maty-taneczne.pl offers a few different models of dance pad that all seem to have the exact same feature set. Searching around online, everyone seems to agree that the EX PRO 2 and the EX PRO X are the exact same pad, just with different printing and slightly different pricing. The EX 4 ECO didn’t seem to be on the site when I ordered, and is a little cheaper than both while seeming to have the same feature set, but I can’t find any information on it. It’s probably fine to just buy whatever you like looking at the most—L-TEK doesn’t seem to sell their older 125Hz pads anymore.
I got the LT-EK EX PRO 2 & The Handbar combo directly from the manufacturer, along with the START/SELECT button pad addon. Shipping from Poland to the western US cost an additional ~$150. They claimed it would ship in 8-12 business days, and I got a tracking number on day 11.
It arrived two days later (fast!), along with an e-mail containing some errata to the Handbar assembly instructions; the unit I recieved used the “second-generation” mounting brackets, but the printed instructions referred to the first-generation ones.
Assembly was largely painless, but I did need to refer to the photo guide on the website for a few steps. The kit includes an extra 3d-printed bracket and a few extra screws.
This is not an arcade pad—it’s made mostly of wood, not metal—and it will not feel like an arcade pad. It’s not bad, but the difference in feel struck me right away. Arcade sensors have rubber gaskets that give the panel a little bit of rebound and springiness, but this feels like exactly what it is—you’re stomping on a relatively thin, solid panel with some metal contact sensors. If your form is all big steps and a lot of foot flexing, it’ll probably feel pretty tiring at first.
The build quality is solid, but again, this is a home pad—it feels like it’s intended to stand up to home use, not the insanity of 100-hour weeks in service at a busy arcade. There’s notable flex in the panels, and I think I could probably crack them if I really put my back into it, but I don’t think I’d ever do it accidentally, even while flailing on charts well beyond my level. (I play in socks and have a bone condition, so it’s likely my foot would break at that level of force.)
The contact sensors are loud, especially if you play with heavy-footed form, because there’s not much to dampen the impact. You already know that you shouldn’t buy a hardpad if you’re not on your ground floor, but I’d also recommend against putting this in any public space. We keep our setup in the garage.
The physical separation between the panels isn’t as drastic as an arcade pad, and it might take you some getting used to—it was tricky for me to “feel out” back-foot crossovers for a while. Panels are screwed in on all four corners, rather than using inside brackets, and the height differences are pretty minimal; this makes it comfortable enough for me to play in socks, but I wouldn’t personally play barefoot. Some players report good results from physically raising the center panel a small amount, achieving the opposite effect and giving you a better idea of where you’re located on the pad.
High-level players usually report needing to mod the L-TEK for increased sensitivity, usually with something like the “penny mod” or copper tape, reducing the distance to the sensors. The sensitivity doesn’t feel wrong to me—when I miss, it feels like my own fault—but I’m used to playing on a public arcade pad with unknown wear/maintenance, and I’m not very good.
Additional caveat: I wear a size 9 and can’t bracket1 with this pad, even in an input test screen, without deliberately curling my toes in an uncomfortable on-pointe sort of way. I don’t mean “I can’t hit brackets when I play”, I mean “I cannot get two panels to trigger with a single foot at all.” This complaint doesn’t seem uncommon, and most people report that modding seems to resolve it, making the pad completely viable for play at any level. I’ll update this article if I experience it for myself; for now, I’m just dodging charts with mandatory brackets.
The L-TEK uses USB-B, and includes a moderate-length cable that worked fine for my purposes; if your PC will be farther from your pad than a typical arcade monitor, expect to need a different cable. The Start/Select buttons are completely non-tactile and pretty frustrating to use; my primary interaction with them is accidentally standing on them while I use a keyboard to navigate. (If you remember the pad-only navigation from PS2 DDR, the L-TEK buttons are much less convenient than the Konami softpad’s full-panel corner buttons.)
Common wisdom in the ITG community suggests that the L-TEK Handbar is a wobbly piece of shit, and that you could do better just by weighing down a chair or buying a portable ballet barre. A lot of that information seemed to be pretty old or from a very specific perspective, though, and there are plenty of reports online that the “second-generation” Handbar attaches more securely.
I have nothing in my home that I would feel safe using as a bar; given the choice between taking a chance on a portable barre or the Handbar, I went with the Handbar, afraid of paying $150 shipping a second time if the ballet barre turned out to be a bad fit for the space or the task. (Good luck returning either of them, too.)
This was probably a mistake, and it’s the primary reason I’m writing this article.
As it turns out, a lot of online discussion of the Handbar is kind of a diversion; the wobble isn’t the primary problem. The height isn’t really a problem either, though I’m 5'6" and your mileage can definitely vary on this. The real problem is the width: the L-TEK Handbar is much narrower than an arcade bar, and if you’re shaped anything like me, you’ll probably be grabbing the corners or the sides if you want your hands a comfortable distance apart. This means that you’ll slip down the sides of the bar over the course of a song, or the curved corners will uncomfortably dig into your palms as you redistribute your weight. This negatively affects the feeling of “stability” far more than the actual wobbling of the bar.
I won’t ignore the out-of-the-box wobble, though—it’s not horrendous, but it’s often distracting. It’s somewhat fixable, though; after weighing down the bar platform with some spare barbells, the bar feels pretty secure, and it takes some seriously forceful airtime to get it to substantially shift. I have some long-term worries about resting such heavy weight on the plastic top plate, but for now, it’s a usable setup for a relatively novice player. Down the line, I’ll probably badly engineer some padding with a pool noodle and hose ties, which I expect to improve it enough that I no longer need to think about it very much.
I wouldn’t say I’m happy with it, though; the Handbar is better than no bar, but for the price, it had better be. The fact that it needs extra work while still being more expensive than the alternatives is pretty frustrating.
From my limited experience, if you don’t want to DIY a pad, the L-TEK EX PRO 2 seems to be the most straightforward way to play 4-panel dance games at home without coping. You’re on your own for the bar, though—the Handbar is not an out-of-the-box problem fixer, and you’ll likely be screwing with it just as much as you would with a more accessible and cheaper solution.
Stepping diagonally to trigger two adjacent panels, like Left/Up or Right/Down, with the same foot. ↩︎