Monday, November 15, 2010

Chip Ross on Evans Timpani Head Redesign

Introduction to Evans
About 10 years ago, I heard that Evans had created a timpani head that was designed to be like a tucked calf skin head; with pretension that actually had a tone. I was immediately intrigued and tried one. It sounded incredible. There was a full, long resonance and a very clear pitch right off the bat. I was sold.

A few years later, they began production on what is known as the Strata line. These are a synthetic Mylar head but lightly coated to simulate the darker tone quality of a calfskin head. I immediately liked these and they’re still my preference for Evans products. In fact, my first set of these lasted for 2 years. It was extraordinary that they sounded so good for so long

Product Issues
When I eventually had to change this set I received an order and, upon mounting the first one, I noticed a popping sound as the tension was increasing on the head. This was unusual and something I hadn't experienced before. Even after the head was fully mounted, this sound remained very noticeable every time I'd increase the tension via the pedal. Unfortunately, this symptom became a familiar and consistent sound as I mounted other heads, even of different sizes.

Then another unfortunate ingredient entered the mix; heads started failing. Or in other words, when tension was increased during mounting, the pitch would suddenly drop and the sound became extremely “false.” The head was literally coming out of the tuck. Now there was real cause for concern.

Resolving the Issues
I was impressed and extremely grateful that Evans was immediately ready, willing, and able to jump on these issues. A thorough investigation led to some conclusive results and a complete redesign of the head.

The production team learned that the “popping” sound and subsequent "failing" of the heads was due to a lack of integrity in the glue bed. The hold of the insert ring wasn't as strong as it needed to be, and the pour of the glue wasn't filling up the glue bed cavity completely.

They decided to go with a thinner insert ring (1/16" instead of 1/8"). A thinner, yet just as strong a ring, has less contact with the head in the glue bed, and would also allow for more space in the "crevasse" to be filled by the glue. Also, they've added a perforation at the bottom of the ring which creates a stronger glue hold of the ring itself. And lastly, the insert ring is positioned slightly closer to the outer wall of the "flesh hoop;” also enabling a more durable hold. After this re-build was completed, I was sent a couple of heads to test.

The initial visual inspection was impressive. I mounted the heads and the results were terrific. No pops or crackles, and the sound was beautiful, with a clear and centered pitch. I immediately called production to express how pleased I was.

Behind the Scenes
I've always felt there was an immediate and receptive line of communication with Evans, and I'm really pleased to have such an active and successful relationship with them.
After placing an order, I’d receive heads, look them over and offer my visual perspective before mounting them on the drums. If there was a structural issue that was visible or, if after mounting there were problems, I’d speak with production. They’d then revise and send a replacement right away.

It’s difficult for the average customer to be aware of the workings of the company beyond the end product. I’ve been fortunate to see that, behind the scenes, there's a great team of people at Evans who truly want the product to be at its best. They’ve been patient and have worked very hard to refine the process and address the issues. In addition, the time and money they've invested into revising their timpani head line is extensive.

I'm excited about the future of their products. Those who are purchasing from Evans can be confident they are getting the top of the line.

About the Author:
Charles Ross (Rochester Philharmonic/Eastman School Of Music/Brevard Center)
Influences: Fred Hinger, Gerald Carlyss, Cloyd Duff, David Fein, and Alan Abel

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