North Bay, ON, Canada (June 16, 2021)—Canadore College, an applied arts and technology school 180 north of Toronto, is using a new SSL Origin analog in-line mixing console to teach students the similarities and differences between music production hardware and software.
“A lot of our students are used to using the computer and have never worked on a console; they’re not familiar with what a console is capable of,” says Ben Leggett, professor and coordinator on the new two-year Recording Engineering – Music Production program at Canadore College. Leggett is a Juno Award-nominated producer, engineer and mixer working in music production and film post production, and also has his own recording studio in North Bay.
“I wanted to get the Origin because of the EQ on each channel, and how you can shape the sound with the four bands, just like you can in the computer,” he says. “So we’re able to show students how to apply EQ manually with a physical piece of equipment. Another big thing is getting students to understand how the routing works, and how it’s very much the same in a DAW and a console, and having that lightbulb go off.”
For a generation of students that has only ever worked on a computer, the console also enables faculty members to highlight some of the differences between analog and digital audio processing. “Sonically, you can crank the console’s EQ knob all the way and it still sounds good, as opposed to digital, which sometimes doesn’t do the same thing,” says Leggett.
Plus, he says, “The sonic quality that the console will add when you push a signal into it is different. Depending on what you’re going for, you can push the signal louder into the SSL console and it will give you a different sound than pushing it into a computer program.”
The Origin was part of a complete studio package supplied by Studio Economik in Montreal, including an SSL Fusion processor. Leggett and other faculty members at the college installed, integrated and commissioned the new music production studio shortly before the program launched in September 2020. The new control room is housed in a former television broadcast studio on the campus that the college enlarged during summer 2020 to provide space for the recording engineering program.
Oxford, UK (May 28, 2021) — Solid State Logic has introduced its new UC1 Channel Strip and Bus Compressor Controller, designed to provide multi-function hardware control for its SSL Native Channel Strip 2 and Bus Compressor 2 plug-ins, included with the unit.
Looking to replicate a physical console ‘center section,’ the UC1 provides encoders, switches and feedback LEDS, along with a moving coil Bus Compressor gain reduction meter. With knob per-function control of the SSL Native Channel Strip 2 and Bus Compressor 2 plug-ins, the UC1 provides a continual on-board display of which plug-in is currently in use, and a value readout of the control currently engaged.
Aiming to provide a console-like approach to ITB mixing, the UC1 is based around the SSL 360° Plug-in Mixer (both Mac and Windows-compatible), which allows users to access and control all Channel Strips and Bus Compressors in one virtual console overview. The overview can be created by the user for customization as needed, and SSL says it will be compatible with current and future SSL-designed Channel Strip and Bus Compressor plug-ins.
The UC1 is housed in an all-metal enclosure with brushed anodised top plate, and connects to a DAW via USB. The unit can switch between three different DAWs connected to the Plug-in Mixer.
Every UC1 purchase includes full licenses of SSL Native Channel Strip 2 and Bus Compressor 2 plug-ins. Channel Strip 2 is a fully featured Channel Strip, based on digital modelling of the EQ and Dynamics curves from the SSL XL 9000 K SuperAnalogue console. V2 adds SSL’s proprietary anti-cramping algorithms and the ability to trigger the dynamics sidechain externally. Bus Compressor 2 expands its feature set with additional Ratio, Attack and Release options, the ability to trigger the sidechain externally, as well as x2 and x4 oversampling.
Burbank, CA (April 30, 2021)—Five-time Grammy-nominated record producer, songwriter and movie producer, Harvey Mason Jr., has unveiled the new home of Harvey Mason Media, which includes the former Evergreen and Enterprise music recording facilities.
The Evergreen Stages building started life as a movie theater in the late 1940s before being repurposed as a multi-room music recording complex in 1979. The main live room measures over 3,000 square feet and includes four isolation booths. The studios, which have hosted sessions by some of the biggest names in the business during 40-plus years as a premier music studio, will also serve as the new home of Harvey Mason Media, which offers a wide range of services for record, film and television projects.
Mason, who has also served as the chair of the board of trustees and interim president/CEO of The Recording Academy since the start of 2020, says both facilities will feature Solid State Logic Duality Fuse 72-channel SuperAnalogue mixing consoles. The Duality Fuse console installed at Evergreen is the first to be installed anywhere in the world and will soon be joined by a second at its sister facility, the original Enterprise recording studios, just across the street. Duality Fuse is the latest model of Duality, featuring a fully integrated Fusion analog processor in the center section.
“The goal in rebuilding this historic building was to make it the most elevated, high-end, large format room in the city,” says Mason. “The live room sounds amazing and is one of the largest in L.A.; we can record an 80-piece orchestra here. Couple that with the sound of the Duality Fuse console and the flexibility it gives us, and we’re in a unique position in L.A.,” he says. “It gives us the opportunity to do great things here.”
The refurbishment of Evergreen Stages included an acoustic redesign of the control room, which is configured for 5.1 mixing and now features an ATC speaker system. “We worked with George Augspurger…who has designed three or four rooms for me over the years,” says Mason. “We reconfigured the front wall, built an entirely new back wall, added new ceiling treatment, repositioned the console and built a new credenza. The control room sounds much, much better and is more ergonomic.”
Additionally, the team led by Paul Cox of technical design and integration firm Paul J. Cox Studio Systems replaced the facility’s wiring infrastructure, says Mason. Cox and his team will also integrate the second, identical Duality Fuse across the street. The former Enterprise Studios was founded in the 1980s by Craig Huxley, who also owned the Evergreen Stages building for a period, operating it as Enterprise 2.
Los Angeles, CA (April 28, 2021)—After being Grammy-nominated in the best immersive audio album category for 2019’s The Savior, Michael Marquart employed Neumann and Sennheiser 3D technologies while tracking his follow-up, Lifelike.
Early in 2020, Marquart — who records as A Bad Think — entered L.A.’s Henson Studios with engineer Dave Way at the helm of an SSL 4072G+ series console to begin tracking Lifelike. “I thought, ‘How far can we push this, and what if on this album we start at the ground level in a 3D environment — using the Neumann KU 100 and the Ambeo mic?” says Marquart.
The basic tracks involved three drum sets, set up in a half-moon position. “Depending on which track we were recording, we would use one or two of the drum kits to meet the flavor of the song,” Marquart explains. Both a Neumann KU 100 binaural head and Sennheiser Ambeo VR mic were set up in the middle of the room, with the KU 100 pointed towards the primary drum set, located in the middle of the half-moon.
In addition to the KU 100, a Neumann U 47 FET large diaphragm condenser captured the kick drum with several Sennheiser MD 421 II dynamic microphones on the toms. Additionally, a matched pair of vintage U 47 tube mics were used flanking each ear microphone of the KU 100. “Neumann mics are the best, so we had them on practically everything,” Marquart enthuses.
By recording in 3D at the outset, Marquart’s team was able to create a spatially accurate aural rendering of each song as it was being tracked, rather than depending solely on mixing to create an immersive experience. “Back in the day, you could record stuff in a traditional way and then do an Atmos or Surround mix or something, but now we are recording this three-dimensional space — not just mixing,” says Marquart.
Bob Clearmountain handled the stereo and 5.1 mixes, while Steve Genewick and Dave Way handled the Dolby Atmos mixes at Los Angeles’ Capitol Studios. All the final mixes were mastered by Bob Ludwig of Gateway Mastering Studios. “Working with people I trust takes all the pressure off,” says Marquart. The Blu-ray release will include all these mixes, along with a 22-minute documentary highlighting the making of the record.
My favorite part of tracking a band is matching my collection of mic pres to my carefully curated mics for euphonic results, and 500-series mic amps have made this fascination more affordable and convenient. The newest addition to my 500 rig is the VHD Pre from SSL and it has affordably given me that classic SSL sound, along with a number of creative options.
Out of the Box
Occupying only one 500-slot, the VHD Pre packs in plenty of features without feeling too cramped or crowded. It starts with a gain control ranging from +20 to a whopping +75 dB of gain—enough to amplify quiet sources and passive ribbons. There is an input pad of -20 dB, which is enough to accept hot mics and line level sources, as well as a defeatable -18 dB/octave high-pass filter that ranges from a nearly-subsonic 15 Hz up to a truly-midrange 500 Hz for anything from rumble removal to a complete removal of all bass.
You’ll find the requisite phantom power and polarity switches, but most important is SSL’s VHD (Variable Harmonic Drive) circuit as taken from the Duality line of consoles (which actually have two sets of preamps—VHD and SuperAnalogue, hence Duality). A switch engages the circuitry, and the Drive control allows 2nd-order, 3rd-order, or a blend of both, harmonics.
There is a 1/4” direct input for electronic instruments, along with a Hi-Z switch that changes input impedance from 1.2 K ohms to 10 K ohms for tonal and sensitivity variability. A single tri-color LED indicates signal presence with the familiar green/yellow/red scheme. Finally, an output trim control (ranges from -20 to +20 dB) is provided for dialing back level on all that high-passed VHD-goosed signal you’ve created.
It should come as no surprise that the VHD Pre has a clean, largely neutral sound that is high on headroom, wide in frequency response and particularly sweetly defined in the top-end—the classic SSL sound if you will. Some call it “glass,” others call it “pure clean gain,” some call it “sterile,” and a few call it “thin.” I call it time-tested, versatile and familiar. On vocals, acoustic guitars, classical instruments and the like, the VHD Pre strikes a chord you’ve heard a million times and can immediately recognize. I’m not saying that this SSL tone is shockingly different, just simply that the numerous subtleties add up to create something very familiar and even nostalgic.
Let’s quickly cover the FAQs before getting to the VHD details: The gain is clean all the way to +75 (there is no sudden jump in noise or distortion at end of travel); the HPF is accurate, smooth and musical (ranging up to 500 Hz is brilliant for committing to wildly filtered sounds); the switchable impedance is a “must have” if you like to tweak your tones on the way-in without EQ (10 Kohms gives you more of that SSL air); and the output trim is essential to have for precise level setting and attenuating an overdriven circuit.
The VHD section is a little tricky, and solving its mysteries is the key-to-the-kingdom. VHD is simply on or off; you can’t select the “amount” of it (not directly, at least), although the knob controls the blend of second- and third-order harmonics. Fully second-order multiples yield a warmer, congealing tone that is dark-ish, smooth, sort of scratchy and “tubey,” while fully third-order is a bit crispier, more sizzly, fuzzy and more transistor-like. Both are quite subtle without a lot of signal, although rather useful for their subtlety, especially when blended.
If you hone-in on today’s pop music, you’ll notice subtle saturation on almost any kind of track—vocals, keys, basses, drums, even handclaps—and the VHD Pre delivers those tones all day long. I found VHD often working best at juicing up detail and immediacy without being obvious or even noticeable (until bypassed, at least). Unruly tambourines, anemic vocals, boring bass, stock synths and “meh” guitars all take the heat well. I almost always had a 60/40 or a 40/60 harmonic blend, and you might be surprised how often 3rd-order is useful.
With ample gain, VHD jumps into distortion and you have to contain it deliberately for musical results. The key here is to carefully balance input gain with output trim, driving the input just hard enough to get the dirt/grit that you do want, re-balancing the odds and evens in the VHD, tweaking the HPF (maybe even the impedance) and then attenuating output until you’ve got that elusively desirable gritty growl that is manageable and sounds cool. Don’t be surprised if you find heavy VHD best combined with clean signal in parallel. All things considered, VHD really does the trick for harmonic dusting and moderate grit, but heavy distortion and manglings are more hit or miss. Basses and electronic drums? Oh yeah! Vocals? Not so much.
The Final Mix
At $579 (street), I couldn’t resist getting a VHD Pre for that widely popular vocal sound it so easily achieves. The versatility of the HPF and the variable impedance have made it an easy pre to plug-in when I’m not sure what a client is going to deliver. And now that I’ve mastered the use of this VHD section, it looks like I’ll be needing another one, so my stereo keys and other dual-input sources can get the benefit of a little SSL harmonic massaging, too.
Kinnelon, NJ (February 19, 2021)—Will Putney’s Graphic Nature Audio recording studio is relocating from its current home in Belleville, NJ to a larger, rural property about 20 miles west in Kinnelon. Putney, a metal/hardcore producer/engineer, mixer and musician has worked with bands such as Every Time I Die, Body Count, Knocked Loose, The Amity Affliction, Stray From The Path, Counterparts, Terror and Northlane
Putney has long mixed using a hybrid setup: “I would mix out into pieces of gear that I’ve collected over the years and sum everything together back into the computer. The setup ended up getting more and more complicated. Over time I was basically building a console piecemeal, with different summing mixers, and creating ways to do parallel sends and analog-style routing to get to my compressors and EQs.
As a result, the new facility is centered around a newly installed 32-channel SSL Origin analog in-line mixing console, acquired from Vintage King.“ I decided that if I could find something streamlined enough that would give me the routing functions that I want and without too many components, and that had a small enough footprint, I would probably be better suited to working on something like that,” he said.
The transition from his former multi-component workflow to the new setup incorporating the Origin has been seamless, he stated: “It all just feels super musical, and it’s fast and easy for me to get mixes going on. What I do in the computer doesn’t really change at all, so it’s business as usual; I still work how I always did.”
The complement of gear installed with the Origin mimics Putney’s previous setup and includes a pair of Amphion Two18 nearfield monitors, which he switched to several years ago, along with Universal Audio Apollo interfaces for tracking and overdubbing into his Logic Pro DAW. “We still use Pro Tools for editing,” he says, “or if I travel to another studio.”
The Origin desk has been installed in a room at the new location in Kinnelon, where the next stage of construction will begin in the coming months. “I’ve got two control rooms set up here. The goal for the future — we’ll start construction in the spring — is to do an updated version of my old drum tracking room but with a more traditional control room. That will be my A room where I can do everything — recording drums and mixing. I will be able to do an entire record there, start to finish, as opposed to working in the modular rooms in the other facility,” says Putney.
Oxford, UK (February 5, 2021)—Solid State Logic has introduced its new UF8 Advanced Studio DAW controller, offering users remote access to faders, encoders and high-resolution color displays. It’s primarily intended for use in music creation, production and mixing, post production and webcasting.
The UF8 is expandable to a 32-channel control surface and offers integration for all major DAW platforms. SSL’s new 360° control software (both Mac and Windows-compatible) manages multi-controller configurations, customised user keys, and DAW switching across multiple layers, allowing for switching between numerous sessions.
The unit offers 100 mm touch-sensitive faders; high-resolution colour displays; eight “endless” rotary encoders; creation and use of custom workflows via five banks of eight user keys and three quick keys, adding up to 43 assignable keys per UF8; an intelligent multi-purpose Channel encoder; mouse scroll emulation, providing control of any plug-in parameter you hover the mouse over; the ability to switch control between three simultaneously connected DAWs; the ability to chain up to four UF8s together for a total of 32 channels of control; and a pair of SSL plug-in: SSL Native Vocalstrip 2 and Drumstrip.
Andy Jackson, SSL studio product manager, noted “UF8 is an obvious next step in SSL’s development in ergonomically designed studio tools for todays’ mixers, producers and creators. The layout and build quality are all about our fixation with ‘human engineering’; creating products that keep you in the creative zone with high-speed access to every fader or control, without operator fatigue or discomfort.”
Without a doubt, 2020 was one of the most challenging years for all of us. There were highs and lows, ups and downs, and a lot of uncertainty for those of us in the music industry. For those of us used to being on the road often, we found ourselves suddenly grounded at home, trying to figure out which yeast to buy for a bread recipe or whether we could squeeze in three Zoom dinners in one night. If there’s any silver lining we can find, it would be that we’ve been gifted with an abundance of time to refocus our attention and energy.
Even with Zoom fatigue, there’s always one I look forward to the most: the weekly catch-up with my touring buddies, where we can nerd out on what we’re working on and what gear we’re using. One piece of gear that has come up more than once in our conversations is Solid State Logic’s Fusion. Introduced in late 2019, Fusion is an all-analog, two-rackspace, stereo outboard processor that has a half-dozen tools for adding tonal character, weight and space to a mix bus or stereo stems. As you can imagine, I was stoked when the opportunity came up to play around with one.
My first impression of the SSL Fusion was that it wasn’t flashy, but straight to the point. The knobs and buttons are cosmetically consistent with what you’d expect from SSL, and they were sturdy with almost no wobble. The simplicity and layout itself make you want to start twisting knobs straight out of the box.
If you’re more in the habit of reading a product manual first, the user guide is a helpful read, with some good documentation and some context for starting points. The SSL Fusion has the option to be a hardware insert to an audio interface as well as an insert to an analog desk or summing mixer. As a matter of fact, there are so many different applications for this unit, I’d suggest doing a search online for some ideas of different uses available.
For me, I ran it through three scenarios—raw drums, guitar/bass stems and unmastered mixes—and everything that went in came out with a considerably more desirable sound. It absolutely made a noticeable difference to my sessions.
After setting the input trim, the first stop in the chain was the Vintage Drive. I kept the Drive level (which literally goes to 11) between 3-6 and the density level from 3-7, keeping the LED in the green and driving a solid orange at the most extreme. I had it on my drum bus and a kick/snare combo, and it added wonderful harmonics while hyping up overall volume and color. Vintage Drive is probably the most musical part of the unit—if SSL shipped Fusion as solely this one section, it would still be worth it. When used conservatively, it added smooth/warm saturation, and when slammed aggressively into the red, it produced a gritty overdriven drum tone that could be musically desirable in the right context.
Violet EQ, the next section, was precise and subtle. I ran it at 30/50 at +2 db for a low-end bump to some unmastered reference mixes; the difference was subtle, but without it, you missed it. Personally, I have a low threshold when it comes to untamed high-end, but the 8-12 k that I introduced at +2 db was smooth and added definition to the overheads where my mic choice had produced dull and washy tones. I found that +2 db – +4 db was the sweet spot before my additions became undesirable for my particular scenarios.
As I mentioned before, my preference is to shy away from aggressive high-end, so generally speaking, I don’t find myself compensating or correcting the top too often; as a result, my experimentation with the HF Compressor section was purely for musical purposes. The compression was dynamic and surprisingly musical, and by playing with the X-Over and Threshold parameters, I was able to shape my drum bus to have a nice vintage tape vibe and give some guitar and bass stems a little more percussive elements that weren’t as pointy.
My favorite part of this unit is Stereo Image. As someone who has worked with artists that are extremely sensitive to separation and panning, I loved how much space this created. I started with 2 o’clock for the space and width, and the difference was extremely noticeable. It was the audio equivalent of putting everything in its own column, but staying glued together. That said, I always tend to pan my guitars 40-60 percent off center to the left or right, and with the style of music I play, the guitars can sometimes get lost in the vocal panning and keyboard midrange.
In some circles, the subjective argument for what sounds better, the hardware vs the plug-in, could be debated for hours (or years). In my day-to-day creative and professional setting, I’m swimming in a sea of digital. Likewise, with my home studio being used for tracking guitars, bass, DJ mix tapes and remixes, considering all of the digital options out there, one could ask why I would want/need an analog hardware unit at this price point.
However, what I found after using the SSL Fusion, is that this piece of hardware completely sidesteps that argument. Fusion’s versatility, ease of use and musicality makes it perfect for the hobbyist, the professional and everyone in between. With it already being called a classic, I can certainly see myself and my home studio benefiting greatly from using this in 2021 and beyond.
Hollywood, CA (January 20, 2021)—Nick Gross, drummer, producer and entrepreneur, is a busy man, recording and performing with a variety of bands while also overseeing Gross Labs, his growing entertainment, media and investment company. Amidst all that action, Gross found the time over the past year to expand his Noise Nest production complex in Hollywood.
Now spanning an entire block in the heart of Hollywood’s media district, Noise Nest began more modestly under another name about eight years ago. “We leased the smaller space for the first three years for a production team that I had at the time; we used it as a songwriting facility,” says Gross. “We later built it out to be more of a recording studio facility where other managers, publishers and labels could use the space.”
When his neighbor’s larger building became available, Gross snapped it up, gutting the structure and calling in Peter Grueneisen’s nonzero\architecture to design a three-room complex with lounges, kitchen and other amenities. He then had designer and acoustician Chris Owens of F.C. Owens revamp the two production rooms in the original, smaller building.
“It started as this sort of punk-rock, grungy little studio and it’s turned into a multi-purpose, multi-use content factory,” Gross says. His vision for Noise Nest was inspired by pro skateboarder Rob Dyrdek’s now-defunct Fantasy Factory in downtown L.A., which he calls “a cool and creative way to think outside of the box.”
The initial two rooms catered to outside clients while Gross was growing his business, but Noise Nest now focuses on in-house content creation. “I host a lot of our internal publishing and label clients; they each get to use the space for free,” he says. “We’re doing all kinds of things: music production, live streaming, gaming. It’s an epic live event space; we built two basketball courts.”
The Gross Labs umbrella company, launched in 2018, encompasses record label and music publisher Big Noise Music Group, Noise Nest Animation, e-sports organization Team Rogue, and philanthropic education and self-discovery platform Find Your Grind. Gross co-founded Big Noise with Vagrant Records co-founders Jon Cohen and John “Feldy” Feldmann, the man behind SoCal ska-punk band Goldfinger; signings include The Used, Ashley Tisdale and The Wrecks. Gross still sometimes plays with Goldfinger, as well as his own bands, Half the Animal and girlfriends. His many investments range from consumer products to new tech ventures.
A common thread throughout Noise Nest is PMC speakers. “The choice of PMC was a no-brainer,” says Gross, who first heard the monitors at the studios of his friend, producer and songwriter Dr. Luke. “They’re incredible. We’re super stoked to have them.” Studio A features PMC’s flagship QB1-A in-wall main monitors, while various IB1S-A, twotwo.6 and twotwo.8 models provide near field coverage there and in the other rooms.
There is a consistent aesthetic between rooms. The largest space, A, is dominated by a massive console supporting a split analog API 1608, with the main desk to the left and 16 more channels to the right, plus a Slate Raven system. “It’s a one-of-a-kind desk that I wanted to build out with a cool mixture of analog and digital. The outboard gear that sits behind it is pretty special as well,” he says, and includes SSL and Neve mic preamps.
The tracking space is just the right size, he says: “It gets the job done. We wanted to be smart with the space and be as effective as we could, knowing that we wanted to build three studios in a 4,500-square-foot building,” he says.
The B room, equipped with an SSL Matrix2 and soffited Genelec 1238A SAM main monitors, transforms into an indoor/outdoor space. “People can be playing basketball outside and see what’s going on inside the room at the same time,” he says. The console in Studio C, the smallest room, overlooks a small booth and houses an industry-standard vocal chain—Neve 1073 preamp and Tube-Tech CL 1B compressor—with ATC SCM25A Pro monitors and a rack of additional outboard gear.
“All three studios have their own vibe. I wanted to take the feeling of old recording studios, whether that was old brick or old wood or analog gear, and give it that high-end, digital, 2020s modern vibe. So we have white brick everywhere and polished concrete for all the floors,” says Gross. “It’s just a fun hang and a good vibe. You don’t want to leave.”
Loire Valley, France (January 8, 2021) — Flow Studios, a new recording facility based in France’s Loire Valley, has opened with a 32-channel Solid State Logic Origin analog in-line console in its control room.
Studio owner Luke Aaron Clark reportedly built the studio control room to accommodate the Origin desk. The studio itself was designed by John Brandt, took three years to complete and involved modifying an old town hall.
“What I love about the Origin is that it gives me the ability to work with one artist in the control room, or to have a band or larger group spread out throughout the studio, with all instruments recorded simultaneously,” says Clark. “As a commercial studio owner, I wanted to create a beautiful space where an engineer or producer can get to work quickly. Thankfully, the engineering and design behind Origin is very intuitive.
“The SSL Origin is set up as fully patchable, which provides a highly flexible workflow throughout the studio. We have 96 patchable audio lines accessed via wall panels located throughout the facility, while we also use the intelligent and intuitive bus routing on the SSL Origin to manage our dedicated hearback system.”
Clark says the console can create a comprehensive workflow: “For tracking, if someone wants to get a session up and running quickly, they can run everything through the desk and it all sounds harmonious,” he explains. “After tracking, the desk, outboard gear or trusted plug-ins can be employed for mixing.”
He adds, “I was already familiar with the snarl and crunch of the E series 242-type EQ. It gives some added weight and the ability to fine-tune during or after tracking. And the glue you get from the classic bus compressor is indispensable.”