The Latest and GREATEST in MIDI-to-Rock Band: Doc’s GH:WT MIDI Box

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There will always be a special place in my heart for the MSA-P Mod. Unfortunately, that mod requires a lot of time, energy, money, and risk. Now, some new advancements are making playing Rock Band (and Guitar Hero: World Tour, for that matter) with electronic drums a far less daunting prospect.

As many may already know, the GH:WT drum kit comes MIDI-enabled right out of the box. All that needs to be done is to plug your e-kit into the GH:WT brain via MIDI, assign the proper MIDI notes to each trigger, and you’re all set. Doc, over at Doc’s Rock Band Mods forum has taken it a step further. He’s gotten rid of all the used parts on the GH:WT kit (i.e., the drum heads, cymbals, pedal, and rack) and built a self-contained MIDI box with a standard rack mount. I recently bought one from him and I cannot be more pleased. Full review after the break.

First, I should start out by saying that Doc’s MIDI box will only work with e-kit brains that are MIDI-assignable. That means NOT the DTXplorer. (See, the MSA-P Mod is still good for something 🙂 ). SirPuttsAlot over at Doc’s forum has a great FAQ that addresses e-brain compatability.

As you may have deduced, I am no longer using a DTXplorer brain. Here’s my kit, in it current form:

Drum Kit

As you can see, it barely resembles a DTXplorer. I’ve replaced almost all the triggers with Hart (snare), Roland (rack toms, CY-14 for top hat), Pintech (floor tom, crash, splash, ride cymbals) components. I also took the plunge and picked up an Aleisis DM5 for a great price on eBay. The DM5 is MIDI assignable and is finally allowing me to play hi-hat open/closed in RB–something I’ve been obsessing over for a while. (Side note: I built a cool little DIY magnetic hi-hat controller that works on my acoustic HH stand.)

So, back to the review. Doc’s box is built very well. The 1-1/4″ rack mount is very solidly attached. When placed on the rack, the MIDI and headset jacks are easily accessible and so is the battery door. You can see where I’ve chosen to place mine in the picture above. Doc was even kind enough to throw in a MIDI cable!

Setup is extremely easy. Doc explains it very well in this post. Its simply a matter of assigning the right MIDI notes to each trigger so that the right “color” note plays with the right trigger. In terms of how to actually assign each note, that will vary depending on your e-kit model. RTFM, as the kids say 🙂

And… thats it. You’ll be ready to go for Rock Band, Guitar Hero: World Tour, or Rock Revolution, if you’re so inclined. In my opinion, the best part about the whole thing is that this unit is WIRELESS. The freedom is fantastic and I experienced absolutely no problems with lag (in fact, my settings didn’t even change from the wired-RB1 kit).

So far, battery life has been great too. I’ve probably played about 10 total hours so far on one set of two AA rechargable batteries.

I have only one extremely minor issue to point out, in case this matters greatly to someone reading this. Using the RB1 kit in RB2, the yellow pad plays a hi-tom sound in fill sections and Big Rock Endings. Using the GH:WT box, the yellow note now plays a hi-hat closed sound for fills and BREs. Honestly, I no longer care about this and I’m actually kind of glad, because its forced me to come up with some new fills and get out of my box in certain songs.

In summary

Pros: its frackin’ wireless; great build quality; rack-mountable; long battery life; ready to go out-of-the box; oh yeah, its WIRELESS!

Cons: virtually none, other than the yellow note changed to HH closed thing.

Conclusion: The MSA Mod was fun to do and is still the cheapest solution if your e-brain is MIDI-locked. If you’ve got an advanced brain that is MIDI-assignable, there is no reason not to go with Doc’s solution. Kodus to him for this product and all his work for the RB modding community.

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