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Flatheadz by Eccentric Systems

Great news: Team DGR is growing once again! Please welcome new Drum Gear Review contributor, Josh V. Josh is a very thorough product tester with an excellent eye for detail. For his first piece, he put together this great review of Eccentric Systems’ Flatheadz hoops. Read, enjoy and let us know what you think!

Also, don’t forget to check out our Booty Shakers review to find out how you can win a set of bass-boosting booties for yourself. 

Flatheadz Drum Hoops Review

Seemingly since the drum was invented, drummers have been trying to make drum tuning faster and easier. One tried-and-true method has always been starting with uniform lug tension. Past inventions such as Tama’s Tension Watch or those torque wrench-style drum keys attempted to make this process easier. The newest invention along these lines is Eccentric Systems’ (producer of the excellent Quick Torque Cam) Flatheadz drum hoops. The concept of these hoops is so simple it might be brilliant – print tiny measuring lines, a gauge or ruler if you will, right on the hoop itself, on the inside of each lug position. Instead of measuring tension using an external device, with these hoops you can (in theory) just eyeball the desired level of tension for each lug.

I tested a pair of 10-lug Flatheadz hoops on a 14” DW maple snare. To help measure how closely the Flatheadz gauges could get my drum in tune, I decided to use Overtone Labs’ Tune-Bot. The Tune-Bot seemed like a good way to test the usefulness of the Flatheadz design – would it quickly and easily get a drum close to being in tune?

Batter Head

Each Flatheadz gauge has 10 measuring lines, but I found that the first usable line for the batter head was eight from the top. At 10 and nine lines, the head was too loose to be playable. Getting each lug to the eighth line was a very simple and quick process, and after eyeballing each lug, getting each as close to the eighth line as possible, I broke out the Tune-Bot. The results were excellent: all 10 lugs measured between 235-245 Hz in pitch. This is obviously very close to being perfectly in tune, and a very good start toward fine-tuning the drum. Depending on how I tuned the bottom head, the batter head at eight lines generally provided a warm, medium snare tone, so I found this setting very useful.

I next tried tuning the drum one line tighter, at line seven. Adjusting the drumhead from one line to another on the gauge was a quick and painless process. At the seventh line, the batter head was now very tight, definitely on the higher end of the snare drum pitch spectrum. Once again, the Tune-Bot measurements were very satisfactory: all 10 lugs measured between 354-362 Hz, very close to being perfectly in tune.

At the seventh line, the head was already fairly tight, but I tried going one step further. While I was able to get the batter head to the sixth line of the gauge, I found this level of head tension to be unplayable. Even probably for Chad Sexton.

Bottom Head

FlatheadzWhen using the Flatheadz hoop on the bottom head of my snare, I again found that eight was the first usable measuring line on the gauge. In this case, given the thinness of the bottom snare head, eight lines was only barely usable, as several tension rods were very close to being loose at this point. Using the Tune-Bot, I tested the head, and the results were again excellent: all 10 lugs measured between 310-316 Hz. It would be no problem to quickly fine-tune the head from there.

I also tested the bottom head at line seven, and again got great results: all 10 lugs came in between 390-393 Hz. Unlike the batter head, the bottom head at line seven was not particularly tight, and the sound produced was still of a good medium frequency.

Overall, the bottom head, given its thin nature, provided more flexibility in using the Flatheadz gauges. I could easily get the bottom head as tight as line five, meaning lines eight through five were usable, although line five provided an extremely high-pitched sound. Any tighter than line five did not seem possible.

Limitations

On the batter head of my snare, the Flatheadz hoops really only had two usable settings – lines eight and seven. Meaning most of the 10 measuring lines would never be used. This limitation is understandable, given that the measuring lines on the gauge are already tiny and very close to each other. The addition of any finer lines would probably be impossible to use. But for drummers who would not be happy with the sounds provided by the eighth or seventh lines, the Flatheadz hoops might be problematic.

However I still think it could be a good guide for quickly getting the drum close to where you want it. And at least for me, I found the eighth and seventh lines to be among the sounds I would most want to use on this particular drum.

Overall

The Flatheadz drum hoops do exactly what they advertise – they allow you to quickly and easily get a drumhead close to being in tune. They take the guesswork and the use of external devices out of getting a drumhead to a baseline of relatively equal tension. When using these hoops as your starter, you can get a drum perfectly in tune in just minutes with relative ease. And, changing pitch is very easy as well. When it comes to getting uniform tension in a hurry, these hoops do the job.

Eccentric Systems advertises that Flatheadz are available in all sizes and types, and in various finishes.

Quick Torque Cam by Eccentric Systems

Alright, so the first 400 words of this review are really just a quick little lesson about making yourself available and interested in ALL opportunities, not just the ones you already think are cool. If you want to get right into the review, scroll down to the bolded “Quick Torque Cam” headline.

Near the end of last year, I made my first trip down to the PASIC convention in Austin, Texas. It was totally overwhelming, and I spent two full convention days just floating around the floor, and staring at what amounted to half a football field full of beautiful toys. Most of the major manufacturers were there, of course, but I spent a lot of my time checking out smaller companies and retailers, because many had intriguing, but seemingly unnecessary little gadgets to help improve sound or gear function.

PASIC Hall

Long shot of the PASIC hall

That last sentence may have seemed a little harsh, but I think it’s appropriate. When you’re in a room full of some of the most incredible equipment in the world, why would you need to drop even more cash on some little knick-knack to make that great gear even better? And, if all of these gadgets are so effective, why aren’t the engineers at larger companies already using them?

Well, the answer to that last question really depends on each product individually, but it’s safe to say that it doesn’t always have to do with the quality or value of the item. Regarding why any of these upgrades or add-ons would make a good investment, all I can say is that you have no idea how much something will impact your playing until you really give it a shot (not a great answer, but I’m hoping the review will back it up).

All of that prattling leads me to my first Eccentric Systems product review (we’ve got another one coming, so stay tuned). ES was one of the companies I checked out at the PASIC show, and I’ll be totally honest: I looked at their lineup, watched a demo, said “thank you”, then walked away and completely forgot about it (I’ll have to chalk that up to being overwhelmed).

Fortunately for me, Lucas, the CEO of Eccentric Systems, was nice enough to give me a call after the show to talk about a review (Note: If you’re doing anything ever, make business cards – you can get something like 250 for $10 through Vistaprint – it pays off), and one of the products he wanted to send over was the Quick Torque Cam. I told him I’d give it a go and that I’d have a review up before Christmas (my fault man, really sorry).

So now, I’ve spent some good time with this “seemingly unnecessary” add-on, and I feel like I may have learned a little lesson about keeping an open mind.

Quick Torque Cam

Modeled after the cam on a compound bow, the Quick Torque Cam is an after-market add-on that can be installed on just about any pedal without any permanent modification. In summary, it uses a unique, adjustable design to maximize the efficiency of any force you apply to the pedal. Rather than try and break down the physics of it (read: over my head), I’m going to let the video below do the talking for me.

 

As you can see, the Quick Torque Cam streamlines both the forward and backward motion of each stroke, creating a smoother, faster and more powerful pedal. At first glance, it may seem a little snake oily, but – and I can really sum up the review with this one statement – it actually works.

Quick TorqueBut, let’s start from the beginning. When you order a Quick Torque Cam through Eccentric Systems, you select your model based on the kind of pedal you’re playing. Because certain pedals have unique drive mechanisms, there are a few different QTCs available to allow for better compatibility. I ordered the unit compatible with the Tama Iron Cobra.

So, when the product for today’s review arrived, I popped it open to find the necessary parts and tools, detailed installation instructions and a CD-ROM with more instructions and info about other Eccentric Systems products. Not a bad spread.

Now, all of the literature from ES says that installing the Quick Torque Cam takes only a few minutes. I’m fairly handy, but awful at following directions, so I figured I’d be a perfect candidate to test that out. Well, it took me about 10-12 minutes, but to be fair, I was also trying to tell my fiancé how to make cous cous while doing it. Here’s a quick video from ES detailing the install:

Overall, the installation was much easier than I’d expected. The Cam assembly included two hex wrenches, and required just an additional screw driver. The process required loosening only a couple of screws, sliding on a pair of spacers, then tightening the Cam in place. The only step I found troublesome was actually tightening the unit. Holding the pedal at your desired angle (where the pedal should be when at rest) while dropping a very small hex wrench into a tiny set screw was a tad bit tedious. The current design wouldn’t allow for it, but if there was any way to replace the recessed set screw with a larger knob-top bolt, I think the installation would be much easier.

The Results

So, with the Quick Torque Cam in place on my Iron Cobra, I went about my regular rehearsal schedule. The first time I used my modded pedal was at a practice that required a lot of dynamic, nimble footwork, which seemed like an excellent opportunity to really put the QTC through its paces.

QTC installed on my Iron Cobra

QTC installed on my Iron Cobra

At first, my regular double strokes felt a little stymied by the updated action. I quickly tightened the pedal spring and double checked to make sure the torque setting was still at the recommended level for my pedal, but still saw no improvement.

Then, it hit me. The Quick Torque Cam was designed to increase efficiency of motion, so maybe easing off the pedal just a bit would make a difference. Bingo! As soon as I realized that I could let the pedal do more of the work, everything sounded smooth as silk. Double and triple strokes were a breeze, and I was using noticeably less energy to play everything.

Since first trying the Cam, I’ve spent some time tooling around with its adjustable components. Eccentric Systems recommends setting the torque toggle at 99% and leaving the tension spring fairly loose for Iron Cobra pedals. After lots of experimentation, I’d have to agree. Reducing the torque made the pedal feel just a little more sluggish than I would have liked.

Finally, to make sure I wasn’t giving too much credit to the idea (rather than the actual function) of the Cam, I removed it and returned my Iron Cobra to its original settings. No question; I definitely missed the rapid, smooth feel of the Quick Torque Cam. I’ve played the same pedal with mostly the same settings for more than a decade, and this proved to be one of the rare examples of when a change felt right. Pretty cool.

Wrap Up

So, after all of that, would I say that the Quick Torque Cam is absolutely essential? No, I probably wouldn’t. However, I can say that it made a genuine difference in the feel and playability of my trusty Iron Cobra, and that I’m happy using it. I will also say that it’s not the most handsome design, but it’s not hideous, and it doesn’t take anything away from the look of the pedal.

At $40 per unit, I think the Quick Torque Cam is a pretty reasonable investment for the payoff. Make sure to check and see if your pedal is compatible on the list at near the bottom of this page, and see if you can find a way to try one of these guys out. I’m glad I did.