Gear Stories With Sylvia Massy: SSL—Duality and Reality

Mar 31, 2010 12:20 PM



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Maybe it’s the gluttonous American consumer in me, but I really love the old-school, large-format analog consoles. To hell with the power costs. I want a mixing desk that throws heat like it’s chock-full of George Foreman grills. I want steak, dammit, not a garden burger!

My history with vintage gear is one of luck and patience. It might be years before I find that special piece sitting long forgotten in a box, hiding in someone’s garage or attic. But eventually I will find it. We wanted a large-format analog console to complement the classic Neve and Trident consoles in our other rooms at RadioStar, and the search began for the right desk. It had to be impressive and useful, with a minimum of 56 channels. A Solid State Logic console seemed like the perfect fit, and I scoured the sales listings and auction notices for potential used candidates. Buying a new console was also a distinct possibility, and I was solicited to be one of the first to install the brand-new Duality. I approached the idea with an open mind.

The champion behind the innovative SSL Duality is the legendary musical artist and performer Peter Gabriel. He owns the company and fine-tunes the Solid State Logic designs. His incredible studio in the UK, Real World, is the proving ground for many of the company’s new products. While visiting the SSL headquarters in Begbroke, I fell in love with the Duality. It was energy-efficient, ran cool and was daintily plugged into a generic wall outlet. The Duality was physically much shallower than the Js or the Ks, and used a bank of flat video screens to display channel metering instead of having actual individual meters. It also did not have the group of latching buttons typical of an SSL bus matrix, so the look of the console was much different. Even with radical changes to its profile, it was still pure SSL—punchy and fast. And it had excellent headroom. Wow!

Inside the main room at Real World Studios, with Peter Gabriel’s horseshoe-shaped Solid State Logic K Series console

Inside the main room at Real World Studios, with Peter Gabriel’s horseshoe-shaped Solid State Logic K Series console

Perhaps I have been ruined by the idea that all great consoles have to be giants, and maybe I’m just missing the point, but the Duality was much smaller than I had envisioned for our new studio. It is a well-thought-out modern console, combining a classic analog large-format surface with digital workstation technology. The sound of the Duality is undeniably SSL, but I still couldn’t help feeling slighted by the price tag. The company’s sales rep explained that the extra expense would instantly be made up by the reduction of the studio’s power bills, as compared to the costs of powering an older SSL. But did I listen? Even after flying to the UK to kick its tires and tour Gabriel’s fantastic studio, I was not convinced that the Duality was the console we needed for our new mix room, so I graciously passed on buying one.

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