Review: Ion Drum Rocker Premium Drum Kit

In: Reviews by Edie Sellers

16 Oct 2008

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes a listener takes the time to write up a review, said review is actually quite good, and it hits our inbox at just the right moment when we actually have time to post it. That “perfect storm” hit this week, as listener Major Malfunction offers up his impressions of Ion’s much-talked-about new Ion Drum Rocker Premium Drum Kit peripheral for Guitar Hero: World Tour and Rock Band games.

Check it out, after the jump…

REVIEW: ION’S DRUM ROCKER PREMIUM DRUM KIT

by Major Malfunction

The other day I was sitting in my game room playing some Rock Band 2. I was working on finishing up the challenge series for the individual instruments. After I had finished my bass, guitar and vocals challenges, I moved on to the drums. I hadn’t played my Rock Band drums for months, and I’d had forgotten why I really didn’t like playing them until I started playing the first song — those drums are just so damned loud! I can’t play them after my kids are in bed due to the excessive noise they generate. Hell, I can’t even hear the game’s drums over the banging of the kit. In addition, they’re just not at all sensitive and often miss inputs, especially on my non-dominant hand.

I found myself looking on the web at the upcoming Guitar Hero: World Tour drums and hoping that they’d be better. However, after hearing from a friend who’d raved about his new Ion Drum Rocker Premium Drum Kit (Retail: $299 through Amazon.com), I really got to thinking hard about what I wanted to do.

The Ion set is $300, which is a pile of money for a game controller. But, is it too much money? I rationalized that the $90 I wouldn’t be dropping the Guitar Hero drum set cuts the price by almost a third. Toss in the money I planned to spend on a few underwhelming games, and I’d pretty much paid for the kit out of my gaming budget.

The Ion Drum Rocker doesn’t come ready to play. I opened the box to find a pile of smaller boxes inside, much like the Rock Band bundle. After unboxing all of it I had aluminum frame parts, four drum pads, two cymbals and mounts, a metal bass pedal, the controller brain, wiring, cable ties, a wrench, and two crappy drum sticks. Assembly took me about 45 minutes plus some fine tuning.

Once assembled, I was impressed at the Drum Rocker’s overall set-up. It’s extremely customizable, as each pad may be mounted wherever you want it at whatever angle you deem to be a good fit for you. The bass pedal can be placed wherever you want and does not clamp to the kit. The pedal has rubber strips on the bottom, retractable carpet spikes, and includes optional Velcro strips as well.

After assembling the kit, I plugged it into my Xbox 360 and fired up Rock Band 2‘s freestyle drum-trainer mode. Each of the four pads and the two cymbals were recognized as different inputs in this mode. The pads were a snare and three different toms, while the yellow cymbal was the high-hat and the green cymbal was the crash.

I instantly noticed a difference in playing the Ion pads versus the Rock Band standard kit. These pads feel almost like a real drum. They are very responsive, and you can play genuine drum rolls on them with no effort. The cymbals don’t feel like a real cymbal and require some tightening of the of the wing nuts to get the responsiveness just right — but they do work very well.

More importantly, the pads are extremely quiet. You can hear your sound from the game over your wailing on the pads. It’s a dull “thud” now versus the loud cracking sound you get from the stock drum sets.

The bass pedal — which is actually just a standard Alesis electronic drum pedal — is made of metal, depresses very easily and registers inputs very well. I play with my foot down and do a quick stomp for bass beats, and this pedal completely outperforms the Rock Band pedal when used this way. It takes very little actual foot movement to register the input.

Gameplay with the new set is an entirely new world. It’s like playing a new Ludwig kit after only having a set of plastic buckets to play with. Every single strike was registered, no matter how hard or soft I was drumming. Hell, I even missed the pad and caught the rim and it registered! The only drawback is that I can no longer blame the kit when I screw up a song. The game felt completely new and fresh to me when playing with these drums. It also lets me play at night now, as the racket won’t wake the entire family.

The additional benefit of the Ion set is that if I decide I want to relearn how to play drums properly again, I can simply order an electronic drum brain and use the Drum Rocker as an electronic drum set. It can then be modified using other standard electronic drumming equipment.

I look at Ion’s Drum Rocker as the last drum set I will ever need to control my band games. I have no doubt that it will outlast any of the $80-$90 standard kits out there and, despite the hefty pricetag, I expect to save money in the end. If any parts fail on the Ion, they are individually replaceable. I only hope that it will get the full functionality of the five pads plus the pedal input of the Guitar Hero drums. If not, I will happily live with one fewer pad for this kind of quality.

If you are really into Rock Band and love the drumming, then I really do recommend these drums. They aren’t cheap, but they are worth their price in construction, durability and functionality. However, only you can decide if any game controller is worth $300.

Pros:

  • Good Construction
  • Great Input Response
  • Quiet
  • Customizable

Cons:

  • $$$
  • Crappy Sticks Included
  • Takes up a lot of room
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9 Responses to Review: Ion Drum Rocker Premium Drum Kit

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CooperHawkes

October 17th, 2008 at 2:46 am

WOW! That’s an excellent write up Maj! Nice job!

And I’ll probably never own this drum kit.. ;)

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Holy Goalie

October 27th, 2008 at 3:01 pm

Yeah terrific review. I’m really considering buying the Ion myself. The standard RB drums never seem to register when I hit them and it makes it more frustrating than enjoyable to play.

I’m hoping the RB2 drum kit with cymbals gets a good review, so I would only have to spend $125 or so not $300 to play the drums.

I’m concerned the wife will kill me if I buy the Ion kit. And it’s not like I could hide them anywhere if I did.

Love the podcast too.

Holy Goalie

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James

December 9th, 2008 at 3:31 pm

I bought these about two months ago and these are awesome. My buddy doesnt even like playing his original RB drums anymore since coming over and playing these. You will forget the $300 that they cost after one song on the ION drums.

WELL WORTH IT!!!

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James

December 9th, 2008 at 3:33 pm

Oh btw–They are compatable with the new guitar hero also!!

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BC

February 12th, 2009 at 3:07 pm

The first picture is not what the drum rocker looks like… Not even close!

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GamerEdie

February 12th, 2009 at 3:46 pm

You’re absolutely right! Our bad. The cover kit isn’t.

I think it’s actually another electronic kit. I think it’s the Simmons.

We’re so sorry that we effed that up. We’ll fix it today.

Teaches us to drink and post!!! Thanks for the heads up!

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Scot Alan

April 8th, 2009 at 9:56 am

Has anyone had trouble setting up double bass? I also keep the bass pedal depressed when playing and lift and depress to hit beats. But when I have set up the double bass with a real kick pedal rigged to work with RB2 it doesn’t work unless you keep both feet in the “up position”. Then you have to lift one pedal to get the other one to register which doesn’t really work to great on Avenged Sevenfold and songs of that type.

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Maj Malfunction

April 8th, 2009 at 12:34 pm

I have not tried to set-up double bass. You may try the Rock Band forums, there are a lot of Ion users there.

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Claire Richardson

August 12th, 2010 at 7:45 pm

the best drum set that i have used is the ones that is made by Pearl`::

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