Evans Calftone Drumheads
by Michael Dawson
The strength and stability of synthetics with the mellower sound of natural skins.
Evans is celebrating its sixtieth anniversary with a tribute to the calfskin heads drummers used prior to the implementation of Mylar plastics. These new old-school heads, called Calftone, feature a layer of beige, subtly textured synthetic material over a clear single-ply base (7mil for tom/snare models and 12mil for bass drum sizes). Like all Evans drumheads, the Calftone utilizes the Level 360 collar that’s designed so that the head sits freely on the bearing edge for optimal tuning and tone.
Calftone drumheads are available in sizes ranging from 8″ to 18″ for toms and snares and 16″ to 26″ for bass drums. We were sent a 14″ snare batter to test. (Bass drum models are available as a standard single-ply and in the EQ4 and EMAD designs, which include built-in muffling systems.)
How’s It Compare?
For our review, we A/B tested the 14″ Calftone with a coated G1 on a 5.5×14 single-ply maple snare with forty-five-degree bearing edges. We tuned the drum identically with each head, starting at a medium tension (each lug pitched to C).
The G1 gave the drum an open tone with a lot of clear overtones and a strong fundamental note. Snare response was super-crisp, as you would expect from a single-ply coated head. The Calftone was also very sensitive and articulate, but it had a slightly thicker and darker tone with shorter sustain, punchier attack, and attenuated high frequencies.
When played with brushes and with the snares disengaged, the Calftone produced a subdued vintage-type sound, similar to what you’d hear on classic jazz albums featuring brush masters Ed Thigpen or Mel Lewis. The Calftone coating has plenty of texture to make brush patterns articulate and expressive while also being smooth enough to allow for seamless sweeps.
At a tight tuning, the mellower sound of the Calftone helped minimize the metallic-type overtones that we experienced with the G1, which resulted in a thicker, deeper timbre. Medium-low and low tunings on the Calftone brought out more punch and smack, as opposed to the more open sound and spraying overtones we experienced with the G1. We couldn’t get the Calftone to sound as super-deep and thuddy as the G1 at the lowest tuning range, which is likely a result of the Calftone being a bit thicker and less malleable than the G1. Regardless, the Calftone does exactly what it’s claimed to be able to do, which is to offer a bit of the warmer, darker, and rounder tones of traditional calfskin heads in a modern, synthetic design. It is an ideal choice for jazz, Americana, and folk styles, singer-songwriter sessions, and any other setting requiring a throwback aesthetic.