In: Reviews by Edie Sellers16 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
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
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.