Getting that SSL Sound in the box.


  • VigilanteStylez VigilanteStylez Basic Status 2 months ago

    For us old heads, we love the sound of music that was mixed on large format analog consoles. We came up during the time of Dr.Dre's Chronic, Snoop's Doggystyle, 2Pac's All Eyez On Me, the Above the Rim soundtrack, Eazy E's diss record to Dre, Bone Thugs N Harmony's first albums "Creepin On Ah Come Up, E.1999 so on and so forth. And each of these albums had a sonic footprint that cemented these albums into our hearts and minds forever. The one thing they had in common that defined their stellar sound quality was the fact they were all mixed on SSL Consoles.

    Now... with the current generation of plugins, and how advanced computers and DAWs have gotten, it is now possible to get that sound in the box, and make it sound just like the records that used the actual consoles. I will provide the method I have found that works very well at giving that sound.

    So what constitutes the sound of the SSL console? It was known to be a transparent board, and clean, yet some have said it has a harshness, and a crunch, with lots of punch, and beefy low end. At least for the older 4000 series consoles. The 9000 series consoles are super clean, with lots of headroom, and very sharp top end, plus very powerful low end energy as well. This comes from the EQ and the compressor of the console, plus the transformer saturation from the channels, the summing into the master bus, and its master bus compressor.

    So there are a couple ways to get this sound in the box if you know how to create this.
    My preferred and most convincing setup that gets ultra close to the real thing is this.
    First the Brainworx BX Console SSL 4000 E or G across all channels in a session, with randomized channels. This plugin replicates the tolerances of the different channels, plus the saturation and very low level noise in the channels. The waves versions do not have channel to channel tolerances, but there is a way with the waves plugins which I will touch on in a moment. Then an SSL bus compressor on the master section because that is where it is on the console. So that is most of it. But if you are a Studio One user you can also have "summing" in the box designed from an SSL console. Studio One has a MixFX addon called "Brit Console" which turns Studio One's engine into a SSL. All the sound in the DAW is shaped according to the SSL console you want to use, and the noise, the harmonic drive, and channel crosstalk is all included. For me, I personally like the sound of the G series SSL 4000 consoles, so in the Brit console there is a preset called "G Style" which is configured to that of an SSL 4000 G series console. Couple that with the Brainworx SSL 4000 G channel strip, and the townhouse bus compressor, you have a very solid replica (soundwise) to that of the classic SSL 4000 G series console. Now you can use different versions if you prefer, perhaps you like the E series channel instead because of the bell curves, and brighter sounding EQ. They also have 9000 series presets and if you have used a Duality and like the sound of that, this is also included in the Studio One engine.

    Now how to do this with Waves Plugins in any DAW. So maybe you like the Waves SSL Collection, or you have that and don't want to buy the BX version. We have to take into account that the Waves version does not have tolerance modeling. We need that unfortunately to properly emulate the console otherwise we are just using an SSL style EQ, and compressor, but not getting the whole vibe of these consoles. Lucky for us Waves makes the NLS Bus and Channel. The NLS is a non linear summer. So in this plugin they emulate the sonic footprint of a SSL 4000 G console (Spike). An EMI desk from the 1960s (Mike). Lastly a Neve Console used by Yoad Nevo. (Nevo). So... how to set this up.
    First. Put Waves NLS Channel on all channels in your session as the last insert. This will emulate you sending the audio into the channel. Put your SSL Channel strips above this on all channels so the audio is going through the channel strip first, then into the NLS channel last. On the master bus. Put NLS Bus in the first insert. This is the VCA Trim section or whatever that section is called, then after that put the Waves SSL bus compressor afterwards. This emulates taking all the audio in the session, and running it through the bus compressor.

    There you go. That's it. You have recreated the console in your computer, and you can of course use any other plugins you prefer "before" the channel strip to emulate using outboard gear or working in the DAW with surgical EQ's or other plugins sending their audio into the console via the channel, so you get all the channel saturation, tolerances, and vibe.

    Now bear in mind, you have the sound of the console, not the workflow. Ofc we don't need to emulate the onboard computer on the console, that is handled by the DAW.

    You can also use other plugins like CLA Mixhub which has an SSL like workflow, and sound in place of the channel strip.

    For those who use SSL Native. That is a modern SSL sound based on the sound of the SSL XL9000K series console which is so clean it is almost like working in the box already, however if you use Studio One you can choose between a Superanalogue preset in the Brit console, or V-HD preset meaning Variable Harmonic Distortion which means you can pick between 2nd and 3rd degree harmonics to color the sound like what was done in the SSL Duality console.

    In the end to recreate the console sound you need the channels, the bus compressor, and the summing. If you are hybrid and have the SSL SiX, Big SiX, etc to do the summing, just know that is based on the 9000 series consoles, so the channel strips and bus compressors that would work best with that setup is SSL Native suite of plugins or BX Console SSL 9000 J channel strip + townhouse bus compressor or Cytomic's The Glue. Actually I think the SiX has an on board SSL G Bus compressor, so just use that in place of a plugin bus comp.

    Anyway wanted to share this with everyone. If you have any tips, or want to correct me on any of these things, I am all ears, and would love to read your comments. Try this out as your base set up for mixing, or use this setup as your template for mixing. Once you set it up, your mixing process will be fast, and the results will sound fantastic. I guarantee it. Then you can focus on making music, and not having to worry about the mixing process, because you will just recreate an SSL console, and mix on that. Once you get the hang of this, you can mix 20 track sessions in 10 minutes, and it will have that professional vibe and sheen. Give it a try. Thank me later.

  • Arcade Arcade Basic Status 2 months ago

    thanks for the tips bro really appreciate it the info.

  • VigilanteStylez VigilanteStylez Basic Status 1 month ago

    You're welcome fam!

  • BobChops BobChops Basic Status 2 months ago

    Can I achieve this using Cakewalks console emulator channels an busses?

  • BobChops BobChops Basic Status 2 months ago

    I actually tried the N-Type the other day, on something. It added something to the sound no doubt! Made it sound great!

    But when I went to mix down the other day, I didn't get round to turning these on the channels. I think your system of having them all setup, and ready, is the way to go!

    At the moment, I am using my Kross 2. And it only has 7 effects processors. But it has some pre-amp models. I was using them today, they sound good.

  • VigilanteStylez VigilanteStylez Basic Status 1 week ago

    Ok so I tried this.  Since Cakewalk is free, I got it and played around with it a bit, and here are my conclusions.  They sound "close" but they seem to be too bright when mixing in cakewalk.  I use the console emulation, then mix with the default compressor, and EQ.  I did a comparison by using "E Curves in the EQ" which are based on SSL 4000 E series EQ, the compressor which might be a VCA type compressor which is what is on SSL consoles anyway.  And I left the drive knob in default position, and turning on tolerance on all tracks, including the master bus.  Using the crosseye masterbus setup on the masterbus compressor, and only applying 2db gain reduction.  I compared this to a mix I did with Brainworx SSL 4000 E, the brit console set to default+ or whatever the first preset is for summing, and the townhouse bus compressor on the master in Studio One Pro.  I used the same beat for both mixes, and the Cakewalk mix sounded "similar" but not as smooth.  There was some digital harshness in the mix, whereas on the Brainworx SSL mix it was smooth, no harshness.  So is Cakewalk a solid free alternative to using something like BX Console, or the Waves SSL collection?  Not to me.  It is similar, but would be the worst sounding emulation of all that are out there in my humble opinion.  If you had some really nice, pre treated tracks, you could get away with using Cakewalk's console emulation for mixing, but 90% of the time in my opinion you will get some kind of a harsh mix using it.  

  • VigilanteStylez VigilanteStylez Basic Status 2 months ago

    Yeah that will work! Looks like S type is SSL, N type might be classic 80 series Neve, and A is definitely API. Set that up, then use the corresponding channel strips for an authentic recreation sound wise.

  • BobChops BobChops Basic Status 2 months ago

    That's interesting. I thought the A-type was the Focusrite console. But they don't say, just that it's a desk that there are only 13 of.

  • VigilanteStylez VigilanteStylez Basic Status 1 month ago

    If that's what they are describing then it's probably the focusrite studio console. A in most cases is usually API. Like in slate vcc for instance.

  • BobChops BobChops Basic Status 1 month ago

    I just found out! Softtube, actually made the Cakewalk console emulations! oh wow. That's crazy! Softube are huge! Most of what they do costs 100's of donuts!

    It's amazing they are giving them away for free!

  • VigilanteStylez VigilanteStylez Basic Status 1 month ago

    Softube makes some of the most accurate SSL channel strip plugins. Brainworx for me seems to be the most accurate in sound, but Acustica audio and UAD also make very close sounding SSL plugins. Waves is okay, but their SSL Ev2 uses way too much CPU. The old ones were decent, but Softube and Brainworx makes the most accurate ones imo and the opinion of many who used the actual consoles I spoke to.

  • ToneFreakMusic ToneFreakMusic Basic Status 2 weeks ago

    I have the Brainworks BX SSL plugin and really sounds great for the classic SSL sound. Love the write-up.

  • VigilanteStylez VigilanteStylez Basic Status 1 week ago

    Yeah I like Brainworx's too.  I bought almost all of their BX Console plugins.  Or maybe I did buy them all now I think about it.  Even though I use only 1 most of the time.