Solid State Logic C100

Apr 1, 2003 12:00 PM, BY GEORGE PETERSEN


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Mention the name Solid State Logic in audio circles and images of large, high-ticket, state-of-the-art consoles immediately come to mind. However, since the debut of SSL's new C Series boards at last week's AES convention in Amsterdam, the “large” and “high-ticket” terms are being removed from the equation.

Designed for fast-paced, on-air work and live-to-tape studio production, the new-generation C100 is a scalable, small-footprint digital console that takes an innovative approach to assignability.

The C100's key design elements included flexibility in the size of the control surface, as well as making the processor space as efficient as possible. “In certain applications, especially in broadcast where we're looking at smaller rooms,” explains SSL's Niall Feldman, “control surface assignability is essential, and digital console users have been asking for a platform where they could specify the number of physical channel faders, independent of varying the amount of processing to meet their channel count requirements.”

With these criteria in mind, the C100 system comprises a virtual control surface with a DSP rack that can be located some distance from the worksurface. The processing rack uses a mid-plane approach that plugs the DSP cards from the front and the I/O cards on the back, so a single 15-rackspace chassis has the capacity of up to 128 channels of operation. Channel capability can be expanded via 32-channel plug-in DSP cards, and the back plane can handle more than 500 inputs and outputs.

The control surface itself can range from a compact — under a meter wide — version with 16 channel strips and a master section using bank switching to control as many input channels as necessary. However, the controller's physical size can be deceiving: “With the C100 control surface, you can assign control of multiple channels to a single fader, so a 6-channel feed could be under the control of a single fader,” says Feldman. “Using a couple of stereo channels, a couple of mono channels and some 5.1 channels, you could have the equivalent signal processing of a 40-fader console, each with a single fader controlling levels — all done using a 16-fader frame, although most users will probably opt for the flexibility of having 24 channel strips. Alternatively, users can spec a console with one-fader-per-channel functionality.”

The console can be ordered with 32, 64, 96 or 128 fully featured input channels. A dedicated N-1 bus, two program buses, eight groups, 24 utility and 24 aux buses are all standard, as are per-channel direct/N-1 and utility outputs. The C100 has a 24-bit/48kHz design I/O architecture, although with future formats in mind, the 40-bit, floating-point DSP core design is independent of sampling rate and can handle up to 96kHz signals. Available I/O cards include MADI, AES/EBU and analog I/O, with onboard sample-rate conversion standard on all digital input cards.

Going beyond the board's redundant, dual power supplies, the C100 incorporates innovative techniques, including a self-healing mechanism. The latter self-monitors all of the DSP in the processor; if a fault is recognized, it automatically resets the specific segment of DSP without impact to other mix processes occurring in the system. Rounding out the package are rapid reboot times, hot-swappable components and remote diagnostics.

Other broadcast-specific features include Control Linking, which can link a range of configuration functions to a specific input or output, such as fader-start GPIs to cart machines. Audio-follow-video (AFV) functionality is standard, as are comprehensive GPI options to ease the physical integration of the console into the existing studio control infrastructure.

One of the C100's unique aspects is a Conceptual Central section, offering fast access to routing and dedicated output processing. “A main challenge in designing a broadcast console is handling multiple audio sources — not only inputs, but many outputs and feeds going out,” Feldman says. “Traditionally, broadcasters deal with this by surrounding themselves with meters on all important studio outputs. For example, if you're mixing a live 5.1 sports program and have multiple output feeds going to multiple destinations, the question is how to control and monitor those feeds quickly, and know what's going on on each bus output. Our solution was a dedicated, central touchscreen control section allied with interactive metering of console buses. The other key to fast ergonomics was placing dedicated and assignable controls below that screen for those tasks.”

In addition to the main touchscreen, high-res TFT screens above each group of eight faders are used for channel metering and status information. Below the screens, dedicated one-knob-per-function channel strip controls (EQ, dynamics, etc.) can be assigned to any fader(s) within that section.

One innovative option is the C-SB Stagebox with up to 48 remote-controlled mic preamp inputs in a single 14U chassis that connects to the C100 DSP core via up to 500 meters of fiber optics. The Stagebox also has some outputs to return foldback feeds, as well as GPIs to control on-air lights on the stage, etc.

The first C100s are already in delivery, and pricing is said to start “well below” $200,000. But perhaps the big news is that at press time — just days before the C100's AES launch — we heard that SSL was also going to unveil the C200, a compact music production board based on a similar processing architecture. Details are sketchy at this point; we'll provide more on this development next month.

For more information, visit

SSL C100-detailed audio subgroups page

SSL C100-processor routing

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