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Evans UV1 Drumheads
Review by: Jim Ruffi
If you’ve watched Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, you probably wish you could get your hands on an Everlasting Gobstopper—the candy that never loses its flavor. But of course, that’s just too good to be true. Besides, how could Wonka stay in business if his product lasted forever?
It seems Evans still believes in a world of pure imagination, as its engineers have blasted through the glass ceiling of current mylar drumhead design with another innovation: the UV1. Made of 10-mil thick, single-ply film, the UV1 is a “mid-duty” head, similar in construction to Evans’ coated G1 series or the venerable Remo Coated Ambassador. However, it would be fair to say that the comparisons stop there because the UV1 truly is a showstopper in the world of drumheads.
Without reading further, we’ll cut right to the chase: these heads are so long-lasting, with familiar Evans tone and response, that we can’t understand why anyone would purposely choose to purchase the coated G1 heads any longer. Get these and you’ll have everything you love about the G1 heads… but you’ll be purchasing new ones far less often. And we mean really far less often...
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen innovation from Evans. They pioneered the use of synthetic material (polyester) for drumheads. And with more recent innovations like the EMAD bass drumhead series, Level 360 construction, and the new UV1 series, it’s easy to understand why so many drummers are die-hard fans.
Evans appears to have made a quantum leap with the UV1 series, with a head material and patented UV-cured coating that proposes to surpass all that have come before it in terms of overall durability without sacrificing sound quality. In fact, Evans claims that the new head material and coating process sounds better than its predecessors.
What’s different about these heads? For one thing, the coating is “UV cured.” This means that instead of air drying (like paint), the coating is exposed to ultraviolet light and “cured,” much like numerous high-tech coatings ranging from state-of-the-art automotive paints to tooth fillings. In addition to speeding up the manufacturing process, this type of coating, which is applied via a silkscreen, is much more durable than traditionally-applied head coatings, which are sprayed on and dried by air.
UV1 heads utilize the Level 360 system, which features a steeper collar with an improved angle/radius for a better fit over bearing edges, in addition to a roll-over hoop design, allowing for thousands of pounds of pressure without failure. Evans says Level 360 provides increased resonance and a very wide tuning range (and ease of tuning).
There’s nothing like a newly installed set of heads. They feel great and offer plenty of sustain and a bright sound. Sadly, a few gigs quickly take their toll, and the combination of a fatigued head and stick marks/dents diminish the sustain and clarity of your tone. Drums tend to lose a bit of their tune and become more difficult to tension evenly, too, so for those of us who didn’t win a lifetime supply of heads on The Price Is Right, we just live with the limitations until they become unbearable. It’s just too costly to replace heads after every couple of gigs, not to mention time-consuming. You can probably tell where we’re going with this…
We installed a set of UV1s on a vintage mahogany kit with 12”, 13” and 16” toms and a 14” snare. These drums fare well with an “Ambassador-weight” head, which provides enough durability, a bright attack, and good sustain, while bringing out the superb low-end response of the African mahogany shells. We compared the UV1s with a known quantity on a kit that has seen its share of 10-mil heads over the years. Gigs ranged from light acoustic rock to funk and hard classic rock, with a bit of jazz in the mix for good measure.
Unboxing the UV1 heads revealed a level of quality consistent with Evans’ current offerings, with a few differences:
1. The new UV1 logo is clean and unfettered and seems to hint at something different. It’s as if parent company, D’Addario, wants us to know that they wiped the slate clean before sitting down to design the UV1.
2. The coating is... different. While it’s white and textured, like traditional coated heads, the color is bright and inviting and there’s a consistency to it that suggests an advanced manufacturing technique. In addition, there’s a bit more texture to it. This led us to expect a more articulate brush sound.
3. There is a small ring (about 1/4” thick) of uncoated area around the circumference of the head. Evans tells us that “...many drummers who beta tested this product felt that the coating allowed for a much easier tuning experience. They felt that having an uncoated collar allowed for clearer pitches and a more lively sound from a coated head. The uncoated collar was also a way to differentiate this head visually from its competitors.”
Tuning the UV1 heads was a breeze. We attribute this to the Level 360 system, as other Level 360 heads we’ve evaluated were highly consistent and very easy to seat and tune. The UV1s immediately exhibited an open, clear tone over a wide range of tuning. We chose to tune the vintage drum kit in the middle of its tuning range for the best combination of body, sustain, and clarity. Plus, we’d recently been gigging with other 10-mil, single-ply heads using this tuning scheme. For reference, we used wood-tipped hickory sticks, in sizes 5A, 5B, and 2B.
The Evans UV1 heads sounded and felt great, but here is where it gets interesting. At the end of the first gig, we found dark stick marks on the heads and thought, “Well, so much for the super-durable UV-cured coating!” But upon touching the “marks” on the heads, we were shocked to find that this was just debris on the head surface that could be wiped away—the coating on the UV1 heads was “sanding” the tips of our sticks and removing the oxidation that they’d picked up from our cymbals! Weird indeed.
The UV1 heads feel great to play on. As anticipated, the surface was very well suited to brushwork, and the heads retained their texture even after they’d received several nights worth of pounding.
Ten shows later, the heads still pretty much looked like new and the sound quality hadn’t diminished, either. They still sounded bright and articulate, with a warm tone and nice, round low end. We even received compliments from both bandmates and sound engineers regarding the sound of our beaded brass snare, which we’d tuned for a full, open sound, with a nicely controlled ring. At this point, we turned in the review to our Editor, who said, “Let’s wait. Keep gigging,” which we’ve done pretty much weekly for a few additional… months.
After months of use, these heads should be experiencing some real wear, but it’s just so minimal! They still sound great, and they are still holding their tuning stability. And, the coating doesn’t look badly worn at all. Truly, these heads are a remarkable achievement.
Available in sizes from 10”-18”, they cost a bit more than the G1 series (about 25 percent, on average) but the increase in durability should provide a better return on investment. While we’re sure that Evans UV1 heads will eventually wear out just like any other plastic head that you might choose to bang on, it really does appear that Evans has prolonged your trip to the drum store. We really don’t know when we’re going to need to replace these heads, and we gig weekly on them.
As Mr. Wonka said: “We are the music-makers and we are the dreamers of dreams.” Well, that includes the engineers at Evans, who we hope are hard at work on a real-life, fizzy, lifting drink!
D'Addario & Co.
Jim Ruffi is a New Jersey-based drummer, educator, and session player who has toured with Frank Zappa alumni band, Project/Object, and currently gigs with CC Coletti (Meat Loaf) and Anthony Krizan (Spin Doctors). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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