Review: Solid State Logic (SSL) XLogic 5.1 Buss Compressor

You can hear sound clips of this and other reviewed pieces of gear here:

SSL 5.1 Buss Compressor

SSL 5.1 Buss Compressor

The SSL (Solid State Logic) consoles became legendary for many reasons, among them the stereo buss compressor that lived in the heart of the center section. This compressor is renowned for gluing a mix together in a way unlike any other bus compressor, sounding larger than life and delivering the distinctive and highly sought after SSL sound the world has come to love.

In the early 1990s, when SSL retired the venerable 4000 series, and introduced the more modern 9000 series, they reinvented their electronic pathways for a more pristine sound they dubbed SuperAnalogue ™.  Then in the late 90s, SSL brought forth the XLogic series of 19” rack processor and adapted the SA compressor to a rack unit.  Their first entry was a 5.1 surround unit that could be split into dual stereo processors.  This product is now discontinued, but a stereo unit is sold presently, making legendary SSL console compression available to studios without an SSL console.

At Digital Bear Entertainment, we’re lucky enough to have one of the vintage 5.1 SA compressors!  It lives in a 2U housing (the stereo only version is 1U) with a black-on-silver color scheme with backlit buttons on the bypass, stereo split, and auto-fade buttons. But does it do more than look pretty?

Sonically, this compressor just sounds right. It’s clean and transparent, yet when pushed hard, the compressor behaves somewhere between forgiving and powerful; retaining clarity while gripping the audio harder.

An interesting and unique feature of the buss compressor is the auto-fade feature.  You set the fade time with a rotary knob from one to sixty seconds. Then, when you hit the fade button, it fades the audio, in or out, over that length of time. The internal fade circuit is built like a console fader, losing voltage and amplitude nonlinearly to synthesize a classic analog feel. Sonically, the VCA design retains all of your tone all the way down to silence.

It’s hard to go wrong with something that’s been part of hundreds of your favorite songs, and has been going strong for decades. I think every serious studio needs one of these in its arsenal. SSL really did it right, as they have always seemed to do, once again.


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