Review: Solid State Logic Matrix

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Barry Rudolph

COMPACT ANALOG CONSOLE WITH DAW CONTROL AND SUMMING

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Matrix is a small-footprint analog mixer that offers up to 40 line inputs and uses the same SuperAnalogue technology as Solid State Logic's Duality. Intended to be the nexus of any studio, Matrix simultaneously communicates and controls up to four different DAWs. Its compact size and ergonomic layout make it ideal for the project studio, ADR/Foley suites, jingle production studios or as the centerpiece of a sound-designer's rig.

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Video on the SSL Matrix

Matrix Revealed

Matrix was intentionally designed with no analog processors. Given the console's $25,995 price point, this makes sense, considering the fact that many users prefer their favorite outboard mic preamps, EQs and compressors, and the fact that more and more engineers are turning to “in-the-box” DAW processing. Matrix, instead, offers a large, programmable virtual patchbay — a “matrix” from which to select and route your analog outboard gear for insertion into the Mix and Record buses and any of the 16 channels' signal paths. And Matrix's Total Recall (TR) system can store/recall console setups.

Conceptually, think of Matrix as two integrated products that operate as a single efficacious and powerful system with two concurrently running modes: Analog Focus and DAW Focus.

In Analog Focus, Matrix is an analog mixer with 16 dual line input channel strips, each with 100mm motorized faders. Typically, one line input would come from a recording chain's output (mic pre/EQ/compressor) while the other is for the DAW's track return. Channel controls include input level control, polarity flip and insert in/out switches, along with standard console controls for the cue/effects sends, solo and cut, and separate stereo recording bus selectors, plus a level control for the direct out.

In DAW Focus mode, all analog controls and settings remain intact except the physical faders, and solo and cut controls, which are “hijacked” for re-use in controlling the selected DAW. This mode adds more control with assignable V-Pots and Sel (select) keys, providing deeper access to any channel's settings. DAW applications run on any number of attendant computers networked over regular Ethernet connections and Cat-5 cables. For MIDI communications, the Matrix uses ipMIDI (www.nerds.de).

Hooking Up

Matrix provides XLRs for AES/EBU monitor in and stereo bus output and optical ports for S/PDIF digital I/O. A supplied RJ-45 Ethernet crossover cable connects Matrix to your DAW. You'll also need to connect a USB cable from Matrix to your computer and, if you own an SSL X-Logic X-Rack, connect its DB9 cable to the Matrix. Besides the headphone out, ⅛-inch mini jack for hooking up your iPod and XLR outs for small control room speakers, all analog connections are via 17 8-channel DB25 ports on the rear panel.

The Center Section

The top of the center section has analog master controls for the mix, recording and stereo cue buses. Each bus has a ±24dB gain trim pot, insert in/out, TR indicators (like most pots and switches on this board) and the Σ (sigma) symbol switch for mixing the pre-insert signal with the inserted processor's output. The recording bus and stereo cue have “To Mix” buttons that act as analog, stereo subgroups by routing their signals to the stereo mix bus/master level control.

Four effects send submasters and four effects returns can feed the recording, mix and stereo cue buses. The default solo mode is destructive Solo-In-Place, but there are AFL (after-fader listen) buttons for the stereo cue, effects sends and returns.

Monitor and Cue Controls

Familiar to any SSL user is the Control Room Monitor section with volume level and Cut button, Dim button and level control, Mini speaker level, a Solo Clear button and a vertical column of source switches for monitoring: mix and recording buses, two external sources and the console's DAC output.

Onboard 24-bit AD/DA converters operate at up to 176.4 kHz. There are no BNC clock jacks, but the converters will clock to any incoming digital source; otherwise, they default to 44.1 kHz.

Artist's Monitoring is a cue system that will monitor the mix bus, the monitor mix, stereo cue, and external digital or analog sources. The “Σ” feature is used again to hear any of these sources summed together, such as for learning a guitar or vocal part from a connected iPod while on mic or recording and listen to a cue mix — cool! A simple HF/LF equalizer can contour the headphone mix for any kind of headphone or ear bud.

SuperCue provides latency-free monitoring during recording. During vocal overdubs, when Auto-Mon is selected and a DAW track is armed for record/playback, the stereo cue is sourced from the DAW track and the line input receiving the output of the vocal recording chain. You'll hear yourself and the DAW track at the same time. Effects sends are sourced from the stereo cue so that on punch-in, Auto-Mon mutes the track's DAW playback, allowing you to hear only yourself while retaining all effects.

S-Cue, Auto-Mon and send-source selection are all controlled on the Master Channel section, which also affects individual or global switching across the 16 channels. The channel input source, the way the channel audio is monitored, channel output source, and sources for the stereo cue and effects sends are all switched here. In DAW Focus mode, this section's motorized, analog stereo mix bus fader also doubles as the master fader in DAWs that support it.

DAW Communication

Matrix DAW communication profiles include HUI (Human User Interface) for Pro Tools; MCU (Mackie Control Universal) for Logic 8 Pro, another MCU profile for Nuendo/Cubase and a MIDI CC (Continuous Controller) profile for controlling MIDI devices.

To expedite and integrate the DAW into the Matrix, SSL offers the cross-platform Matrix Remote software. Running on the DAW computer or any other computer on the network, the app determines Matrix's operating “personality” by configuring the networked DAW's HUI, MCU and CC functionality. Matrix Remote includes preprogrammed “starter” profiles for each of these protocols. Layers are toggled using the Layer keys, and personalized Profiles are edited, saved and selected using the Matrix Remote software. All configurations are saved locally and transmitted to the console for storage on a rear panel SD memory card. Matrix Remote data can also be saved along with the DAW files for recall on other Matrix consoles.






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