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PL+S: SSL debuts first console for live market

Solid State Logic will unveil its first ever mixing desk for the live and touring environment today at Prolight + Sound in Frankfurt. The SSL Live console has been in serious development for the last three years.

Solid State Logic will unveil its first ever mixing desk for the live and touring environment today at Prolight + Sound in Frankfurt.

The SSL Live console – first mooted when the company was acquired by Peter Gabriel and David Engelke in 2005, but only in serious development for the last three years – launches with a technical specification that, on paper, is superlative in terms of flexibility, power and signal fidelity. “It’s punching above its weight […] for a desk at this price-point,” says head of marketing Dan Duffell.

The Live features SSL’s renowned SuperAnalogue mic amps and high-resolution 96kHz/24-bit converters; 192 signal paths (at 96k) can be configured as inputs or outputs so the user can have as many channels, stem groups, auxes or masters as required; and the 976 inputs and 976 outputs enable the desk to cope with complex show demands.

The Live is believed to be the first desk to implement a multi-gesture touchscreen – “satisfying the iPad generation”, suggests Duffell – but a ‘quick knob’ at the top of each fader, colour-coded to control the parameters presented on-screen, means the mores of the traditional engineer are catered for too.

The touchscreen is said to be “brighter than any other console” and “daylight viewable”: this, and all the other displays, are dimmable and their brightness settings are stored and recalled via snapshots – another innovation. The Effects rack has 30 SSL effects including the popular Bus Compressor, Dialogue Automix from the C-series broadcast consoles, and new tools such as the Graphic + EQ processor that combines traditional graphic EQ with parametric control.

Channel (path) processing is also highly flexible: hi and lo-pass filters, four-band parametric EQ, a compressor, expander/gate, all-pass filter and delay as well as two insert points can all be placed in any order in the chain on the fly by a simple drag-and-drop action on the touchscreen.

The Live offers redundant I/O capability and redundant power supplies for the console, but does not include processor redundancy. “No live console currently available at this price point does,” remarks Duffell.

Speaking exclusively to PSNEurope in March, Solid State Logic managing director Antony David (pictured) says that there had been high demand for such a move from the company, “from rental companies, distributors, live mix engineers, recording engineers who might do live shows… everyone. To that extent we’re pushing on an open door.

“There will be high expectations and I hope that we meet those, not only in the way it sounds, but also in terms of how it works and the flexibility and the power that’s available which will, I think, outperform anything [in its class] from a price point of view,” says David.

“But it’s also not like we aren’t involved in the live environment,” he emphasises, “because in live broadcast, you face a lot of the same challenges in terms of the immediacy of control, the ergonomics and ruggedness and reliability. No one is more sensitive to the challenges of ‘live’ than broadcasters. So we’ve had years of experience of dealing with [that].”

Live employs Blacklight, a multiplex form of MADI developed by SSL for broadcast, whereby a single redundant multimode fibre cable between stage and FOH racks can handle 256 channels down each one bidirectionally, the equivalent of eight MADI streams in both directions… “That’s a huge simplifier for installations,” remarks David.

SSL’s vast broadcast experience and music industry heritage means the company has “two corners to the stool” which “serve us very well, and certainly have informed some of the features in the Live. Having said that, this is a new approach: this is NOT an incremental development of any of our existing technology,” insists David.

SSL has taken a “clean-sheet” approach to the project, and built a new processing platform on which to structure the console. “[This is called] Tempest, and provides the console with its power and gives us 192 mix paths at 96kHz/64-bit,” he says. “We use FPGAs for routing, but we’ve got a novel approach to the DSP engine, including some patent-pending technology.”

Will Peter Gabriel – who now owns 100% of SSL – approve of the desk, does the managing director think?

“He’s been a performer for many years, so he was keen we should get into that market – absolutely.”

The Live is targeted at a price between £50,000 (€58,500) and £75,000, (depending on configuration), and will ship in Q3.