First Look & Demo: SSL BiG SiX SuperAnalogue Mixer with USB Interface
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First Look & Demo: SSL BiG SiX SuperAnalogue Mixer with USB Interface

Solid State Logic has a long-standing legacy in the world of professional audio. They’re probably best known for their studio consoles, as well as live & broadcast audio solutions.

Over the past few years, they’ve set out on a mission to widen their reach amongst musicians, recording artists, engineers and hobbyists alike. They have done so by creating a range of affordable audio tools that maintain the ‘SSL Quality’ people aspire to possess.

It seems like only yesterday that SSL announced SiX – “The Ultimate Desktop Mixer”. It’s been a huge success as a small footprint, versatile, premium quality mixer with a whole host of features and routing options borrowed from SSL’s clever console design.

Despite its obvious quality & features, it is still a small desk. So naturally, you’d expect a follow up to SiX might be something... bigger?


Well – you asked for it, and Solid State Logic delivered....



BiG SiX is Solid State Logic’s latest addition to their mixer range, featuring the same high build quality as SiX, but with a little bit more of everything – channels, EQs, compressors and even a multichannel USB interface. In our guide to BiG SiX, we’ll take you through the ins & outs of the mixer and show you everything it has to offer. 



Overview 

Let’s make one thing clear to begin with – despite their apparent difference in size, SiX and BiG SiX are both built to an equally high standard. You can view BiG SiX as an extended version of SiX, with a few more bells and whistles. There are many advantages to working with either model and it depends entirely on how you plan to use them.

  • If you have a handful of audio sources, work in voiceover / podcasting, or you simply want to sum a small group of stems - SiX is a perfect desktop companion for these purposes.  
  • If you’re after something a little bigger for multi-tracking, mixing and summing with a higher channel count – BiG SiX is the way to go.

Main Features

In this blog, we’ll be exploring BiG SiX in a lot of detail. So, here’s a quick list of the main features to give you a broad view of what we’re looking at:

  • 4 x SuperAnalogue™ mono channels with ultra-clean mic preamps
  • 4 x stereo line channels  
  • 2 x stereo external inputs
  • 2 x stereo cue sends with level and pan controls
  • 1 x talkback mic input with 48v and Listen Mic Compressor
  • Full set of ¼" TRS Jack inputs & outputs on the rear panel for all connections.
  • 9 x 100mm smooth action faders (including the Master)
  • 3-band EQ section per mono / stereo channel
  • One Knob Compressor on SuperAnalogue™ Channels
  • Mono insert points on the SuperAnalogue™ Channels + stereo insert on the master
  • Mini G-Series Bus Compressor  
  • Monitor Section with control room options such as dim, cut, mute etc.
  • 2 x headphone outs
  • Mix Bus B with separate output, fed from the mutes on each channel
  • 16 in / 16 out USB interface

Perhaps the most notable from the list - BiG SiX has “gone big” with a multichannel interface, allowing you exchange audio in and out with your digital audio workstation - but more on that later!



















SuperAnalogue Channels & Line Channels 

As mentioned in the features list, BiG SiX has 4 x SuperAnalogue channels and 4 stereo line channels, giving you a total of 12 audio channels controlled by 8 x 100mm faders. This is where a lot of the action happens as you might imagine! They sport a collection of premium features - the faders are smooth and precise, accompanied by detailed LED metering for accurate visual monitoring of levelsThe channel controls are laid out logically in segments on the top panel with colour-coded knobs. This makes it easy to navigate the channel controls and quickly identify where you need to be. 



The SuperAnalogue™ Channels (aka “Money Channels” according to SSL) are fully featured channel strips. Each of the 4 is topped with an SSL designed microphone preamp – well known for their ultra clean gain, low noise floor and fast transient response. They include switchable controls for 48v phantom power, high pass filter at 75Hz and phase inversion. There is also an input option for ¼” jack input from a line level / Hi-Z audio source. These channels will handle any audio source superbly. 


After the 4 x SuperAnalogue™ channels, we then have the 4 x stereo line channels. The inputs for these are standard ¼" TRS Jack sockets, located on the back of the mixer. They feature a trim control and mono switch; in case you would rather use these channels for a mono source. The stereo channels are ideal for keyboards, groove-boxes, playback devices or even audio from external preamps so you can add more microphones to your setup. 


EQ Controls

Each of the main channels on BiG SiX has a 3-band SSL EQ, based on the design of the original E-Series console EQ. The sound of the E-Series EQ is sought after, with various software and hardware recreations out there - including from SSL themselves. The original may have an extra band & additional controls, but the EQ on the BiG SiX still offers fantastic sound shaping capabilities that are pleasing to the ear and help to fit sonic elements together.  

The 3 bands of BiG SiX EQ are split into Low, Mid and High frequency:

  • The Low Frequency band is a shelving band centred around 60Hz. It allows you to boost / cut by 15dB either way.  
  • The High Frequency band is also a shelving band, set at 3.5kHz for the higher frequency content. It also has the same 15dB cut/boost.
  • The Mid Frequency band is a new addition for BiG SiX. This is a bell curve set at 700Hz. The additional band gives extra control over the mid frequencies.  

You’ll find these EQs on both the SuperAnalogue™ and the stereo line channels – a welcome addition for BiG SiX. On the SuperAnalogue™ channels, the LF & HF bands can be switched to a bell curve for further shaping options. This also shifts their frequencies to 200Hz (LF) and 5kHz (HF).


Channel Compressors 

Another feature that you might recognise from the original SSL SiX is the one knob channel compressor. With just a single control, Threshold, you can easily dial in compression to enhance the dynamics of audio running through the SuperAnalogue™ channels. The attack time is program dependant and can vary from 8ms – 30ms. The release time is also fixed at 300ms, and the ratio is a gentle 2:1. The knee of the compressor has also been softened All of these fixed parameters give the smoothest possible response for a wide variety of material sent through it. There’s also a 3 segment LED dB reduction meterso you can get a good idea of how hard the channel compressor is working.  


Hardware Inserts  

Feeling like you need to add more processors to the SuperAnalogue™ channels? There are also switchable insert points so you can do just that! In the signal chain, the insert points come after the EQ and channel compressor, but before the sends and fader. So, if your channels need a little extra something, such as modulation for example, you can insert a mono processor into the channel via the balanced ¼" jacks.

One interesting thing to bear in mind about the insert points - they can also act as direct outs (post processing/pre fader). This is because the send output is always being fed channel audio. The switch is at the return end, which also allows you to feed separate audio back into the channel via the return input if you like.


Stereo Cue Sends 1 & 2

On all the main channels of BiG SiX, you’ll find ‘ST Cue 1’ & ‘ST Cue 2’ – short for Stereo Cues. These can also be referred to as ‘Aux Sends’ on other mixers. The stereo cues allow you to send channel audio pre/post fader (and post FX) to 2 stereo outputs. This can be useful in a substantial number of ways, including individual artist monitoring mixes, external FX sends or parallel processing - all in glorious stereo! What’s more, you can pan the audio of your SuperAnalogue™ channels in the stereo cues, separately from your main mix. The ST Cue send outputs are ¼" TRS Jack outs on the back of the mixer. You can pick up the ST Cues in the headphone path if you want them straight to cans. You can make clever use of ST Cue 1 with the Bus Compressor, which we’ll get into a bit later.


Mutes & Mix Bus B

The channel mutes on BiG SiX do pretty much what you’d expect them to – mute the channels in the main mix. But they don’t just lead to a dead end for the audio. Enabling mute on a channel feeds the audio to ‘Mix Bus B’ - an alternate pathway from the main mix with a separate stereo output on the back of the mixer. This can be used in a number of ways – for example if you want to process a group of audio sources separately from the rest of the mix, you can simply redirect them out of Mix Bus B with a switch of a button.  















So, that’s all the channel features pretty much covered.  There’s a lot of flexibility on offer, considering its size & channel count of BiG SiX. This makes it very useful for a multitude of tasks, and we’ve not even covered everything yet!


External Inputs

The external inputs, or ‘Ext Inputs’ as they’re labelled, are 2 additional stereo line inputs for BiG SiX. They don’t have a Gain Trim, EQ or ST Cue send, but they do have individual level control and can be summed in with the main mix, even through the bus compressor. They can also be switched into the ST Cue pathways.  

  • Good uses for the external inputs include:
  • Backing track playback
  • External music playback (ie interval music)  
  • FX returns  
  • DAW Monitoring  

These can come from either the TRS line inputs on the top panel, or from the USB input channels –  more on this later!


Talkback Input & Listen Mic Compressor

As if all these inputs weren’t enough for you, there’s one more that you’ll find on the front panel – the Talkback Mic input. This is an extra microphone input with a secret weapon - an unlikely gem in the history of Solid State Logic. We are of course referring to the Listen Mic Compressor, or LMC for short.  

Back in the day, talkback mics in a studio live room would have heavy compression applied to them, so the artists could be heard between takes. The moment loud instruments come in, the compressor kicks in hard, so the audio signal crushed (and the sound engineer isn’t deafened!)

Well, one day a certain someone left the talkback mic active on a drum take, imparting a massive drum sound on the recording – and the rest is history.

In the case of BiG SiX, the Listen Mic Compressor can be switched in / out and has fixed settings. The Talkback mic input also has 48V so you can use it with a dynamic or condenser microphone. It can be switched in to override either the ST Cue 1 or 2 output, which makes it useful as a talkback mic from the engineer to the artist’s monitors. With an audio cable, you can also repatch into another channel on BiG SiX – allowing you to use another mic preamp on one of the line channels.


Bus Compressor

Everybody's favourite SSL Bus Compressor is back, in a simple to use form factor that sounds just as good as the original. The G-Series Bus Compressor is a sought-after mix bus compressor that can be found on the old G-Series SSL mixing consoles. It is often referred to as the ‘glue’ that sticks your mix together. You’ll find a tonne of plugin emulations and hardware recreations out there, including SSL’s very own versions.  

The engineers at SSL have managed to dial in all the sweet spots for the BiG SiX version of this compressor - ratio set at 4:1 with a 30ms attack time and a 100ms release. The controls for Threshold and Gain allow you to more accurately set the amount of compression that you need. A segmented gain reduction meter shows just how much reduction you’re applying. On BiG SiX, SSL have also added an ‘Auto Release’ button, which you would find on the release setting of the original. This setting aims to combine the benefits of fast & slow compressor release times, dependent on the material that you’re running through it. This helps your mix levels to recover faster from transient peaks, and slower from more consistent audio.

 

 

When enabled, the Bus Compressor sits on the master bus across the whole mix. You can also use it as a parallel mixing tool, by sending audio from ST Cue 1 through the compressor instead. This is then summed with the main mix. If balanced correctly, you can really beef up a mix without losing the dynamics and definition of your audio.

 

Monitor Section

Holding it all together, we arrive at the Monitor Section of BiG SiX. This is where you have full control over what you’re hearing and where you’re hearing it from. For monitors in a control room, you have a separate level control, cut button and dim button with dim level setting. There is also a button labelled ‘Alt’ to send your mix to a second pair of studio monitors. The ‘Mono’ is useful for checking you mix in mono, to make sure there are no issues with balance and phase.

You have a full selection of audio sources that you can monitor directly, including Main mix, Bus B, and both external inputs with their respective level inputs. The buttons allow you to switch them in / out of the monitoring path, without affecting the main mix output.

 

 

Moving up the monitor section, you’ll find the headphone volume controls. As standard, you’ll hear whatever sources you have selected in the monitoring section through the headphones. You also have the option to monitor either stereo cue independently through either headphone output. Useful if you need to hear what your artist is hearing for example.

 

 

Then we have the controls for the Stereo Cues themselves. As well as the ST Cue feeds, you can also add the external inputs and the talk back channel to either of the ST Cue outputs. Let’s say you’re tracking with a vocalist – and they’re monitoring in headphones using ST Cue 1. When they want to listen back to a take, you can add it in to their feed from External inputs 1 or 2.


















USB Interface

We’ve finally arrived at one of the biggest new features on BiG SiX – the USB interface. It provides 16 channels in and 16 channels out over a single USB connection. This turns BiG SiX into a hybrid mixing monster, with a combination of high-quality analogue and digital pathways to record and mix your music.

BiG SiX’s USB Audio Interface is class compliant on MacOS with Core Audio (technically 10.3 onwards). This means you can simply plug-in and go on a Mac. PC requires an additional driver, easily downloaded from SSL’s website here [link]. Once setup, BiG SiX is cable of converting audio up to 96kHz / 24bit - which will more than satisfy most users.

 

 

USB Inputs

At the top of each channel, you’ll find a button that says, ‘From USB...’. This button overrides the  channel’s analogue input to receive audio from the corresponding digital USB input. As an example -if you set the outputs of your DAW session to all the channels on BiG SiX, you can use it to create an analogue multitrack mix of your DAW session. This allows you to make use of the channel processing, insert points, routing, bus compressor and high quality summing mix path. The first 12 USB input channels cover the 4 mono + 4 stereo channels. USB 13/14 & 15/16 are assigned to the ‘Ext Inputs’ when enabled with the USB buttons above the Bus Compressor - giving you the total of 16 USB inputs to BiG SiX.

 

 

USB Outputs

What goes in, must come out... that’s the saying right?  

USB outputs 1-12 on BiG SiX follow straight out from the channels as you might expect - direct from the SuperAnalogue™ channels and stereo channels via processing. There is a handy switch of each of the channels that allows you to choose whether the audio running to the USB out is pre or post fader. This means you can either capture your audio to re-balance later, or you can go with the balance that you’ve already created on BiG SiX.

USB outputs 13/14 come from Mix Bus B and 15/16 come from the main mix. This allows you to record your mixed output directly into your DAW, ideal for live recordings or summing / mixdown.

There’s also a neat trick that allows you to send ST Cue 1 and ST Cue 2 to USB outputs 9/10 and 11/12 respectively – by pressing the buttons at the top of the Cue Master sections. This is great for creating virtual sends that run through software plugins.

 

Cascading Mixers into BiG SiX

One last thing to mention about BiG SiX’s multitude of inputs – nestled amongst the ins & outs on the back, you’ll find ‘Sum IP to Main’. This is a direct input to BiG SiX’s master bus, giving you the ability to run in another mixer such as SiX or even another BiG SiX without stealing a channel to do so.















In Session

There are a lot of mixing, recording and live sound possibilities with BiG SiX. Solid State Logic have done a fantastic job of transferring technologies from their professional lines into a much smaller mixer (by comparison to Duality / AWS). Flexible routing, ultra clean audio pathways, legacy processing, studio grade audio conversion – it's got a bit of everything you’d want!  

Here at Sound Technology, we decided to put BiG SiX through its paces – by tracking live drums to a backing track, and then mixing down the entire session using it’s hybrid workflow options. At the start of our blog, you’ll find the video with the end result. [LINK]

Here’s a quick explanation of how we captured and processed this track.

 

 

Tracking Drums

We started with writing a heavily electronic backing track. This involved programming and recording electronic instruments with the drums in mind, but not already in the project. This was then mixed in software, with a little help from SSL Native Channelstrip 2 and Bus Compressor 2. [links]

Next came the recording stage. We enlisted the help of our in-house drummer to write drum parts and perform them in our demo facility. Here's a channel break down of the setup with BiG SiX:

ChannelPartMicNotes
1
KickAKG D12VR-
2Snare TopAKG D7-
3Overhead LAA OC18-
4Overhead RAA OC18-
5/6Snare bottomShure SM7BSiX CH Pre - Line in 
7/8ReverbAA OC818SiX CH Pre - Line in
9/10Crush MicAKG C414 XL-IITalkback + LMC
11/12Backing Track-USB In
Ext 1Click Track-USB In

We set up a monitor path for the drummer using ST Cue 1 with the added click track. For playback we used Ext 2 fed by USB 15/16 as a separate listening path straight from the DAW.  

 

Mixing

Once we had a a solid take recorded, we transferred BiG SiX back into our studio, and loaded up the session on the computer. Using Logic Pro X, we routed each of the drum stems back through the USB inputs of the channels to create a final mixdown. We made use of the processing during the mixing – a touch of EQ on all channels, one knob compression on the overheads etc. We also utilised the parallel compression trick with ST Cue 1 beef up the drums using the G-Series Bus Compressor mixed with the original audio. The backing track was also run through the Master bus, but not the Bus Compressor.  

And that is it. No other processing, no other plugins. The drum sound we achieved was through using BiG SiX alone, which the team were all really impressed with!  


In Summary...

We're absolutely blown away with SSL BiG SiX here at Sound Technology. The quality, the preamps, the clever routing options, everything! The USB interface is also a massive game changer. It allows you to combine BiG SiX with a Digital Audio Workstation to create very powerful hybrid setup. With BiG SiX, you get the very best of analogue and digital when tracking, mixing and summing your audio. We're very excited to see it in the hands of musicians and engineers alike!

 

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog on SSL BiG SiX. For more information, please visit our product page.

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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.