Solid State Logic
|Headquarters||Begbroke, Oxfordshire, UK|
|Key people||To follow|
4000 series console
9000 series console
Xlogic rackmount series
Duende rackmount DSP
- 1 Company information
- 2 Clients
- 3 Pro audio market
- 4 SSL response
- 5 Existing large console market
- 6 Competitors
- 7 Alternative technologies
- 8 History
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Founded in 1969, SSL has since expanded to its present 15 acre (61,000 m²) science park in Oxfordshire, England. The company invents, designs and manufactures technology for the manipulation of sound and the production and delivery of video.
One of the first SSL consoles (in fact the first in the UK, and only the second console sold) was a 4000B installed at The Townhouse Studios on Goldhawk Road in London. Possibly the earliest 4000E console was at RG Jones in London, closely followed by Eden Studios and Sarm Studios. Eden had a 48-channel console with integral patch and automation using 8" floppy drives. Sarm East had a 40-channel console with remote patchbay and automation with 8" floppy drives. Both consoles had Total Recall enabling console settings (and hence mixes) to be recalled & remade with a high degree of accuracy.
SSL analogue and digital audio consoles are used in both pre- and post-production for film, audio, video and broadcast sound. Notably, in May 2001, Studio 3 at Abbey Road Studios was refurbished with a 96-channel SSL 9000 J series console, the largest SSL console in Europe.
SSL also produces rackmount audio hardware for use in recording studios.
There are over 3,000 SSL systems in service around the world. Their equipment has been used by classical musicians and popular artists such as Nine Inch Nails, Bryan Adams, Peter Gabriel, Whitney Houston, Blur and Sting.
Some of the company's broadcast clients include:
- ABC, USA;
- BBC, UK;
- CBC, Canada;
- TVA, Canada;
- CBS, USA;
- Fox, USA;
- NBC, USA;
- NHK, Japan;
- NOB, Netherlands;
- TF1, France
- France 2, France;
- Direct 8, France;
- NDR, Germany;
- RAI, Italy;
- Swedish Television; and
- Studios 301, Australia & Germany.
- Rede Record, Brasil
In 2005, SSL was purchased by musician Peter Gabriel and broadcast entrepreneur David Engelke. The change of ownership has seen some changes in strategy for the company including new product releases to address the fast-changing state of the pro-audio marketplace.
Pro audio market
The 1970s recording scene was dominated by large format consoles feeding multi-track tape machines manufactured by companies such as Studer. Both the equipment and the environment they were used in were expensive to source and maintain making studio recording a high entry cost business. A series of developments have slowly eroded this position.
Perhaps the first major change was the advent of music sequencer technology. Prior to its introduction all synchronisation was achieved by adding SMPTE time code to analogue tape. This acted as a reference point so that individual tracks could be easily synchronised. With the advent of MIDI hardware, devices could be used to synchronise any MIDI device and eventually MIDI Time Code or MTC became an alternative method of synchronising studio activity. Continuing development in this area has led to computer-controlled sequencing.
Analogue to digital conversion and encoding
The development of converter technology transforming analogue signals into digital signals has spawned a variety of supporting technical developments. DSP or Digital Signal Processing technology has led both to the advent of digital mixing desks and DSP-based computer recording platforms such as Pro Tools. As such, this technology has created both a (typically) cheaper and lower maintenance alternative to the analogue mixing desk and a cheaper alternative to the multitrack analogue tape machine.
The advent of early computer-controlled sequencers such as Cakewalk (sequencer) has led to the design of native Digital Audio Workstation or DAW platforms. Native DAW platforms such as Performer and more recent Digital Performer by Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU), Steinberg's Cubase and Nuendo, Apple's Logic Pro and Cakewalk's Sonar now have significant market share as well as professional studio users, though the most broadly accepted system is currently Avid's Pro Tools. They are particularly popular with home recording enthusiasts and artists making demos that might in the past have required expensive studio time. Furthermore, mixes can be achieved using a computer only, otherwise known as in the box.
The high cost and hence small market for large format consoles led to pioneers such as Automated Processes Inc, or API, to experiment with modular equipment design. API's product offering of single items in the signal chain such as pre-amps, equalisers and compressors all based around a flexible central power supply proved popular with buyers who wanted very high quality but could not afford to buy a minimum of 24 channels at once.
Whilst maintaining a successful presence in the large format console market, SSL have endeavoured to adapt their product offering to address these developments.
In 2003, SSL entered the rackmount market with semi-modular offering from its 9000K console including its first channel strip. By moving to surface mount technology, SSL have been able to offer selected features of their large format consoles at prices more affordable to smaller studios and committed home recording enthusiasts.
2005 saw the release of further rack mount units such as the E-series channel strip and the X-rack. The XLogic G Series Compressor unit is a 1U rack mounting stereo compressor. It utilises the classic SSL G Series center compressor design elements within a Super-Analogue design topology.
Analogue Workstation System
In late 2004, SSL launched AWS 900, an integrated analogue console and DAW controller. Bearing in mind the considerable, £50,000+ entry level price tag for this smallest of SSL desks, the unit has proved popular. SSL now lists over 300 studios using the AWS900; they received a TEC Award in 2005 for this new design. 2006 saw the release of its successor, AWS 900+.
In late 2006, SSL launched the Duality, a large format console that is similar to an XL9000K, with the control surface features of the AWS 900.
Further releases in 2006 include the Duende DSP, platform designed to emulate SSL console-grade audio quality for home recording enthusiasts. Based on the digital technology behind SSL's C-Series consoles, Duende is designed to integrate into Digital audio workstation environments using a FireWire cable connection, though a PCI-e card is also available. The digital processing channels appear as audio plug-ins. The system supports Steinberg VST, Apple Audio Units and Digidesign RTAS, (support via Fxpansion wrapper).
Using the system DAW users can emulate SSL channel strip features including filters, SSL E and G series EQ and dynamics processing. The system also allows access to the SSL Stereo Bus Compressor, a very popular facility of large format SSL consoles. On 25 April 2007, SSL announced the release of another plug-in for the Duende, called Drumstrip, which contained a noise gate, a transient shaper, high frequency and low frequency enhancers, and the Listening Mic Compressor.
Also in 2006, the company also announced its expansion into broadcast video content management and delivery with their MediaWAN system.
Existing large console market
SSL large format consoles remain popular. Both the 9000-series consoles and the older 4000 series consoles are discontinued, but there is still a huge second hand market and a number of third party companies that are offering spare parts for these consoles.
In terms of classic consoles, the SSL 4000 G-Series (including the G+) continues to be popular among mixing engineers in Rock and Pop genres. Notable mixing engineers using the 4000-Series are Bob Clearmountain, Chris Lord-Alge, Tom Lord-Alge, Andy Wallace, Mark "Spike" Stent and Alan Moulder. In 2005, platinum-selling Bristol band Massive Attack based their new studio facility around a 4056 G+ Special Edition console. SSL claim that the 4000 has been the mixer behind more platinum selling albums than all other consoles combined.
5000M was one of Solid State Logic's most esoteric and expensive mixing consoles. Primarily used in the film and broadcast industries. Disney, Mediaset, SAE and Skywalker Sound, among others, employed them in their facilities, though the console was plagued with design faults and a poor automation system. SSL made only 120 desks, often customised to customer requirements, but then was deemed too expensive to support and develop. One senior SSL executive was quoted as saying "the desk was an absolute nightmare from start to finish and almost crippled the company."
The 9000 J and K series have been widely acclaimed for use in R&B, Classical and Pop genres. Wyclef Jean, formerly of the Fugees, has equipped his Platinum Sound studio with two control rooms, one with a J-series and the other boasting a K-series console.
- C100 On-Air Broadcast console.
- C200 Production Console.
- C300 Post-production consoles.
- C10 On-Air console.
Historically, SSL has produced high-end, large-format, professional recording studio consoles. As such their main competitors have been:-
- AMEK (No longer manufactured, though the company was taken over by Harman International Industries under the Soundcraft badge).
- AMS Neve
However, these companies have also been adapting at the same time with some abandoning large format console manufacture altogether and focusing on markets such as live sound and broadcast digital audio.
- Digital consoles
- Summing boxes
- DSP Systems
- Modular systems
- Combination systems
- In the box mixing
In its infancy, SSL was the first firm to manufacture solid-state control systems for pipe organs. The name 'Solid State Logic' was coined by founder, Colin Sanders, to explain the then modern technology of transistor and FET switching to organ builders. Sanders' real enthusiasm was for music recording and he built mixing consoles for his recording studio, Acorn Studios, in Stonesfield, Oxfordshire. The organ division was sold in 2002 and is now known as Solid State Organ Systems.
Sanders developed the SL4000 A Series console in 1975. Two were built. This was followed by the SL4000 B Series with the first SSL Studio Computer, which debuted in 1977; six were made. The concept was further refined as the hugely successful SL4000 E Series, on which the company's fortunes were built. Paul Bamborough, who developed the Studio Computer, added the Total Recall system and studios across the world started to standardise on the SL4000 E Series Master Studio System, which refined in-line mixing console architecture and effectively integrated the multi-track tape recorder.
Although it had been designed for music production, the power and flexibility of the '4K', attracted Broadcast and Post-production customers including the BBC and Danmarks Radio. The introduction of stereo sound for TV led to the development of the SL6000 V Series Stereo Video System, with its three stereo stem mix matrix, and later to the SL8000 G Series. Meanwhile the 4000 E was upgraded to the 4000 G with a number of sonic enhancements and the Ultimation moving fader option.
To address a wider range of Broadcast and Post-production applications, in the mid-1980s SSL developed the SL5000 M Series Broadcast Production System and the SL5000 F Series Film Production System. These highly modular consoles though highly flexible pushed the limits of analogue audio technology in terms of size and power consumption and proved somewhat temperamental.
Although widely known for its analogue technology, SSL was one of the digital audio pioneers and put together an impressive team of digital engineers under the leadership of Peter Eastty. The team defected en masse to become Oxford Digital (subsequently Sony Oxford) and SSL had to start over. Recognising the importance of digital interface standardisation to the future of the industry, SSL partnered with Sony and Studer to develop the now widespread MADI (Multichannel Audio Digital Interface) protocol. The new team, led by Phil Hill, developed an eight channel editor, ScreenSound, followed by workstations, Scenaria and OmniMix; all targeted at the post-production market. This technology formed the basis of SSL 'A Series' consoles starting with Axiom and followed by Aysis, Avant, Aysis Air and Axiom MT. These consoles offered knob per function type control surfaces that were familiar to a generation of engineers who had grown up with SSL's analogue consoles.
SSL's analogue technology was updated through the introduction of the 9000 J Series in 1994. This was based around the new SuperAnalogue technology that provides very high bandwidth performance. The 9000 K, which followed in 2002, added full 5.1 Surround Sound processing.
A new generation of digital consoles was developed in the early years of the 21st Century starting with the C100 and C200 Broadcast consoles. C100 was designed for On-Air applications and based around an assignable 'channel tile' control surface. C200 was configured for production applications and features a knob-per-function channel strip approach based on earlier consoles and so familiar to thousands of SSL experienced mixing engineers.
In 2005, SSL was acquired by Peter Gabriel and US Broadcast technology entrepreneur Dave Engelke. Later that year, based on the same Centuri processing platform as the C100 and C200, the C300 Post-production console was launched. Featuring multiple DAW control, supporting up to three separate mixers and including a very comprehensive mix automation system, the C300 is one of the most powerful and flexible mixing consoles in the world. SSL developed a new division of its business focused on Workstation Partner Products that include a range of products, both analogue and digital. In 2006 it acquired Sydec Audio Engineering and productised its developments including the range of Alpha-Link I/O products and its Delta-Link Protools HD / MADI interface.
The Blackrock processing platform now supports the C100 and the recently (2009) introduced C10 console, featuring dialogue automix – a console feature that automates the mixing of multi-mic round table setups. Blackrock technology enables the full mirroring of audio processing engines bringing new levels of security to Broadcast operations.
- "Companies house webcheck". Retrieved 11 July 2006.
- "About SSL". Retrieved 11 July 2006.
- "Ibid". Archived from the original on 17 May 2006. Retrieved 11 July 2006.
- Solid State Logic official website About SSL, Solid State Logic.
- "Kelsey connects Abbey Road". Archived from the original on 10 July 2006. Retrieved 11 July 2006.
- Abbey Road Studios official website studio 3
- AWS900 product review from Sound on Sound magazine.
- Mix Foundation. 2005 Nominees: Outstanding Technical Achievement
- Sound on Sound magazine, October 2005
- Sound on Sound magazine, July 2004
- Solid State Organ Systems.
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