Review: Rock Pedal

IMG_0225 If last week's paean to the ultimate Rock Band drum set cast my reputation as a savvy consumer into doubt, I'm probably sinking my credibility to the bottom of the darkest ocean with this review of a premium kick drum pedal for a video game.

Strictly speaking, the Rock Pedal is an actual, real drum pedal, complete with chain, spring and hammer. However, it's been modified to work with Rock Band with unparalleled precision and durability, putting the easily-broken pedals of Harmonix's own kits to shame.

There's no question whether the $80 pedal works as intended; Rock Pedal comes with a 30-day trial and a one-year full warranty, and my own experiences with the pedal over the last month have been nothing short of stellar.

No, the real question is one of value. What kind of person would benefit from a drum pedal that costs as much as the standard Rock Band drum kit?

IMG_0224This notice arrived on top of everything else in the package, reminding new owners not to panic at the complexity of the pedal.

Well, me, for one.  The feel of having a real kick pedal underfoot is immensely satisfying after spending years with imitations. After a few hours of experimenting with different settings, I finally settled into a comfortable, intuitive groove where I was equaling or surpassing most of my previous scores. But the difficulties involved in getting to that payout were nothing to laugh at.

In addition to the $80-plus-shipping price tag, Rock Pedal also costs a lot of patience to get the calibration just right. Loosen the wrong screw without holding the right part in place, for example, and all your minuscule adjustments are lost. Fortunately, each pedal comes configured to a default setting, and the website contains several helpful videos for learning how to manipulate the tension, movement range and bottom-out point for the pedal. And if all else fails, there's a video that helps calibrate the pedal back to "factory" settings. It's certainly no substitute for a pedal that works perfectly out of the box, but nobody buying a real, high-quality pedal should be expecting that. Everyone plays differently, and the Rock Pedal seems fairly flexible in accommodating different people.

Sadly, the Rock Pedal only works with Harmonix's Rock Band kits and the ION Drum Rocker kit, which means Guitar Hero fans are out of luck. However, the Rock Pedal site recently updated with a link for purchasing Guitar Hero 5. While that's not a confirmation of future compatibility, it sure would be misleading if it ended up not working with future Guitar Hero games.

Despite the financial and time-related hurdles, the Rock Pedal is a high-quality product that will dramatically improve any veteran drummer's experience with Rock Band. But consumers should give serious consideration to their Rock Band habits before purchasing; after all, a brand-new Rock Band 2 drum kit can be purchased for roughly the same price.

Recommended for:

  • Owners of the ION Drum Rocker kit; you've demonstrated an insatiable zeal for Rock Band and a total lack of fiscal responsibility, so what's another $80?
  • Rock Band drummers who want to improve their Harmonix-made kits; as the stock drum pedal is easily the weakest part, the Drum Rocker offers a massive advantage without the cost of an ION kit
  • Rock Band drummers planning to transition to a real drum kit -- the Rock Pedal functions wonderfully as a real kick pedal

Not Recommended for:

  • Casual Rock Band players who haven't dealt with the frustration of snapping a few standard kick pedals -- this feels like a waste of money
  • Guitar Hero players hoping for a drum pedal upgrade; unfortunately, the Rock Pedal only works with Rock Band drum kits
  • Those with limited patience; if the idea of tinkering with a drum pedal made for a video game for several hours to get it just right sounds comparable to undergoing dental work, you'll want to pass on this one

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