Mic Amp Module
Mic Amp Module
Solid State Logic''s mic preamps are renowned for their clean, open sound, and the X-Rack Mic Amp module ($975) is no exception. It''s based on the same circuit found in SSL''s mighty 9000 K Series console. In addition to the features you''d expect in a high-end mic pre—75 dB of gain, phantom power, polarity reverse, and a 20dB pad—the Mic Amp offers variable input impedance (from 1.2k-ohm to 10k-ohm), a high-quality direct input (with a ground-lift switch), and continuously variable highpass and lowpass filters (30 to 600 Hz and 3k to 50 kHz, respectively). The filters are also available to the line-level input, making the module useful in a mix scenario, as well. Switches for assigning the module''s output to the left and right record buses work with the Master Bus module.
VHD Input Module
The VHD Input module ($1,055) gives you more tonal variance than the clean Mic Amp by adding a Variable Harmonic Drive circuit, a continuously variable control that sweeps between second- and third-order harmonic distortion. The amount of added distortion depends on the input level. A trim control follows the VHD stage, allowing you to drive the preamp hard without overloading the following device. Although it lacks the Mic Amp module''s DI and variable input impedance, the VHD contains all its other features, as well as one more cool thing: the legendary Listen Mic Compressor circuit (made famous by Phil Collins'' “In the Air Tonight” drum sound). With a simple Less/More control, this aggressive compressor has fixed attack and release curves.
Channel EQ Module
The Channel EQ module ($975) employs the same circuit used in the 9000 K consoles, furnishing either E or G Series–style EQ. (The E and G differences have to do with the curve/bandwidth characteristics.) If you''ve ever used any SSL console, this module will be extremely familiar to you. It''s a 4-band EQ with shelf-to-bell switching capabilities; the middle two bands are fully parametric and the high and low bands are semiparametric. You''ll notice a lot of overlap between the bands, and because the small pots have a range of ±20 dB, a little turn goes a long way.
Like the EQ, the Dynamics module ($975) is functionally almost identical to the dynamics module on J and K Series consoles. It''s split into two sections: the compressor/limiter circuit and the expander/gate circuit. The compressor''s ratio goes from 1:1 up to ∞:1, virtually turning it into a brickwall limiter. Other variable controls are threshold and release, and it has switched controls for peak sensing (as opposed to the gentler default RMS setting) and for fast attack (3 ms). The gate has standard variable controls—range, threshold, release and hold—as well as a switch for turning the circuit into an expander with a 1:2 ratio. A switch gives the gate a fast attack (100 µs). Key and Link switches let you choose the key (external) input to control the dynamics sidechain or link multiple dynamics units'' sidechains, respectively.
Stereo Bus Compressor Module
This dual-space module ($2,595), the only one of the bunch, is based on the very respectable stereo bus compressor from SSL''s G Series console center section. (Much of the recorded music you''ve heard in the past three decades has passed through one on its way to your ears.) The large black gain-reduction meter and blue knobs portray the signature look of the classic, but the module has a couple of modern upgrades. It has stereo key inputs on the back; when they''re switched in, they control the compressor''s sidechain. That comes in handy for frequency-dependent compression, for example—feeding a highpassed version of your mix to the key input so that bass frequencies don''t trigger the compressor.
Another difference from the classic bus compressor is the addition of a few ratio settings. The old standby had 2:1, 4:1 and 10:1 settings, whereas the X-Rack version adds 1.5:1, 3:1 and 5:1. It also has a Link switch for linking multiple units (think 5.1 surround), along with the standard G Series threshold, attack, release and makeup gain knobs.
Eight-Channel Input Module
Because analog summing is a common technique for many DAW users these days, SSL offers a couple of ways to achieve outboard analog summing in its X-Rack products. The one I didn''t receive for review is the Four-Channel Input module ($1,055). It has a level knob, a pan knob and inserts on each of the channels.
The Eight-Channel Input module ($975) accepts eight line inputs in four stereo pairs. They have no level or pan controls, and the inputs are fixed at unity gain. A given stereo pair, say 1 and 2, will be panned automatically to the left and right, respectively, unless the Mono button is depressed, in which case both inputs are in both channels equally (straight up the gullet, so to speak). Each stereo pair has on/off buttons, and channels 1 through 4 have insert capabilities and a dedicated button that switches the insert return into the path.
Like the Master module''s I/O, the Eight-Channel Input''s I/O is on D-sub 25-pin connectors; all of the previously described modules have XLR I/O. Either summing module requires the Master module to operate, which means that the Mynx can accommodate no more than eight inputs for summing (one Eight-Channel Input and one Master module). If you want more inputs to sum, you have to graduate to the pricier eight-space X-Rack chassis ($2,045), but you also get Total Recall for that money, which remembers all knob and switch settings for easy resetting.
Master Bus Module
The Master Bus module ($1,255) works only with other modules and provides control over the mix bus (coming from the input modules) and the record bus (coming from the mic preamp modules). In addition to 12-segment LED metering, it has a headphone jack and speaker-switching capabilities. The Master module has a few other features, but the one I received didn''t power up correctly, and I didn''t receive a replacement in time to meet this review''s deadline.