Evans G-Plus Batter Heads for Toms and Snare
A Thicker Single-Ply Feel-Good Drumhead
When you get to my age, you reminisce. As James Taylor sang, you “drag out the past just to paint it blue”. Well, things were not better back then. Seventies three-ply Ludwigs were not always round, while Rogers Swivomatic pedals were not smoother or more powerful than DW 9000s or Pearl Eliminators. And while we’re at it, drumsticks weren’t straight as an arrow.
There was, however, a drum head that my peers recall fondly, claiming it is unequaled today. It was manufactured by Ludwig, came in a box with an Olympian tri-circle emblem, and provided a thicker, one-ply alternative to the standard Ludwig medium. At one point, it was marketed, if memory serves, as a Ludwig 1250. Unlike Evans and Remo heads today, it was crimped, meaning the membrane/film was tucked into a metal counterhoop, which was pinched until it locked, preventing the film from pulling out under high tension. I remember liking that head and soon forgetting it when I came across the Remo Emperor, formerly designated Heavy, which I’m told was played by Tony Williams from the end of his Miles Davis tenure until the seventies, when he discovered the clear black-dot model. The Emperor was, and is, a two-ply head.
Will the Single-Ply G-Plus Convince a Double-ply Fanatic?
Since the seventies, I’ve used Emperor coated heads on toms, occasionally alternated with clear, and more recently I’ve embraced Renaissance Emperors on snare drums. Emperors or G2s make toms fat when tuned low or high. Bass drums call for a different approach. After all, we strike smaller drums with fine-beaded narrow sticks whereas we stomp on pedals fitted with mallet-sized striking surfaces to draw tone from bass drums. For me, the whole equation requires Evans EQ or EMAD heads on kick. When my pedal strikes, it strikes invariably an Evans EQ coated or EMAD clear batter head. Believe it or not, I still have the EQ bass drum head I discovered at the end of the eighties and it sounds as good today as it did then. In my books, the EQ bass drum head is the benchmark head that established a contemporary punchy, billowing low end bass drum sound.
Thickening without Doubling Up: Does it Work?
On to the Evans G-Plus, released last year as an alternative to the company’s G1, J1, and Remo’s Ambassador (honorable mention to the Aquarian single ply equivalent). Evans makes G-Plus in clear and coated. The film is Evans’ answer to Remo’s stranglehold on Dupont Mylar and clocks in at 12 mils (by comparison, the G1 or Ambassador is 10 mils). Twelve mils is suspiciously within range of the 12.5 mil Ludwig of yesteryear (and today? I really don’t know). Although the G-Plus offers slightly more resistance to a descending stick it’s no Hydraulic. I mean, it could be an orchestral head, a cocktail jazz head, or a go-to for a Matt Cameron or a Matt Chamberlain. In other words, the G-Plus covers the stylistic waterfront.
Bet You Didn’t Know This About the Coating
The coated G-Plus has the same translucent look as the EQ1 coated bass drum head, quite at odds with the snowy, white frosted Evans G1. I’m convinced that the translucent coating feels better and sounds better on a head. As it turns out, it may be my imagination working overtime. The only difference between the G1 and G-Plus coated heads is that the G-Plus heads have the white pigment removed. That’s it, that’s the difference! Same coating. (As this went to press, as it were, I heard that Evans is offering the G-Plus in coated, clear, and white coated).
From the moment I seated G1 heads on my toms, Yamaha oaks and vintage Camcos (since Evans’ Mike Robinson was kind enough to send me two sets), I felt good about them. They seemed gentle to the touch, unlike the G1, which can be brittle, at least on a snare drum. Mike suggested the reason I preferred double-ply heads was more feel than sound (he’s known me for a long while) and his assessment was spot on.The G-Plus affords the extra “cushion” when struck soft or hard, yet retains its lively character through the entire dynamic range from pp to ff.
I Could Grow to Like G-Plus Heads
Tuning was effortless. While the head really does the loose-tensioned rock thing incredibly well, delivering sustain, to my ears, exceeding that of the Evans G1 or Remo Ambassador, it can be cranked to table-top hardness without putting up a fuss and will yield the bop jazz tone. It does this so credibly I left the heads in place for two jazz festival gigs, one outdoors, and they barely showed signs of wear. Several months later, they’re still on the same drums and they still show no loss of sustain or degradation of tone. I could grow to like these; in fact, I do like these and they’re staying put.
Most players execute rimshots, either as backbeats in rock or as accents in jazz and Latin. Breaking down the rimshot, the G-Plus sound very good when struck concurrently on rim and head dead center. If you move the tip two inches south of center, however, you find a real playground of tone; it’s a place wherein Steve Jordan might meet Bill Stewart. The rimshot sounds like a G1 rimshot run through a filter, or perhaps EQ’d a tad on a Neve console. The G-Plus tone is complete. It wants for nothing in the top or bottom end. Well worn, I brought them into a large-room studio, part of an accredited ommunity college for recording engineers, T.A.R.A., to show students how drums are prepared for sessions and how studio drumming compares to live performance. Seated on a custom set of Yamaha oak-shelled, abalone green wrapped drums, the G-Plus heads were well-used but not pitted. The heads performed as new. I stayed around for the board mix and the toms (fitted with G-Plus) stood proud in the mix. This raises a question and an observation. First the observation: I would not hesitate to fit, at least these Yamaha oak drums, with G-Plus batters for a union three-hour studio call. And the question: When Evans removed the white pigment from the coated heads, did somebody inject steroids in their place? That Bob Gatzen, he’ll go to any lengths for a good-sounding head!
The toms were a treat, especially with coated G1s top and bottom. With G2s or Emperors you rarely do that for fear of damping down, nay closing down, the drum, but the G-Plus heads augmented resonance while extracting harsh overtones.
On the Camco kit, the G-Plus heads were stunning. Mind you, on the substantially undersized shells of LA vintage Camco drums, just about any head will sound great. That’s about all I can say because shortly after I mounted G-Plus heads to the Camcos I sold the kit. Bad timing. I should have rescued the heads but didn’t think of it. Perhaps they would have been useless since they’d “mated” with the extreme Camco bearing edge, which forms a relatively sharp point when it meets the drum head—further distant from the counterhoop due to a Camco 12” tom consisting of an 11” shell and change.
CAPSULE REVIEW G-PLUS
They’re fat, durable, and they sustain as long as anything out there, in my opinion. Granted, the G-Plus clear heads offer a touch more of everything: highs and resonance. And they feel equally as organic when you smack them or flick them lightly. But in a pinch, I’d go for the coated version. This is a serious contender and the only head I’ve been able to keep on a drum as long as G2s or Emperors.
Bob Gatzen Speaks Wisdom
In parting, I wish drummers would resist making statements to the effect that thicker heads deliver less sustain. The way I see it, and the way I feel it and hear it, is that when I hit a thin, one-ply head with moderate force, it hits back. When I increase the force of attack, the thin membrane goes into distortion and any alleged claims of increased sustain are laid to rest. When I’m really digging into a head with a 5B stick, the only way I’m going to get good sustain is by increasing the thickness of the membrane. This is especially true with rimshots where you want some substance under your stick to maintain the integrity of the clang. . Perhaps in a clinical environment thin heads sustain longer but out in the real world, in a club or studio, they choke long before thicker single-ply heads or double-ply models. And then you get to the bottom head: Strike the batter with considerable velocity and you generate a gale force column of air, which is going to do little in way of generating internal combustion in a tom if the bottom head is a Diplomat or Evans (more or less equivalent) J1. The whole notion of thinner bottom heads has confused me since I was a budding drum nerd in short pants studying Mitch Mitchell, Ginger Baker, and Carmine Appice. I’ve always felt that a thinner bottom head results in a flimsier drum sound. Shakespeare put it, “Nothing will come of nothing”.