Solid State Logic's LIVE console

by George Petersen
in Tech Preview

Solid State Logic's LIVE consoleThe word is out. At last month’s Musikmesse/Prolight+Sound show in Frankfurt (see report), Solid State Logic, a leading manufacturer of studio consoles and processing tools, has launched “Live” — its first console designed for sound reinforcement applications. This is definitely big news, but hardly the first time a studio-oriented manufacturer has entered the live console market, with notable examples being the Avid VENUE and PreSonus StudioLive series.

Interestingly, Solid State Logic did make an “unofficial” entry into the world of live sound a decade ago. In March of 2003, an SSL MTP 4848 board (designed primarily for film sound mixing) was specified by FOH engineer Denis Savage as the house console installed into the then-new, 4,100 seat Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for a five-year extended run the residency show featuring Celine Dion, A New Day.

According to SSL managing director Antony David, the new Live console was “a couple of years in the making, because we like to get things right at SSL and we are very confident that we have created a console engineers will fall in love with.”

SSL consoles have never been designed for the budget crowd, and Live ranges from $84k to $130k, depending on configuration.

Intended for FOH or monitor work on tours or installations, Live is based on SSL’s new Tempest processing platform and offers 192 audio paths at 96 kHz. All processing is built into the console surface, with 64-bit internal processing throughout.

SSL Live - Rear Panel view» Ins and Outs

The 192 simultaneous mix paths (144 with full processing and 48 “dry” paths) can be allocated as channels, auxes, stems and masters are user-configurable as mono, stereo or LCR to suit the needs of each show. A 36 x 36 matrix handles output routing to the PA system and can be segmented into four separate smaller matrices, providing dry paths with two insert points per path and gain control on each crosspoint to offer outputs for line driver and PA control system requirements.

A flexible collection of local I/O connectivity — analog XLR, AES-EBU digital, MADI coaxial/optical and USB) is built into the frame, along with MIDI, word clock, AES sync, SMPTE LTC time code, GP I/O, networking and card slots for future expandability. Channels have SSL’s studio grade SuperAnalogue™ mic preamps with 24-bit/96k Hz A/D D/A conversion. A full range of Stagebox I/O options connect to the console via MADI with the potential for larger systems to make use of SSL’s Blacklight technology for carrying up to 256 channels of bi-directional audio and control over a single optical connection.

» Getting in Touch

A central high-res 19-inch touch screen offers visual feedback and access to the effects rack and configuration/setup menus. A separate system monitor screen (mountable on an optional spring-loaded boom arm) shows all channels, VCA’s, stem groups, auxes, etc. Twelve “quick controls” (each with a rotary and three buttons) beneath the touchscreen are assignable as “detail” controls for EQs, effect parameters, etc. Color coding is used to tie together anything that’s displayed on the screen with the controls, faders and control tiles. A dedicated channel control tile has a smaller touchscreen with controls for rapid access to EQ, dynamics and inserts on any selected channel path. Live also uses the SSL’s Eyeconix display, which allows bitmap images (drums, guitars, etc.) to appear with each channel, for quickly identifying sources at a glance. In any case, operators are free to set up and use any combination of touchscreen and/or hardware controls that suits their own preferences.

Each of Live’s fader tiles can display up to five scrollable layers, with up to five vertical banks in each. A dedicated call button brings up each bank, and both layers and banks are identified with user text and color-coding. within this structure, users are free to arrange channels in any order desired.

Anyone who likes the hands-on hardware approach to parameter access will appreciate the Channel Control Tile. Located on the right side of the console, this section has 15 rotary controls surrounding a 7.5-inch touch screen and dedicated hardware controls for EQ, dynamics, pan and insert effects. The Channel Control Tile also offers access to control of delay parameters as well as configuring auxes, Stem Groups, VCA’s and mute groups.

» VCA, Muting and Stem Groups

Stem Groups is a new concept introduced for the SSL Live. These are similar to a traditional subgroup, but can be user-defined as a full Stem Group (with all of a channel’s processing and routing flexibility) and perfect sending multiple channels to the same effects processor. Alternatively, these can be set up as dry Stem Groups, requiring less processing horsepower and deployed in applications such as efx returns. Stem Groups can be configured in mono, stereo or LCR and can even be routed into another Stem Group to simplify the handling of complex mixes.

Essential to sound reinforcement mixing, Live offers 32 VCA and ten mute groups. Additionally, the main fader has its own metering, solo/mute and Query buttons and can be assigned to any channel, Stem Group, aux, VCA, master or matrix output.

» Onboard Processing

Channels can be full with complete processing — or dry and consume less DSP resources. Full channels offer high/low-pass filters, four-band parametric EQ (switchable between a precise constant Q mode and “SSL Legacy EQ”, high/low-pass filters with selectable slopes, SSL dynamics compressor with analog-style tube emulation, expander/gate, delay line panning and an all-pass filter.

An effects rack offers additional EQ options: 32-band graphic EQ; a 10-band parametric with selectable filter characteristics; and the unique G-EQ, a program-shaping EQ based on node selection operated with a familiar graphic EQ user interface. Effects can be accessed into the board’s multiple the insert points for channels, buses or I/O’s within the router. Selections within an included suite of 30 effects and tools include reverbs, delays (standard and multi-tap), modulation effects, EQ and Solid State Logic’s acclaimed Stereo Bus Compressor, with up to 96 effects available simultaneously.

Beyond channel dynamics, the delay rack offers de-essing, gating, dynamic EQ, Transient Shaping and SSL’s popular Listen Mic Compressor. The reverb tool kit is based on the company’s X-Verb plug-in, with gated ‘verbs, plates, a specific vocal processor, SSL’s D-Gen and more. Modulation choices range from Band-Split Flanger, classic flange, envelope flanging, phaser, chorus and guitar chorus. Other useful add-ons include a denoiser, enhancer, pitch shifting and the VHD Saturator, which emulates SSL’s Variable Harmonic Drive (VHD), adding amounts of second- or third-harmonic distortion to provide an edgy transistor sound or tube warmth.

» Automation

Onboard automation affords access to an unlimited number of automation scenes, which can be triggered manually or via external triggers. Scene groups enable editing of all selected scenes in a single operation, and automation filters can be applied to enable storing or making changes/updates to all or any part of show files. And entire show files can be conveniently stored/loaded to/from a USB drive via a front panel port.

» And More...

In developing Live, Solid State Logic seems to have done its homework and listened to the needs of the industry. Attached to its steel chassis are handles placed for a two-man lift. The touchscreens are designed to provide clear viewing, even in daylight. A concealed light strip along the top edge illuminates the work surface. A wide variety of stageboxes and I/O options are offered.

MADI I/O connects the SSL Live-Recorder option, a single-rackspace unit that can record 64 tracks at 96kHz directly from the console’s input stage and play back through the channels in Soundcheck mode. And to ease setup, Live’s onboard system tools include a tone/noise generator, a precision SPL meter and a FFT analyzer with fixed point per octave frequency spectrum analysis.

So far, SSL has hosted a few private console demos of prototype systems in North America and worldwide. The first deliveries of production models are due to start in September, 2013.


SSL Live Console

Renowned studio console company Solid State Logic enters the live console market with Live, a large-format digital sound reinforcement mixer that offers 192 I/O paths, flexible routing, powerful automation and onboard effects.

Shipping: Slated for September, 2013

Price: $80K-$130K