SSL XL 9000 K explained
Koen Heldens, April 2015

With names such as Timbaland, Missy Elliott and Lil Wayne on his resumé, Koen Heldens has come a long way on his career despite his young age. He is a big fan of Softube plug-ins and also uses our Console 1 extensively. Here's his own words on the XL 9000 K.

In the beginning ...
In 1979, Solid State Logic (SSL) transformed the recording industry with the introduction of the SL 4000 E Series large flagship recording consoles. The consoles were a one-stop shop for mix processing, with dynamics and EQ available on every channel. The SL 4000 E Series can be heard on countless Billboard Rock and Hip-Hop hit records.

In 1994 SSL updated its analog technology with the introduction of the SL 9000 J Series. Built around SSL's groundbreaking capacitor free analog circuitry design to maintain signal integrity and minimizing distortion to an ultimate low, SuperAnalogue technology was born. In 2002 the SL 9000 J was succeeded by the XL 9000 K.

Softube Console 1
Softube's model of SSL SL 4000 E is included with the Console 1, and in late 2014, Softube added Solid State Logic XL 9000 K-Series for Console 1 as a separate purchase. If you own it, or have downloaded a demonstration license, you activate it by simultaneously pressing the Fine Adjust/Shift button in the bottom left corner of the Console 1 hardware, and the LOAD: Strip button, which doubles as Track Selector 1. A pop-up window on the screen appears. Using the output Volume/Select knob at the right hand bottom, you scroll down and highlight the XL 9000 K channel strip. Confirm by pressing Solo/OK button, and you have now loaded XL 9000 K channel strip in place of the pre-loaded SL 4000 E.

You can also mix and match the individual sections, for example adding only the XL 9000 K EQ to the SL 4000 E channel strip. You do this by holding Fine Adjust/Shift, and then selecting EQ in the LOAD section (Track Selector 3) after which you can select the XL 9000 K EQ in the same manner as before.

E Series EQ vs. XL 9000 K Series EQ
With the equalizer section activated we immediately notice the EQ curves have become much broader. The XL 9000 K EQ has Q values that are proportional to gain settings, and there is a degree of overshoot when boosting (cuts before it boosts) and under shoot when cutting (boost before it cuts). The XL 9000 K is praised for its more musical sounding EQ, while its predecessor, the SL 4000 E with the Black Knob E242 equalizer, is praised for its aggressive sounding EQ.

RMS vs. Peak Compression
Another welcome addition to the SL 9000 J and XL 9000 K Series consoles is the ability to switch between RMS and Peak detection mode compression. In its default loaded channel strip state, the XL 9000 K Channel Strip's compressor is in RMS detection mode. Here, it responds to the average input signal level and uses a soft-knee compression curve. Very much like the human ear works, gentle.

In Peak Detection mode, the compressor responds to high input signal levels regardless of how short their duration is. Peak detection mode compression is more aggressive, uses a hard-knee curve and is therefore more suited for drum and percussive signals.

Getting Dirty
A welcome addition to the clinically clean sounding Solid State Logic XL 9000 K-Series for Console 1 is the drive section which models SSL's VHD (Variable Harmonic Drive) circuit. It can add a controllable blend of 2nd (transistor-like) or 3rd harmonic (tube-like) distortion. It can add a little bit of crunch to help sounds punch through a mix, or a little warmth to help sounds smooth into a mix. If you drive it hard it will deliver fierce 100% analog distortion.

© 2015 Koen Heldens
LA-based international multi-platinum award-winning mixing engineer, with artists like Beyoncé, Lil Wayne, Missy Elliott and Timbaland on his resumé.