Rock Band Instruments Hands On (Verdict: Quality, but Can Your Livingroom Take the Mess?)

IMG_3055.JPGWhile the gaming press leaves you with impressions of the king of all rhythm games, Rock Band, I'm going to tackle the hardware, which the Best Buy in SF had plenty of as of this afternoon. Let me start out by saying that the gear looked smaller on the internet; I'm too old to have toy instruments cluttering up my living room. I guess that leaves lying about them being MIDI devices, since I'm not getting rid of this stuff any time soon.


Guitar: Vs Guitar Hero 3's Wireless Axe, the Rock Band wired guitar has far better neck action, feeling less like a toy, a set of closely placed buttons up near the body that function identically. The neck is slim as a real guitar. The button presses happen with little throw, and don't click. The strum bar doesn't click either, but there is a notch at the end that feels more like strumming a guitar string than the GH3 guitar. I like it a lot better. If you haven't heard, the GH1 or 3 guitar can be used with Rock Band but not vice versa—that's important for your bass player.

Drums: These things are huge, but as something you have to assume emo gamer teens and slightly overweight Chinese American bloggers are going to beat on without much pause, it strikes the right balance between being sturdy and compact. I just wish it had a folding mechanism for throwing it into the closet when non-gamer friends come over. Pads are coated with a nice rubber surface, and the kick pedal doesn't mind if you rest your feet on it. There's a controller in the middle of the setup, so you can navigate menus before sets. The drum sticks are cheap, but whatever. (Here's a post we did that shows you how big the set is and how you can take it apart for storage.) P.S. I suck at drums. P.P.S. Drums are way better exercise than Wii Tennis.

Mic: Heavy enough to please me. Don't like the dongle at the other side. I'd like a headset so that I can be like Cher or play guitar/drums while singing. Tip, you might have problems getting the mic to detect. Either a patch for the game or restarting the console with the mic in it, and switching to the console from the USB hub fixed it. (More on the hub in a bit.) BTW, this looks identical to the mic included with Karaoke rev for PS2. That one seems to work with Rock Band.

I neglected to mention the included powered USB hub the guitar and drums plug into. Really annoying that you need another AC adapter, but what USB doesn't have, USB doesn't have.

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