Evans G1 Series Drumheads Tested!

evans heads

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.

Poppin’ Collars

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.

First Impressions

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.

In With The New

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.

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Well, I didn’t have the stopwatch running, but it definitely seemed like the heads tuned up more quickly than normal. A simple finger-tightening followed by a half turn on each lug had the drums singing with a full, round voice, and almost no weird overtones. I went around and tap tuned at each lug to dial everything in just a bit, and it only took a few minutes to get the whole kit sounding just right. A pretty nice experience actually.

Sure enough, the heads sounded and felt great at both high and low tunings, but after some experimentation, one thing did jump out at me. I cranked the coated G1s up nice and high, and they gave me a pretty remarkable sweetness that I hadn’t heard from these drums before. When I tried to get them back down low, however, I couldn’t really get my 14" floor tom to sound like it had before. There was a very strange, overtone-laden decay that just wouldn’t go away no matter what I tried.

Upon further inspection, I could see that a part of the collar was no longer in contact with the bearing edge. Now, this only happened on the floor tom – and only this floor tom – but when I looked closer, it seemed like the playing surface of the head may have in fact been a little bit too large for the shell. I removed the rim and tried to reposition the head, and got the same result. Even so, it still tuned well enough, and it sounded fine despite the issue. I couldn’t replicate the problem with a different drum or a different head, so I have to assume it was simply some inconsistency between the two.

Onto The Old

Next, I switched the coated G1s over to my vintage bop kit for what I figured would be the real test of the Level360 collar. It’s a jumble of ’60s-era refurbished shells that definitely skew a little wider than most of the modern drums I’ve seen. In the past, I’ve had a fair amount of trouble finding a comfortable tuning for both of the toms on this kit, so I was eager to see how these wider collars would handle a set of tricky tubs.

Paydirt! I got the same easy tuning and warm, round tone that I’d seen with the modern kit, but with plenty of the dark, woody body I’d always wanted to hear from these half-century old shells. They went from low to high and back again with no problem (none of the same issue I saw on the other floor tom), and sang clearly at every stop. While other heads had fit on the shell too snugly and limited the available tuning range, the updated G1s were a perfect fit.

All this held true for the snare drums I tried as well. The heads sat comfortably with a little extra wiggle room on the modern models I tried, but fit like a glove on the 1950’s WFL Marching snare I called up off the bench. On each drum, I received a crisp response with plenty of room for the shell’s character to shine through.

I Can See Clearly Now

As I mentioned before, Evans also sent over a pair of clear G1s. Tuned up high or low they performed as expected; loads of tone with just a bit more brightness and attack than their coated siblings. The real joy, though, was getting to take advantage of the view.

After so much experimenting with the coated heads, I was excited to get an unobstructed view of exactly where the head was making contact with the edge of the shell. I slapped them on the toms of my modern maple kit first, and snuggled up for a close look.

With the clear G1s in place, I could see the sharp-cut bearing edges supporting the flat part of the head about a millimeter or two away from the collar. I realized that the concept here was much like that of a Gong drum, but on a much smaller scale. The head should always sit flat because on most drums, none of the curved collar was close enough to the edge to affect the overall fit. It was certainly closer on the wider shelled vintage drums, but the added space afforded by the Level360 collar was still apparent.

Verdict

At face value, these Level360 enhanced G1 drumheads have the same rich, open clarity that helped make Evans such a respected brand in the first place. Beyond that, however, this almost unseen innovation has a huge impact on the function and tunability of these already versatile heads. While I did notice one inconsistency with a specific tom, it could easily be attributed to a minor defect on either end. That aside, the heads were tremendously satisfying, and it’s clear that Evans has developed a very successful solution to a problem that has plagued drummers since the advent of acoustic heads. Hats … or, I suppose, heads off.

Details

Features Evans new Level360 collar expands the playable surface to allow added room for level seating, offering easier tuning and increased range. The new collar is currently in place on all 6"—16" Evans heads.

Model/Size & List Price
Coated G1
12" $24.50
14" $27.50
Clear G1
12" $24.50
14" $27.50

Contact
Evans Drumheads
D’Addario & Co.
631-439-3300
evansdrumheads.com