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Re: In the Lab: SSL SiX compact premium analog mixer
Stephen Fortner #3052167 07/02/20 01:48 PM
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Re: In the Lab: SSL SiX compact premium analog mixer
Stephen Fortner #3052809 07/06/20 05:19 AM
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External Inputs

Okay, here’s a quickie but goodie as I continue to work on the audio examples and next video. (Fourth of July weekend, family obligations, blah blah blah.) They’re coming — I promise! One of the least flashy features of the SSL SiX has also become one of my favorites. In addition to the two SuperAnalogue and two stereo channels that all have faders, the far upper right of the panel has two pairs of balanced, stereo “External Inputs.”

Really, this is SSL-speak for auxiliary inputs. They’re line-level and have no associated faders or gain controls, but either or both can be routed to a number of places by pressing the EXT1 or EXT2 source buttons in those places. That includes the control room monitor section, the main mix (and therefore through the bus compressor), and both pairs of Foldback outputs independently.

What would you use these for? Well, a keyboard player might just plug two more synths into them and manage the volume controls on each synth. If you go this route, I’d suggest using your “hotter” synths in terms of output as you won’t have the option of boosting the gain with a trim pot or fader. The SiX user guide includes several application examples, one of which is using the SiX as a summing mixer. Here, both pairs of EXT inputs take a total of four channels from the DAW at unity gain, thereby exapnding the number of inputs the SiX can mix down at once.

I, however, am using them to monitor not one but two DAWs, thereby pressing the SiX’s monitor volume knob into service as the main listening volume control in my studio. My current studio setup has two computers: an Apple iMac that was spec’ed as high as you could go for late 2012, and a Dell T5600 Windows PC upgraded with dual 8-core Xeon processors, 64GB of RAM, SSDs, Nvidia 1080 card, the whole nine. The iMac uses a Universal Audio Apollo interface via Thunderbolt; the PC uses MOTU 2408mk3 and HD192 interfaces hanging off an installed PCI-424 card. It’s an older system but rock solid on that PC, as the Apollo is on the Mac. For sending signal between the two computers, the interfaces are interconnected via ADAT Lightpipe.

The Apollo’s monitor inputs feed EXT1 on the SiX and those on the 2408mk3 feed EXT2. In turn, I have EXT1 and 2 assigned only as control room monitor sources (putting them in the main mix would of course create a nasty feedback loop). After a bit of gain-staging experimentation, I now leave the monitor volume controls on my interfaces alone, instead taking advantage of the big knob on the SiX as well as its Dim and Cut functions. The former reduces the volume by a pre-determined amount; the latter is a straight-up mute button. I’ve never had anything with a Dim button before, but I’ve gotten used to hitting it and having the volume drop if the phone rings or someone comes in the room (which, again, happened constantly over this past weekend). When I’m done with my distraction, I disengage the Dim button and the monitor level goes back to exactly where it was. This is useful for monitoring at consistent levels, because you’re not hunting for your place on the volume knob.

The benefit of this is that audio interfaces’ volume controls tend to behave differently in terms of both the scale and the linearity of their response. Some control a true analog output stage; some do not. Some are detented (clicky); some are not. I prefer having a non-detented, analog volume control for everything, and the quality of the output stage SSL is using here is superior to monitor controllers like the Mackie Big Knob or TC Level Pilot. Not that they’re bad, but I’ll say again what I said before: This is like someone pointed a shrink ray at a large SSL console.

More to come this week!


"I'm just a confused musician who got sidetracked into this damned word business..." -Hunter S. Thompson

Stephen Fortner
Principal, Fortner Media
Senior Editor, Music Player Network
Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Re: In the Lab: SSL SiX compact premium analog mixer
Stephen Fortner #3052881 07/06/20 04:52 PM
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More good stuffs!!!!

Just letting you know that some of us are reading along, and plotting how to get one of these goodies...


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Re: In the Lab: SSL SiX compact premium analog mixer
KuruPrionz #3052890 07/06/20 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
Just letting you know that some of us are reading along

yes, we are cool


A reason why I collect old keyboards is that I feel partly responsible for doing it, responsible for preserving history and being a custodian for these things
Plus, old gear has a story. I like that.
Re: In the Lab: SSL SiX compact premium analog mixer
Dave Bryce #3052898 07/06/20 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Dave Bryce
Originally Posted by Stephen Fortner
Quote
I like the idea of a separate enable for the line/hi-z on channels 1&2. If I'm understanding correctly, I could have my bass and guitar direct outputs plugged into the 1/4" jack and a microphone plugged into the XLR. Rather than plugging/unplugging stuff, I could use the line button as a selected switch.

That's exactly right. In addition to a knob you turn up or down, just about everything on the SiX has a toggle button that goes KLONK and an accompanying LED. You're never unsure about what's going where.
Totally agreed.

dB
Okay, this gets my attention (as if everything that went before it didn't). No switching jacks that pre-empt each other? Aw HAYULL yeah.

This is a really intriguing little beastie. I'm enjoying and appreciating your breakdown, Steve... looking forward to more.

mike


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) grin
Janitor and Hall Monitor, Dr. Mike's Studio Workshop

clicky!: more about me ~ my schwag ~ my radio station (and my fam) ~ my local tribe ~ my day job
Re: In the Lab: SSL SiX compact premium analog mixer
Stephen Fortner #3052899 07/06/20 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Stephen Fortner
External Inputs

Okay, here’s a quickie but goodie as I continue to work on the audio examples and next video. (Fourth of July weekend, family obligations, blah blah blah.) They’re coming — I promise! One of the least flashy features of the SSL SiX has also become one of my favorites. In addition to the two SuperAnalogue and two stereo channels that all have faders, the far upper right of the panel has two pairs of balanced, stereo “External Inputs.”

Really, this is SSL-speak for auxiliary inputs. They’re line-level and have no associated faders or gain controls, but either or both can be routed to a number of places by pressing the EXT1 or EXT2 source buttons in those places. That includes the control room monitor section, the main mix (and therefore through the bus compressor), and both pairs of Foldback outputs independently.
Aw, maaaaan...! Now I'm gonna HAVE to get one of these things... my studio has two cascading audio systems (explanation in another thread somewheres) and one is only 6-input... I have yearned for something with 8 or 10 line-level ins, and this has some serious possibilities!


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) grin
Janitor and Hall Monitor, Dr. Mike's Studio Workshop

clicky!: more about me ~ my schwag ~ my radio station (and my fam) ~ my local tribe ~ my day job
Re: In the Lab: SSL SiX compact premium analog mixer
Stephen Fortner #3053296 07/08/20 11:18 PM
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Video: Input Channels and Bus Compressor

Here's a video I shot playing with my voice and a synth bass from the Nord Wave 2 through the SSL SiX input channels. You can hear the EQ, and we try it with and without the channel compressor as well as the bus compressor. There's still more to talk about with this beastie, so keep coming back to this thread and I'll keep cranking it out!



"I'm just a confused musician who got sidetracked into this damned word business..." -Hunter S. Thompson

Stephen Fortner
Principal, Fortner Media
Senior Editor, Music Player Network
Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Re: In the Lab: SSL SiX compact premium analog mixer
Stephen Fortner #3053335 07/09/20 04:12 AM
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More good stuff!


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Re: In the Lab: SSL SiX compact premium analog mixer
Stephen Fortner #3053452 07/09/20 09:28 PM
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Wow, kicking in both the channel and bus compressor at the same time is heavy. This thing is lean and mean.


Eric
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Rhodes Mk 1 Stage 73; Kurzweil SP-6; Roland FP-4, Juno-106; Nord Stage 3C; Studiologic Sledge; DSI Mopho KB; Moog Minitaur; Stuff
Re: In the Lab: SSL SiX compact premium analog mixer
Stephen Fortner #3053542 07/10/20 01:51 PM
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I have yet to find anything I dislike about it.

dB

Re: In the Lab: SSL SiX compact premium analog mixer
Stephen Fortner #3053564 07/10/20 03:11 PM
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grrr

Re: In the Lab: SSL SiX compact premium analog mixer
Stephen Fortner #3053794 07/12/20 04:32 AM
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Bus Compressor

This has come up before in this thread because it’s hard to talk about SSL without talking about their signature bus compressor, but it deserves its own post.

[Linked Image from solidstatelogic.com]

Unless you’re thinking of a tool to inflate the tires of a mass transit vehicle, this is exactly what it sounds like: a stereo compressor across the main mix bus. Made famous in consoles such as the SSL 4000-G for imparting a certain glue to a mix, the circuit design in the SiX is exactly the same. This is the real deal, folks, and there’s no more affordable way to get it unless you count plug-in emulations.

There are just two knobs: threshold and makeup gain. A six-segment LED shows the amount of gain reduction taking place, from -1dB to -15dB. Unlike the channel compressors, the bus compressor threshold knob raises the threshold as you turn it up, so you’d turn it counter-clockwise to make compression more eager.

The attack and release times are program-dependent according to SSL’s documentation, meaning, again, some sort of envelope-following voodoo is in use to track the attack and release of the incoming signal. Since that signal is an entire mix, the idea is that it “grabs” more quickly with transient-heavy material (such as music with prominent kick and snare drums). I ran songs by several different artists from my Apple Music library through it, and to my ears, it really did seem to get this behavior right. As on the original big-console bus compressors, ratio is fixed at 4:1.

Like with everything on the SiX, there’s a button to engage it, which makes it easy to A-B with the uncompressed signal so you know how much makeup gain you need.

You can definitely hear the bus compressor working more than the channel compressors — and that’s the idea. At very low thresholds, it’s certainly possible to make music pump and breathe a la the now-cliché EDM effect. If this is not your desired result (and if you don’t own a backpack shaped like a stuffed unicorn it shouldn’t be), the magic here lies in getting the compressor to work just enough. Transients assert themselves just a bit more, vocal and guitar passages have subjectively more presence and sustain, and so on. This is the part of SSL consoles that has long been sought out as the final spoonful of pre-mastering secret sauce, especially for rock and pop music.

I found something curious in the user manual: “The bus compressor sidechain also has a first-order highpass filter at approximately 50Hz … to give smoother performances from mixes with more prominent bass content.” Sidechain? This is not mentioned elsewhere in the manual, so I’m wondering if this implies there may be some clever way to use inserts to make a sidechain input to it, keying the rest of your mix to, say, a kick drum (speaking of unicorn backpacks). I’m guessing not, but out of curiosity I reached out to SSL about this and will report back with their answer.

Okay, now to get to some of those promised audio examples, and what’s left in line to talk about are: the talkback, foldback, monitor, and headphone sections; main fader and what can be routed to it; and a quick look at the rear panel I/O. Keep coming back!


"I'm just a confused musician who got sidetracked into this damned word business..." -Hunter S. Thompson

Stephen Fortner
Principal, Fortner Media
Senior Editor, Music Player Network
Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Re: In the Lab: SSL SiX compact premium analog mixer
Stephen Fortner #3053800 07/12/20 05:56 AM
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Will SSL allow you to review the gizzards? Take the bottom off and look around?

That's always interesting to me, I don't know about others. It has inspired confidence and also caution once in a while.

Everything sounds great so far, I still want one (dangit!!!).


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Re: In the Lab: SSL SiX compact premium analog mixer
Stephen Fortner #3053809 07/12/20 12:51 PM
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Regarding the hp filter I believe this is a similar idea to the”thrust” circuit used in api compressors (and others?), but non-variable. The filter is placed in line with the RMS detector and anything else that controls the VCA. In this case that’s it to the side chain since there’s no external access.

I’ve been studying the manual and specifically the block diagram for the last couple of days along with your excellent review and perspective Stephen. I can’t remember the last time I wanted to “need” a piece of gear this much. This little “mixer” reveals something new and cool every time I look.

But alas so far it’s only led to moving a couple of my rack pieces to be more accessible.

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