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Joystiq sticks-on: Final thoughts on the ION Drum Rocker

Ross Miller

Since our initial impressions, we've had a few weeks to get used to the ION Drum Rocker set (a variant of the Alesis DM5 Pro set -- pedal, cymbals, pads/hardware). More importantly, we've had a few days to play on it with Rock Band 2. Is it worth the $300 cost of entry? Read on for our final thoughts.

Gallery: ION Drum Rocker: Unboxing, Set Up and Impressions | 32 Photos

  • The ability to adjust your hardware is a double-edged sword. Having the freedom to do so is nice, but you'll spend a lot of time readjusting everything to fit your needs, not to mention if something isn't screwed in tight enough, your whole set might fall apart during a Pixies' song, as ours did. Particularly, the main screw used to keep the cymbals on the hardware needs to be at least another 1-2 mm longer, as it screws in only slightly to the other side and can easily pop out, causing the whole cymbal to slide out.
  • It probably goes without saying, but the Drum Rocker will take up a lot more room than your Rock Band set.

Instead of the included ends, use a basic washer with these cymbal clamps.

  • As an addendum to our previous post where we complained about the cymbals, ION sent us a new drum brain and that seemed to fix the problem. After some work, we were finally able to incorporate their use into our playing. It took a lot of extra effort, however, and it certainly didn't help our scoring at all. They do work well and are as responsive as the pads. We can't shake the mindset that the cymbals are anything more than a (quite expensive) novelty. The four pads are still there and they still work great.
  • Although we are being much less scientific here than with Kyle's experiment, with plastic-tip drum sticks the ION pads are indeed quieter than the Rock Band 1 set. It's worth noting that after about 10 songs with each play sessions, our wrists would start hurting, something that in the last year never happened with the RB1 set. The pads aren't as bouncy as the standard set but are much sturdier.
  • The pedal is still far superior to the standard set. You can also buy it separately for $50 and get a 1/4"-to-1/8" converter to use it with the standard set. It is a bit noisier than the RB pedal.
  • As a cheap electronic drum set, let's say this: Someone will find a way to make this work by plugging directly into a computer. Then again, that program will also likely work with the standard RB2 drum set ($90), which also has three cymbal ports and a second pedal port (something the ION set doesn't have without paying $40 for an expansion pedal). Although the cost of accessories are currently unknown, we're wagering the total would be much less than the $300 ION price tag. Alesis offers a drum module you can use for $360, but you'll also have to buy a second pedal for the hi-hat, rendering the total cost around $710.
We largely stand by our initial impressions. By merit of Rock Band's design, there's a limit to how authentic of a drum experience you will get with any peripheral (for fun, let's call it the "uncanny valley" of plastic peripherals). If you're looking to set up a pseudo-permanent "stage" for Rock Band parties, you might get a kick out of the ION Drum Rocker. However, if you're light on expendable cash and space in your room is a concern, this is not for you. The ION Drum Rocker is now shipping for Xbox 360, with PlayStation and Wii versions coming "later this year."

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