Evans Level 360 Tom Head Review — Part 4 of the 360 Series- Part 2 of tom heads.
By Dendy Jarrett |
Evans Level 360 Tom Heads — Part 2 (Part 4 of the series)
Conclusion of the diverse tom head offering from Evans
by Dendy Jarrett
Evans has been around since the mid-1950s. They are now, no doubt, a household name with drummers.
My first experience with Evans Drum Heads was in the late 70s. I was too young to travel the distance required to find music gear, so my dad brought home a set of blue hydraulic heads for my vintage kit (13” mounted tom and 16” floor tom). Other than having seen them in the (then) infant Modern Drummer magazine, I was totally unfamiliar with this brand. Not only did they strike me as odd (in an intriguing kind of way), but also different, because the counter hoop back then was a composite material— not the aluminum to which I expected.
They were cool, though, as they did have this bubbling effect in the head and, at the time, were dead sounding (which was the “hip” sound).
Flash forward to today. To better understand part 2, you’ll want to have read Part 1 of the tom head review at Evans Level 360 Tom Heads — Part 1.
“Chick” Evans started the company and then sold it to Bob Beals, who then sold the company to Jim D’Addario. Over the last decade, Jim has applied the same passion he has spent years applying to guitar strings to the drumhead side of his business, and introduced a variety of new tooling and technological breakthroughs (please make sure to check out the video in the resource section below for some examples).
In case you missed Part 1, let's recap what sets these heads apart. This requires understanding bearing edges, and how drumheads have been produced historically.
Bearing Edge: The bearing edge is the part of a drum shell that makes contact with drumhead and (depending on manufacturer) the cut edge can vary from 30 to 45 to even 60 degrees in slope, with the high edge on the outside of the shell.
Drum Head Construction: Historically, drumhead production mounts stretched and heat-stamped Mylar (or polyester) into an aluminum counter-hoop. The counter-hoop is the aluminum ring on the drumhead that the drum hoop applies downward pressure against when it’s being tightened. In standard drumhead construction, the slope of the Mylar coming out of the counter-hoop slants inward/upward to where the Mylar intersects the bearing edge.
If you set the average drumhead on a drum, you’ll note that it has a wobble because the bearing edge meets the head on the Mylar’s inward and upward slope instead of resting on the flat horizontal Mylar drumhead plane. Tightening the drum’s hoop against the counter-hoop provides the tension needed to pull it tightly against the Mylar’s horizontal underside, but there’s still enough slack that pressing your finger on the head above the bearing edge can create a dimple. This doesn’t happen with the Level 360 head, where the bearing edge instantly sits flush on the drumhead’s horizontal Mylar. Because the Mylar slopes almost vertically instead of slanting inward and upward, you can feel the bearing edge immediately through the head.
This instant contact of the bearing edge against the horizontal Mylar plane makes a noticeable difference. The tuning is much, much easier; the drum head sits completely level right off the mark, so the turns of the drum key normally reserved for bringing the head down to the bearing edge immediately benefit the tuning. This also results a in a wider tone range.
Continuing my deep dive into the many faces of Evans tom heads, this week meets all the heads that sport colors:
- J1 Etched
The J1 Etched head is a single-ply 10 mil film that has a very light coating on it (appears milky). To translate, the “J” stands for Jazz and that is what this head is intended for. The head has a “frappy” tone when thumped out of the box, but lots of sustain. The etching gives just enough overtone control to make them perfect for the earthy feel of calfskin with none of the hassles of humidity. · While I loved the sound these provided as a tom’s bottom head, I still prefer the aesthetics of the clear head on the bottom of my toms.
- ONYX 2-Ply Coated
The ONYX head is a two-ply with each head being 7.5 mil. I found this head to be a cross between the G2 and the EC2 Clear SST; it’s not quite as alive as the G2, but not quite as controlled as the EC2—although it’s pretty dang close. If you thump the head out of the box, it’s completely dead (minimal to no tone). It almost reminds me of the EMAD bass drum head. The head has a black (hence the name ONYX) matte coated finish that completely controls the overtones. If I had a set of concert toms, this would probably be one of my heads of choice. This head has a fairly defined attack, almost no sustain and is pretty dark. The head’s durability would be extended compared to that of most heads.
- Black Chrome
The Black Chrome is a two-ply head featuring a unique top 7 mil clear film over the top of a 7.5 mil black film, which gives a black mirror-like appearance. This head is quite “frappy” when thumped out of the box, but the result is a really nice “G2” type of sound with a smidge less overtone (due to the 7.5 mil second film). This head is also very attractive on the drums—looks great and sounds great! (Although of course like any drumhead, they will show marks over time.) These heads give a great mid- to low-range frequency response with an attack that’s right in the middle, as well as middle of the road sustain, and tone that falls to the dark side of the tone spectrum. This head should also hold up very well to heavy playing.
The Hydraulics come in three colors and are a two-ply head that does actually have a thin layer of oil between the plies (unlike the optical illusion of oil that happens with some two ply heads).
This oil decreases sustain, as you might expect. It enhances attack and low end. To quote Evans: “Gives the fat, wet sound that was pioneered in the ‘70’s.”
o Hydraulic Glass – This is a crystal clear head that sports the unique bubbles of the oil in between the layers. I love the “vintage sound” these give. Lots of controlled sound and they look great on the toms.
o Hydraulic Black – These have the same sonic attributes as the Hydraulic Glass heads; however, the solid black finish looks almost identical to the Black Chrome head reviewed previously, and is very attractive on the kit.
o Blue Hydraulic – This head is a crystal-clear film with Evans’ distinctive blue finish, and again with the unique oil bubbles. If you have the right color kit, they can look fantastic but if you don’t, they can look somewhat out of place. (Green sparkle and blue hydraulics can be funky, but some might not find it so attractive.)
As stated in part 1, we can sometimes get locked into one brand or another and yes, I’m guilty of this too. When this happens, change can be hard to accept. But with these Evans Level 360 heads, you’ll realize how many options are available for drummers and for the sounds we’re trying to create with our drums.
In the past 10 years, Evans has dialed in their technology and manufacturing processes. As you can see from this review, they truly have a drumhead to meet every need—and very possibly every desire.
Video - Evans:
Video - Harmony Central:
To purchase this and other D’Addario Evans Products from
Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.