news\ Sep 27, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Drum Rocker Vs. Rock Band 2 Drum Kit

Drum Rocker Vs. Rock Band 2 Drum Kit
By Louis Bedigian

Is a great gaming experience worth $210 more?

First there was Drum Mania and Taiko Drum Master, two little-known music games that utilized specific drum controllers. In 2007, Harmonix redefined music game packages with Rock Band, a title that offered guitar and karaoke gameplay but was dominated by its drumming experience.

This fall you can add four more to the mix: a new kit for Rock Band 2, the first drum kit for Guitar Hero, the drum-specific Rock Revolution, and the Ion Audio Drum Rocker, a deluxe kit designed for the Rock Band series. With the Drum Rocker now released, we thought it was time to put it to the test. Is it worth the $300 price tag? Find out in our full review. But don’t go away just yet – let’s first see how it compares to Rock Band 2’s $90 kit.

A look at the Drum Rocker (top) and Rock Band 2 drum kit (bottom).

Rock Band 2 Drum Kit: 8.9
Drum Rocker: 9.5

Both kits are stellar in this regard. In fact, there are only a few discernable differences. For starters, the Drum Rocker’s pads are bigger and thicker than those of the standard Rock Band 2 kit. The Drum Rocker comes with two cymbals – a great addition, to be sure. But the cymbals are not fully utilized outside the freestyle mode. Rock Band 2’s gameplay still relies on five separate beats (four drum pads and one pedal). However, given that the Rock Band 2 kit can be expanded with cymbals (Mad Catz plans to release a cymbal three-pack later this year), it’ll be interesting to see how Harmonix remedies this in the future. Could an expansion disc or download be on the way?

For those of you not planning to blast your TV speakers, both kits are pretty quiet. You’re going to hear something no matter how advanced the hardware becomes – that is inevitable. But neither kit sounds obnoxious. You’ll notice that the Drum Rocker gives off a deep, dense sound, whereas the Rock Band 2 kit is more of a reduced rat-tat-tat. Neither kit is superior in this regard.

Rock Band 2 drum pedal (left) and Drum Rocker pedal (right).

Likewise, it’s hard to tell which pedal is best. Purists will definitely prefer Ion Audio’s creation. The Drum Rocker’s all-metal pedal feels very similar to the real thing. But the standard kit is not to be outdone – though it is made of plastic and is more likely to crack, it feels extremely sturdy. It should last a long time. Not only that but the Rock Band 2 spring is actually more resistant than the spring in the Drum Rocker pedal.

Now when you get down to it, these aspects pale in comparison to one thing: how the kits perform. Incredibly, their performances are very close. Both kits are very responsive, are velocity sensitive (allowing them to differentiate between light and heavy drumming), and provide a really solid feel. The drum feedback is slightly more pronounced on the Drum Rocker, as its pads are more professional and thus provide a better bounce. But the standard kit performed nearly as well.

Rock Band 2 Drum Kit: 3
Drum Rocker: 5

The Drum Rocker enables users to adjust drum and cymbal placement (albeit stressfully), allowing them to place each piece in a variety of places. You can move the arms to stretch the pads further apart, if that’s your style. Pads and cymbals may also be raised or lowered to meet your playing needs.

The Rock Band 2 drum kit, however, is essentially one big piece with pads that cannot be separated. You can raise or lower the stand, but that is all.


It all depends on what you’re looking for. I personally love the idea of having a drum kit that’s small enough to carry around, throw in my trunk or store in a closet. You get that with the standard kit. However, it is also great having a full-size kit to bang senselessly while blasting Social Distortion through my TV’s speakers.


One of the Rock Band 2 pads versus the Drum Rocker’s larger, thicker pads.


Rock Band 2 Drum Kit: 9
Drum Rocker: 3

What could be easier than snapping a couple of legs into place? That’s what the Rock Band 2 kit offers – a simple, 30-second setup that anyone can figure out, with or without the instructions.

On the other side of the ring is the Drum Rocker, a kit whose setup is complicated by lousy instructions and one too many screws. You’ll need more than patience to get through this nightmare. It is highly recommended that you put the game and the kit out of your mind. Forget that, once this thing is built, you’ll be jamming like Travis Barker (pretending to, at least). Instead, you’re better off thinking of this as a new…desk. Yes, a desk! That’s boring. And if that distracts you for 20 minutes, you might just be able to finish it without breaking something. If not, at least you’ll have a fun way of unleashing all that tension when you’re done.

As a game peripheral, the Drum Rocker is hard to resist. It feels as good as it looks, expands on Rock Band 2’s freestyle mode, and is a blast to use. But the $300 price tag is a bit steep. If you have the cash and want the best drum experience you can possibly get from a video game, then by all means open your wallet. But if you just want a stellar drum game and don’t need the biggest and baddest drum kit around, the standard kit is a lower-cost alternative that will suffice.

For an in-depth look at everything the Drum Rocker has to offer, good and bad, don’t miss GameZone’s full review. While you’re at it, peruse our review on Rock Band 2 for Xbox 360.

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