TrapKAT 5KS Drum Controller Tested!

Alternate Mode has put more thought into the hi-hat than just about any other manufacturer. The hi-hat parameters on the trapKAT 5KS include setting the open, closed, chick, and splash note numbers. Continuous controller numbers determine the position of the hi-hat pedal. You can also select which pads on the trapKAT will serve as hi-hat pads (up to four). Additional hi-hat commands include the “HATNOTE” which offers an eight-note feature for distinguishing various degrees of hi-hat pedal position. Hi-hat overlap is another feature that allows the trapKAT to sound more realistic, as sounds will overlap rather than instantly cutting each other off.

When selecting a gate time (the length of a particular note-on event), there are three additional options: Roll Mode, which helps to eliminate the machine-gun, stuttering effect that sometimes happens when triggering longer sounds like cymbals or conga tones. Using this feature, the note-off message is delayed until after six seconds has passed since the last time the pad was struck. In “infinite mode,” no note-off message is sent from the pad, and in “latch mode,” a pad will toggle between note-on and note-off messages on subsequent strikes. Interested in doing some DJ-style gigs? Latch mode is perfect for starting and stopping loops during live performance.

The Sounds

The 5KS includes a wide range of built-in sounds. And the sounds are really good. The decays on the drum sounds are very natural and even cymbals have a long enough sample time to please the most discerning ear. There are plenty of different drum and percussion banks to choose from, and the trapKAT OS will let you pick and apply any sound to any pad, from up to four different kits at one time.

The sound card inside the KS is the same one that Alternate Mode uses for its malletKAT. That means there are also great-sounding marimbas, vibes, chimes, steel drums, tympani, and other standard (and not-so-standard) percussion sounds. Have a need for bass, keyboards, brass, strings, synth leads, and more? You can do that too.

It’s impossible to describe sounds in words, and harder still to make a determination if a particular sound set is going to fill your needs and give you happy ears. If you want to have a listen to some of the sounds that are available on the 5KS, jump to the Alternate Mode website or search YouTube. There are some nice demos that will give you a good feel for the quality and usefulness of the sound set.

The Pedals

eKIC – The supplied eKIC pedal worked like a champ. It’s a reverse beater—style device that attaches to a standard bass drum pedal. It was easy to set up, and the supplied pedal itself felt just fine. With a chain-drive mechanism, it’s smooth, silent, and adjustable. I plugged it into the trapKAT, gave myself a little more “throw” length, and forgot about it.

eHAT – Alternate Mode’s eHAT pedal device can be attached to just about any bass drum pedal with a base plate. I tested the unit with the bass drum pedal that was provided (the same pedal as the eKIC). There are three jacks on the eHAT: one for the continuous-controller data that most machines expect to see on a hi-hat input, one to use as a velocity-controlled trigger output (a single trigger), and one stereo output designed for a new Alternate Mode device called the “DITI” that should be available soon.

Bottom Line

The thought of walking into a gig with a nice amp on wheels, and a 14-lb. controller slung over my shoulder is a pretty nice picture. There’s no question that with 24 surfaces (26 with hi-hat and kick pedals), you’ll have all the variety you’ll need under your hands in a small and simple package. I could easily do all my programming at home and take 24 killer-sounding kits to the venue that should cover all my needs – a cover band, an original group, and even a Broadway show or experimental ensemble. To me, the pads felt just fine and tracked my playing style without requiring any adjustment at all. The pads are plenty large and easy to reach.


I feel that the trapKAT 5KS is a nice blend between simplicity and flexibility. If you’re looking for a machine that will offer a lot of great drum sounds without a lot of fuss and muss, this machine deserves your attention. Furthermore, if you’re looking for something designed for musical experimentation and exploration, the 5KS could serve that purpose too.


Model & List Price

trapKAT 5KS (includes 24 pads, bass trigger input, hi-hat input) $2,217
trapKAT Stand (aluminum rack-style stand with two mounting brackets) $152
eKIC Bass Drum Trigger
w/out bass drum pedal $79
w/ bass drum pedal $145
eHAT Hi-hat Pedal
w/out bass drum pedal $155
w/ bass drum pedal $219
Complete Bundle $2,599

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