SSL X-Rack Mixer
review
SSL X-rack Mixer
the move to compactness is a logical one but I bet you never thought you’d get access
to an SSL in this sort of size. GeorGe SHILLInG finds a worthy contender for analogue
control central.
W
e took a look at the SSL X-Rack in
Resolution V5.1. However, back then the
only module available was a Dynamics
processor. In the meantime, SSL has introduced a
series of modules that enable the user to configure
a custom system, much like any other lunchbox or
powered rack system, such as the API 500 series.
The configuration sent for review brings together
some predictable additions to the X-Rack range, plus
modules that enable configuration as a mini-mixer.
Unsurprising add-ons, derived directly from SSL’s
large analogue consoles are a mono Input module
with mic, line and DI inputs, plus filters, and also an
EQ module, with familiar 4-band E/G Series EQ. The
mixer module is a four input Line Return unit; this is
designed to work in conjunction with the new Master
module, the latter’s features resembling a desk’s
centre section.
All modules employ Total Recall using LEDs in
the module panels
as detailed in the
previous review.
The knobs have a
tiny LED to indicate
above/below
positions. This is
something no rival
can boast, being as
it is self-contained,
with the option of
storage in a DAW
via MIDI. Unlike
SSL consoles and
newer AMS-Neve
outboard, there
are no on-screen
graphics to watch.
Because
your
eye is always
on the unit there
is therefore less
chance of turning
the wrong knob.
It is a very neat
system, but there
was some audio
interference on the
24
main Master monitor outputs when in recall mode.
One initial drawback of the Line Return and Master
modules is that their compact size necessitates the use
of 25-pin D-Sub connectors. This wouldn’t be such a
problem, but SSL makes things marginally harder by
employing non-standard wiring formats for these. This
is partly necessary due to the unique combination of
inputs and outputs required, but it does seem odd that
they have used reversed polarity for the pin wiring
compared to the more commonly adopted Tascam
standard. Custom cabling will be required!
The comprehensively featured Input module
includes a neutral and quiet SuperAnalogue
microphone preamp with excellent transient handling
and clarity, and plenty of gain. An Impedance knob
allows wide variation of the mic input, even matching
the connection of Line sources, although there is a
dedicated Line input section with separate XLR input
and gain knob. The Instrument input jack on the front
panel
includes
a useful Ground
Lift switch and
this input sounds
particularly solid
on bass guitar.
A tri-colour LED
senses level prior
to the output
amplifier, and there
are useful routing
buttons to select
Left and/or Right
Record Bus on the
Master module (see
below). Smooth
sounding filters are
also featured.
The EQ module
features the familiar
Black-knob type
SSL EQ, with the
usual colour-coding
for the four bands.
The EQ In button
is central, adjacent
is a G-EQ selector
button that makes
resolution the shelving steeper and adds overshoot, or undershoot
(if cutting) below the selected HF frequency (or
above the selected LF frequency). Additionally, this
mode sees bandwidth vary according to gain for the
parametric bands. The EQ sounds exactly the same as
the console EQ, clean and tweaky.
So, to the mixer. The Line Return module features
four line inputs. The rear of this module features two
D-Sub 25-pin connectors, allowing provision for fully
balanced inputs and returns on one connector and
Insert Sends and Returns on the other. The Insert
Send is simply a parallel of the Line input. The Insert
Returns are switchable via a separate Insert button
on each channel. On the front, each channel features
a Level pot with calibrated centre détente and a tricoloured signal level LED, a centre-détented pan pot,
and in addition to the insert buttons there are Solo and
Record Bus routing buttons (channels normally route
to the Mix Bus).
It’s crowded, but all buttons are sensibly
accompanied by LEDs. The Master module acts in
conjunction with up to seven Line Return modules.
Further racks can be chained with a Master Link
D-Sub (although this does not feature on earlier
X-Racks) allowing busing and soloing across very
many channels. The two D-Sub connectors on the
rear of the Master module provide (in conjunction
with front panel pushbuttons) Main and Alt Monitor
outputs, Mix Insert Sends and Returns (these can
also be selected to sum with the Mix bus), (Stereo)
Record and Mix bus outputs (the Record bus can also
be summed with the Mix), External Inputs (2-track
monitor) and Follow Monitor outputs. The front panel
also provides a Headphone jack.
Small LED meters show monitor levels and there
are knobs for Mix, Solo and Monitor levels. Like a
proper console there are Mono, Dim and Cut buttons.
Dim level is even adjustable via the Recall section.
Separate Monitor and Mix sections allow you to
monitor external inputs or listen to the Record and/or
Mix buses. You can easily create separate record path
and monitor mix setups using the two different stereo
buses, it is an elegant and logical system.
Absent from the Line Return modules are any
auxiliary sends; you have to route from within a
DAW directly to outboard or headphones, making this
X-Rack configuration perhaps more of a summing
mixer, albeit with the huge advantage of Recall.
But for summing, the (even newer, see p18) eightchannel module is probably more appealing. To
use the X-Rack as a centrepiece of a studio, careful
decisions about placement for ergonomic convenience
must be made -– controls and legends are tiny, and
you need to have the Master section within easy
reach. There are interesting possibilities here, there
is no question about the sonic quality, and I suspect
further modules may be on the way to make even
more of this system. ■
proS
excellent total recall implementation;
similar circuitry and sound quality to
large-format SSL consoles; clean, highperformance audio; comprehensive
Master section module; ultra-compact
mixer format.
conS
no aux sends on Line return module;
less ‘character’ than most summing
mixers; non-standard d-Sub connections;
audio interference in recall mode.
contact
SoLId State LoGIc, uk:
Website:www.solid-state-logic.com
April2007
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