Our Guide to the SSL 2 & SSL 2+
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Our Guide to the SSL 2 & SSL 2+

It’s the turn of the decade, and professional audio manufacturer Solid State Logic have stepped into the world of the ‘bedroom studio’ with their new SSL 2 and SSL 2+ interfaces. SSL are known worldwide for their legacy of large format mixing consoles and audio processing units. In the last few years, their ‘audio creation’ line of products have been steadily aiming towards smaller project studios and high end hobbyists looking to get that SSL sound at a lower price point. The first units to appear in this range were Fusion and SiX. Both have received numerous awards and highly rated reviews, proving that SSL can still deliver their signature quality at this end of the scale.

SSL 2 and SSL 2+ have pushed their entry level price point even lower, putting SSL quality sound and performance into the hands of new musicians and producers at home. There’s certainly no shortage of other audio interfaces below £300, so what features make these interfaces stand out from the rest?

SSL2 vs SSL2+


Before we get into the unique features of SSL 2 and SSL 2+, let's start with the similarities and important differences between the two. The size, the shape and the form factor are pretty much the same. They also have the same SSL designed preamps, signal path and conversion onboard. However, the SSL 2+ offers some additional connections that certain users may find useful. Here’s a quick list of the main features and differences.


FEATURESSSL 2SSL 2+
Mic / Line / Inst Input
2
2
Balanced Stereo Out
Yes
Yes
Unbalanced Out
None
2 x Stereo RCA
Headphone Out
1
2
MIDI I/O
None
5-pin DIN In + Out
Legacy 4K Circuit
Yes
Yes
Monitor Mix Control
Yes
Yes
USB Bus Powered
Yes
Yes


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So as you can see, the SSL 2+ has a couple of extra features that make it ideal for collaborators, producers, electronic musicians and DJs. The MIDI connections allow you to hook up electronic instruments and controllers. The additional headphone output gives you the option to create 2 separate headphone mixes. The unbalanced outputs could attach straight to a DJ Mixer, FX units or an alternate set of monitors.

SSL Quality

It’s safe to say that if you purchase something with the Solid State Logic name on it, you’re getting a piece of audio hardware (or software) that’s held to the highest standard. Their current range of mixing consoles and audio processing for studio, live and broadcast are chosen by many in these industries for the assurance of quality. Although SSL 2 and SSL 2+ are in a different class to their flagship products, they are no exception to this rule.  


Professional Build Quality and Signal Path

When you pick up the SSL2, it’s clear it is designed to be a robust and portable recording solution. It’s made from a hard-plastic casing with a brushed metal front panel. The sloped shape makes it the perfect desktop companion with easily accessible controls. All the Neutrik XLR and Jack connections are neatly arranged on the back, meaning cables don’t spill out into your workspace. The high-quality Alps pots topped with SSL-style knobs are extremely smooth and sturdy. They maintain the look, feel and precision that you get from their pro range of products. It’s hard to miss the large blue monitor control, which allows very precise control over your monitor outputs. Fun fact - you’ll notice the monitor control goes up to 11, which is 1 louder than most other interfaces out there…


SSL Designed Mic Preamps

When you’re plugged in and ready to record, the first thing your sound will hit is the SSL-Designed Preamps. Clean, pristine and precise are words you’ll hear a lot when people talk about that ‘SSL Sound’, and that’s exactly how we would describe the input stage of these interfaces. They deliver class leading sonic performance that you’d expect from far more expensive interfaces and preamps on the market. 


They offer a huge gain range of 62dB, which is more than enough for low output dynamic & ribbon microphones. They’re also extremely clean, ultra-low noise floor of -130.5 dbu EIN. This is thanks to their 2-stage design, which uses a mixture of specially chosen discrete low-noise transistors in combination with ICs (Integrated Circuits). When you put these figures together, the result is consistently clean and detailed recordings with a large dynamic range.


Pristine Conversion

Converting analogue audio to a digital format is pretty much essential these days. Virtually all editing, recording, mixing and distribution of audio is done on digital systems. This is why we have audio interfaces - to pipe an analogue signal straight into a digital system. Not all converters are the same. As with preamps, some converters perform better than others. So when we say SSL 2 and SSL 2+ use the same AKM AD/DA Converters found in the SSL Alpha Link I/O products, you can guarantee that you’re getting the same performance as SSL’s top-line converters (at a fraction of the price!) At maximum settings, you can record at an impressive 24bit / 192kHz - that’s some crazy high resolution sound! Realistically, not everyone’s going to need to use these specs, as typically people use somewhere between 44.1-96kHz, but at least you know SSL have you covered.

Flawless Monitoring

Whether you’re monitoring on speakers or headphones, the SSL 2 and SSL 2+ deliver your sound back to you just as you recorded it. The industry-grade components used in the monitoring path are audibly transparent, so all you’re going to hear is your recording. On the back of both interfaces, you’ll find a pair of balanced Neutrik Jack connections for studio monitors. The large Monitor Level controls these, and the 1st pair of unbalanced outputs on the SSL2+. 


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If you’re monitoring on headphones, these interfaces are both equipped with high powered headphone outputs designed to accommodate a large range of different impedance ratings. The headphone outs have independent volume control, and a monitor mix so you can blend between the direct signal from the preamps and the playback from your computer. On SSL 2+, you can choose whether the Headphone B monitors from outputs 1/2 or 3/4. 

Simplicity

There’s often a bit of a learning curve and few obstacles to overcome when setting up your interface. Extra steps such as downloading drivers, using software mixers and authorizing licenses can often cause frustration. Especially if you're new to the process of setting up an audio interface. That’s why, in a number of ways, SSL 2 and SSL 2+ are the perfect choice to get great sounding recording almost immediately.


Easy Setup

Both of these interfaces are pretty much ready to go out of the box. They’re class compliant with Mac OSX, meaning your Mac will instantly recognise either one when you plug it in. All you have to do is select it as your Audio I/O device in the system preferences or your DAW. If you use a Windows machine, you will have the added step of downloading and installing the Windows driver from the SSL Support Page. SSL has made this process really easy with an installer guide. 


Bus Powered

You only need one cable to plug your SSL 2 or SSL 2+ into your computer - USB-C. This will carry audio AND provide enough power for the interface (yes - even the full 48V needed for phantom power.) Both come with a USB-A to USB-C and USB-C to USB-C cable. As USB-C is becoming more widely used, you’ll probably find if you’ve forgotten yours, someone will have a spare! No more unique connectors or searching for a spare plug. With a laptop, you could record pretty much anywhere you desire.


No Complex Software Mixers

Whilst software mixers can increase flexibility and routing options of your interface, they can add an unwanted layer of complexity for some. All the controls SSL 2 and SSL 2+ are laid out on the front panel. This includes the input select switches, gain, level controls and monitor mixes. Rather using additional software to create headphone mixes, the Monitor Mix control lets you blend between ‘more you’ and ‘more track’. The additional headphone out on SSL 2+ can be fed from the same signal as the main pair of headphones, or they can pick up output channels 3/4 using the dedicated switch. This can be set up from inside your DAW.

The Legacy 4K Button

The Legacy 4K is an all-new analogue enhancement circuit inspired by the character of that legendary SSL 4000 series console (hence the nickname '4K').This magic button gives your recordings a bit of that extra something. That sought after SSL sound, immediately dialled in when you need it. But what is it actually doing, and what’s the idea behind it? 



A Bit of History

Solid State Logic may be a new name to home recording, but the brand is no stranger to the world of Pro Audio. Whether it’s Studio, Post Production, Live Sound or Broadcast, they have an accomplished range of professional audio hardware and software.

The company was founded by Colin Sanders in 1969. Believe it or not, the company’s first products were more efficient switching systems for pipe organs, and it’s where the name Solid State Logic originated from. Colin then started Acorn Studios in Oxfordshire, for which he designed, built and used studio consoles. After some refinements to his earlier designs, the SL 4000 E Mixing Console built in 1979, revolutionising recording. It put SSL on the map, and helped put their consoles into the control rooms of high-end studios around the world. Just google it and you’ll find plenty of recognisable names & albums associated with the SSL sound….


So, What does it do?

Now that we have a bit of context on where it comes from, what does this Legacy 4K button actually do? It does two things to breathe some life into some otherwise 'boring' or 'dull' sounding input sources: 


  • High-Frequency EQ boost - When you switch in 4K, you’ll notice everything sounds that little bit brighter. That’s because it’s adding a high frequency boost to your sound. This is designed to emulate the sound of the 4000 series EQ, which was known for having a very musical top end when boosted. When engaged, it lifts your recording and gives it clarity without making it sound overly harsh or biting.


  • Subtle-Harmonic Distortion – It’s subtle distortion in all the right places that give analogue sound that certain something extra. 4000 series consoles are known for adding a bit of ‘mojo’ to audio as it passes through a channel. Using modern components and a new circuit design, the Legacy 4K button imparts a bit of that ‘mojo’ to give your sound some more ‘oomph’.


You’ll probably find that this button isn’t for absolutely everything. It’s no quick fix for bad mic placement. But with certain sources like acoustic guitar, vocals and percussion, it can really add something incredibly musical to your mix.


SSL Production Pack Software Package

No interface would be complete without a software bundle of plugins and samples. Sometimes these packages can feel a bit ‘take it or leave it’, but believe us when we say you’re going to want to get this software pack installed straight away. It’s a remarkable bundle of software, especially given the price of these interfaces:


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SSL Native™ Vocalstrip 2 & Drumstrip plug-ins + an extended trial of the complete suite

These plugins are part of the SSL Native Plugin Suite. They’re the real deal, and they sound amazing. You get perpetual licenses for Vocalstrip 2 and Drumstrip, for the fast-track to the best vocal and drum sounds. Plus, try all the other SSL Native plug-ins (including the legendary Channelstrip and Bus Compressor) out for free, for 6-months. Incredible!


Pro Tools First and Ableton®Live Lite™

If you’re just starting out, Pro Tools First and Ableton Live Lite are both great DAWs to get into. Depending on how you like to write & record, you might find one DAW suits your workflow better than the other.

The light version of the industry-standard Pro Tools music production software, with an additional 23 plug-ins including the Classic Compressor Bundle: BF-2A, BF-3A and Purple Audio MC77, Fairchild 660 and Fairchild 670. Pro Tools is excellent for those who like to primarily record and edit audio.

The lightweight version of Ableton's acclaimed music creation software for musicians, producers and performers alike. Ableton is better suited to those who like a non-linear workflow, as you are able to jam with loops.


Native Instruments® Hybrid Keys & Komplete Start

2,000 customizable sounds – drums and percussion, bass, acoustic instruments, synths, pads and atmospheres, effects, and more in Komplete Start. Hybrid Keys lets you dig deeper by blending sampled pianos, synthesizers, mallets, and more, adding creative effects to produce completely new sounds.


Loopcloud Samples  

SSL and Loopcloud have come together to curate a collection of ready-to-roll samples and loops for your creations, organised intuitively by genre and available through the award-winning Loopcloud app.

In Summary

The SSL 2 and SSL 2+ are both fantastic small interfaces. Whether you’re diving into the world of recording for the first time, or you’re already familiar, The high quality sound and performance is immediately evident, backed by SSLs strong heritage in professional audio. They’re simple to use and easy to take with you in a backpack, so you can record anywhere you want. Which leaves us asking, what’s not to like?

Watch our overview video of the SSL 2 and SSL 2+ on YouTube


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This new blog is presented by the team at Sound Technology Ltd, a leading distributor of musical instruments and pro audio equipment in the UK and ROI.