May 16, 2011

MadCatz Pro Cymbals Expansion

What did the drummer say that got him kicked out of the band? “Hey guys, I wrote a new song!”

Har. Har.

Drummers never get any respect.

They’re usually in better shape than the rest of the band from beating the skins all night long. They have to carry all of the pieces of their drum kit to and from shows and have the muscles to prove it. Sure, they’re not usually the brightest crayon in the box, but their job isn’t easy.

It seems like guitar players get all the recognition in real bands and Rock Band bands. I mean, there seem to be a lot more options for guitars and aftermarket gear you can get to complement them. Where’s the love for the drummers?


The Madcatz Pro Cymbals Expansion kit is here. Well, actually it’s been here since late 2008, but its full potential wasn’t revealed until Rock Band 3 was released. If you’ve had reservations about spending 40 bucks I’m here to tell you to go ahead and pull the trigger. You owe it to your band’s drummer. Or, if you’re a drummer you owe it to yourself!

The closest you will get to playing real drums in the Rock Band universe is the Ion Drum Rocker Premium kit, of course. But if you’re on a tighter budget then this expansion kit will work like gangbusters! This cymbal kit fully enables your existing Rock Band drum set for the Pro mode in Rock Band 3. You won’t look back.

This three cymbal expansion features color-coded Crash, Ride and Hi-Hat cymbals. They are easy as pie to install and feel plenty sturdy when you’re playing on them. The cymbals clamp to the base of your Rock Band kit and plus into the the three 1/4″ jacks on the back of your drums. There are three color-coded caps you screw on to the top of each cymbal. The jacks are also colored for easy reference. The cymbals sit at about a 10 degree angle and their individual heights are adjustable. (See our previous review of the Rock Band 2 Cymbals for an installation overview, but do note that the “Pro” cymbals themselves are substantially improved.)

Sitting at the kit with the cymbals installed gives the entire drum kit a “complete” feel. It looks and feels a lot more serious than sitting down to pay the traditional four pads and a foot pedal. I felt like a serious drummer sitting behind the kit. Now, if only I had any serious drum skills to go with it!

I’m a huge advocate of Rock Band 3’s Pro modes. Luckily for drummers, upgrading the standard kit to Pro kit only costs 40 bucks. This is probably the cheapest jump to Pro from any standard instrument and improves the experience by leaps and bounds! As with the other Pro mode instruments, Harmonix’s goal seems to be helping create musicians by charting Pro songs the way they are played on the real instruments, and they claim that if you can play the expert Pro mode charts than you can carry that over to those real instruments. I can personally attest to this! With the three cymbals simulating a real drum kit’s Crash, Ride, and High-Hat cymbal positions, you should feel comfortable sitting down at a real drum kit and jamming out some funky beats!

With these cymbals installed, your 4 drum pads no longer pull double duty as cymbals and toms/snares. In Pro drums mode, the chart will present the traditional color coded square drum gems, while adding the new color coded cymbal gems on top. It’s the same physical setup that you have in front of you as is on the screen. Your yellow cymbal will come down the note highway on the left, blue in the middle, and green on the right.

It takes about 1 song to get comfortable to recognizing the new icons on the screen. As far as getting used to their physical placement and accurately hitting the cymbals when prompted, that takes a little longer!

The only negative is that sometimes my sticks would catch the underside of the cymbal when I was lifting from the last pad I hit in order to hit the crash or ride cymbal. It would have been great to have some sort of adjustable distance to go along with the included height adjustment. I think I’m just being picky, and after altering my technique a little I was able to cut down on getting hung up on the cymbals. After spending some more time on these I’m sure it will be a non-issue.

If drums are your main instrument for Rock Band then you really should buy this expansion kit. I consider myself an occasional drummer on hard or expert Pro levels and after installing the cymbals found myself enjoying the drums more than I ever had before! I had a blast and am looking forward to making more time to play on them. It makes drums both more realistic, and more challenging — and it just feels way more “Rockstar” to play with the cymbals towering over my drum kit! I can imagine that someone who plays drums exclusively would get much more enjoyment than even I have so far.

Remember, all songs in the Rock Band library were written with cymbal support from the very beginning. So if you’re looking to unlock the full drumming potential of your entire song library — don’t hesitate to add the Rock Band 3 Pro Cymbals Expansion Kit!

Nice review! I know its personal preference, but I like to have the green (crash) cymbal higher (on the longer pole) than the blue (ride) cymbal, even though the pictures on the box have them the other way. It just makes more sense to me, since it appears to me that most drummers have the ride cymbal lower than the crash.

May 19, 2011 at 5:57 am

Do you know if the pro cymbals for rockband 3 can be used with rockband 2 drums ??

June 23, 2012 at 11:10 am

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