Product Review: Peak Starpex Guitar Controller (PS2 & PS3)

starpexContinuing my search for a good full-sized, wood and metal guitar controller for Rock Band, I ran across this while returning a guitar that obviously DIDN’T fit the bill.

Was the Starpex the answer? Or was I just setting myself up for disappointment?

The full review is inside…

Upon opening the box for this beast, I was immediately impressed: a package of batteries fell out and bounced off my cat.

Not only did Peak include the required 3 AA batteries (the First Act guitar uses 4 AA’s, and they weren’t included), but they had managed to torment one of my pets before I had even plugged the thing in.

So far, so good.

All kidding aside, Peak seems to have thought of (nearly) everything with this product. Other third-party controllers have left me feeling like they had slapped an instrument haphazardly around a gimmick, like ‘it’s full-sized’ or ‘it has a detachable neck’. This axe feels like the manufacturer considered how it was going to PLAY, as well as how many bullet points it could claim on the box.

So exactly what DID they get right, and what unexpected touches does the Starpex have?

First of all, measured against my (very real) Fender Strat, this is the first controller I’ve personally played that really IS full-sized, measure about an inch shorter than my real guitar. Musicians that play rhythm games tend to complain that the guitars don’t feel right, and are way too small. Not a problem here, this controller, for all that matters in a game, is a real guitar. Body, neck, screw-off whammy bar, and even the tuning pegs (weird having them there without strings, but it’s a nice touch).

Playability for all virtual musicians is top-notch as well, with an ‘Overdrive/Starpower/Tilt’ button in a location that makes sense (close to the strum bar and forward), regularly spaced ‘solo’ buttons, 3 strap buttons (for lefties), and the ability to use the guitar wired or wireless (with or without batteries).

I’ve always maintained that the perfect controller would be a blend of the Rock Band Guitar neck buttons, and the Guitar Hero strum bar. That’s exactly what you get… with a few refinements.

The fret buttons are the same shape as the stock Rock Band frets, but don’t run the entire width of the neck. I’m a lazy guitarist, so I tend to wrap my thumb around the neck… sometimes triggering a button on a Rock Band guitar. This eleviates that problem. The height of the buttons is somewhere between Rock Band and Guitar Hero instruments; high enough that you can tell where the buttons are, but low enough that you aren’t raking your hands across them while sliding between hand positions. A+ for the button design.

The strum bar feels identical to the Guitar Hero III Les Paul, and while I would have preferred something closer to the World Tour strum bar, this is still very nice, and I can’t complain.

With both the buttons and the strum bar, there is more resistance than I was used to with previous controllers; you’ll need to push the buttons a little harder, and strum a little more vigorously. It’s not that much extra work, and you get used to it quickly, but it is noticeable. Perhaps after a little ‘breaking in’ things will loosen up. Regardless, it appears the moving parts are a little sturdier.

On the down-side, the PS button isn’t located on the guitar, but rather on the USB dongle, and there is NO D-PAD on the controller… at all. You’ll need a Dual Shock to navigate the PS3 until you get into the game, but once you’re in, you’re gold. A minor annoyance at most.

The Starpex also doesn’t work with PS2 versions of Guitar Hero 1 and 2 when being played on a PS3 (backward compatible PS3), but I don’t think too many of you are going to be worried about that… nothing else does either.

Overall, ‘replica’ controllers tend to be a little expensive, but this wasn’t too costly… and if you’re serious about your rhythm games, you shouldn’t think twice about buying this guitar.

MATT SAYS BUY IT

Ready to pick one up? Buy The Peak Starpex Guitar Controller

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6 Comments

  1. I read your review (and every other review I could find) before I bought the Starpex.
    It was very helpful in my dropping 100+ for a game controller. The axe is awesome and I don’t regret the purchase at all.
    However, I would like to correct you on something. You stated that it doesn’t have a PS button on the controller. You’re right it doesn’t but if you push both the “start” and “select” buttons at the same time, they bring you to the PS menu.
    Also, you said there isn’t a D-PAD on the controller. Right again….but the strum bar allows you to make up and down selections AND if you strum while holding down the “select” button, you can navigate side to side as well.
    I’ve only had it for about three months and no longer need to think to make these selections.
    Nice review…it helped me out.

    • Excellent info Jimmy!

      My axe didn’t come with any instructions, unless you count a ‘quick start’ guide. Nothing in my materials on that, and I’m stoked to give it a try. Just reinforces my opinion that the guitar is worth a buy.

      Thanks!

  2. I tried this guitar recently myself. A buddy of mine brought his over and let me try it. I have tried seven different guitars for RB2 on PS and this is by far my favorite. I have encountered a variety of problems with each of the guitars (i.e. too heavy, poor design, bad control palcement, cheap springs, etc.) As you can imagine we take Rockband pretty seriously in our house. We currently have four buitars including a full size wooden and a full size plastic. The Starpex will be our newest addition and probably our last. It is light weight, well designed, and has a very good fit and finish. The spring tension on the picking mechanism is tight and accurate. The overdrive button is placed in a very convenient location and the other controls do not get in the way when rocking the house.

    The only negative comment is the goofy white colors extending down the base of the guitar towards the bridge/saddle. Do not know what they were thinking with this noveau appearence. No worries though, it will be simply fixed with some airbrush work. Rock on!

  3. do you guys know where i can buy usb adapter lost them

  4. the wireless feature does not work on my ps3… males me mad cos I love this guitar!

  5. Hi there, I’m prior to buy it but have one question :
    Is it works with all GH PS2 games – Metallica, GH2, GH5, Warriors of rock, Van Halen, Aerosmith etc..?
    Thanx in advance to those who replied 🙂


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