December 23, 2008

Drum Silencers for Rock Band 2 Drums

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:

  1. Protecting the semi-fragile plastic underneath (obviously)
  2. Additional “bounce” for better, more realistic stick hits
  3. 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:

  1. 3/32″ layer of microcellular urethane (MCU)
  2. 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.

rock-band-2-drum-silencers

(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.

So does anyone know how well the official HMX silencers work on the RB2 kit? Are they still velocity-sensitve, any dropped notes, etc?

Also, any word on silencing the cymbals? They’re about on par with the stock RB1 kit in terms of clacky-ness.

Mayyday
December 26, 2008 at 12:43 am

> Also, any word on silencing the cymbals?

Pretty much cut an existing silencer into pie slices, and put it into place, I’d think. It hasn’t (yet) bothered me enough to do this, as I sort of like the audible difference between quieter drums and less-quiet cymbals.

(Also I would not say the cymbals are as loud as the RB1 drums; they’re louder than the RB2 drums, but no way are they the insane CLICK-CLACK of the RB1 surface!)

Jeff Atwood
December 26, 2008 at 3:59 am

> So does anyone know how well the official HMX silencers work on the RB2 kit?

I *believe* they’re thin neoprene, so I’d expect them to work fine on the RB2 set. I have not tried this obviously.

But if you’re gonna spend $20 on silencers, I’d go for gum rubber from Rock Band Drumsoft myself. The feel of the gum rubber is fantastic.

http://www.rockbanddrumsoft.com/sgr.html

Jeff Atwood
December 26, 2008 at 4:01 am

Well I was hoping to be a cheap bastard and just trasnfer over my HMX silencers from my RB1 kit to my RB2 kit. ^_^ I think if I did spend more money on more silencers, I’d get the good stuff. Go big or go home and all that.

And perhaps you’re right about the cymbals. I don’t know; upwards of a year of silenced RB1 kit sounds may have convinced me that the stock kit was quieter than it really was (I bought those things for a reason, after all.)

One last question. Those nylon-tipped sticks, do they help with the sound at all, or *only* drummer fatigue?

Mayyday
December 26, 2008 at 9:56 am

> Those nylon-tipped sticks, do they help with the sound at all, or *only* drummer fatigue?

I’ve tried a bunch of things with sticks and nothing really helps that much for noise reduction. I also have the rubber Tama Practice Tips and the difference is small.

http://www.guitarcenter.com/Tama-TCP10D-Silent-Tips-440041-i1135226.gc

People often recommend nylon tips for electronic drums, so that’s what I recommend as well. Not sure it makes much difference, but you’ll hear that a lot.

Sticks are all about “feel”, not necessarily less noise. It is definitely nicer to have a quality set of drumsticks that fit your hands! My advice is, go to your local Guitar Center (or similar) and try some out for size.

Jeff Atwood
December 26, 2008 at 12:57 pm

> Well I was hoping to be a cheap bastard and just trasnfer over my HMX silencers from my RB1 kit to my RB2 kit.

My gut feeling is, this would probably work. Try it and let us know!

Jeff Atwood
December 26, 2008 at 12:58 pm

>Those nylon-tipped sticks, do they help with the sound at all, or *only* drummer fatigue?

I haven’t heard about them helping with fatigue. They don’t make much difference when it comes to noise, though.

I highly recommend Zildjian anti-vibe sticks for fatigue. They really reduce the annoying vibrations that you get through the sticks.

http://www.guitarcenter.com/Zildjian-Anti-Vibe-Drumsticks-449711-i1275327.gc

I had a hard time finding them in store in anything but 5B wood, so you may need to order online. Worth every penny, though, if you play a lot.

mikehrzgle
December 29, 2008 at 12:57 pm

Hey, i just found this site and immediately subscribed.

I’m posting because i also bought these dual MCU pads off of rockbanddrumsoft.com around the time Rock Band 1 was released in Europe (that was in May). They did make a great first impression, but that quickly fell apart as the upper layer of the pads started to disintegrate after only a couple of weeks of drumming. Check out the photo:

http://i43.tinypic.com/sl470j.jpg

Not only did it look bad and lose a bit of the noise cancelling effect, there were also tons of small rubber particles scattered all over the floor after every session.

I contacted the dude that runs the site about it a couple of times, but he never even answered emails.

They probably offer other pads that could be more durable, but i’m not even gonna bother with that again. Wouldn’t recommend that site to anyone.

Bib
December 30, 2008 at 8:09 am

Bib, that’s very uncool. Thanks for letting us know. I haven’t seen any disintegration yet, but I’ll definitely post here if I do!

(also, yet another reason to go with gum rubber only — no way that’s going to decompose.. )

Jeff Atwood
December 31, 2008 at 1:13 pm

Bib — I agree, I had the same problem! The neoprene started wearing away where my sticks hit it!

I don’t mind becase I considered this an experiment, but it is a little irresponsible of them to sell this when it doesn’t last more than a month at best.

So now I’m back to recommending GUM RUBBER ONLY. :)

Jeff Atwood
March 8, 2009 at 6:21 am

(oh, and btw I just peeled off the top MCU layer, and left the natural tan colored gum rubber layer underneath. I’ve used gum rubber for months and months with no issues at all.)

Jeff Atwood
March 8, 2009 at 6:22 am

Great post, Jeff! I’m a fan of your codinghorror blog, and I’m also a fake plastic rock fanatic. I’ve just moved up to Hard difficulty on drums and am definitely noticing the crosstalk/dropped hits (I’m using the RB2 wireless drums). On your recommendation, I am purchasing some gum rubber from Rock Band Drumsoft; hopefully it’ll turn out well.

Also, here’s an idea for another post: An AC adapter mod for the RB2 wireless drums.

http://www.rockband.com/forums/showthread.php?t=88775

It sounds pretty snazzy. I plan on doing it to my drums, except I’ll be hooking up a USB port and powering the drums from my 360. No batteries!

Daniel F. Hanson
March 10, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Check out the XCELL Drum Pads at http://www.rockbandparts.com – Those are the BEST pads you can get… I bought some of the other brands, and these are WAY better. And they are only $19.99!

Rob
March 31, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Great site and great post on the drums!

Dennis Price
June 13, 2009 at 3:57 am

I cant get to rockbanddrumsoft.com
whats wrong?

TigerKid
January 10, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Looks like rockbanddrumsoft.com went under. I ordered a set of XCELL pads from http://www.rockbandparts.com – comes in on Friday, hoping they’re good. Check out this dude using the XCELL pads – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brCRVCu271E, that’s crazy!

Tariq Ahmed
January 25, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Does anyone have a source for quality silencers that ship to Europe (Netherlands, specifically)? I bought an RB2 set that was on sale, but my neighbours aren’t loving my new acquisition. rockbandrumsoft is gone and rockbandparts doesn’t ship internationally, and I’m wary of just buying a random set of silencers from ebay. Especially since they all seem to be foam, not MCU or gum rubber like explained in this post. I need this stuff to really work :)

Guy
March 2, 2012 at 12:02 pm

@Guy did you try asking on Doc’s Rock Band Mods forum? http://www.docsrockbandmods.net/

Jeff Atwood
March 19, 2012 at 11:03 pm

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