ION Drum Rocker: Unboxing and initial impressions

Update: The cymbals problems discussed below relate to a faulty "brain" for the set that ION replaced for us before the final review.

Over the past week, we've had a chance to check out ION's premium Rock Band 2 drum set, the Drum Rocker (We've played it once before at E3 2008). We're waiting for a copy of RB2 for our final impressions; in the meantime, here are our initial thoughts of the set with the original Rock Band.
  • Our order arrived in two boxes weighing in at 33 lbs. and 6 lbs., respectively. The lighter box contained the third cymbal and colored discs to put on all three cymbals for differentiation.
  • Total time to unbox: 20 minutes (although, to be fair, we were taking a lot of pictures). That said, total time for setup (no camera usage) was close to an hour, with a large amount of time spent trying to screw in the cymbal clamps. Just another 2 or 3 mm on the screw length and we would've had a much easier time here.
  • Protip: Make sure you screw everything in very tight, or you'll be having to either pause the game to make fixes mid-song or learn to adjust to the added difficult of a drooping tom or cymbal. Even then, adjustments will have to be made to get the toms placed just right.
Read on for more impressions.
  • The pads are very well constructed, quiet and very responsive, although we found them susceptible to catching dust. Buy yourself a lint roller!
  • The kick pedal, too, feels sturdier and and better constructed for quicker notes. That said, it's also a bit noisier.
  • At least with Rock Band 1, the cymbals proved quite unresponsive, and no matter how hard we hit them, it only seemed to register about 65% of the time. It was especially noticeable going through "Tom Sawyer" on expert.
  • Like we did at E3, we still have our reservations about the novelty of the cymbals.
  • This is a minor quip, but one thing we liked about the RB set is that each tom gave off a slightly different noise when hit. That's not the case here, where every pad makes the same thud.
Check out Engadget for an alternate take on the Drum Rocker. We'll have more thorough impressions of the set -- both as a controller and a MIDI drum set -- as soon as we can test it out with Rock Band 2. The $300 premium drum is now available for pre-order.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.