I think we can all agree that Rock Band is awesome. There is probably also at least a pretty good consensus that the stock drum pads are a bit loud and brittle-feeling to play. What is less clear is which aftermarket fan-made drum pad mode is better: felt or gum rubber.
I have now played Rock Band drums extensively in stock form and with each type of drum pad mod, and I feel equipped to share my experiences with you--I am a drummer who beat expert drums over a month ago, so you can trust me.
Overall I prefer the gum rubber pads--they dampen the sound as much as the felt pads (the felt pads have a layer of foam rubber underneath), but they feel significantly better, much more like actual drum heads. Because of their springy material, which as their website notices is often used in practice pads for drummers, you get a closer sensation of the kind of feedback you get from striking drums. I found I could let loose and play harder, with the pads picking up the work for me of bouncing my sticks back.
With both mods, I did find the occasional dropped note during long successions of very quick hits such as rolls. You can test this during the "free" period for the several seconds before a song begins. Since this phenomenon is not eliminated even with my replaced drum set, it is difficult to tell how the mods improve or worsen the situation.
Both mods can be constructed fairly cheaply by buying the raw materials. The gum rubber pads can be acquired for $30 including shipping, which is probably about twice what you would be paying if you made them yourself.
The respective sites are available below. Each contains video examples. You can also peruse Nick's blog post about his felt pad installation.
- Time for Rock Band Arts and Crafts (felt and foam rubber mod instructions)
- Gum Rubber Drum Pads for Rock Band (includes online order form)