Tips & Tricks — SSL E & G Series Plug-Ins
In this Plug-In Power post, we will be focusing on some basic pointers for getting started with the SSL E Series Channel Strip and SSL G Series Bus Compressor plug-ins for UAD-2. As many SSL plug-in users are quickly finding out, these plug-ins have the ability to infuse your mixes with the curves and character heard on countless classic albums.
However, to really hear what the SSL E Series & G Series plug-ins can do for your mixes, we've gathered a few helpful tips:
How to decide between the SSL E Series Channel Strip’s new “BRN” and “BLK” EQ selections
There are two 4-band options on the SSL E Series plug-in, referred to as “brown” and “black”. It is important to note that while only the LF bass knobs change color when switching EQ's, ALL EQ bands (LF, LMF, HMF HF) are affected. “BRN” is the recommended starting place for those unfamiliar with SSL. That’s because “Brown” is the original SSL design, with gentler Q, as well as smaller gain and frequency ranges. Therefore, it’s somewhat easier to get a good, musical sound quickly, with LC (low cut) and HC (high cut) filtering operating at a gentle 12dB. In contrast, “BLK” is the later EQ design, with the option for narrower Q as well as broader gain and frequency ranges — making it more useful for “fixative” EQ, i.e. eliminating problems. (The “black” EQ’s design changes were recommended by famed Beatles producer, George Martin.) As mentioned, each “black” band differs from the “brown” design, and the LC is a steeper 18dB per octave.
How to approach the E Series’ VCA compression and Expand/Gate controls
SSL channel strips’ dynamics sections have remained largely unchanged on SSL consoles from their beginning until now. They feature dedicated VCA compressor and expand/gate circuits, which may be placed before or after the EQ circuitry. The default (and most common) arrangement is dynamics first, but the EQ can be placed first with the "PRE DYN" (Pre Dynamics) button. The compressor's simple control set allows for a wide variety of dynamics control — from transparent to aggressive. At heavy compression settings with quick release times, the SSL design exhibits a similar room-expanding quality to the 1176, great for things like drums and room mics.
While Gates are not as relevant to mixing as they once were, the SSL has one of the most transparent and musical gates available — useful for fixative or creative purposes. There are two gate modes: G1 is the original E Series gate response, while G2 has a smoother (“no chatter”) response borrowed from the later G Series gate.
How to “audition” the new SSL G Series Bus Compressor plug-in
The SSL G Series Bus Compressor has been used to put the final touch of cohesiveness, or "glue", to more professional mixes than just about any other compressor. Traditionally, the SSL G is most commonly used from the beginning of the mix process, and the engineer is "mixing to" the sound and behavior of the compressor as he/she goes. So the ideal way to “audition” this plug-in is on a new mix, dropped into an insert on your stereo master fader. In this case, you will be spending a lot of time keeping an eye on gain reduction metering, and you may be making tweaks to the setup as the mix progresses. Of course, it can also be dropped into existing mixes at any time, but keep in mind that it may take a bit more effort to dial-in — especially if your ear is already used to the sound without its compression properties.
Setting G Series compression ratio and threshold settings
The SSL G Series is designed with the 2-bus in mind, and the control set adjusts the L/R simultaneously. The ratios, as well as the attack and release settings, are specially tailored for bus use, offering options for a wide variety of source material. Attack and release times allow the compressor to be “tuned” to the tempo and feel of the song to some degree, and the “Auto” setting provides a program-dependent, multi-stage release for transparency. Use 2:1 for the most transparent sound and 10:1 for tougher, more audible sound — leaving 4:1 for everything in-between.
Usually, this processor is meant to be used with minimal gain reduction. In most cases, setting the threshold for 1-2 dB average gain reduction is fine, with occasional transients that go beyond. In quieter passages, little or no meter movement will occur. Use make-up gain to get a good gain match between active and bypassed. Of course, the SSL G compressor is also extremely useful on groups — such as drum busses. In this case, a more aggressive approach may be achieved with a 10:1 ratio setting, which will generate the “harder” sound often desired for drum groups. As usual, fast attack and release settings will result in the most audible compression.
Adding a finishing touch with the SSL G Series
The G Series’ Auto Fade is useful when the end of a song dictates a gradual decrease in volume. The speed of the fade can be tuned from 1 to 60 seconds, and incorporates SSL's unique fade curves. Conversely, auto fade-in is also available.
We hope this helps you get off to a great start demoing and using the new SSL E & G Series plug-ins.
To learn more about the SSL E & G Series plug-ins, check out the video below:
Want to join the discussion with other UAD SSL plug-in users? Please visit the unofficial UAD Forums here:
— Mason Hicks