Mixing desk: small can be beautiful

Ok, let’s get this out if the way… my new mixer, mixing desk, mixing console, whatever you want to call it, is small. I know what you’re thinking, because I’ve been there. Surely all proper studios have a big console with dozens and dozens of knobs, faders and flashing lights? Something that looks like this:

Typical Solid Stage Logic (SSL) mixing console in a recording studio
SSL mixing console photo courtesy of Recordproduction.com

Well, I’m not saying that I’d rule out having a console like that, one day. But the thing is I simply don’t need it at the moment.

I have a high quality audio interface (see the Sound On Sound glossary of technical terms if some of this doesn’t make sense) with 8 high quality pre-amps (I rarely need to record more than this at the same time). After that, the processing that a traditional mixing console would do can all be done in my Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). Reaper, in my case.

So now that I’ve told you I don’t need a physical mixing desk in my studio, why I have gone to the expense of buying and effort of installing a SSL SiX?

The short answer? Quality.

The slightly longer answer? Solid Stage Logic (SSL) is a giant in the world of professional, high-end mixing consoles. (I won’t delve into why here, but check out their website if you’d like to know more.) Historically their products have been accessible only to big-budget studios, or the most successful producers in the business. These bits of gear are not cheap!

But more recently companies like SSL have realised there is a huge market of smaller, independent studios and producers who can’t afford a large console and don’t need or have the space for 96 channels of hardware. But yes, we would like the high quality and specific historic analogue characteristics that come with the big mixing desks. In a smaller package, please.

And that is what I now have. In addition to the nice gear I already had, I now have an extra bit of quality in the SiX pre-amps, renowned channel compressors, eq, and world famous ‘bus compressor’. I can use these on the way in to the computer, just to add a little control or fairy dust to my already high-quality signal chain. And then, once I’ve done the mix in the DAW, I can run that mix back out through the SiX once again via the bus compressor to add the magic glue and warmth to the mix.

I’m really not qualified to write a detailed piece on analogue v digital, but what I do know, and my ears can tell me, is that this little mixing desk I now have sat in front of me in the studio gives me a huge smile every time I use it. Some of the difference is rather subtle, but it’s absolutely worth the expense and effort.

Music producer David Edward Booth in his recording studio The Recording Booth with his SSL SiX mixer by Solid Stage Logic

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