I’ve been playing a concert tom drum kit for the past several years (since 2009 or so) It’s a cheap kit originally. A made in Taiwan Pearl knock off with Luan shells that I literally sawed the bottoms of the far too deep rack toms and refinished the whole kit in a rich walnut oil stain. I then had the shells bearing edges re-cut by none other than Bill Detamore of Pork Pie Percussion.
It has been my main kit for several years, it survived being submerged in water, not once, but twice. Once during hurricane Sandy when my rehearsal space was flooded, and another time when I was in a service elevator in Bushwick that malfunctioned and plunged into a watery basement (this is another story entirely)!
Anyway, since I’ve been using concert toms, I’ve tried many different heads on the toms to see which ones I thought worked the best. I’ve used everything from remo black dots, to attack single ply coated, pinstripes, coated emperors and ambassadors, and finally just yesterday, Evans Hydraulics. It now is obvious to me why this particular head was so damn popular in the 1970s. Since the 70s were the age of the concert tom, it makes sense that a head that works so wonderfully on them would be widely used.
I had tried Hydraulics years ago but it was in an inappropriate setting, on regular drums poorly tuned that weren’t mine at a party. My impression of them then was pretty horrible and I just always written them off as being too dead and thick. But concert toms are a totally different animal. When I first started using them, I tried black dots (CS heads) they sounded nice, but after touring in a band again, I didn’t want to spend so much money on heads, so I started using the Attack single ply coated, which sounded nice but wasn’t very durable. I then tried coated pinstripes which sounded absolutely horrible. They were a weird, boingy sounding head that just didn’t work at all on my drums. It’s odd that a pinstripe is another head similar to a hydraulic, but the sound was drastically different. The Pinstripes actually had more high overtones than the single ply Attack heads, which was pretty crazy.
I wanted to re-head my toms and I was almost going to buy some black dots again, because up until now they were the best I’d tried on this kit. But I thought I’d try something different and remembered reading several places that the Hydraulics were good on concert toms, so I thought I’d give them one more chance. Plus they seemed to be a bit cheaper than black dots and more readily in stock.
It turns out that all the things that make Evans Hydraulics a horrible choice for toms with resonant heads are the exact things that make them great for concert toms. Like, being insanely thick, having a ludicrous amount of oil sandwiched between the two layers, and a complete lack of high overtones, all work amazingly well as soon as you take the bottom head out of the picture.
I first put them on and noticed how quickly they seemed to set and tune, much quicker than any Remo I’ve used. The thick blue oil filled layers gave a nice medium sustain, but much warmer than any other head I’ve put on a concert tom. High dissonant overtones are just gone. The floor tom especially was troublesome with other heads, but with the hydraulic it sounds nearly perfect with a warm sustain, clear note projection, and the sharp attack of a concert tom. There is also a much needed added bass presence to these heads, which is something that can seem lacking in concert toms.
I think the Evans blue hydraulic may be the perfect head for concert tom drums and will be what I use from this point forward on the toms. Its got me a bit curious about trying one on the kick too!