In Quieting your Rock Band Drums, I described a few ways you could reduce the terrible clickety-clack noise of the old Rock Band 1 drumset. Fortunately, with the Rock Band 2 wireless drum kit, noise is much less of a problem, as the drums come with a thin rubber layer on top this time around.
I was skeptical of thin rubber on the RB2 drumkit, but I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised — it’s a vast improvement the original insanely loud RB1 drum kit, for sure! That said, the thin rubber is certainly no match for the much thicker aftermarket gum rubber or neoprene I had on there before.
But once I cracked one of my Rock Band 2 drum heads, I started thinking seriously again about upgrading the drum heads, for several reasons:
- Protecting the semi-fragile plastic underneath (obviously)
- Additional “bounce” for better, more realistic stick hits
- Less noise
Although I generally prefer the RB2 drum layout, and the RB2 kit is much improved over the original RB1 kit, this is one area where the Guitar Hero: World Tour drumkit is clearly better; the cymbals and toms are heavily rubberized.
But like so many things in life, it’s nothing we can’t fix with a little extra cash and/or time. There are lots of sites selling drum silencers now, both for the RB1 and RB2 drumkits. There’s even an official set of Rock Band Drum Silencers endorsed by Harmonix, though they are intended for the RB1 drums. There’s a review on rockbandmods if you’re curious.
One of the best vendors for aftermarket drum pads / silencers I’ve found to date is Rock Band Drumsoft. I love their attention to detail. They offer gum rubber, neoprene, foam, and urethane — and they understand (and explain) the differences between all the materials in the drum pads they sell! In my own experiments, I’ve already discovered the drumming properties of mousepad neoprene and gum rubber in trial and error, and yes, the differences are significant. In order to figure out which material is best, You have to ask yourself — what type of drummer are you?
I decided to go with the MCU Dual layer pads, with gum rubber underneath:
- 3/32″ layer of microcellular urethane (MCU)
- 1/8″ layer of gum rubber
It was a little expensive, but I was sold on the optimum two-material approach. This is also what they specifically recommend for RB2 drumkits. The MCU dual layer pads finally arrived today; here’s a picture of them installed.
(Some other stuff you can see in this picture: nylon tip drumsticks, triple cymbal kit, faux drum kickhead, pedal metal reinforcement. Oh and that is the edge of the GH:WT drums in the upper left as well. Yes I am a little obsessed.)
You can’t quite see it in the picture, but the gum rubber layer underneath is smaller, and fits in the center. The MCU layer on top is larger and covers the edge of the drum rim as well. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this (I miss my sexy silver RB2 rims), but in practice it reduces the noise from the occasional rim hit, which is nice. So I’ve warmed up to the look.
But how’s the performance? I’m happy to report, outstanding!
- In terms of gameplay, it’s perfect. No missed hits whatsoever. I did notice that in the drum trainer, when going for a max pressure hit, you do have to use a smidge more force than before, but it’s hardly a problem.
- The feel is also much, much better than the thin default rubber of the RB2 kit. I’ve been a fan of gum rubber for a long time now as a drum surface, and having it back makes my inner drummer smile. The drums feel far more “alive” and bouncy in gameplay.
- As for noise, it’s definitely quieter. But any additional noise reduction over the already-quieter RB2 kit is relatively small. Is it better than gum rubber alone? Absolutely. Gum rubber has a “slapping” sound when you hit it that is noticeably reduced with the MCU on top.
On the whole, big thumbs up. I like that they included a comprehensive set of instructions with tips, colored adhesive dots to “label” the pads, and even some alcohol swabs for cleaning the drum surfaces before applying the pads. The instructions are actually useful, too: I initially had some air bubbles under the MCU layer, and the instructions told me push a pin through the MCU and push the bubbles out — this worked like a champ, and my drums are perfectly smooth now with no unsightly bubbling!
Adding aftermarket drum pad silencers isn’t absolutely required for the RB2 drumkit, like it was for the RB1 kit. But it is certainly a nice upgrade — and if you tend to play the drums aggressively and crack the drumheads, I’d strongly suggest you look into aftermarket drum pads. Either way, Rock Band Drumsoft should be at the top of your list.