PDP Riffmaster review - rock’s back on the menu

A new generation

PDP Riffmaster
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

The PDP Riffmaster is the first readily available guitar controller in years and largely fulfills its brief with enormous success. It’s an excellent choice for those after an affordable peripheral for Rock Band 4 and the recent Fortnite Festival.


  • +

    Forward-thinking collapsible design

  • +

    Sharp, responsive inputs

  • +

    Enormous battery life


  • -

    Build feels cheap

  • -

    Strum bar is mushy

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

PDP Riffmaster: One-minute review

The PDP Riffmaster looks to shake up a peripheral market that’s long been dormant. In fact, we haven’t really seen a dedicated guitar controller in nearly the decade since Rock Band 4’s release and its pack-in peripheral. In the years since this, finding a guitar controller for use with Harmonix’s rhythm game or similar titles has proven to be an expensive and frankly exhausting endeavor searching the second-hand market.

The Riffmaster puts an end to that. Manufacturer PDP has made a relatively affordable guitar controller that, at launch, is compatible with both Rock Band 4 and Fortnite Festival. This makes the Riffmaster the only official peripheral in town if you’ve been wanting to play the Fortnite side game with something more fitting than a traditional gamepad.

What’s more, PDP almost nails its first attempt with this controller. If you’ve got a hankering for some Rock Band 4, then it’ll be one of the best Xbox controllers for you. The Riffmaster is responsive, features all the buttons you’d expect in order to play these games comfortably (and more, as you will see), and has some smart design choices that boost its convenience factor. Sadly, the build quality here falls behind even what we expected during those halcyon Rock Band/Guitar Hero days, thus making its price tag a little tough to stomach.

PDP Riffmaster: Price and availability

  • $129.99 / £129.99
  • Available from PDP's website, though is currently sold out (April 2024)
  • More stock is due to arrive in June

The PDP Riffmaster retails for $129.99 / £129.99 and can be bought from PDP's own website. In the US, it can also be purchased from retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and GameStop. UK shoppers, meanwhile, will need to rely on Game.

Unfortunately, at time of publication, the PDP Riffmaster is currently out of stock across all major retailers and PDP's website. This is because stock has largely gone to folks who pre-ordered the controller before release. However, PDP has told TechRadar Gaming that stock will be more readily available around June of this year.

PDP Riffmaster: Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Price$129.99 / £129.99
Dimensions21.38 in x 10.51 in x 3.23 in (543mm x 267mm x 82mm)
CompatibilityXbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, PC
ButtonsAnalog stick, d-pad, function buttons, two sets of fret face buttons, whammy bar, strum bar
ConnectivityWireless (2.4GHz dongle), wired (Type-C)

PDP Riffmaster: Design and features

PDP Riffmaster

(Image credit: Future)

The PDP Riffmaster comes in two configurations: one for PlayStation (PS5 and PS4), and one for Xbox (Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One) consoles, so make sure that you’re purchasing the right model for your platform before jumping in. Both are identical in design aside from some brand-relevant buttons, though it should be noted that only the Xbox model is compatible with PC, so be sure to choose accordingly.

The guitar itself has a collapsible fretboard, deviating from the detachable models of old. This is a smart design change, making it considerably easier to store and offering great portability. Packed in the box with the guitar controller, you get a USB dongle for wireless connectivity, a USB-C charging cable (also usable for wired play), and crucially, an adjustable strap for the peripheral itself.

The strap is of good quality and rests on the shoulder comfortably. It’s blissfully simple to adjust its length to suit your preferences, too. However, the Riffmaster itself falls short in the build quality department. The chassis or body is made of lightweight plastic, giving it a somewhat flimsy feel. The glossy finish also makes the device a fingerprint magnet. In fairness, its overall lightness is something of a boon for longer sessions and it’s never taxing on the shoulders while standing.

In terms of the Riffmaster’s controls, there’s a handy analog stick on the top rear of the neck, as well as a d-pad, Home, and sharing buttons on the guitar’s pickguard. Furthermore, the buttons on the fretboard (which are used to play notes in-game) can also be used for menu navigation. Overall, the buttons do feel of decent quality too which goes some way to offset the disappointing body.

Rounding out the feature set is the whammy bar which is responsive in-game, but does feel slightly loose. It’s also a little too close to the strum bar and often ends up getting in the way during play. The strum bar is easily the weakest aspect of the product, sadly. It’s missing the clickiness of older Guitar Hero and Rock Band peripherals. This does mean it’s much quieter, but it feels rather loose and mushy when pressed.

One last thing I’m not especially impressed by is the Riffmaster’s aesthetic. While it certainly looks the part as a guitar, the plain all-black look is a little bland. Some optional faceplates or pickguards wouldn’t go amiss in the future if PDP wants to support the peripheral in the long term.

PDP Riffmaster: Performance

PDP Riffmaster

(Image credit: Future)

On the whole, the PDP Riffmaster performs brilliantly. The device’s responsiveness is pin-sharp, even when used wirelessly. You can rest assured that no matter your difficulty selection or the intensity of any given song, the Riffmaster won’t let you down.

I also love the addition of five optional buttons at the bottom end of the fretboard, near the body. You don’t need to use these, but they’re there if you fancy a bit of showboating when playing through a nail-biting guitar solo. This is a really nice touch that I feel lends the Riffmaster some much-needed character.

Another area where the Riffmaster excels is in its battery life. You’ll get around 36 hours on a full charge, which is pretty exceptional and puts it in the same ballpark as the Xbox Wireless Controller. It charges pretty swiftly too; it takes just a handful of hours to charge back up to full.

The only real sticking point for this controller that is a potential deal breaker is the aforementioned unsatisfying strum bar. It does function perfectly well, but the lack of mechanical register means you may miss the odd note during particularly fast-paced shreds as it’s in instances like this that it’s not always easy to discern whether the Riffmaster has registered your input or not. This lack of feedback, as a result, may make it harder for you to get a full 100% combo on more challenging tracks.

Should I buy the PDP Riffmaster?

PDP Riffmaster

(Image credit: Future)

PDP’s first attempt at a bespoke, wireless guitar controller for Rock Band 4 and similar games is certainly an admirable one. While the manufacturer has nailed responsiveness and included impressive features like a foldable design and superb battery life, its bland aesthetic and listless strum bar means there’s plenty of room for improvement. 

Buy it if...

You’ve been dying to get back into Rock Band 4 and games like it
The Riffmaster’s use case is limited, but if you’ve been struggling to find a dedicated and affordable option for guitar-based rhythm titles, this peripheral has your back. 

You have a stacked Fortnite Festival library
With Fortnite Festival supported, if you’ve been collecting songs for the game then the Riffmaster will be the optimal way to play them.

Don't buy it if...

You simply don’t play rhythm games
There’s not much point in owning the Riffmaster if you’re not playing Rock Band 4, Fortnite Festival, or similar titles that may receive support down the line.

You already own a Rock Band guitar controller
Legacy Rock Band controllers are also due to receive Fortnite Festival compatibility. So if you’re interested in both games and own a guitar controller already, you may wish to save your cash.

How we tested the PDP Riffmaster

PDP provided TechRadar Gaming with the Xbox version of the Riffmaster for testing. Over a period of two weeks, I used it to play with Rock Band 4 and its hundreds of songs. I endeavored to test songs of all difficulties, genres, and intensities to get a feel for the controller, its responsiveness, and ease of use during long sessions.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.