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  • New SSL Mixer : SiX

    Nick Mitchell

     

    SSL SiX KMR

     

    New Mixer : Solid-State-Logic SiX

     

    Solid-State-Logic have released what is at first glance a new small format mixer called SiX. However, dig a little deeper and there is more to this new little SSL than meets the eye ...

     

    KMR SSL-SiX fron

     

     

    SuperAnalogue Sound

    Six has a fully balanced signal path with the same sonic signature of the larger format Super Analogue consoles from SSL.

    Two SuperAnalogue Mic Preamps

    Six has two mono channels with SSL SuperAnalogue mic preamps, phantom power, 75Hz High Pass Filter and line level with switchable instrument input.

    New one-knob compressor

    A new one-knob compressor circuit has a program dependent attack time, a fixed release time and fixed ratio.

    New two-band EQ

    A new SSL two-band EQ which can be switched between shelf and bell curves

    100mm Faders and inserts

    Full size 100mm faders, with each channel having a balanced insert point. Routing to bus A or Bus B allows you to provide individual artist foldback mixes or for other live uses.

    Stereo Line Level Inputs

    There are 2 stereo line level inputs, but by using the mono and stereo inputs and eternal inputs you can have up to 12 channels of summing into the main mix bus at mix down.

    SSL G Series Bus compressor 

    The SSL G Series Bus compressor has been implemented on the main mix bus, using the same circuit as the larger format consoles, but has fixed ratio, attack and release settings. There are also main insert points on the mix bus for other hardware processing.

    Listen Mic Comp 

    SiX has a tailback mic input and the famous Listen Mic Compressor which can be used for reprocessing should you want to recreate that 80's compressed drum sound from certain Mr Collins...


     

     

     


     

    SiX front panel Overview

     


     

    For more info please check out the link below :

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  • The Apollo X audio interfaces are arguably one of the best sounding audio interfaces available and with the addition of UAD plug-ins available in real-time during tracking, they certainly are also one of the most flexible. But what happens if you need additional inputs or need more DSP power? Up to four Apollo interfaces can be cascaded together and up to 6 UAD-powered units can be daisy-chained to create an enormous system consisting of up to 64 I/O.

    Stack Universal Audio Apollo X Audio interfaces

    Universal Audio is offering a great promotion for existing Apollo X users looking precisely to extend their systems with another Apollo interface. Indeed from today and until the 30th of April, any existing Apollo X owner can buy another Apollo X or Twin interface and receive a FREE Custom 10 or Custom 3 bundle respectively.

    How Does it Work?

    The offer is very simple, any existing Apollo X owner buying an Apollo X or Apollo Twin will receive its corresponding Custom Bundle directly into their Universal Audio Account.

    Existing owners of an Apollo X 16 or 8p buying another of these interfaces will receive a Custom Bundle 10, offering them 10 plug-ins of their choice from the Universal Audio store.

    Existing owners of Apollo X16, X8p, X8 and X6 buying an Apollo Twin mkII Quad or Duo will receive a Custom Bundle 3, offering them a choice of 3 plug-ins from the Universal Audio store.

    Customers contemplating buying two or more Apollo can also benefit from this offer.

    It is worth mentioning that the following plug-ins are not eligible for this offer:

    • Trident A-Range Classic Console EQ,
    • Thermionic Culture Vulture,
    • API 500 Series EQ Collection,
    • API Vision Channel Strip,
    • API 2500 Bus Compressor.

    Should you want more plug-ins you can also buy additional custom bundles (1 per interface) through KMR and save up to 65% on the price of individual plugins.

    Why Expand?

    Additional Apollo X are obviously a great way to increase your I/O count but also the amount of DSP available for bigger mixes.

    While the Apollo Twin might offer less I/O  and DSP than an Apollo X it remains a worthwhile investment as it will become a flexible desktop monitor control interface for your entire Apollo system.

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  •  

     

    SSL-FT-Palma KMR

     


     

    Palma Music Studios, Mallorca, was opened at the end of 2017 but the idea of opening a studio came about only a year earlier when Johan Lundgren and Fredrik Thomander were introduced to each other by a mutual friend.

    Fredrik already had many years of writing and recording success in LA and Stockholm, and Johan had a 24 channel SSL Duality production studio in the UK. They both felt they could create something unique and world-class in the Balearic Islands capital Palma.

    Their first plan of action was to find a location...

     


     

     

    KMR : When you first sat down together, what did you both have in mind?

    Fredrik : We had some drawings, but the first thing we did was look for houses because it seemed the logical thing to do, but we just didn’t find anything that was suitable. We did see a villa in the city, but it wouldn’t have been at all what we had today.

    Then I just drove past and saw this space for sale, and Palma Tennis club had just opened nearby and I thought this will be an area to be in. So we bought this plot of land, and this was what we had to work with. I had the measurements of a 17metre x 8metre plot, so with those limitations, we started designing.

    KMR : You now have a self-contained studio in the basement essentially, as you went down 5 metres and have two floors above and a roof terrace!

    Fredrik : Yes, my gut feeling was that we needed a place where writing camps could come to, and we knew we could dig down, so we put the emphasis on several smaller rooms rather than just one or two large spaces.

    Now we have the basement where we have four studios - one large and 3 smaller with a vocal booth - and a corridor in the middle - basically 4 project rooms and one big mothership!

    We had to work around having the stairwell and decided to make it into a common hangout area. The challenge was to fit all that, while still making it accessible but also private. 

    So the solution was what we have today.

     


     

    Palma Studio C KMR

    Palma Studio B KMR

     


     

    A large ceiling height Live Room and a great sounding Control Room for the Solid-State-Logic Duality was something that both Johan and Fredrik wanted, so we introduced them to Nick Whittaker and Oxford Cable Systems' Paul Ward, to help achieve the best possible acoustic design which was put into place alongside their Spanish architect.

     


     

    Palma Live Room KMR

     


     

    KMR : I remember seeing some earlier plans that looked a much different layout?

    Fredrik : Oh yeah, we even had plans where the control room was up on the 2nd floor going up by stairs - and some designs with a spiral staircase which wouldn’t have been very smart…you were also very instrumental in suggesting what we shouldn’t do as well!

    KMR : I think after a session in Abbey Road with Johan we all discussed the idea of having a balcony idea in the live room?

    Fredrik : Yes exactly that was an inspiration. We also learnt a lot from chatting to people about the privacy idea, and how you need to have a corridor into the studios. Of course, Nick Whittaker came up with the genius idea of making the corridor into part of the acoustic build outside the main SSL room, and we knew we needed a good ceiling height - so the balcony allowed us to do the double height in the live room, which we were delighted with.

    The biggest challenge was the air supply, and airflow and air conditioning, as well as spacing. Where I’m sitting now, the Quincy room (SSL Room) from the start was actually two studios, and I remember you suggesting that we’d never sit in those small rooms, and to make it into one big room.

    KMR : I personally think your live room is a significant success. That’s the calling card for your studio with this amazing height and the Duality console next door.

    Fredrik : Exactly, it’s a wonderful thing, as was keeping Johan's SSL 24 channel Duality desk and then expanding it to 48 channels. There are very few details I would do differently - if any!

     


     

    The 24 Channel Duality Delta was transported from the UK but not without a few logistical issues...

    Firstly, the Duality started its journey on the 3rd floor of a building with no lift, so required expertise navigating a tight stairwell down to the ground floor..

    The new 24 channel expansion was then packed alongside the SSL Main Unit, with all the guitar amps and outboard, and then driven, via ferry from Barcelona, to arrive 24 hours later in Palma.

    The console was then reconfigured and tested onsite where a custom SSL designed armrest was fitted. This features a curved section in the centre to provide extra space for a keyboard and mouse when editing, or mixing, in the centre position of the desk.

     


     

    SSL Palma Build KMR II

    SSL Palma Build KMR III

    Palma SSL EDIT BW KMR

     


     

    New outboard equipment was supplied alongside some more unusual pieces from Johan's UK studio such as an ADR Compex F760-X, Lisson Grove AR-1, a pair of Dave Hill Designs Europa1's and a Lavry Gold AD122-96 MX converter.

    A custom POLAR 160 compressor, named after the famous Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson owned 'ABBA' POLAR studios in Sweden, featuring VCA's from their Harrison Console, was also supplied, providing a unique connection to both owners' Swedish heritage.

    Studio equipment was supplemented by monitors from ATC and Augspurger, Fredrik's grand piano from Stockholm and a variety of microphones, such as the Telefunken 251, Sony C800G, Josephson C700 with the most unique being the custom hand made Didrik De Geer #35 valve mic.

     


     

    Palma Music Studios KMR

    Palma Outboard KMR

     


     

    KMR : What do you feel has surprised you the most about the studio? 

    Fredrik : I think what’s mind-blowing for me is how good it feels in this space. It’s special, and it’s got a vibe, it’s got something in the walls that make people want to create. 

    KMR : For me the kitchen space, I know not related to the music gear, is a great place to hang out and relax, with the exquisite natural material from Mallorca all around the studio creating such a relaxing space.

    Fredrik : Of course the rooms sound great, the equipment is excellent, but it’s a little world. The whole place feels good with the high ceilings and spacious feel which is so important and an ambience thing. We've had over 20 people in here without them treading on each other at all.

    The whole look of the place was our wish, we wanted to have a natural stone floor and colours, so we worked with two designers who made this happen. They originally wanted to build a space ship because they were tired of using natural stone and material! But they came up with some great ideas. 

    Johan and I spoke every day, every little piece of this studio was a decision, and a discussion, even from finding a picture on Pinterest with a sofa and a studio with a balcony and we kept that as an idea!

     


     

    Palma Live Room B KMR

    Palma Music Studio Reception KMR

    FT and JL Palma Music Studio KMR

     


     

    Below is a unique 3D Dollhouse and interactive Floorpan of the Studio

    Please Click the Image Link

    www.palmamusicstudios.com

     

    Dollhouse Image Palma Music Studio KMR

     

     

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  •  

     

    For this Staff Picks we ask the guys in the shop to delve into their Spotify playlists and tell us about their favourite recordings... and why we think you should hear them too!

     

     

     

     

    MILES DAVIS - In A Silent Way

     

    When it comes to recording, performance trumps production every time – at least for me. That’s why I’ll always prefer to listen to a ropey old Bob Dylan record than a beautifully recorded album by  [*** insert bland major label artist name here ***]. But sometimes, the way in which a record was made has as much to do with the result as the musicians playing on it – and I guess that’s when the real magic happens?

    Released in 1969, In A Silent Way is regarded as the start of Miles Davis’ “electric period” and remains a milestone in the development of jazz. The album was recorded in a single session at CBS 30th Street Studio, NY with the tape left running - as was usual in those days - generating forty reels of tape.  The band lineup on this session became a veritable Who’s Who of jazz fusion – Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Dave Holland and Tony Williams. Could it get any better?

    Miles’ genius as a bandleader shines through, with his ability to throw the right musicians together in a room with a loose composition and see what happens. The players were often bemused with the recording process, unsure of whether they were rehearsing or recording – and there’s a tentative feel to the improvisations that reflects this. Herbie recalled John McLaughlin coming over to him after the session to ask “Herbie, I can’t tell… was that any good what we did? I mean, what did we do? I can’t tell what’s going on!” So I told him “John, welcome to a Miles Davis session.”

    Pivotal to the album was Teo Macero’s post-production. Macero was to  Miles Davis what George Martin was to the Beatles - the influential "silent" band member/studio boffin who spliced and looped the session tapes together, throwing out almost all the composed parts and giving form to the best sections of improvisation – finally stitching a 40 minute album together from 33 minutes of raw material. For a jazz recording at the time, this was revolutionary, bordering on sacrilege – but of course this post-DAW way of working doesn’t bat an eyelid these days.

    In A Silent Way is a fascinating record – at once hypnotically meditative but with an unsettling dreamy edginess that worms its way into your soul. You can almost feel the musicians nervously watching each other to take the next cue, with maybe Miles and Macero the only people in the room who knew where it might be leading. And no matter how many times I listen to it, it still puts a smile on my face when Tony Williams crashes in at 13:09 on the title track, ushering in a searing Miles solo to up the ante.

    In A Silent Way was released to mixed reviews, with Davis’ new direction managing to upset jazz purists whilst simultaneously capturing the interest of a new experimental rock audience. Rolling Stone described it as “the kind of album that gives you faith in the future of music… a transcendental new music which flushes categories away…”.  Amen to that!


     

     

     

    MARK HOLLIS - Mark Hollis

     

    After Talk Talk’s synth pop hit “Colour of Spring”, the next album, “Spirit of Eden”, seemed to come out of the blue. An experimental pastiche of epic soundscapes that apparently drove their EMI A&R man to tears – possibly for its ethereal beauty, but most likely because he knew that Talk Talk had just committed commercial suicide. I love both this, and the subsequent Laughing Stock but it’s front man Mark Hollis’ solo album that followed seven years later which I’m most fond of – quietly released in 1998 before he turned his back on the music industry and slunk off into the shadows.

    The album was recorded at London’s Master Rock Studios – now demolished and currently in the process of being replaced by two blocks of flats – and engineered by the formidable Phill Brown. Hollis wanted to make this like a 1940’s jazz album, so a pair of cardioid Neumann M49’s were set up in front of the control room window going through a pair of 1176’s with 1dB peak reduction and no EQ. Musicians were then moved around the room to occupy their space in the stereo field. This tracking setup stayed the same for the entire 4 months the album was recorded. Tracks were recorded to Studer analogue tape (the album fades in with 20s of tape hiss) before being transferred to a Mitsubishi 32–track digital machine for mixing at AIR Lyndhurst using an old spring reverb and EMT plate.

    This is an acoustic album, but the unusual orchestration and juxtaposition of instruments produces continually surprising tones. The sparse sound is stripped to the bone with every note essential to the track, giving your ears plenty of space to wrap around and enjoy the individual timbres. Even Hollis’s distinctive vocal seems more about adding another instrumental tone rather than communicating the poetically obscure lyrics - often recorded so intimately it’s almost like he’s whispering into your ear.

    Mark Hollis seems to occupy the space between silence and sound, evoking a vulnerable fragility and combining an almost heartbreaking melancholy with a sense of unguarded honesty. For me, this is as close as it’s possible to get to a perfect album. Hollis has been removed from the public eye ever since and if he never made another record I could understand why - this album feels like the perfect farewell… but I still wish he would!


     



     

     

     

     

    DEFTONES - White Pony

     

    Considered by many to be Deftone’s finest work, White Pony was a seminal release which sky-rocketed the band from being a somewhat left-field underground band to the forefront of the alternative metal scene, with tracks like "Passenger" featuring Maynard James Keenan (of Tool), the groove laden "Change In The House of Flies" (which would eventually become their greatest selling single) and "Pink Maggit" (a track which would later be re-worked and released on its own dedicated EP), gaining lots of air play and video circulation on MTV.

    Recorded in 1999 between August and December and released in June 2000, White Pony was released during a time when Nu-Metal was at its peak, but it sounded quite unlike anything else being released at the time. This was due in part to the genius production work of Terry Date – whose name is synonymous with metal and heavier genres of music. Producing everything from Pantera to Fishbone, Date’s diverse back catalogue stood him in good stead to work on this unique body of work. The band initially considered dropping Terry Date for the White Pony project, citing that they’d potentially find more interesting and genre defying results if they partnered with someone who’d never recorded heavy music. Fortunately they stuck with Date for the album and as Deftones' sound matured, Date’s production style progressed with it.

    This being their third album, Deftones were no stranger to the recording process. Their previous album Around the Fur was a commercial success and had cemented the Californian based band as one of the key voices in the alternative music scene. But with White Pony, the band took a fresh approach to song writing, sound design and the recording process - their first full album with Frank Delgado handling synth and sampling duties who provided a totally new array of sounds and textures to the band’s sound.

    A fusion of atmospheric electronic soundscapes, huge distorted down-tuned riffs, ethereal vocal melodies and a master class in drumming from Abe Cunningham, White Pony opened my ears up to a wealth of different styles of music and was one of the most important albums I listened to in my teens. Effortlessly blending elements of hardcore, shoegaze, trip hop and ambient, White Pony tickled all the pleasure centres in my brain when I first heard it and even now, 19 years later, it sounds relevant with a Chinos lyrical sentiment and style being just as thought provoking as it was when it first came out.

    The tone of White Pony feels fresh and inspiring. Even nearly two decades later, it’s genre defying, incredibly well written and produced. With this album, Deftones became the band they are today, elevating them above the nu-metal peers they’d been lumbered with for the previous 5 years and taking them into brand new, unique unheard sonic territory.

    Go listen to it now!




     

     

     

     

    PORTISHEAD - Third

     

    It took Portishead 11 years to release their third album bearing the simple title Third. A lot had changed sonically since the release of their previous two albums Dummy and Portishead.  People didn't know what to expect and wondered how relevant they would still be in 2007 - would their sound carry through the harder sound of the noughties?

    Third was as unexpected as it was brilliant. It was a clear break from the past with a raw sound and sparse arrangement. The earlier blues, soul and hip hop influences gave way to early electronic references such as Silver Apples or the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.  The arrangement gives room for Beth Gibbons' vocals, creating a feeling of intimacy. Not only did Third break with the band's past, but it also contrasted with the sound of its time. While everything else seemed to sound dry and bright, Third is drenched in delay and reverb, with no hyped top end . The sound of the album has a distinct vintage tone caused by the plethora of old equipment used - classic EMS VCS3, ARP 2600 and Moog Model D are recorded through a Trident Series 75 console. More obscure equipment such as Vortexion Type5 and Great British Spring also lent their sound to the record. But it's not all retro -  the band used iZ RADAR to capture their sound with perfect sonic integrity.

    The result is a stunning and timeless album. The raw sound contrasts and supports Beth's exposed vocals in all their fragility.  It's now been 12 years since its release and yet it remains the album that I listen to the most.




     

     

     

     

    ELTON JOHN - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

     

    When the opening track to a pop album is over 11 minutes long you know this is going to be something different. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road released in 1973 by Elton John was his 7th studio album and was just that!

    Recording was originally planned at Dynamic Sound Studios in Kingston, Jamaica after the Rolling Stones had just finished their Goats Head Soup album in 1972.

    Staying at the Pink Flamingo Hotel in Kingston, Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics in two and a half weeks and Elton wrote the music in just three days, with production starting in January 1973. However the sessions were scrapped mid-way through and the band relocated to Chateau d’Herouville in France.

    Chateau d’Herouville was about 20 miles outside of Paris and Elton had previously recorded Honky Chateau and Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player there. This was really one of the first residential recording studios and it offered a bohemian-style escape experience with many bands enjoying the creative environment and staying for weeks or months. The 18th century building was turned into a 16-track studio by the French composer Michel Magne and hosted the likes of Pink Floyd, David Bowie, T-Rex, The Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac and the BeeGees throughout the 1970’s.

    Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was produced by Gus Dudgeon with Elton and Taupin writing 22 songs of which 18 were used. What was initially planned as a single album ended up growing into a double album release. Recording was completed in only two weeks with some overdubs taking place at Trident Studios, London and featured the band that would stay with Elton for many years - Dee Murray on Bass, Davey Johnstone on guitar and Nigel Olsson on drums.

    The opening track "Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" starts with an instrumental that was performed on an early ARP 2500 prototype synth by engineer David Henschel and overdubbed to provide an atmospheric piece that Elton imagined he would like played at his own funeral. The track then builds up into "Love Lies Bleeding" which sets the scene for the album's theme - a nostalgic look back at childhood and a bygone age.

    With tracks like Candle in the Wind, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Bennie and the Jets, Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, Grey Seal and Love Lies Bleeding this is a cinematic album that, combined with the immaculate writing and playing, has gone on to sell over 30 million copies worldwide and is probably regarded as one of Elton John’s best.


     

     

    DEF LEPPARD - Hysteria

     

    Def Leppard's 4th album was recorded between February 1984 - January 1987 and was the first album that I really started to study the album notes for, as they had plenty!  I searched out information for producer, engineer, mixer and where they recorded as this basically kick-started my whole love affair with modern recording practices.

    At the time nothing sounded as big and bombastic as this album, with producer Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange brought in after a failed initial recording period with Jim Steinman that was shelved by the band. Lange has stated that he wanted to create a "hard rock version of Thriller - in that every track was a potential hit", developing something that would be unique and providing worldwide cross-over appeal.

    Assisted by Engineer Nigel Green, recording took place in Wisseloord Studios, Windmill Lane 2 and Studio Des Dames and took over 3 years. Some of this delay was due to drummer Rick Allen suffering a car accident and losing his left arm, and having to go through rehabilitation to learn the drums again. Using a custom designed Simmons Electronic kit, Allen ended up trigging snare samples with his left foot with the album drums recorded and played back on a Fairlight CMI. A Synclavier was eventually used for drums samples when mixing as those parts were usually added at the end of the recording process due to song structures changing so much. 

    Lange wasn’t present at the beginning of the recording process due to fatigue, but when he did return to the sessions he immediately scrapped all the bands previous 16 months of recordings, as he felt it was just sounding like their previous albums.

    A lot of what was achieved sonically and editing wise on this album is taken for granted today with DAW’s, but back in 1984 everything was done by hand to tape. All guitars were tracked through a Rockman amplifier box designed by Boston’s guitarist Tom Scholz which was used on everything. Lange felt it was more suited for layering and the sound he wanted. The Hysteria album was also the last Def Leppard album to feature the dual guitar recordings of Steve Clark and Phil Collen - with Steve Clark dying of an overdose in 1991.

    With multiple layered backing vocals, many which were recorded by Lange himself, and the focus on a ‘production hook’ for every track, ideas were borrowed from many genres and mixing took Lange 5 months - assisted by Australian mixer Mike Shipley (1956-2013). The huge sound of Hysteria in 1987 was totally unique, and created a new way of recording and production which we take for granted these days.

    The album was mastered by Bob Ludwig and Howie Wienberg and went to sell over 25million copies worldwide with artwork designed by Andie Airfix. It was a No1 Album in the UK and USA, had 7 hit singles and is still one of the longest ever albums issued on a single vinyl record running at 62m 32s.


     



     

     

     

     

    KURT ELLING - Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

     

    This cover of a Bob Dylan track was recorded at Sear Sound in New York. With their world-class mic collection being tracked entirely through a Lynx Aurora (n), this live recording really captures the interaction between the musicians. It's as impressive musically as it is sonically.

    Listen for the pre-delay on Elling's vocals in the acapella opening section. Notably, the drums are panned almost hard right. Later in the track, when the vocal slickly subsides to make room for the drum solo, they swing to the centre.

    Branford Marsalis' soprano sax defines a lot of the tone of the track. It layers on top of the keys, occupying much of the same space but different enough tonally to break away when needed. The slight level bump for the solo assists in punctuating where the piano ends and the sax begins.

    Finally, the double bass. The playing competency makes its presence almost unremarkable. It's entirely where it should be musically all the way through. Walking unobtrusively and propping up the guitar and sax. This sensitive playing is done justice by a really mature balance wherein the full bodied lower register doesn't cloud the already rich low end.

    Bonus Point: many of the streaming files have an audible pop in the right hand channel during the first few lines!



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  • NAMM 2019 Roundup

    Nick Mitchell

     

     

    The 2019 NAMM Show in Anaheim California has over 7000 brands exhibiting the latest equipment.  It's always an exciting time for new product releases and we've dispatched our intrepid team of gear hunters to track down the best new kit and report back.  We'll be regularly updating this blog over the course of the show so please check back for the latest announcements...

     


     

    WAVES | CLA MIXHUB

     

    So Waves couldn't let a NAMM show pass without creating some new plug-in buzz and they've done it this time in partnership with longtime collaborator Chris Lord-Alge with their new CLA MixHub. This does seem like something new, as it's a multi channel plug-in in banks of 8 that models the SSL desk and workflow that CLA uses.

    As always there's an introductory price and a demo period to check it out within. Initial thoughts are it does looks good, so will be really interesting to find out how it sounds. Could this be the first multichannel desk plug-in that may pave the way for others to follow perhaps?

    ...more info on the video below:

    CLA Mix Hub Waves

     


     

    Slate Media Technology | Raven MTZ

     

    Updated Touchscreen controller from Slate Media Technology boasting a " 43″ projective capacitance no-bezel panel with TEN ultra-accurate multi-touch points "

    Pricing expected to be $2999 US ..UK pricing TBC

     


     

    Slate Digital | New Plug-ins

     

    Slate Digital have released 4 new plug-ins called Gate Drums, Lustrous Plates, Overloud TH-U and a new VMS expansion pack from Blackbird Studio.

    Gate Drums Slate Digital

    Lustrous Plates Slate Digital

    Slate Digital TH-U

    Slate Digital BlackBird Mic

     


     

    Focal Professional | Trio11 Be

     

    New speakers from Focal Professional called the Trio11 Be are on show for the first time, featuring brand new speaker drivers in the shape of a 5” midrange and a 10” subwoofer with high efficiency and power handling. Designed as a new Reference studio monitor for Nearfield and Midfield use.

    KMR Focal Trio11 Be


     

    ARTURIA | AudioFuse + Microfreak

     

    Arturia are expanding their reach into our studios by adding to their already popular synth and software! Enter their new audio interfaces combining high quality AD/DA the AudioFuse 8Pre allows these mic preamps to connect to your existing system via ADAT, or run it via USB-C as a dedicated Audio Interface.

    AudioFuse Studio is a desktop interface with 4 Preamp inputs, speaker switching, 2 headphone outputs and Bluetooth receiver. Both products come bundled with the AudioFuse Creative Suite software effects and instruments.

    KMR Arturia Audio Fuse

     

    The Arturia Microfreak is a collaboration between modular synth pioneers Mutable Instruments and Arturia. Within the multiple modes of the Microfreak you can choose the famous Plaits oscillator with added paraphony. A brand new Hardware synth with the same parameter controls as the Eurorack module.

     

     

    KMR Arturia microfreak


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  •  

     

    Designer Talk : EveAnna Manley

     

    EveAnna Manley is the President, CEO and owner of Manley Laboratories, Inc. I caught up with her to have a chat about everything valve, where it all started and where she sees the Manley range heading in the future...

     

     

    KMR : I know you moved to California in your twenties, what made you travel across the country from east to west?

    EM : Well I was 19 at the time and studying music at Columbia University in New York City. I wanted to be in the music industry but didn't want to be one of those who graduated without having a clue of what was going on.

    I was inspired by Bill Graham the concert promoter and his son was in my music classes. Bill came to speak one day and I was sitting a few feet away from him. I knew who he was from my record collection and being a 60s music fan, I was super thrilled just watching him standing there telling us about music. So I was like ‘ OK screw everything I'm going to take next semester off and drive out to San Francisco and talk myself into a job working for him!'

     

    KMR : So that was why you left?

    EM : Yeah that was my plan. So in January 1989 I set off from Atlanta (where I grew up) after spending Christmas down there, said goodbye to all my buddies, got into my 1969 red VW Beetle and drove across the country by myself. It was a dream to be on that kind of voyage. I got to LA and looked up my old band director from high school who had moved out there a few years before, and I got a little job with him doing some inventory work in his sheet music company. 

    Then my stepdad – who, you may or may not have known, owned Ampeg back in the 1960s which was very cool - gave me three names of guys who were in LA who had worked for him twenty-odd years earlier. The first guy didn’t pick up the phone. The second guy was Roger Cox at Fender who said ‘ I know these two crazy South Africans out in Chino who are building tube amplifiers, you should call up David Manley’. 

    So I didn’t get to the 3rd number as I called David and drove over there and ended up just getting a job making tea and starting to learn about printed circuit boards. They were teaching me how to solder as I didn’t know a damn thing about electronics - I was a saxophone player!

    But I quickly learned how to put the stuff together, and how to solder, and then I worked in quality control and learnt a lot there and worked my way through every part of the manufacturing process. So I ended up staying there in Chino and didn’t get as far as San Francisco.

    I did go back and finish my degree as so many people supported me going through college, it was a big deal to be accepted at Columbia, so I went back and put in a year to finish that off.

     

    KMR : Did going back to college give you a good break from what you were doing, or did it just make you want to get back to California sooner?

    EM : I wanted to get back to it, but I realised I could really dedicate my last year to whatever I wanted to study for my career, so I had a clear direction. So I took an economics class thinking that was how I would learn how to run a company, which I found out later is so not true!

     

    KMR : How did Manley get into pro audio?

    EM : How the Manley Pro Audio stuff started was that the Scientologists asked David Manley to submit a mic preamp design, along with a few other designers like Mark Levenson, and David's mic preamp won the shoot-out. They ordered 60 of them! They had a GML console out there as well, really high-end studios. That mainly caused us to get into recording, so right after that mic pre, David was working on a Pultec EQ idea that I helped draw up the schematics for in those early days.

     

    Enhanced Manley Pultec EQ KMR

     

    KMR : This was one of the first Pultec style EQ’s wasn’t it?

    EM: There was never an actual original Pultec EQ that ever entered our premises. We borrowed a Tube-Tech unit from Coast Recording in LA and our engineer Richard took tracing paper to the circuit board and drew the choke values in between the pads on the paper - so the first one was a reverse engineering of a Pultec clone. 

    The passive EQ part was what we got out of that, and then David added a couple of extra frequencies, and a whole different line amplifier, and then a Sowter input transformer and a single ended cathode follower output at the time. I might even have that piece of paper somewhere!

     

    KMR : I always preferred your layout slightly…it felt more natural to recall.

    EM : Those ergonomics of it and linear grouping, with those little vertical lines on the faceplate to group the sections worked well. When I was at Columbia in that last year, David Manley flew out and we drove across to New Jersey and found Eugene Shenk (the Pultec's original designer) and I remember sitting outside this old place with a screen door and David talking to him about offering a licence fee for the name. Mr.Shenk wasn’t interested, as he had closed the company years ago.

     

    KMR : At that time it was only the Tube-Tech or Summit versions available, unlike today where there are many versions like the Pulse Techniques?

    EM : I’ve since become friends with Steve Jackson of Pulse Techniques, and he’s done a really great job, and I admire the dedication he’s put into the design. Steve spoke to Eugene, and he said he didn’t remember any of that meeting David had with him! But you know, I’m going to go to my grave remembering it happened that way, as I know that David did the right thing. We called ours the Enhanced Pultec, and we added a couple of extra frequencies. It was never trying to be a recreation of the original, starting with the fact that we never had an original! I really liked that line-stage and we used it in so many of our other designs as well.

     

    KMR : Did you use that line-stage in the Massive Passive, for me that EQ is more of a tone-sculpture - it’s an instrument!

    EM : Yeah pretty much so, but the Massive Passive is really a two-stage amplifying setup because it’s 4 bands. When we designed that we thought let's take this passive EQ thing, and let's make a “Pultec on steroids” !! The Massive Passive is a 100% original design - it’s a crazy cool unit!

     

    KMR Manley Massive Passive EQ

     

    KMR : So the Variable Mu is an incredible compressor, and one that I know has caused some confusion with the name, as the term Variable Mu is actually your trademark isn’t it?

    EM :  Well yes, and in the late 1990s, the Manley Variable Mu was becoming so popular that people were starting to call all tube limiters Variable Mu limiters, and we were like, no that’s our trademark! The Fairchild was never referred to as a 'Variable Mu' back in the day, it was just a big old tube compressor. So yes we’ve had to make sure that we protected our designs, as we license them to various companies like Universal Audio for their UAD software.

     

    VARIABLE-MU Manley KMR

     

    KMR : How did the UA collaboration begin? Was it something you embraced wholeheartedly at the beginning or with some trepidation?

    EM : Universal Audio were at the Amsterdam AES show in 2001, and we popped a fuse on our stand, so I’m walking around looking for a 1Amp slow blow fuse, and I see an analogue company from America, so they gave me one of their spare fuses, and that was when I met Erica McDaniel and we became great friends. 

    Other companies would approach me about plug-ins at the beginning and then others would just model our shit and call it another name or something, and never offer royalties which was hard to enforce. We were kind of battling off all these other plug-in companies because I was wary and then UA approached us with a plan and a contract and said they also wanted us to be involved in the development program.

    It was then I started to get my head around the idea that it wasn’t going to steal sales from us, instead it will demonstrate the Manley sound. UAD has expanded the marketing and brand awareness to people that may never have experienced Manley before.

     

    KMR MANLEY UAD

     

    KMR : These days a UAD card has now become an industry standard alongside say Pro Tools, it doesn’t replace all the hardware either, as most places are hybrid and they tend to supplement each other nicely in some way don’t you think?

    EM : Yes I'm grateful that UA asked us to be involved in the development program. I wanted them to be very faithful to the actual hardware product because they serve as a ‘demo’ version of the hardware, which is like 12-15% better - I can’t really put a number on it!

     

    KMR : I think everybody knows that hardware is always generally 'better' regardless of whatever plug-in company you use, but it's getting very close, isn’t it?

    EM : Yes, it’s getting quite close, there's a frequency response limitation to the plug-ins that crop up with people trying to do HD certified things sometimes.

     

    KMR : I do feel that it's a whole different experience though, sitting with a real Massive Passive you get to places you wouldn’t dream of with the plug-in and a mouse, as the hardware gives me that two-handed tactical thing...

    EM : I also think for people who are experimenting in the computer, what I’ve seen is when they eventually get to the hardware they sure don’t have any questions about how to use it, that's been beneficial. There are quite a few who start with the software and then move onto the hardware, I'm super proud to be one of their UAD development partners. 

     

    KMR : Lets talk about the Mastering SLAM! - I remember the SLAM! limiter being hands down the best hardware limiter I have ever used, is that unique to this?

    EM : Well don’t forget the SLAM! has two sets of limiters inside it in stereo. The electro-optical part (that comes originally from the LA2A style of limiting) we've been making since 1990 in our ELOP, and we’ve just revised this with the ELOP+.

     

    KMR SLAM! Manley

     

    The SLAM! has the Manley ELOP and a second FET limiter stage which works at the same time and has some very clever and subtle things in it. There's like 400 parts in the side chain of that thing - it's pretty complicated! Having the two limiters and using them together (and on top of each other) allowed us to get the loudness, with stunning fidelity.

    The SLAM! is definitely one of the best stereo bus limiters ever made, but it's an overcomplicated bitch to build! It's definitely on my target list for a total update, with the challenge being to keep the incredible fidelity in a new build without messing up that formula.

     

    KMR : I guess sometimes things just cost what they cost to make - due to the design?

    EM : That's why we've made great strides in the last couple of years with the Core and the Force. The Core is half the price of the Voxbox, but that's because it builds for half the cost.

    The Core is not trying to be the Voxbox on a budget - it’s it’s own thing. The Voxbox has transformers all over it, there's like 5 of them, made in Chino, not China, so for the Core we chose to just go with the mic input transformer - everything else is impedance balanced.

    The sonic difference is pretty close - if you touch the EQ on the low-end on the Core by a hair you're pretty much there!

     

    KMR MANLEY CORE

     

    KMR : The Core also looks great! You do make some stunning looking gear, sometimes I think people can forget we’re in this tactical world and Manley dials and knobs always feel great as well?

    EM : The first product I did after David Manley left was the Voxbox, and at that time we had the black inserts into the blue faceplates and it was always a rectangle. With the CNC milling we could make any shape we wanted, so I started the Voxbox with a V in triangles and D shape ovals which group each section uniquely, you don’t confuse the sections. 

    I found with having the different contrasting shapes helped with learning and becoming familiar with the layout. We've all seen boxes with like 30 knobs on a faceplate, and you can’t memorise them all. The ergonomics are really important to a fast work flow.

     

    KMR : Do you think that has come from the fact you’ve experienced all aspects of the business? Sometimes the best audio designers struggle to market or make the best aesthetic appearing products? They can sound great but look awful!

    EM : Definitely. The pots that we use are the Bourns 91 or 92 - these are conductive plastic elements that never go noisy or scratch. They're super frickin’ reliable, and we’ve been using them since the '80s. But I remember they also felt a little floppy and loose, and customers would come up at trade shows and turn a knob and be like 'oh cheap knobs’, and I'd be watching and thinking, well they're not cheap knobs, I mean they're not like the most expensive but they're not cheap knobs and they’re going to work for decades. The failure rate is very low.

    So it got me thinking, ok they just want them to feel sexier, and I remembered my parent's radio receiver had a felt washer under one of the knobs, but I thought felt will probably wear out eventually. In the end Paul, my service guy, suggested putting an O-ring underneath the knob and apply some lithium grease to it, and that's why they feel a little better.

    It does do fuck-all for the sound, but it feels a little sexier, and people do care how things feel, you know, it’s not a mouse!

     

    KMR : Probably many of us play some sort of instrument which is tactile and this carries across to the gear we use. When Manley first released the Core did you have your other products lined up or was it just to see how it goes first?

    EM : Well, we thought a channel strip that everybody can use would be good. I knew that we needed to modernise the range of our products and we couldn’t keep building stuff like it’s 1991. The Core and Force mic-preamp has a new power supply design inside it.

     

    KMR MANLEY FORCE

     

    KMR : Isn’t this designed by Bruno Putzeys?

    EM : Yes by Bruno. I met him at trade shows, and one day I asked him could you make a switching power supply for vacuum tubes, and what would it take for you to do that? We were able to locate the power supply quite near to the audio electronics, as it barely radiates at all. There's no hum in these units anymore as it works at 125kHz and is way outside the audible band. We can shield for that too in order to further bring down the noise floor down.

     

    KMR : So this new power supply is in all the new Manley range?

    EM : Absolutely, we start with that. So back to the Mic Pre, I wanted to do a 4-channel version, and we wondered how many tubes we could run off this 90watt power supply, because I don’t wanna' have like 12 different power supplies. We found we could run 8 tubes off it, but it was getting to the limits of that design. So we decided to experiment with replacing the output tube which is the less audible part of the circuit.

    So it’s the same circuit but uses different devices, MOSFETs instead of triodes. It was a worthwhile compromise, to have 4 tubes, sound really good, and to work all over the world, it's very quiet. I love that box.

     

    KMR : What did you change on the ELOP+?

    EM : So we redesigned the ELOP into the ELOP+ and added a compress switch, did a new layout and made it way easier to build. The original had a big old board inside it, and took a long time to build, everything just added up and the cost started creeping up on the original. So on the ELOP+, the chassis is the newer short chassis, make everything pop together faster, changed the side chain and metering to surface mount design, that are all on the faceplate board where they should be, and make it more efficient to build and we could lower the price by $1000.

     

    KMR ELOP+ MANLEY

     

    KMR : …and it looks better!

    EM : Yes, we also improved the appearance, it looks like a little Zorro mask! It's a good looking unit, I'm very proud of it. That’s an example of taking something that’s like built in 1991 and modernising it and making it more effective to build, that's what we’ve been trying to do with these new products, without sacrificing any sound quality.

    The other thing with the ELOP+ is we referenced Russ Hogarth's old great sounding ELOP, taking his and replacing the power supply with the new one. So we changed one thing at a time, and we would give him the new build, and recheck his old one and select the optical cells that have the same attack and release settings as his old one. That kind of thing.

    The final thing when we got near to the final prototype he said, 'there’s something I still like about my old one better. Its just got a little more meat and punchier sounding.' So I took the prototype back to the factory, and I knew what it was, I asked our guys to take away the output transformers because his unit was transformerless. So then I didn't tell him what I changed and took it back and then he was ‘ok now I like the NEW one better!’ 

    At a time in the '90s, everyone wanted balanced everything. Sometimes ‘transformerless’ is what you want.

    We’re celebrating 30 years doing this, we’re 30 years old in 2018 and we’ll still service anything we’ve ever built. There's no reason why our gear can’t work for another 30 years. There’s no ticking time-bomb in any of our gear.

     

    KMR : I believe the Manley Ref C (Reference Cardioid) Mic has to be one of your biggest success stories as well?

    EM : The Ref C and Ref Gold have been out since 1990 when we debuted them at the first AES show. It was our Swedish importer who got both those mics in front of Max Martin. Max came to the USA, and he was doing all that excellent pop stuff with Britney, all with the Gold Mic. I also remember selling a Ref Cardioid mic to Dr Luke when he was a guitar player on Saturday Night Live, and he's used that mic with all kinds of artists as well.

    A few years after that, my nephew Chris was working with me and he took that mic to his buddies in LA, and it just took off, Chris was instrumental in getting that out there. That's the most popular product we sell at the moment.

     

    KMR Manley Mics

     

    KMR : So how did the Silver Reference Mic come about?

    EM : Well as you know the Gold Mic capsule is made by David Josephson, and as I've worked really closely with David for many years I remember he had designed a capsule that wasn't currently being used by any other companies, other than Josephson Mics. So I asked him to send one down and we got playing with it, and it had a really cool tonality about it. David has been making these for years, so they’re very stable designs and that's why we started working on a plan based on that capsule.

    We did a different tube design to the other two mics, based on the 5670 dual triode, and importantly deployed another version of Bruno's switching power supply, so we don’t have to worry about changing voltages and also of course because this SMPS sounds better than the linear supplies!

     

    KMR : This new power supply seems a modern solution for those that travel with equipment or use it around the world as well?

    EM : Exactly! We’re in the process of putting them into the Massive Passive and the Voxbox pretty soon. 

     

    KMR : How do you go about sourcing valves and testing, how does that work for you?

    EM : Well, tubes are a precious resource. I remember when I started working General Electric was still making valves in the USA. We also became involved with IE in Europe and David helped design the KT90 which was the first new vacuum tube for a very long time. I went over there twice and got to experience what it takes to build a vacuum tube. I remember walking into a room with 50 ladies just putting cathodes up heaters, there a lot of hand work involved and lots of places for variations to come in, as they’re still made by humans! 

    We were forced to design testing jigs for specific circuits for output tubes and power amps. Then the Manley Variable-Mu and all the plus and minus needed to match so that's where all the Triode to Triode matching is essential. So we made test jigs for all the different tubes which can tell us which is a good match for each other. Then we’d keep them and use them or keep them for somewhere else. 

    For the microphones, the most important parameter to test for is noise, so the mics get all the quietest tubes as a priority, and then the other tubes get evaluated depending on where it's being used in the outboard. But all the tubes that we use go through a whole battery of tests before they even get plugged into a unit!

    You have to factor that in, you can’t just go and buy some 'new old stock' on eBay, you have to really plan ahead.

     

    KMR : The Manley Nu Mu features the TBar mod inside it - who’s idea was that?

    EM : The TBar Mod is such a great solution using the Russian valves that are available. It's a 12BA6 type, and it works so much better than the old 6386 did because we can match two different bottles, rather than being stuck with two triodes inside one bottle. So we can get this great match, and being able to select for the noise is such a superior thing. The curves of the 12BA6 lays up like a 6386 but it’s actually better because we can get a better match. The TBar Mod is much smoother the deeper you send it into compression.

     

    KMR : The Nu Mu has that character of the Variable Mu, but for me, I think it sounds a little more ‘modern’?

    EM : Cool, that's the point! When the Manley Variable Mu hit its stride as a stereo unit in 1994, digital converters were still harsh and the Variable Mu would tame all the harshness and make it sound big and heavy. But now fast forward 20+ years and converters have improved, and you don’t need to cover up everything especially working at higher samples rates. For example, Electronica music doesn’t require you to slow it down - so the Nu Mu can exist alongside a Variable Mu, we just have two different sonic flavours available now, one does not replace the other.

     

    KMR MANLEY NU-MU

     

    KMR : The metering is extremely neat on the Nu Mu as well, very easy to see...

    EM : Doing the stereo metering like that was because on the Variable Mu the metering is so far apart, it’s tricky to watch them closely. So we ordered a reverse wound meter and designed the assembly to have the two meters facing each other like that so you can really see the two channels next to each other easily. We also improved it so we could monitor the reduction amount and the output level, as the Variable Mu just shows the reduction.

     

    KMR : Any new products that you wish to mention?

    EM : We’re just launching a new headphone amp called the Absolute Headphone Amplifier which includes the new power supply. It’s incredible sounding!

     

    KMR : What's your fun outside of valves and audio?

    EM : I’m really big into the motorbike community in LA. I like tinkering around with my cars and bikes...I guess if I had more time I think I’d be off on my motorbike travelling across South America!

     

    KMR : Thanks very much for the chat!

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  •  

    It's not that often we see something genuinely new in the synth market, not to sound defeatist or anything like that, but it is quite rare to see something that's not been directly influenced by an already existing design, again not that that's a bad thing, but refreshing new tools are just that, refreshing. And when they can inject as much sonic potential into your patches as the Dove Audio WTF can, then it's VERY refreshing....like ice cold beer on a VERY hot day refreshing.

    Dove Audio, in case you didn't know the brainchild of British synthesis design legend Paula Maddox. A lady who has been synonymous with developing some of the industry most unique and interesting designs including the Modulus Monowave, VacoLoco Gorf and the Modal Electronics 001, 002 and 008 synthesizers.

    Paula's first release from her new company is the WTF Oscillator, a brand new form of oscillator that uses an unusual form of synthesis to create unique timbres and tones that are quite unlike anything else you've ever heard.

    WTF stands for Window Transfer Function and it produces its unique tones by producing a waveform who's results are a mix of another two waveforms. Think of the resulting sound as mega PWM. In a nutshell, you have a wave in front and a wave at the back, by opening a window in between, you're able to hear the mixed results they produce.

    Each side of the windows waves is made up of a mixture of classic analogue waveforms and also a wide variety of non-standard, complex digital waveforms. There's also a tuneable noise section, which goes from your standard white noise through to chip-tune esque 8-bit synth NES sounds. Both waveforms on either side of the window can be modulated by incoming CV, so you can sequence the modulating waveform, control the pitch and even FM the resulting timbre for even more unusual results.

    WTF is available in both Eurorack and MU versions, and we're super happy to announce that the MU version is exclusively available in Europe at KMR. We have stock and a demo module arriving the first week of December and we can't wait to share it with you.

    For more information about Dove Audio, MU modules or synths in general, give our synth specialist Tom Lewis (me) a call.

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  • UA : Winter Specials

    Nick Mitchell

     

    UA Apollo X promo KMR

     

     

    NEW UA Plug-in Bundles with Apollo X

     

    Christmas is coming early from those good folks at Universal Audio with the introduction of new plug-in bundles starting today. The Apollo X is Universal Audio's flagship audio interface and has their best A/D and D/A conversion to date, with HEXA Core UAD plug-in processing allowing up to 50% more DSP power than previous Apollo interfaces.

    From the 15th November through until 31st December when you purchase and register any of their new Apollo X interfaces * you will receive the following bundles:

     

    Apollo x8p and Apollo x16:

    Purchasing either of these interfaces will give you the following plug-ins which have a value of £947

    • Empirical Labs Distressor
    • Helios Type 69 Preamp and EQ
    • SSL 4000 E Channel Strip
    • Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb

    Apollo x6 and Apollo x8:

    Purchasing either of these interfaces will give you the following plug-ins which have a value of £489

    • SSL 4000 E Channel Strip
    • Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb

     

    For Apollo X Bundles at KMR please click below :

    > UA Apollo X Bundles at KMR <

     

    As well as these new bundles you also get the following UA plug-ins as standard :

    > What Plug-ins Come With My UA Interface? <

     

    * Please note, customers who purchased an Apollo X 15 days prior to promotion start date, can contact UA Customer Services to arrange for the promo plug-ins to be added to their account. retailams@uaudio.com

    * Customers who purchase a unit by 31st December but are late receiving their item, just need to register their unit by 15th January with UA. They will automatically receive the promo plugins.

     

    UAD-2 Ultimate 7

     

    KMR Ultimate & bundle UA

    Universal Audio are also replacing their Ultimate 6 bundle with a NEW Ultimate 7 Bundle totalling 99 UA developed plug-ins from the 15th November. Please note that Ultimate 7 will only be available in Thunderbolt and PCIe variants - as USB Ultimate will be discontinued.

    The latest plug-ins to be added are :

    • Century Tube Channel Strip
    • Neve Preamp
    • Helios Type 69 Preamp and EQ
    • Lexicon 480L Digital Reverb and Effects

     

    For more info on everything Universal Audio at KMR please click the link below :

    > Universal Audio @ KMR Audio <

     

    UA Overview Videos of the featured plug-ins below :

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  •  

    KMR SSL Fusion Image

     

     

     

    Fusion is a brand new analogue mix bus processor from Solid State Logic. The unit has taken a full two years to design, and over that time SSL has used a selection of industry producers, mixers and engineers to provide feedback and workflow suggestions to help them during product development.

    I was privileged to be asked by SSL to be part of that team and was involved from the initial concept discussions through to testing and providing feedback of the final prototype.

    Since being announced, the interest has been positive so now seemed a good time to cover a few of the questions that I’ve been asked following its release.

     

     

    Fusion - How does the Vintage Drive sound?

     

    KMR SSL Fusion Vintage Drive

    Traditional tape recordings through analogue consoles naturally provided harmonic content and transient smoothing so when the industry went digital we had to choose to add this either at the tracking or mixdown stage.

    The Vintage Drive section was something that intrigued me as I’ve always used harmonic distortion from hardware units like the CraneSong HEDD, Dave Hill Europa, Culture Vulture and 'In The Box' with UA plug-ins and Avid’s HEAT. The idea of adding Even or Odd harmonics is not a new concept, but the way we add them, and why has changed.

    The Vintage Drive is a new design from SSL, but with a nod to their VHD preamps that they’ve been implementing on their Duality and AWS consoles for years. Vintage Drive is much more of a distant cousin though and has taken the VHD concept and turned it into a brand new circuit providing something new. This sounds nothing like the VHD drive stage that SSL users may be familiar with.

    Rather than “crunch”, it has warmth and depth - and even though you could drive the input and be creative with the distortion it provides, I think you’ll end up with the Drive around 5-6 and the Density tweaked to taste. The Density below 3 provides more even-order emphasis and taking it above 3 tends to emphasise odd-order harmonics. The more the density increases the ‘thicker’ I feel it makes a track.

    The Drive also goes up to 11….because (as anyone who’s seen Spinal Tap will know) ‘it’s one louder isn’t it?’

     

    Fusion - Can’t I do all of this in Software?

     

    Yes, you can. But the same could also be said about every piece of hardware out there.

    The answer perhaps should be ‘But do you WANT to?’ Many of us run hybrid setups these days, and the instant recall of software has meant that labels and artists know we can create an infinite amount of alternative mixes and recalls.

    But is this a good thing? It’s very convenient yes, but is that enough to make it ‘good?’

    When engineers say they can “do it all in the box”, are they really saying that they prefer the ability to make instant recalls, and that they’re simply happier with this workflow? This is exactly where software wins out. I also choose to not use hardware inserts within Pro Tools HD, as I find that software allows me to hit the instant recall spot every time.

    But does it sound better?  For me, no. I still use hardware to track though and for printing tracks - and I always use hardware on my mixbus, in conjunction with software afterwards.

    As software has got better, and computers have got faster we’re probably now at a golden age for digital processing, and it’s hard to deny there are many excellent software plug-ins that will allow you to make great sounding recordings.

    But why stop there?

    Why not use the best software available AND the best hardware available and use what each is good at, rather than having to insist that one is better than the other. It’s like the Mac v PC debate, it’s not relevant these days, pick your weapon of choice and crack on.

     

    Fusion - Does it have the SSL Bus Compressor inside it?

     

    SSL already make a very good bus compressor, as do many other companies. SSL know this and understand that mixers have their preferred compressor, whether in hardware or software. So rather than duplicate something, and significantly increase the price, why not give the choice to the end user?

    By including an insert point on the FUSION you have several places where you can position your favourite compressor. Before Fusion, on the Insert PreEQ or on the Insert PostEQ.

     

    Fusion - Is there Attack, Release and Ratio on the HF Compressor?

     

    KMR SSL Fusion HF Comp

    The HF compressor has been designed to just provide ‘top end’ smoothing - something that is ‘tape like’ which you can use after the EQ. I also find that by boosting the Violet EQ HF you can tame it musically with the HF compressor without bottlenecking or squeezing the signal.

    The Attack, Release and Ratio have all been set by SSL after much tweaking to provide the most transparent settings. Sure this may not work for everything - but by just getting the green LED to illuminate gently it can work smoothly when required.

     

    Fusion - Are all the pots stepped - and why no Digital Recall?

     

    KMR SSL Fusion Output

    In a way, we know DAW software has spoiled us. Compared to the days of tape editing we’re no longer forced to make a decision as we know we can defer it to later with another mix revision. But what many successful producers and mixers will tell you is that committing to a sound and moving forward with a concept is far better than never making decisions.

    When they use hardware they have to do that. They use a particular piece of equipment for the sound, and the emotional connection, the vibrations of sound and then move on.

    The Fusion is a new product but one which is based on those tried and tested chains of equipment, and tweaked by SSL designers who have had many years of experience with how hardware can affect and translate the audio based on feedback from producers and mixers who have used their gear for years.

    Having all the pots stepped would increase the build cost, and then probably cause issues for those who want to ‘play’ the device by dialling through to a sweet spot which may or may not be between indents.

    There is enough space for manual marking on the device, taking a photo with your smartphone or using some 3rd party software (eg. Session Recall) to store and manage your settings.

    This is not to say that software controlled analogue isn’t something I’m keen on, I am, you only have to look at the Bettermaker range of equipment to see how something can be implemented beautifully. But these tend to do one process at a time. With Fusion, it is a range of audio processing, and because of that, each section may need to be treated differently.

    The pots are centre indented on the controls that need it and stepped on the EQ switches and HPF.

     

    Fusion - Is it made in China?

     

    It’s engineered at SSL, Oxford and assembled in China. As part of the larger Audiotonix group, SSL now have access to larger manufacturing lines and they are taking advantage of this. I know that they have been in complete control of setting up Fusion production and have test equipment linked directly back to SSL in the UK where they can view the test data, and monitor the builds.

    This, is a new area for SSL and one they are very conscious of having to get right, but to be able to manufacture to their specifications, and still allow the price point to be something that many people can get excited about is exactly what they have set out to do. SSL have years of history behind them, but they aren’t going to sit still. For the end user, this is a very exciting time.

     

    Fusion - What does the EQ sound like?

     

    KMR SSL Fusion Violet EQ

    We all have our favourite EQ’s and know that over the years many hardware sweetening EQ’s like the Pultec, GML8200, Massive Passive, TG Curve Bender, Dangerous BAX and Maag amongst others have been successfully used over many a mix bus.

    So what do we want from our Mix Bus EQ really? Well, it tends to be a bit of ‘air’, ‘ bite’ and ‘ weight/bass’.

    SSL looked at this and consequently designed the Violet EQ to provide minimum-phase shelving filters for frequencies we ‘tend’ to reach for. I also find the +/9db of gain is nothing like any other SSL EQ I’ve used before, providing plenty of headroom.

     

    Fusion - So who is it for?

     

    KMR SSL Fusion Input

    Anybody.

    I know that may sound a bit trite but let me explain a few different scenarios…

    1. You work ‘In the box’:  you have a great sound and mixbus chain - you strap Fusion on afterwards and experiment with the Drive, EQ and Imager and print back into your session.

    Very quickly you can hear what the hardware is doing, and how you can benefit from adding some analogue processing to your zeros and ones.

    2. You work 'Outside the box':  you have some great gear, some hardware EQ’s, Compressors and maybe a desk? Connect Fusion to your insert point and keep using them, with the added flexibility of the processing from the Fusion as well as your other hardware. Bypass what you want, leave in what you like.

    3. You work HYBRID…. you work mostly 'ITB' but have some hardware. Use Fusion over your mix bus and create processed In The Box mixes. Then strap your other hardware either before, after or on the insert of Fusion. Print and process with plug-ins again for limiting and loudness maximising afterwards.

    Why stop there? Since I’ve had my unit I’m now tracking through it at line level after my preamps for anything from some extra drive to the EQ or just for the transformer sound and widener on synths.

     

    Fusion - Flexibility is key

     

    Many of the most successful mixers and producers don’t reinvent their workflow on a daily basis. They stick to what they know works for them and then they tweak when necessary.

    This is what SSL have tried to do with Fusion – providing users with the tools that are mainly used all the time, but allowing the flexibility to tweak or bypass particular stages based upon your needs.

    I believe SSL have tried to cover as many needs (and some perhaps you didn’t even realise you needed) in the Fusion. With a price point that can benefit everyone from the most experienced mixer to those trying out hardware for the first time.

     

    Fusion Audio Examples - Raw and Processed

     

    Below are two audio examples - first is a dry pop mix and the scecond is the same mix processed through Fusion.

    The settings used are below :

    KMR Audio SSL Fusion Graphic

     

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  • Universal Audio has just released version 9.7 of their UAD software and as usual, have included five new plug-ins including an emulation of the Lexicon 480L digital effects system.

    A (Very) Brief history of the Lexicon 480L

    The Lexicon 480L was released in 1986 and rapidly became the ultimate digital reverb by which all other reverb and digital effects were measured. Designed as the successor of the 224XL, it included a mainframe and the Lexicon Alphanumeric Remote Control (LARC) to give you controls of all the different aspects of the reverbs.

    Original Lexicon 480L

    It also used 18-bit quantisation and a sampling rate of 48kHz, offering a dynamic range of 98dB for the wet signal which was very impressive at the time. It also benefited from some of the latest computational power available which helped create lush and realistic-sounding reverbs and two different engines that could be used simultaneously, dramatically extending the possibilities on offer.

    The 480L saw the inclusion of the Random Hall that is often associated with the “Lexicon Sound” and the Ambience algorithm that was used so prominently on drums in the 80s.

    Recreating a Classic

    After the success of the UAD Lexicon 224, Universal Audio went all out to recreate the legendary sound of the 480L, using Lexicon 480L’s final firmware (v4.10).  

    UAD Lexicon 480L Interface

    Just like for the 224, the plug-in GUI is based on a recreation of the LARC with an alphanumeric Program select buttons to let you dial the chosen program, eight global utility buttons which give you quick access to important functions and six faders to adjust parameter values and an additional six buttons at the bottom. All these give you access to all the controls of your reverb with notable workflow improvements over the original.

    First of all, all the algorithms are directly accessible by a click on the main display. Universal Audio have also re-assigned certain functions to some of the buttons that were not useful in the plug-in removing the need for multi-function buttons.

    For example, the Bank and Page buttons have been moved to the buttons below the faders while the blue Prog and Rec buttons have been recommissioned as Machine A/B select. A hidden panel access unveils input and output gain controls.

    Just above the fader can be found a Parameter display which shows the name of the parameter and its value which is controlled by the slider below it.

     

    The Algorithms

    Universal Audio have included five of the most popular reverb and algorithms of the original hardware including Reverb, Effects, Twin Delays, Random and Ambience. These algorithms have been organised in banks.

    • Banks 1 to 4 use the Reverb algorithm
    • Bank 5 uses the Effects algorithm
    • Bank 6 uses the Twin Delays algorithm
    • Bank 7 and 8 use the Random algorithm
    • Bank 9 uses the Ambience algorithm.
    • Bank 0 uses a variety of these algorithms based on your selection.

    Each of these banks has certain specificities that are represented in the controls available. For example, any bank using the Reverb algorithm will have access to Lexicon’s Shape and Spread parameters combined with its popular split decay.

    The Effects algorithm uses randomly varying time delays and can be used to create a wide range of sounds such as reverse Effects, modulated delays, doubling, tremolo, chorus and more.

    The Twin delays algorithm is  based on a four-voice delay with  independent level, feedback and delay time

    The Random Algorithm is possibly what the 480L is most known for. It is very similar to the Reverb algorithm but adds random delay elements which deliver a smoother reverb tail with none of the unwanted resonance that can occur with simple or no modulations.

    Finally, the Ambience algorithm is a short reverb designed to help place an instrument in a space. It can be used to add realistic depth to a source recorded with close microphones.

    In Use

    UAD Lexicon 480L Plug-inThe Lexicon 480L is fairly easy to use. Choose your Bank and program from the Main display drop-down menu or by cycling through them with the buttons located below the sliders. Once you have a reverb that you like you can simply turn the faders up or down for each control. For finer controls of the slider, simply press the shift key and drag your mouse.

    Since only six parameters are visible at any one time, clicking the page buttons will show you the additional controls available to be modified. It would seem that during the time I spent with the plug-in that there are no more than four pages to cycle through for each program.

    The Global Utility Buttons include a Wet solo which I found very useful when using the reverb as an aux which was most of the time. Additional Dry/Wet Mix controls are provided when using the plug-in as an insert. Pressing on the Mix Dry will decrease the amount of reverberant signal while clicking on the Mix Wet will increase it. One click represents 1% in either direction.

    The Aux Outs button lets you select the sound of the Main output or the auxiliary outputs, offering some subtle sonic changes based on the modelled hardware.

    A Lexicon of Sound

    I have to confess that I don’t have much experience with the hardware 480L and while I have used some Lexicon reverbs in the past I cannot comment on how accurate the emulations are based on that. What I can say however is that while working with the plug-in there were many instances where it immediately sounded strangely familiar. But it wasn’t the “Lexicon sound” I was hearing, it was the sound of the records I grew up with and loved! Suddenly I realised how some of my favourite tracks had been done. It was just simply using a Lexicon 480L.

    As I was playing with the different banks and programs something that really surprised me was how naturally the decay was blending with the rest of the music. Even as I was pushing decay and levels way past where I would have them normally on any other reverbs,  they blended really well with the music.

    I first wanted to hear it on a snare drum, and dialling a few settings I really loved how expansive and huge the Large Hall sounded. I tried the gated reverb for fun and it was actually pretty good. I was also curious to hear the difference with the 224 so I dialled it up and tried to replicate the settings as much as I could. Both reverbs sound completely different! The 480L was very imposing and present with huge decay fading, while the 224 with similar decay sounded much thinner.

    I then decided to try it on a horn section comprising of real trumpets mixed with virtual instruments and after playing with a few settings I really loved what the Ambience algorithm brought. It added a noticeable space and the instruments seemed to blend together much better.

    And then I decided to try it on vocals, I played with a few settings going through some of the artists presets provided and settled on the same “ambience” algorithm which just added bright space without clouding the vocals.

    I don’t normally gravitate towards digital reverbs. If I want a plate for vocals I’ll choose the EMT140, if I want to add Ambiance, I’ll use the UAD Precision Reflection Engine and if I want to add Room, I’ll go straight to the UAD Ocean Way Studios which lets me think in terms of placement instead of numbers. However, spending some time with the UAD Lexicon 480L really changed that. Yes, it sounds like what I know of Lexicon, but more than that it evokes to me the sound of the music I’ve listened to over the years in a very tangible way that I have never experienced before. It’s lush, it’s rich and it’s extremely versatile, it’s all very impressive, and while I’ve only had it for a few days, I really want to explore all the possibilities this plug-in has to offer.

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