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Dec 10, 2023 - 12:33:39 PM
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110 posts since 12/26/2019

Clearly hide banjo heads aren't for everyone, but I've been telling anyone who would listen for a month or so about how thrilled I am with the tone of a hide head. I put one on my rb-00 because my banjo sounded a little tinny and I realized I wasn't hearing it as it was intended without the standard hide head of the 30s. I loved the resulting shift from high to mid frequencies.

Since then I discovered a potentially bigger drawback than the oft mentioned humidity and instability of hide heads: metal fatigue. As described by Prucha, "warping and breaking [of tension hoops] was often caused by ... frequent adjustments of the [hide] head tension" (pruchabanjos.cz/article/pot-me...ion-hoop/)

I realized that my rb-00 hoop was also being overly stressed and strained, so I took off the hide and looked for an alternative. What I found was the Remo suede head. There are few mentions of this style in the BHO forums, but notably Bèla Fleck has been using them recently on some banjos (found on the Gold Tone ML-1 and some models of the OB-Bela)

I just installed it and was thrilled with the result. The suede head has most of the tonal qualities I loved about the hide but without the humidity concern, it also has the feel of the hide - not slick but smooth - which I strongly prefer to the standard frosted top.

You can buy one from Gold Tone's website, but Bob Smakula has a better price and got it to me fast: smakulafrettedinstruments.com/

Dec 10, 2023 - 12:57:21 PM
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110 posts since 12/26/2019

FYI for my setup, I found the suede deadened out above 89 on the drum dial, and I used a slightly higher bridge - compared to standard head - to overcome the greater sag at lower tension

Dec 10, 2023 - 1:10:48 PM
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3483 posts since 4/7/2010
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quote:
Originally posted by aaronoble


You can buy one from Gold Tone's website, but Bob Smakula has a better price and got it to me fast: smakulafrettedinstruments.com/


Aaron,

Thanks for the shout out.  

For 11" diameter rim banjos I have high, medium, and low crown heights. in 12" I have high and medium crown in stock. No other diameters or crown heights are currently available.

Bob Smakula

smakulafrettedinstruments.com

Dec 10, 2023 - 8:05:52 PM
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O.D.

USA

3835 posts since 10/29/2003
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I have a Remo white suede on my banjo and love it for the same reasons Aaron likes his .

Everett

Dec 11, 2023 - 10:00:05 AM
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Emiel

Austria

10396 posts since 1/22/2003

Maybe something to try out. It never stops wink

Dec 11, 2023 - 10:47:32 AM
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banjo bill-e

Tuvalu

13691 posts since 2/22/2007

Bob, what fits a 12" Enoch Tradesman? It's time for a new head and I don't know what to order, high crown or low or ? Replacing the Ren head that came on it.  Is the "suede" less noisy? Is it slippery?

Edited by - banjo bill-e on 12/11/2023 10:48:24

Dec 11, 2023 - 2:08:30 PM
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110 posts since 12/26/2019

quote:
Originally posted by banjo bill-e

 Is it slippery?


It's a little slippery, but a bit like paper: smooth with some texture

Dec 11, 2023 - 2:36:03 PM

235 posts since 12/27/2019

I tried one on a 12" openback. Did not care for it. Brighter, harsher, more plasticy-sounding than a Renaissance. In no way shape or form did it compare to a skin head. As they say, your kilometers per liter may be at variance ;>

Dec 11, 2023 - 3:09:15 PM
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110 posts since 12/26/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Silver_Falls

I tried one on a 12" openback. Did not care for it. Brighter, harsher, more plasticy-sounding than a Renaissance. In no way shape or form did it compare to a skin head. As they say, your kilometers per liter may be at variance ;>


I have no experience with Renaissance heads, and they are certainly popular.

It's probably worth clarifying that not all hide heads are the same; I found it very similar to a calf-skin head, which was commonly used for bluegrass banjos before mylar was available. I suspect these are quite different from goat skin heads, which I think are more popular on open back banjos.

Dec 11, 2023 - 3:23:21 PM
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110 posts since 12/26/2019

One reason I didn't look to a Renaissance head for my purposes was that the ren-head is very thin, and I found that the calf skin I was using really stood out for it's thickness. The suede head is thicker than standard mylar, and that's what I was looking for. Suede is not as thick as fiberskyn, but I couldn't find many positive comments about fiberskyn at all.

Dec 11, 2023 - 3:41 PM
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martyjoe

Ireland

482 posts since 3/24/2020

quote:
Originally posted by aaronoble

One reason I didn't look to a Renaissance head for my purposes was that the ren-head is very thin, and I found that the calf skin I was using really stood out for it's thickness. The suede head is thicker than standard mylar, and that's what I was looking for. Suede is not as thick as fiberskyn, but I couldn't find many positive comments about fiberskyn at all.


When you say that it is thicker, do you mean that the Mylar on the suede heads is thicker. Or it has regular thickness Mylar with a thicker suede coating.?

Dec 11, 2023 - 3:56:18 PM
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110 posts since 12/26/2019

quote:
Originally posted by martyjo

When you say that it is thicker, do you mean that the Mylar on the suede heads is thicker. Or it has regular thickness Mylar with a thicker suede coating.?


Interesting question. I don't know anything about the layering of the suede head, just that the overall thickness of suede is greater than standard frosted mylar

Dec 12, 2023 - 5:58:38 AM
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3483 posts since 4/7/2010
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quote:
Originally posted by banjo bill-e

Bob, what fits a 12" Enoch Tradesman? It's time for a new head and I don't know what to order, high crown or low or ? Replacing the Ren head that came on it.  Is the "suede" less noisy? Is it slippery?


Enoch Tradesman banjos use medium crown Remo heads.

Bob Smakula

smakulafrettedinstruments.com

Dec 12, 2023 - 6:07:45 AM
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3483 posts since 4/7/2010
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Remo Banjo Head thicknesses;

Top and Bottom Frosted; .009"
Clear; .008"
Cloudy: .008"
Fiberskyn; .014"
Renaissance; .008"
White and Black Suede; .010"

These are measurements from the most recent time I measured. Specifications are subject to change without notice.

Bob Smakula
smakulafrettedinstruments.com

Dec 12, 2023 - 6:13:03 AM
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3483 posts since 4/7/2010
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quote:
Originally posted by martyjoe

When you say that it is thicker, do you mean that the Mylar on the suede heads is thicker. Or it has regular thickness Mylar with a thicker suede coating.?


Remo's Suede heads are not coated. They are Mylar that is processed differently than the standard heads. I do not know the specifics of the manufacturing of Suede film. Only my in hand observations.

 

Bob Smakula

smakulafrettedinstruments.com

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