This is a very solid, impressive head. Frankly, I don't know why players don't use it, especially on their road banjos. Over-all, it is just so consistant, strong, and resilient. I suppose it is not popular, though, because the banjo world gets itself locked into paradigms every couple of years.
Well...it is time for a change.
And a change we have for you: Snuffy Smith heads are the way to go if you want a really strong, popping sound.
As for the tone, I find it very pleasant. Strong, also. I can't overstate that enough. It does not sound mushy, or rather dull like some heads do. Plus, this kind of tone remains pretty much after the head has sufficiently stretched out, which is nice since it won't diminish somewhat like other heads. Also, there is good note separation with this head; maybe a little more than some might like. You can't make a mistake while using this head...every note needs to be fretted strong or you will get a real dry, annoying sound. If you have trouble fretting, or like a little more sustain, I would not recommend this head for you.
To obtain this fine tone, the head needs to be a a certain tension. I have experimented with these heads for the past five years, and after all my testing have found this:
On most banjos, SS heads prefer a tapped tension of JUST above G#. Anything more and the head gets to sounding real ugly, dry, and pinched. The optimum balance of ring and note separation is at or just a little above G#. I have a sound clip of this particular "note" in my audio files, so give it a listen.
In addition, this head prefers the looser head tensions. By looser, I mean RELATIVELY loose; nothing extreme like F#. Anything below a G and I have gotten a really muddy, mixed tone. Loud, but it lacks note separation and color. It seems dead.
One other thing I enjoy very much about this head is how stiff it feels. Usually a G# on my Taiwan Remo causes the head to get rather spongy, resulting in a first string that constantly goes out of tune due to the finger pressure near the bridge foot. This head is so stiff that I can really lay into it without getting the flattening of the treble notes that I do on other brands.
I have had this head on my maple Earl Standard, and my newer Blackjack, and between the two, I can honestly say that SS heads prefer maple banjos. They just give something extra to the tone...if I had to choose a word, it would be balance: balance between the treble and bass tones. Just gorgeous tone.
I highly recommend this head. If tightened properly, it will really improve the tone of almost any good tone ring banjo.