This was announced a few months back, and reasonably representative demos began showing up on YouTube a couple of months ago, but pre-orders only began being posted at Sweetwater and elsewhere quite recently.
This is the only device of its kind; Keith McMillen does not sell these directly under his own name. But maybe being patient will pay off, as success (quite likely at $1K) may lead to a larger version?
I consider 4.3 octaves ideal for marimba -- I don't much care for what happens with the competing harmonics in the lowest register when extending to 5 octaves. Vibraphone can get away with a smaller range, but 3 octaves seems too restrictive.
This is partially compensated for by allowing transposition in conjunction with the ability to move the unplayable "black keys" to adjust for such transpositions (or to create new tunings).
The tactile response is said to be excellent. Not too keen on not having a MIDI connection and having to use USB bus power, which is generally unreliable -- especially for extended periods. Two USB cables is a bit much to deal with. Not necessarily a deal-killer.
As someone who loves chromatic percussion, has owned several instruments in that family over the years and feels quite comfortable with mallets, this is quite appealing, but it would also cut into the budget for a rosewood marimba that gets more expensive every year I put it off (wood scarcity).
What would really be helpful, is to get feedback on player-instrument connection when triggering "heavy" libraries such as Soniccouture's vibraphone. And whether standard electronic keyboard pedals (sustain/momentary, and continuous/expression) can properly emulate vibraphone motor on/off handling and thus build technique rather than damage it when going back to the real thing.
I'm also interested in this. I have a mallekat (which is the same idea, so the Pearl isn't the first of its kind), four octaves, onboard (Kurzweill) sounds, ite okay but expensive for what it is.
As far as I have seen on videos, if I remember correctly the Pearl allows you to play in the 'vibraphone' style regarding dampening, and there are some features on it that are very clever indeed (including the aforementioned ability to change the range).
One issue I am interested in is the 'thump factor', ie how much sound a mallet on the keyboard makes. This can be an issue for me with the malletkat in quiet musical environments.
Waiting to try one out somehow here in Europe when they become available.
Ah, I said "device of its kind", not "first of its kind". :-) I've known about the malletkat for 15+ years, but it's not really the same sort of device as this one, even if it too is a "chromatic percussion controller" of sorts.
Maybe I'm just being nit-picky. I simply don't consider USB controllers to be the same category as MIDI controllers, as they are so inflexible in interfacing with any existing gear people have, so are computer-only interfaces for the most part.
Although one of my former co-workers is one of the best known malletkat performers in the SF Bay Area, I stupidly didn't ask him to let me try his, for the tactile response (which matters so much to me).
The comparison video at YouTube goes into detail on the differences. I forgot to link that earlier, but here it is:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvSeq1yTmKk
There isn't much there that isn't also in the written review, as it's the same source/writer.
There's another mini-review video here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkLo-M58BXA
I still feel the low-mid to upper-mid range is the most realistic, for the marimba, and that the other chromatic percussion sounds very fake.
Kraft Music have it for pre-order with stands/etc. but doesn't offer the extras that Pearl lists at the actual product site:http://pearldrum.com/products/kits/electronics/malletstation/
I passed on McMillen's earlier hand-pad multi-zone percussion interface, due to so many limitations and concerns about long-term support and reliability. The Malletstation may be built robustly, and even that earlier device from last year is built better than Korg's highly fragile Wavedrum.
The level of noise will matter to me as well. Not just for gigs/rehearsals, but also the distraction. It's something that often drives me crazy about keyboard controllers too. Clackety-clack!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbzABZnLKjM
The above example is why I would never buy a malletkat. It's even louder when hit, than the Roland HPD-15 HandSonic that I owned for many years.
Does malletkat support mallet damping (important for vibraphone playing) as does malletstation?
Another reason I consider these different types of devices is that malletkat seems scaled to a real-world marimba or vibraphone; whereas malletstation appears to be the equivalent of mini-keys in a keyboard controller.
And on that last point, I think I've lost interest, as it could wreck whatever technique I still have from tactile memories of when I last owned a small-scale marimba.
I've been using a Wernick Xylosynth mallet controller for many years; and I'm now looking at the malletSTATION videos on YouTube and the specs posted on the Pearl website, and have been exchanging emails with Matt Jordan at Pearl about the mS. To address some of the concerns here:
The keys are 1.75" x 5", so the width is the same as the upper two octave's bars on most vibes (narrower than the lower octave on graduated-bar instruments, though).
The mS supports EITHER mallet dampening OR MIDI aftertouch with pressure on the "keys" after a note is played.
Pedal inputs, buttons, and sliders can send any MIDI Continuous Controller message (I think), so to emulate vibraphone behavior, the synth or module being controlled must be set up to respond correctly to those CC messages.
I can't think of how to use mS mallet dampening and MIDI half-damper sustain control at the same time, though. One of the pedals could send sustain (CC#64) values from 000 to 127, but pianos can't dampen individual notes with the sustain pedal down, which is how mallet dampening works on vibes; and MIDI synths and modules do piano - type sustain. Half-damper sustain is something that I use a lot on real vibes to smooth out the melodic line, and I've set up my Xylosynth / Korg Kronos to do this (the Xylosynth doesn't support mallet dampening, and the mS could be used this way without mallet dampening).
Any type of mallet can be used with the mS, so a very soft yarn mallet would be quietest (with the least possible wear on the mS playing surface, too). Mallet noise from the Xylosynth hardwood bars played with Mike Balter "Extra Soft" yarn mallets is minimal.
It's pretty easy to convert the USB interface to 5-pin DIN MIDI, either with the KMI MIDI Expander, or something like the HobbyTronics MIDI USB to DIN Converter, or the Kenton MIDI USB Host.
I have a malletSTATION on preorder with Sweetwater - to be shipped at the end of this month, they say...I'll post more (and more detailed) info then...
I looked into the Wernick years ago and decided I'd just as well spend such a big amount of money on a real marimba. My recollection is that it is "sort of" a marimba with MIDI sensors, like Moog's Piano Bar for MIDI-fying an acoustic grand.
Good to hear that malletstation's physical specs are close to a vibraphone. Lots of useful info here; thanks for sharing. Nice to know also that Xylosynth doesn't have internal mechanical noise (or pad resistance) that disrupts playing with mallets of any level of softness/hardness.
I was actually in touch with the Wernick folks a number of years ago, until the price began to exceed an acoustic rosewood mallet. As I would not be gigging primarily on a percussion controller, the flexibility that this device entails is not as of big a concern overall. It's more the thought of it being a good interface for tracking appropriate instruments, that I do not own.
As more feedback comes in from owners, it will be easier to decide whether to get this first, and use for all related instruments, with an acoustic marimba still a high priority, or get the marimba before rosewood prices become inaccessible (I don't like padouk or synthetic marimbas), and pick up the malletstation later for covering stuff I'll never own (like tubular bells).
Some great information here, thanks guys, Some thoughts of mine:
Malletkat does support dampening.
I rejected the xylosynth because of the lack of onboard sounds (although, as far as I remember, a simple gm set is offered), and was very heavy, although the feel was great and far more 'instrument-like' than the malletkat.
The malletkat sounds are okay, but have been surpassed by software I think. I'm not really keen to use a laptop, as I prefer to use an ipad. However, I haven't been able to find a great vibraphone/ mallets app on ios, apart from sampletank, which is okay but seems lacking to my ears.
Have you guys tried the Vibes and bass marimba in Pianoteq?
The playing feel of the Xylosynth is the main reason I have it; the XS replaced a Buchla Marimba Lumina, which, although it had far more MIDI capability, just never felt right with the flat plastic playing surface and those giant soft foam mallets (!)...Will Wernick put a lot of effort into making the XS play like a "real" mallet instrument, and hopefully Keith McMillen has done this with the malletSTATION...
I've been using the XS for gigs because real vibes just aren't loud enough when playing along with electric instruments in venues much bigger than a coffee shop or small restaurant...I also play piano on a Korg Kronos, which then serves as the "sound module" for the XS...I use samples that I made from my Deagan Aurora II many years ago - it's taken a long time to get them to respond like real vibes when played from a mallet controller: endless tweaking of velocity response, volume and tonal balance across the keyboard, etc., etc....we'll see how they work with the mS...
I have an Alternate Mode GigKat module, too, although it doesn't sound as good as my Deagan samples (no other commercial samples / software instruments that I've tried do, either)...I may look at removing the Kurzweil board and installing it in the mS, just to have an all-in-one instrument that's easy to move around (the XS is a little big and heavy, and forget about that Kronos)...
Where'd you get your Deagan samples? Most libraries I own are Yamaha or Bergerault. Sometimes Musser. Although Deagan sort of morphed into another company as I recall (maybe one that I listed), in terms of the stencils and specs and know-how being passed on.
Pianoteq is OK for vibes and marimba; better than some sample libraries. Not as realistic in the lower register, but I haven't yet tried these instruments in the brand-new update. I use Tubular Bells in Pianoteq due to the extended range, which I often need.
Deagan samples: about 10 years ago, I sampled my Aurora II using an E-mu ESI-32 sampler...it had limited sample time and floppy disk storage (!), so I sampled every third note and looped the samples (after the percussive attack, vibe waveforms are pretty simple and uniform, anyway)...I made several multisamples using different Albright and Mike Balter mallets, and then velocity-switch between them in the synth program...I've used these samples on different Alesis, Yamaha and Korg synths, and you do need a capable synth engine to provide envelopes, filters, vibrato, panning, scaling parameters across the keyboard range, etc....
Deagan was bought out by Slingerland in 1978, and then eventually by Yamaha; but while Yamaha vibes are very good instruments, they really don't sound like Deagans...Henry Schluter, the Deagan engineer who invented the modern vibraharp (vibraphone), did the final voicing and tuning of every Deagan vibe that left the factory before his death in 1971, and he obviously knew what vibes are supposed to sound like...
A quick correction to my comment about the Wernick Xylosynth above: the XS does support a kind of mallet dampening: it has a mode where a light stroke on a sustaining note sends the MIDI note-off for that note...that's not exactly like "real" vibes, where any pressure or touch on a sustaining note (sustained by the pedal) stops the bar from sounding...I never put in the time with that XS mode of operation to feel comfortable with it, and the XS doesn't support dead strokes...playing real vibes, I don't use mallet dampening very much anyway, but do use dead strokes...and again, I do use half-damper "pedal fluttering" on vibes, and since that isn't compatible with malletSTATION mallet dampening, we'll have to see how things works out...
I was all set to buy the BopPad tonight during a sale, until I saw reviews at Sweetwater's site that scared me away from it and now also probably the malletstation:https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/...ASAAEgJzovD_BwE
I had already heard from others that KMI stuff tends to not get fleshed out at the software end of things. Sometimes later, but I also heard the hardware is best during the first production run as they try hard to exceed specs and do initial manufacturing here (literally near my office).
Hopefully these are outlier experiences, so I'll search for more reviews.
I looked at those Sweetwater Bop Pad reviews, and they're basically critical of the KMI editor...the editor really ought to work within a DAW or MIDI monitor, so you don't have to do "stop-start-save-send-close-open-try" editing...but the other criticisms, of the editor's look and feel, "clunkiness", having to use note names / MIDI note numbers, etc., I don't know; I haven't used the BP / editor, but a quick online search didn't find anyone else with these kind of complaints, and screen shots and operation descriptions look reasonable (?)...
And "compIex MIDI issues": anyone who works with complex MIDI instruments has to deal with this all the time...I've been using the Korg Kronos for about 6 years, and still every now and then something seemingly inexplicable happens, and I trace it back to something I haven't done correctly, or didn't know about, that is explained on some page buried deep in the user manuals...I didn't see anything but high marks for KMI product build quality and reliability, and there's supposedly a YouTube video of a BP being run over by a truck with no damage...
It'll take a while to get information about malletSTATION easy-of-use and long-term reliability, and I can see that someone wouldn't want to invest $1K to be one of the first users...after I get my mS and have had a chance to use it for a bit, I'll post some more here...
Yeah, I downloaded the actual user manual for BopPad after reading those comments, and it all seemed pretty straightforward to me.
Also, I don't need or want a DAW experience for controller editors -- I don't work that way.
I didn't check to see whether the user manual for mallstation is already posted or not.
Looks like it may be worth investing in the BopPad and its cymbal mount adapter, for now, as it would get different use than the malletstation anyway (e.g. for hand drums like congas).
Oh, one thing that isn't clear is whether the BopPad includes the little expander box. The user manual talks about it a lot, and shows it as though it's part of the package.
I mostly just need to know, so that I won't unnecessarily add that to my order.
The malletstation (still not sure of its case mixing, as I've seen it several ways, so am using all lower-case for now), seems to be self-contained in terms of input and output jacks.
No malletSTATION manual yet (and all of the Pearl documentation uses mixed case in the name)...
You only need the MIDI Expander if you want to connect to devices that have the original 5-pin DIN MIDI interface, and the Expander is not included in the BP package...
The malletSTATION is different: it has two USB-type ports, one mini and one standard "B" type...according to Matt Jordan at Pearl:
"These are two separate ports. The full-size USB ["B"] jack is the USB MIDI connector (class compliant), and the mini USB is actually just a port for the KMI MIDI expander (in case you need access to 5 pin MIDI devices). This device is not actually using the USB protocol, even though it has a USB jack, so itís not compatible with a computer."
So I think that means that you could use other class-compliant USB-to-MIDI converter with the mS...but since the BP's micro interface is class-compliant, it should work with other converters too...???...oh, well, if you need 5-pin DIN MIDI with the BP, you might as well just buy the Expander...
(Nothing confusing about this, eh?...this is just my take on things without any hands-on or manuals...)
That all makes sense; thanks. I'll probably order the BopPad tomorrow -- been working round the clock at my day job for eons and am about to drop. I figure the BopPad is more generally useful than Korg's WAVEDRUM, as a MIDI tool, and maybe even for general ergonomics and construction.
With reference to my post further up, anyone point me in the direction of a great ios vibraphone app, apart from Sampletank?
I don't do Apple, and I haven't found a good Windows vibe app either...if you have an SF2 player, or a synth app that can play SF2s, send me an email address (a PM?) and I'll send you my Deagan samples converted to SF2 format...
I think I've decided against buying the BopPad, in spite of its cheap price (especially while 17% off, for the next few days), as I can't think of many things I'd use it for once I have a malletSTATION, and it could simply prove a distraction from getting better on the actual acoustic hand percussion instruments I already own.
I never got around to buying new congas after selling mine to a band mate who needed incentive to learn them (almost twenty years ago now), but do plan to buy a very specific set (the traditional series from Toca, which taper more than modern designs), but only after I first get better on bongos and other hand percussion (djembe, etc.).
Having read the SOS review, the user manual, and having had experience (and ownership) of the HandSonic and WAVEDRUM previously, I do think the BopPad is a good buy for a lot of people, and could also whet the appetite for the malletSTATION when it arrives.
Just got word from Pearl Europe that there is no scheduled release date for the Malletstation in Europe :-(( Hope it does eventually get released around here, importing from the USA is unrealistic price-wise...
No malletSTATION release in the USA yet, either - the usual R&D / production issues with a new product...the last word I got from Pearl is that the first units should arrive around the end of June...
For the ultimate you want a Zendrum Mallet controller.
I'd never heard of the Zendrum mallet controllers - has anybody ever seen or played one? They certainly look good and well-made on the website, and are available in larger 3.5, 4, and 5 octave sizes if that's what you need...and can afford and carry: it looks like they cost and weigh about 50% more than the Xylosynth (!), which was criticized here for being too expensive / too heavy...that makes the Zendrum about three times as heavy and expensive as the malletSTATION, so it's definitely a different market niche...I do like the extra trigger "buttons" above the Zendrum keyboard, and the keypads; the Buchla Marimba Lumina also had extra trigger pads, which I found some uses for...the malletSTATION keys that are covered for remapping can still be assigned to other MIDI uses, and it has programmable sliders and button too...
Wanted to make sure the Marimba Lumina got mentioned in this thread.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marimba_Luminahttp://www.absolutedeviation.com/marimbalumina.html
The mallets contain tuned coils and the keys are antennae. It gets incredibly fine grained positioning info even when the mallet is not directly touching the keys and can tell the difference between each mallet so one can map up to four (maybe six?) mallets to different functions. It is one of Don Buchla's designs.
A friend, Mark Goldstein, worked on the instrument and gave me a demo a year or so ago. Very cool and very expressive. I believe they're still available, but expensive and quite boutique, with the issues that implies for a piece of electronics.
Did a quick pass through the thread and didn't see a mention of the Marimba Lumina. Came back after a few hours and saw yours right after posting...
I have to say Zendrum's main product (not the mallet stuff) makes the keytar look hip by comparison :-) The main advantage of their mallet instruments is they provide correct mallet on wood key feel. I'm guessing a lot of their sales are to marching bands where it allows easier amplification and the weight is secondary.
Key feel is an advantage for the Xylosynth, too...its hardwood keys look to be thinner than on the Zendrum mallet controllers, which is probably why the Xylosynth weighs a lot less...hopefully, Keith McMillen has designed a good key feel into the malletSTATION, too...the key feel on the Marimba Lumina, (with those giant soft foam mallets!) was completely different...
If the Zendrum mallet controllers are used by marching bands, then marching percussionists must not have to carry their own instruments these days...if they do, those 30-40 lb. Zendrum mallet controllers are going to start losing sales to the 16-lb. malletSTATION...
"Expensive and quite boutique" probably applies to the Zendrum mallet controllers, too, and to the Malletkat and Xylosynth as well...now the malletSTATION may be different...
If the Zendrum mallet controllers are used by marching bands, then marching percussionists must not have to carry their own instruments these days...
I thought they ran the heavier mallet instruments, like vibes and marimbas, on wheeled frames.
"Expensive and quite boutique" probably applies to the Zendrum mallet controllers, too, and to the Malletkat and Xylosynth as well...now the malletSTATION may be different...
Zendrum looks a bit more reasonable on this front in that they've been around a fair while and provide replacement parts. E.g. John Emrich has a video where he says they sell user replacable keys for ~$25. (That's the piece of wood with the sensor electronics.) He advises having an extra or two if you travel with one and it gets played by lots of people. (In that section of the video, he's cautioning that the wood can get little dents if played with hard rubber mallets, but I doubt that has a significant effect on playability.)
Marching bands with wheeled carts for mallet instruments: that's probably how it's done now, I've been out of school now for 50-some years...
The Wernick Xylosynth has been around for quite a while, too, and they also sell spare keys (a key change is relatively easy and doesn't take too long), and they can repair failed keys...I would think that you would always use very soft yarn mallets with a mallet controller for minimal wear, since the type of mallet doesn't have anything to do with the sound...again, Wernick really tried to make the keys and key mounting feel like a "real" mallet instrument when played with soft mallets; I don't notice any difference switching back to my Deagan vibes...
I don't have any experience with the Malletkat about these issues, and we'll just have to wait and see how the malletSTATION does...
Wow, never heard of Zendrum before, their mallet controllers look great, but ouch, expensive and heavy...
Regarding the Malletkat, its feel is definitely not 'real' compared to a xylosynth (I tried both), I own a malletkat mainly because when I bought it I needed onboard sounds and software wasn't as good for me at the time, but now things in that area are changing (thanks partly to the generosity of Dave Fahrner :-)) the mallestation, and also perhaps the xylosynth, are becoming more realistic as options...but in terms of feel, I suspect the malletstation will have the same 'plasticky' feel as a malletkat.
I have not played their mallet instruments but I have two Zendrums. Top quality and very playable. Nothing else comes close.
There's a 45-minute interview / Q&A session about the malletSTATION with Matt Jordan of Pearl and Jeff Phipps of Steve Weiss Music at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoDduVUZ7Jk
Matt answers most of the questions raised here, and gives a lot more detailed information about mS capabilities, setup, included software, etc...it looks like Pearl is actually getting ready to ship units; the video was made on May 24th, and Matt is talking about shipments in "30 to 45 days", which would be the end of this month...Pearl online support says that the mS "is in production and should be shipping soon"...
(I posted this about the malletSTATION on the encyclotronic.com forums.)
Finally got my malletSTATION last month - it was a long delay between product announcement and first production shipment, but hey, it is a new and complex product...like any new musical instrument, it's taking me some time to get it set up the way I want, and to get used to playing it, but it works well...the playing feel is good, and any kind of mallet works, although mallet noise is a little greater that on a Xylosynth...sensitivity and velocity curves are fully adjustable, and mallet dampening and deadstrokes work just about like on a "real" vibe...you have to play a little more accurately than with the Xs, since the very edge of the "bars" doesn't respond, but it's not a big deal...the additional panel controls, which are programmable and can send just about any MIDI message, are big enough to use a mallet to adust them while playing (!)....the mS a little smaller and lighter than the other mallet controllers, but is very solidly built...I'm using it with a Korg KRONOS synth (with my own Deagan vibe samples) that has USB class-compliant connections, which can connect directly to and power the mS; I've also tried it with USB-to-MIDI adapters from Kenton and Hobbytronics and they work perfectly (as I'm sure the Keith McMillen adapter does, too)...
There's an article on the Alternate Mode website comparing the mS and the Malletkat, and it's worth looking at if you're in the market for a mallet controller, if you know how you're going to be using it and what features you need (although the article is clearly aimed at convincing you to buy the Mk)...you do need to use a computer to configure the mS, while this can be done on the instrument with the Mk (although not easily), you can set up four different configurations on the mS, selected by pushbuttons, and that's probably enough for most players (it is for me)...the article also emphasizes the internal sounds available with the Mk, but if you're going to use a computer or an external synth or tone generator, that's probably not important...I do have an Alternate Mode Gigkat module, which has the same sounds as the internal sounds of the Mk, but they're not programmable and the vibe sounds aren't as good as my Deagan samples...
I think that my Xs has a little better playing feel than the mS, and certainly has a classic look with the bubinga tone bars and wood ends (although the mS looks high-tech and modern, if that's what you want), but again the Xs is not as configurable and its MIDI capabilities are limited...
It's great to get first-hand reports from those who own and/or are experienced with other mallet controllers.
BTW it's not always easy to find listed, but Pearl makes a nice gig bag for it.
In my comments above, I'm comparing my older Xylosynth, a Mark V model from the early 2000s, with a brand-new product from Pearl, which may not really be a fair comparison...Will Wernick points out that the more recent models (the Mark 6, and the new Mark 7) have a lot of new features including improved mallet dampening, dead strokes, octave switching, and more...see http://www.wernick.net/
for more info...
And the Xs does have a better playing "feel" than the mS, if that's what's most important to you...and the Xs has the traditional mallet instrument look, too, with hardwood bar and ends; I took the mS to a gig last week to try it out, and the first thing the other guys in the band said was that it didn't look nearly as nice as the Xs...