SSL XLogic G Series Compressor

There’s no denying that the SSL 4000 G is one of the recording industry’s crown jewels, serving time on some of the best-sounding albums in recent memory. But it (along with all SSL consoles) is a piece most of us will never be able to hold as our own — it’s just too expensive. And this has made us all so very sad for so very long.
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Fortunately, SSL took the same center section compressor from this legendary console, added a few features (primarily in the input and output sections), and turned out a box that supposedly achieves the same gloss, smoothness, and thump that comes from mixing on the real deal. But as we are always ones to pick “dare” at the party, we decided to see if SSL’s claims were for real or for hype.

OVERVIEW

The front panel offers the controls you’d assume for a compressor of this type: Gain Reduction meter calibrated from 0 to 20dB in 4dB intervals, Threshold knob that goes from –15 to +15dB, Attack with points at 0.1–30, Ratio settings from 2, 4, and 10, and Release points from 1–1.2 (or an Auto setting). The XLogic G also has a Make Up section to adjust gain from –5 to +15dB, and a compressor in/out switch.

In addition to the standard controls, this unit also features an in/out button for an external side chain (when selected, the rear panel “Key Input” functions as the compressor’s sidechain source). There’s also an in/out button for an automatic linear fade in/out, with a rotary knob to set the fade length anywhere from one to 60 seconds.

The back panel has two XLR ins and outs, a female XLR jack for key input, a nine-pin slot for a remote to control the auto fade, and a voltage selection switch (110/120/230/240V). Good? Good. Great, even. Time to go from theory to practice.

APPLYING THE XLOGIC G

I’ve been using the XLogic G on a lot of my projects lately — all of them, in fact. As I’m building the mix, patching the compressor across the stereo mix insert points makes everything sound really good the second I hit the “in” button. My typical setting is Threshold dialed up the middle at 0, Attack at 3, Ratio at 4, and Release on Auto. (Note: By adjusting the Threshold you can “grab” as much of the sound as you want, and then by adjusting the Attack and Release you can really get this compressor pumping to build a very dynamic mix.) Even with this “go-to” setting, you still have to mind the amount of gain reduction. Though it may sound good at first to compress the hell out of everything, be careful — leave some room for the mastering engineer.

Also, bypass the compressor from time to time to make sure your actual peak volume readings are the same whether the compressor is in or out. Mixes tend to sound better loud, and you need an equal reference for comparing your source. By using the Make Up knob, you can easily turn the processed sound’s volume up or down. Watch the output section of your console or workstation as you adjust the “compressed” sound, then bypass the compressor to make sure the peak levels match those with the compressor inserted.

One workaround for having only one G series compressor when I feel the need to have many, many more is, while I’m building a mix, to make a sub group of the drums, send the entire group through the compressor, and smash them accordingly. Then, to free up the compressor for the overall mix, I record the drum submix back into the recorder. Sure, you can’t change the submix once it’s recorded, but I’ve been okay with that. By having the smashed submix, I can in turn adjust the volume of the “normal” drum tracks, mix them together, and beef up/fill out the drum tones.

CONCLUSIONS

I feel confident in applying the XLogic G across the entire board, much as I would feel confident in applying a 4000 G console across an entire band. From submixes to single instrument tracks, from using one channel while recording as an insert on vocals and bass to glossing and polishing an entire mix, the XLogic performs spectacularly. Even the Auto Fade feature (which struck me as stupid at first) adds something to my mixes, and for some reason sounds better than the linear fades in Pro Tools. As someone who’s always lusted after that SSL sound, the XLogic helps me achieve that sound — without having to afford an SSL console.