With one of the most popular and best-selling drumheads on the market, you would think that the good people at Evans wouldn’t be falling all over themselves to switch up the formula. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
Well, the research and development team over at Evans HQ must have realized that, while their product wasn’t necessarily broken, there was indeed a much larger issue that needed fixing. So, they spent the past year and a half trying to solve one of the most fundamental problems of drum set tuning: head seating. And the result? The new Level360 Collar.
The first thing that needs to be mentioned here is that the heads themselves – in this case, the venerable G1 series, although the Level360 Collar has been incorporated into all 6"—16" drumheads – are the exact same. These are the same coated and clear G1s that we’ve come to know and love, with the only change being the new collar.
So, what’s the big whoop about a new collar? Well, before we get into why this is a big deal, let’s get to the bottom of exactly what the collar is. A drumhead’s collar is the space between the flat, playable surface and the metal counterhoop – essentially the short, vertical section of film that’s parallel to the shell’s outer surface.
However, Evans’ new collar deals more with the how the flat, playable surface transitions into the perpendicular film. The Level360 heads actually extend the flat portion just a bit, and also appear to have a somewhat sharper edge. When I placed one of the new skins next to another head, it was immediately clear that the angle of incline between the counterhoop and the playable surface was much steeper on the updated G1.
Alright, now that we’ve got some idea of what we’re looking at, let’s see how they actually performed.
In a conversation with Evans product manager Dick Markus, I learned a lot about what went into the Level360 collar design. In an effort to overcome the head-seating issues caused by drums of varying widths, thicknesses, and bearing edge types, the Evans team looked at other membranophones (for example, tympani) to see how those same problems were addressed.
They soon realized that a taller collar allows for more bearing edge contact, offering an increased tuning range, as well as a flush, level fit with the drum. Boom! Problem solved, right? Well, not so fast. It took many months of R&D to perfect the design, but the final product is here, and the results are immediately noticeable.
The first thing Mr. Markus asked me to do was simply drop one of the heads onto a drum. He specifically told me to hold it a few inches above the bearing edge, just let it go, then put a level on it. Sure enough, the little bubble was squarely between the lines.
Well, that seemed cool, but then again, I’d never done it with any other model, so I gave it a shot with a different head that didn’t feature the Level360 collar. Truthfully, there wasn’t a tremendous difference, but the other head was definitely a little askew. Cool, but I had to try one more thing.
As I mentioned before, the new collar was designed to handle drums that were a little wider or narrower than their listed size. This is a particularly prevalent issue among vintage drums, which tend to be just a little thicker than their modern counterparts. So, I went and grabbed an older snare from my collection – an early ’70s wood shell with reinforcement rings and big, fat, round edges – and repeated the test.
Okay, now I definitely see it. The G1 with Level360 collar was flush and flat right away, but the other head was noticeably crooked to the naked eye. And, while the Evans head felt like a perfect fit, product B was definitely snug on the sides. These guys might be onto something.
Because Evans G1 heads have been reviewed in DRUM! before (check out drummagazine.com for that review), I’m going to try and focus on how the new Level360 collar affects the way the heads work with a few different drums. For the purpose of this review, I used the heads on a thin-shelled maple kit with sharp bearing edges, a mixed-bag vintage kit with very wide edges and reinforcement rings, and three different snare drums of varying ages.
The box from Evans included a set of coated G1s for snare and tom batters, as well as a pair of clear G1s. I went for the coated heads first, and got to work tuning up my maple kit right away. Because the central purpose of the new collar is to eliminate seating problems and improve tuning facility, I wanted try reheading without paying any mind to whether or not each skin was level. I just dropped the heads on, put the rims in place, and got down to business.