Which drums to use with RB2?

· by Steve · Read in about 5 min · (918 Words)

I’m still of the opinion that Harmonix make the most fun music software, and a lot of veteran players agree with me (except Eurogamer, who said GH3 was ‘better in every way’ than GH2, which IMO is total nonsense). However, Red Octane tend to make good hardware - personally although I own both I much prefer the Rock Band Strat to the GH3 Les Paul, but I know I’m in a minority there even among RB fans. The GH:WT drums have been getting some very good reviews, despite a few sensitivity issues which sound like they’re being addressed (Activision is going to allow you to download a PC-based software package that you can use to tweak the sensitivity on the drums, which is pretty damn cool).

Therefore, given the cross-compatibility between the instruments now - on PS3 GH:WT drums don’t work on RB2 yet but that sounds like it’s being fixed - what would be the best route for drum hardware, assuming Rock Band 2 is going to be your main choice of software? Does the cross-compatibility really work in practice, and is it the best route even if it does?

Firstly, here’s a video of someone using GH:WT drums with RB2:

Sounds like it works pretty well, the hardware is obviously good and it functions in RB2 mostly the way you’d expect. Maybe a little confusing in the mapping, since it’s designed for a different game, and it’s a real shame that only one cymbal does anything (the hi-hat); the crash cymbal doesn’t work. Also he mentions like most people that the weak point of the GH:WT drums is the pedal, since it’s plastic rather than metal like the RB2 pedal, and some people find it moves around a bit too much. I’m guessing that mods will appear for that though, just like they did for the weaknesses in the RB1 drums.

An alternative to get a comparable version of the functionality is to use the RB2 drums and mod them with cymbals. The RB2 kit has 3 cymbal inputs, and several companies produce optional add-ons (Mad Catz officially, other companies unofficially), like this (this is the official set):

The difference here is that you’ve had to buy the cymbals separately, but all 3 of them actually work with RB2 instead of just the hi-hat as with the GH:WT drums. but, of course it costs you a little extra (although that could be offset by not having to buy a pedal reinforcer since RB2’s pedal is already metal).

Personally I don’t think I’ll switch my modded drums just yet, which work well, unless they die - at which point I’ll have to consider whether to go down the RB2, GH:WT or Ion drumset path. But for those buying hardware soon, assuming RB2 being the main software you use, the pros/cons would seem to stack up like this:

RB2 Drums GH:WT Drums Ion Drums
  • Simpler RB2 game mapping
  • Sturdy metal pedal, less movement
  • Can be modded with up to 3 cymbals which all work, and give up to 8 separate inputs in the drum trainer
  • Raised hi-hat out of the box
  • Slightly larger pads
  • MIDI out
  • Basically a proper electronic drumkit
  • Totally awesome in every conceiveable way
  • Cymbals are an extra cost
  • Slightly smaller pads
  • Pedal a bit weak, probably needs modding for long-term use (extra cost)
  • Only one working cymbal (hi-hat) in RB2
  • Stupidly expensive
  • Kinda large

Obviously the Ion is out there on its own, but when comparing the RB2 and GH:WT kit it’s actually closer than I thought. I expected GH:WT drums to be a no-brainer, but the fact that in practice only one cymbal works with RB2, plus the fact that you’ll probably want to mod the pedal anyway, makes it a much closer race.

My conclusion - I think if you’re not the modding type, then the GH:WT drums would be a better bet out of the box - even if only one cymbal works with RB2, it’s still raised so will probably make it feel more realistic than RB2’s kit out of the box - and presumably you just hope you don’t snap the pedal (and experience with RB1 suggests some might). However, if you’re looking for more long-term and are willing to do a little modding and add the cymbals to RB2, I think the RB2 kit looks a little better, because you can get up to 3 cymbals working the way they should and the mapping from software to what you play is clearer. Also, although within the game the cymbals just duplicate the pads to retain compatibility, in the drum trainer they are all separate inputs (so a max of 8 separate inputs compared to 5 on the GHWT kit when used with RB2); kick pedal, 1 snare, 3 toms, hi-hat, crash and ride cymbals) so if you’re looking to learn how to play drums properly it’s a pretty good bet if you don’t want to splash out on a real drumkit (or the Ion). There’s also the possibility that in future Harmonix games they might start adding gameplay elements for these separate cymbals too. I think if my RB1 modded drums die, that’s what I’d go for, unless I’m feeling flush enough to go large with the Ion kit, because I don’t mind spending a little extra to mod my drums (as I’ve done already). As ever, you may prefer otherwise but hopefully this adds a little more concrete information for you to base that on.