Ssl x desk....really?

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Ssl x desk....really?

Postby Wiz » Sun Aug 26, 2012 9:25 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYpoOg1I ... ata_player





I came across this today.

Not that I am a skeptical old bastard.... But I was pretty taken aback at the difference......

The video is done by ssl, and demos their x desk vs itb summing. They do 8. 16. And. 24. Channels.


Eve the difference with just 8 is mind blowing.


Any one with a x desk care to have a look at the video and comment?
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby rick » Sun Aug 26, 2012 10:34 pm

Ok well I have put a x desk in my new studio
Frankly I was so impressed with it and what it
Does that I removed heaps of gear because it just
Made them redundant

This ssl video has some snake oil about it
Because there are da converters and actual
Calibration levels of the mixes to deal with
But sure apples being apples if you want
A small flawless console for that stuff
This thing is it
I have loved the way the Internet has kinda tainted
This console by guys who just don't understand the point
And the price tag
I thought wtf ? How did they ? and at price .. I am sold
Its two years later still am
I have owned and used all of the consoles we dream about
(well except a focusrite )
The x desk is a little cracker
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby Wiz » Sun Aug 26, 2012 10:43 pm

Hi Rick

I was hoping you would respond.. I remember you getting one.

Thanks....
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby Manning » Sun Aug 26, 2012 11:55 pm

Wow. That was well worth a watch/listen. Definitely download the hi-res files.
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby The Tasmanian » Mon Aug 27, 2012 8:09 am

Great lil desks - fast and clean
A passive mixer (like Robs) will sound even bigger and wider than the SSL
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby ChrisW » Mon Aug 27, 2012 9:31 am

The difference between ITB and summing is NOT 'mind blowing' in my (humble) opinion.
I do find passive summing to be beneficial (to my ears), so I do it. Hey, I'd love an SSL X Desk if I could justify the cost.
It's like the purchase of expensive boutique gear IMO. If it gives you a slight edge and makes you happy or inspired, go for it.
Steve Gadd still sounds better than me on a stock factory kit. But I'm very happy to own and play some expensive handmade drums.
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby Wiz » Mon Aug 27, 2012 9:37 am

ChrisW wrote:The difference between ITB and summing is NOT 'mind blowing' in my (humble) opinion.
I do find passive summing to be beneficial (to my ears), so I do it. Hey, I'd love an SSL X Desk if I could justify the cost.
It's like the purchase of expensive boutique gear IMO. If it gives you a slight edge and makes you happy or inspired, go for it.
Steve Gadd still sounds better than me on a stock factory kit. But I'm very happy to own and play some expensive handmade drums.



Did you have a listen Chris?...I was in the same camp as you... prior to that video, which is why I posted it.

I had heard/seen on the web, summing tests before, none really did much for me there was little difference for the money and mucking about... and seeing this one, done by SSL with even relatively low amount of summing channels... I litereally did a double take when they did the AB.

Which is why I posted it here... I knew, Rick owned one, assumed others might, and there isnt really any bullshit here. If it was crap, it would be exposed.

Its really got me thinking about getting one.
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby rick » Mon Aug 27, 2012 11:10 am

My feelings about that desk is it is the first
Small format desk that was actually high enough
Specs ( and sound) for me to never worry about it
I have had a bunch of small neve consoles( yes bunch) a small
Ssl (5000) and a couple of big ones ( 4000), studer , pultec , custom made hobbies
Mackie , beringer, a&h , calrec , trident , emi,tac , Harrison , dda , auditronics ..you know I
Could list all day
Christ I am only just getting started

That desk is to my ears and test gear
Dead silent ..., no headroom issues , no pan pot issues
No aux issues .. No summing issues Really well thought out
For a daw world and frankly I think it is free at
The cost it is .. Would I buy the expender ..?
Nah
Would I buy it just to sum and only sum ?
Probably not
Have I built it right into the middle of my new setup
To track sum and mix through
Yes
Is it magical ?
Nah
Is it made perfectly ?
Dunno
it feels a bit cheap but it hasn't broken in any way yet
Is it the best small format console I have ever experienced
.. Yes
Do you need one .. ?
Probably not
But I rarely sing so loud as I am with that little beast
Me like
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby Manning » Mon Aug 27, 2012 12:08 pm

Chris - I am but a humble guitarist with delusions of competence. But I'm def with Wiz on this - I downloaded the hires files and ran them through my middle-of-the-road monitors at home. Even my wife could tell the difference, particularly on the 24 ch mix.

While I can't discount the chance of shenanigans on the ITB mix (there are any number of things they could have done to suck the life out of it), I have to say there is a fair amount of daylight between the mixes, enough even for someone as clueless as me.

The real test would be to get an independent engineer (with good ITB skills) to do a mix, and then get SSL to try and outdo it. If there is still as much daylight, then I'd say the discussion was done and dusted.
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby tunetown » Mon Aug 27, 2012 12:25 pm

Don't know much about the Ssl but the difference is quite noticable. I have done my own summing test using my API DSM24 and the difference between it and ITB is quite substantial.

The same mix spread over 24 analogue channels then collapsed down to only 2 channels was all the proof I needed to firmly believe OTB summing was better IMO.
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby Wiz » Mon Aug 27, 2012 12:26 pm

tunetown wrote:Don't know much about the Ssl but the difference is quite noticable. I have done my own summing test using my API DSM24 and the difference between it and ITB is quite substantial.

The same mix spread over 24 analogue channels then collapsed down to only 2 channels was all the proof I needed to firmly believe OTB summing was better IMO.



have you ever tried, just running the two track out and bringing it back in.. vs 24 channels? You know, put your stereo mix through two channels of the summing, and compare against 24?

My point being, I am wondering how much is in the summing vs how much is in the analog path...

if you follow...


cheers

Wiz
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby tunetown » Mon Aug 27, 2012 12:32 pm

I never bring the mixes back in anymore. I record them from tape out of the console into the Korg MR1000. Regardless of 2 tracks or 24, when I re-record the mixes back into tools it never sounds like the console mix to me.
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby ChrisW » Mon Aug 27, 2012 12:41 pm

Hey I'm not a fan of ITB particularly. I've just heard great mixes made that way.
I'm also sure the X Desk is fab.
The usual caveat that I'm not an experienced audio engineer or remotely a mix engineer.
I think if you were mixing a track ITB you'd probably approach that mix completely differently to a thru the desk mix. Have SSL explained their methods for each mix?
My summed mixes sound nicer to me than my ITB mixes though, yes.
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby Engininja » Mon Aug 27, 2012 2:54 pm

rick wrote:I have had a bunch of small neve consoles( yes bunch) a small
Ssl (5000) and a couple of big ones ( 4000), studer , pultec , custom made hobbies


You'll be happy to know your old Pultec mixer is still chugging along 6 days a week. Its about to get a well earned 2 week break.
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby ether » Mon Aug 27, 2012 3:30 pm

So, none of the faders have fallen off then Rick?

And I'm guessing you don't use the headphone out.
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby rick » Mon Aug 27, 2012 4:02 pm

No faders have falling off
And the headphones ..? I do use them a bit

But I have a headphone amp that puts every thing
Ever made to shame so it would hardly be comparing
Apples to apples .. I reckon the headphone sends are good
Talkback is a little dicky actually
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby Yanto » Mon Aug 27, 2012 5:28 pm

The talkback is by far the dickiest thing about the desk. It's fun for 1950's British engineering impersonations, but that's about it.

I've been using one for 3 years now. I was skeptical, but the thing's a little workhorse. Open, heaps of headroom & a great little hub for a small mix room/overdub space. Headphone mixes are easy to set up & then the flip to 16 channels summing is easy. It's just a really elegant solution to summing + getting hardware into a small mix setup.

I've never bothered doing any A/B tests with before & after, all I know is it makes mixing in Pro Tools a far more enjoyable experience, and anything that does that is OK with me.

The build quality feels a little cheap compared to a vintage whatever but it hasn't broken in a few years of fairly regular use. I'd be tempted to get the xpanda just to have an option of subgrouping drums in the analogue domain for processing when I'm mixing, but can't justify that expense or the extra converter channels it would require at the moment,
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby The Tasmanian » Mon Aug 27, 2012 5:35 pm

I'm still wanting to get one of these lil SSL desks.
Ive been planning out a way to patch the channels in between my DA /console modules/EQ's and my passive mixer.
therefor ending up with enough sends (post hardware modules) to do parallel mixing/ext reverbs and tape delay sends etc.
And If I dont use the SSL mix bus (not needed as I'm passive summing ) - I end up with another parallel for drums using the stereo mix bus.
Also great to set up as a remote monitoring console for tracking.

Berkfinger's studio in Berlin is amazingly small and compact - he mixes with 8 x electrodynes modules going straight into the SSL X desk
Maybe I can get him to chime in as he's using it fulltime.
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby berkfinger » Mon Aug 27, 2012 8:30 pm

Hello everyone,

I've been using the X-Desk solidly for 2 years, so here goes:

It's very well thought out - the only mixer in my price range that has all of the features I need to work. It's perfect for interfacing my vintage outboard because it's super clean and has heaps of headroom.

To me it has absolutely no sound - it's just clear. I've spent hours scouring the internet and driving all over Germany looking and testing beaten up vintage mixers in my price range that I know will be noisier and/or have less features than what I already have, so I've stuck with the X-desk. I do crave a large format mixer that imparts more "special" tones on my mixes (such as the Quad Eight Chris had at BJB, which I still dream of) but I honestly feel it would need to be in that league (and therefore at least $30K) to compete with the quality of sound that this little plastic box in front of me has.

I don't know about the ITB versus analogue summing debate - for me it's a workflow thing. I'm used to faders and sends and I think better and clearer and enjoy my job more when I do. That youtube example seems great but not quite scientific. But I have had the X-Desk up against 8 channels of the 301 K-Series, summing the same thing and it really did sound identical to me, which is what convinced me to keep it for now. With the X-desk I don't feel I can blame my tools if the mix isn't killer, just myself! And mixes definitely sound better running through my outboard, which the SSL allows me to do in a very simple way.

Things I don't like about the X-Desk:

Talkback sucks - sounds so noisy and the button makes a loud clunk in the clients' ears. Also it doesn't have a dedicated talkback mic output for running into my external headphone mixers, although Jeremy Northam and I found a workaround…

It feels crap - in particular the faders. It feels like I'm playing a board game, not creating musical history!

I really like using console sends to get to FX and especially parallel compression (I find protools sends sometimes bring in subtle phase issues even though I have PTHD2 and delay compensation etc.). I bought the X-Desk because it has 4 of these (Stereo Cue and 2 mono), compared to most summing options that only have one or two. Only problem is that to engage the "Alt Inputs" so that I get the 16 channels of summing, I need to use the stereo cue to control the input and therefore I only have 2 sends. The decision I'm always making is 8 inputs and 4 sends, or 16 inputs and 2.

You have to buy A LOT of expensive DB25 cables to use all of the features.

It's tiny and doesn't look cool - I live and work in a 275 square metre warehouse with large live room, control room and 2 booths. This desk looks very underwhelming in there and I find myself having to explain to clients that it's actually very hifi and that their album WILL sound good. That's why I find myself looking at old Tridents and Neoteks and MCIs and Telefunkens and Studers - just to make the clients feel better and more like they are making a real album…

Another desk that I've used that is similar (but a bit more expensive) is the ASP2082. It's also a DAW controller, has moving faders, pres and a buss comp, but I can't vouch for or against the sound at this point in time.

Hope this essay is helpful to you guys,

Simon.
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby EvLoutonian » Tue May 26, 2015 1:45 pm

berkfinger wrote:I've been using the X-Desk solidly for 2 years, so here goes.. Simon.


Hey, really great to get the feedback from people using this little desk.. Especially the insights from Rick are always good, and Simon, I particularly found a few points you made to be relevant in my thinking on choice of desk vs larger old console at the moment.

In particular, whether to get this old Auditronics 110-8 (24ch/8 buss) ''Grandson II'' console (which I have here in parts) up and running - with mods to bring it somewhat more up to par in terms of headroom and fidelity on the routing, monitoring, and summing paths - or accept the feature spec of the SSL X-Desk as is (inc. some compromises and short-comings as you mentioned) and just go with that, in a smaller footprint (for better and worse), ready to roll into action.

Or indeed, just use the software routing on my Aurora 16 (over Thunderbolt) for setting up headphone monitoring, add a stand-alone master monitor controller (and talkback) in the control room, and just have all other hardware in the racks come up on my patchbays.. Missing in this equation is line and send trim/level adjustments in the patching path, or bussing options offered by a desk.

Are you still using the X-Desk currently?

Cheers!
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby ether » Tue May 26, 2015 2:08 pm

To chime in here, I've had my X-Desk for a couple of years now, and love it to death.

So far I'm not using it for summing - though I plan to - more as the heart of the studio as Rick mentioned he does. Beautiful, clean headroom for miles, which is great. It handles the nasty hot levels from my modular synths with ease.

I've never found it to feel plastic-y, though the faders do have a very light action.

To make it look the business I got some of these:

http://www.mixingtable.com/solid-hardwood-side-panels-ssl-x-desk-x-panda

Downsides? Lot's of DB25s as mentioned, krap talkback, but that doesn't bother me for now, main monitor level on a small pot ... and continually lusting after 8 channels of SSL X-Rack dynamics and EQ ... and a G series buss compressor ... and a second X-Rack to expand it ...

... and knowing that any krap I'm making is my fault, and not my gear's ;)

No regrets.
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby berkfinger » Wed May 27, 2015 2:47 am

Hi Evan,

shortly after that post I found a great price on a Neotek Series II, 32 channel console that I couldn't say no to, as Albini and John McIntyre of Tortoise have both used the same model to make awesome albums and it looks very beautiful... you can see some pics of it here:

http://goldenretrieverstudios.com/

Our studio has been getting through some higher profile clients and producers, who were demanding more preamps (this has 32) and being able to monitor more channels with faders during the mix.

So I packed up the SSL and sold it with all the expensive cables and a patch bay to a guy that got a great deal.

When I first started mixing through the Neotek, I loved the extra channels and the EQ, but really missed the clarity of the SSL.

Once I recapped the Neotek, I think it is almost as clear as the SSL, has also a tonne of headroom, but does do something extra nice to the sound.

It doesn't have an insert button like the SSL and you have to be more careful about how you hook up and ground things, but it's an awesome desk... the one thing I really miss about the SSL was that for some reason you can hook up a guitar stomp box on an fx send and return and use it as an effect, without all of the noise and hum that I guess impedance etc usually cause with most desks I have used..don't know how they do that but it's a super handy feature. There are obviously ways around this but the extra effort makes me often not bother on the Neotek!

That said, I don't think you are going to get your Grandson to be AS useful to you. I have used the exact same model and ended up (like the guys who own the studio), using it as an expensive and not very ergonomic computer stand. They tried to discourage me from using the board at all when I hired their studio! The pres were not great and the sound monitoring through it's channels was cloudier and intermittent so into the box we went...

I would much rather have the X desk, with good outboard.. only my opinion of course!

BUT the Grandson would LOOK cool in your room, so if impressing clients on that first walk through is important, maybe it's worth keeping and putting some time into it? If you decide to sell it, you will get a better price if you can let someone test drive it, working etc...it's there so maybe you should try?

I realise I just said a whole bunch of slightly contradictory things - but good luck whichever way you go!
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby heathen » Sat May 30, 2015 7:12 pm

I 100% agree with Berkfinger about ITB effects sends, using outboard FX and summing back ITB, it sounds rotten usually as the phase is never correct, using outboard FX and summing through an analog console is the only way I think to get perfect phase with reverbs especially.

I started using the equivalent plugins for ITB mixes instead, some of which are very nice FX. Delay compensation seems fine to me using plugins and routing ITB but adding outboard units into the mix and I could always hear subtle and sometimes not so subtle phase issues.

The X desk would be centre of my studio also if I were still mixing. Actually I think I was going to buy a SSL Matrix but....... could not justify the outlay.
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby EvLoutonian » Fri Jun 05, 2015 5:55 pm

berkfinger wrote:..I realise I just said a whole bunch of slightly contradictory things - but good luck whichever way you go!


Hey, thanks Simon!

For some reason i think i missed the alerts on new posts to this thread..

Really great to get your thoughts, and comparisons between these particular consoles (and specific uses in different scenarios).

Shall keep workin' away to work out, as best as I can, the ideal system & workflow for my space. Cheers!
(:

PS. Your space looks excellent. Shall swing by next time I get a chance to be in Berlin.
I dropped in at that Candy Bomber (?) studio at Tempelhof Airport last time. Crazy gear. Interesting old Hungarian stuff etc.
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Re: Ssl x desk....really?

Postby berkfinger » Sun Jul 19, 2015 8:54 pm

Haha no problem.

Yes stop by, anytime.

Candy Bomber has awesome stuff, but I have not been there yet...

Those Mechlabor tape machines from Hungary go super cheap here all the time. There was a 2" 16 track on ebay recently, working for 1400 euro I believe. The 2 track version seems to go for between 150 and 600 euro and they are supposed to sound excellent and they still offer support!

Have a good one!
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