Yes, that's my impression rather than cranking the pad into the head, although the possibility is there to use it for a different effect in some songs - a bit like sticking a splash on the top head.
I suppose we get used to what we grew up with, be it music or equipment. There have been many improvements and innovations in drum equipment since I began but I still love the subtlety I can get with a single ply 10 mil batter head (diplomat, evans J1 etched etc) that I wear down UNEVENLY with brushes (so I have zones that provide different textures on the fly) and the availability of a built in variable muffler, moon gel, nothing and so forth. I had forgotten all about a splash on the top head but decades ago..yes, that too!
I can't leave without saying how much I appreciate all your posts!