletKAT has 127 User Kit presets for storing and quickly recalling your favorite settings. If you purchase a malletKAT with an internal sound card, these User Kits also come pre-configured. There are also another 127 Factory Kits that are available if you have a sound engine that supports General MIDI.
WHY DO I NEED MORE THAN ONE USER KIT?
Like acoustic instruments, sound patches also require some individual consideration to create the best sound. As you continue to read, we hope you see that this goes FAR beyond just selecting a MIDI channel. The ability to tailor any sound patch to perform exactly as you want is what separates the malletKAT from all others as a professional grade product.
While it may be tempting to only use a single user kit, particularly in cases of using MIDI software programs, you are missing out on the strongest features of your instrument! In addition to the performances modes, consider these:
Minimum and Maximum MIDI velocity:
You will discover that the overall level of sound patches greatly vary. The malletKAT allows you to set or adjust the minimum and maximum MIDI velocities (or even set a new velocity curve) for each kit and have those superimposed over the dynamic range of your instrument - will keep the response of your favorite sound sources from being “too quiet” or “too loud”.Gate Time:
Before using a sustain pedal, consider how long you want a sound patch to ring before it is shut off. Is your sound patch ringing too long? Are your patches cutting off too soon?Octave Ranges:
Even with a full five octave instrument, you will inevitably end up having to adjust the octave range of your instrument to use the sample range you need. Set the octave range you know you are using with each user kit ahead of time. And remember that you can also set up a malletKAT user kit to instantly shift an octave up or down by holding down a pedal...
Use your external software to change your malletKAT User Kits!
Just as any malletKAT User Kit sends outgoing patch changes, the malletKAT will also accept incoming user kit changes from nearly any such software, including the extremely popular Mainstage from Apple.
Concerned about extra programming?
In reality, you only need to create your user kits ONCE, and store it among 126 others to recall it when you need it. Need to make minor changes or create a very similar user kit? Save time by quickly copying your settings between kits. As mentioned earlier, you can also backup all or part of your settings as a MIDI SysEx file on your computer or tablet.
There is a reason why the malletKAT has been has been used on Broadway all of these years.
- Each user kit uses its' own full settings (performance modes, gate times, minimum/maximum MIDI velocity settings, etc…) to achieve the best response from a given sound patch
- Powerful and unmatched performance features are configured and stored in 127 Kits - more than enough to perform an entire show.
- Convenient Kit Chains can be quickly set up to position the kits that you need, in the order that you need them
- Quickly and effortlessly switch between user kits or chain steps with a mallet, a footswitch. Additionally, change user kits by sending the malletKAT a program change message from an external software program
- Instant reference and feedback on the malletKAT’s display for “on the fly” changes
Ask yourself, can you accomplish your performance with only four user kits?
FEEL, RESPONSE AND DYNAMICS
At the end of the day, it’s about the feel, response and dynamics that make an instrument expressive and musical.
KAT and Alternate Mode have spent years developing the feel and response of the malletKAT. The new malletKAT version 8 has a new refined nu-bounce surface that also has a nylon texture on top of the pad. It is by far, the most natural feeling surface you can play on. As a discerning musician, we urge you to try these instruments and compare them. Take notice how the pads respond to your mallets and how the mallet bounces back. Both instruments feel very different, so this comparison is important.
Remember... You’ll be playing on your instrument for thousands of hours. You owe it to yourself to enjoy what you are playing on.
It is also essential to compare the amount of acoustic contact noise the pads themselves will generate when struck. The difference is especially noticeable when playing loud. Try this acoustically without using MIDI to really identify the difference.
DYNAMIC RANGE COMPARISON
Click on the link below to see a MIDI SCOPE and Chart displaying the MIDI Velocity values being sent out on the instrument pads. Each pad is struck 16 times in a crescendo from soft to loud.
Only the malletKAT has the ability to “Learn” and adapt to your own personal playing style . Through its' TRAIN Function, the instrument sensors will read and store your soft and hard hits to determine your comfortable playing velocity range. Once trained, the malletKAT then superimposes this personal range across the minimum/maximum MIDI velocity values and velocity curve assigned to each of the 127 User Kits.
This is not some cool gimmick. This is a vital, integral feature of the malletKAT - any and every sound on your instrument can be individually “tweaked” to perform the way you demand.
The Malletstation has a system in place that allows the user to define the starting note on its' lowest note. By using gray caps, you can rearrange your “black” keys to create the appearance a three-octave instrument that starts on C or F or whatever note you like.
The malletKAT always starts on C, but can be expanded from a two octave instrument all the way up to a five octave instrument. Since the malletKAT can easily shift an octave up or down with a simple footswitch while your playing, this effectively gives you control of up to 6 octaves of sound instantly.
Both products are playable on the field. Like the Malletstation, the malletKAT v8 is now also water resistant. The jacks on both of our units are subject to the same kind of care from not getting drowning rain thrown at it. The nylon covering on the malletKAT’s pad not only protect it from the rain, but also from the sun!
DURABILITY AND SUPPORT
Support and help is readily available.
We have provided unsurpassed customer support for thousands of malletKAT users.
Readily Available On the AlternateMode.com Website:
Product Manual Downloads
Product Software and Pre-Made Configurations (SysEx Files)
Dozens of Support and Training Videos. (also at YouTube)
Helpful Training Videos
The malletKAT/SPDSX Facebook Group has a thriving community of electronic percussionists willing to help share information and insight into the many ways they used their malletKAT instruments. You can always post a message on the Alternate Mode Facebook Page
At the Alternate Mode Factory:
Call Alternate Mode toll free at (877) 933-6237 for any support or repair questions.
We hope this article sheds some light when comparing a Malletstation to a malletKAT.
Please visit our website for more information or to view performance and demonstration videos.