Actually using ION’s UDB Electronic Drum Kit is a mixed affair. With any electric setup it’s silly to expect a similar experience to a real one so the trick is making sure the sacrifices are made in the right areas. Sadly the one that really matters, the “feel” of the kit really suffers with the iED05. More expensive alternatives generally use a rubberised coating on the drum pads to give a more convincing feedback, but the cheaper ION kit doesn’t have this response leaving a bare plastic surface for the (bundled) sticks to hit. The pads are at least pressure (or velocity if you’d rather) sensitive which is important, as I’ll cover in but a moment.
When you plug the system into the PC it is registered by Windows as a plug and play joystick, eliminating the need to install drivers. The bundled software, named Virtual Drum X (henceforth VDX), worked fine on the Vista system I installed it on, which is good to know. Once launched VDX displays a pretty basic looking GUI that controls a similarly primitive amount of functionality.
On the negative side, the hi hat and kick pedals are sometimes close to unusable. For a start the triggering is a very ambiguous event, occasionally it will work as wanted but more often than not either nothing will happen or I got a double-tap – that is to say, two drum sounds from one press. More fundamentally the feel of the pedals is completely wrong and sometimes threw off my sense of timing, which isn’t very helpful from a musical instrument. If you haven’t ever used a standard drum kit those issues are likely to be less pronounced, so bear that in mind.
By default about 20 different drum kits are created, ranging from “classic” through to “rock” with a few oddballs thrown in too – my particular favourite being one the name of which I forget, but which I dubbed “space invaders” – much hilarity ensued. As I mentioned earlier, these sounds are just audio files triggered by the oppressing of an input button, with the added twist of having the volume decided by the force of that hit. Creating custom kits out of the supplied array of sounds is an easy process too, despite the basic but intuitive nature of the software.
The software suite also includes training modes and a drumming game, the latter which I abandoned as utterly awful within minutes. The training, conversely, was actually batter than expected; if you’ve never used a drum kit before then it makes a half-decent introduction – certainly enough to get you playing along to simple songs at least.
It’s not perfect by any means, but the ION iED05 USB Electric Drum Kit is a great toy that should provide kids, big and small, with a decent amount of entertainment. If you have ambitions of recording backing tracks, or any comparable activity then look elsewhere. However, if you just want a fun toy you can easily collapse away in a corner when not in use and aren’t too serious about getting serious then the iED05 is worth considering.