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Our Guide to the SSL UC1 Controller for Native Channel Strip 2 and Native Bus Compressor 2
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Our Guide to the SSL UC1 Controller for Native Channel Strip 2 and Native Bus Compressor 2

Perhaps one of the best sequels ever?

Solid State Logic have recently released a follow from up their UF8 Advanced DAW Controller. It’s called the UC1. It’s a dedicated controller for SSL’s new and improved Native Channel Strip 2 and Native Bus Compressor 2. Both of these incredible sounding plugins come free with the UC1. When combined, they create a complete virtual mixing console workflow for your DAW. In this guide to the UC1, we aim to discover how the hardware ties together with the software, and what it can do to enhance your in-the-box mixing experience.

Build

By now we’re already familiar with the look of UC1, lining up perfectly with SSL’s latest and greatest audio production tools such as Fusion, SiX, SSL 2/2+, UF8 and 500 Series. The UC1 features the same grey anodised aluminium faceplate as the aforementioned, with sleek screen print and classic colour coded SSL knobs. The metal chassis is very similar to UF8, and despite being a little narrower, they’re both the same depth, so that the two units sit perfectly flush when placed side by side.



The layout of UC1 matches up with the Channel Strip & Bus Compressor plugins that it controls. These plugins are in turn based on the hardware found in SSL’s legacy mixing consoles. For ergonomic reasons, the Channel Strip controller has been split into two – on the left you have the Filter and EQ, on the right you’ll find the Compressor, Gate/Expander and Channel Controls. Then slap bang in the middle we find the legendary Bus Compressor controls, complete with a physical dB reduction meter. There’s no audio travelling through UC1, but the addition of this physical meter certainly makes it feel like there is. The illusion is complete when you hear the sound coming from through those plugins!



Most of the controls and encoders are accompanied by little pinpoint LEDs to display settings from your plugins. As you navigate between them, the LEDs change position so you don’t have to reset any controls manually. At the bottom of UC1 you’ll find a little TFT screen similar to those in UF8, that displays useful info and helps you to select the plugins that you’re working with.


UC1 connects to your computer with a USB connection (USB-C to USB-A/C). It’s powered by an external supply, and comes with 2 attachable legs that act as a stand to change the viewing angle.














Plug-in Control


As we’ve already mentioned, UC1’s control surface ties in with 2 of SSL’s native plugins – Channel Strip 2 and Bus Compressor 2. Both are included free with the UC1, making it an excellent value option for literally getting your hands on these amazing SSL mixing plugins. Let’s take a closer look at how UC1 gives you thorough control over these plugins.


SSL Native Channel Strip 2

First up we have the Channel Strip 2. The majority of controls for this plugin are found down the left- and right-hand side of UC1. They also include the In and Out gain controls in the black strips. The layout of these controls closely resembles the UI of Channel Strip plugin itself. Most of them are very intuitive for newcomers, and those familiar with SSL’s channel strips will feel right at home on UC1.


EQ & Filter Section

The Filter Section in the top left comprises of a Low Pass and High Pass filter. These gently remove any unwanted low frequencies, and roll off highs respectively. Below that, we find the SSL EQ section of the channel strip with 4 frequency bands:



  • HF / LF Bands – High / Low Frequency bands which are shelves by default but can be switched to a bell curve. HF operates between 1.5-22kHz and LF operates between 40-600Hz.
  • HMF / LMF Bands – High / Low Mid Frequency parametric EQ bands. Both have a gain boost / cut, frequency control and Q control (frequency bandwidth)

When you load Channel Strip, the EQ’s characteristics are derived from the SSL G series Consoles – clean, precise and versatile with a variable Q design. Variable Q means that as you boost / cut around the selected frequency, the EQ band becomes sharper.


With the ‘E’ Button, you can alter the EQ to sound more like an SSL E series channel strip. The E series EQ was a little warmer and full of character, with a Constant Q design. You may find it better suited to certain types of music or audio sources.



The channel EQ also has an ‘In’ switch, which allows you to completely remove it from the signal chain. This is handy for A/B comparisons, or if you just want to remove the EQ and utilise the rest of the Channel Strip.


Dynamics Section

Now we move to the right-hand side of UC1 which controls the Dynamics module of the Channel Strip. Here you’ll find the Compressor and Gate / Expander for your channel.



  • Compressor – Based on the sound of the dynamics section of legacy SSL mixing consoles. The attack time is pre-set, but you can use the fast & peak buttons to change the compressor’s response. It has a continuous ratio control, threshold and release time. The mini LED dB reduction meter on UC1 shows you how hard the compressor is working. There is also automatic make up gain, which can be counteracted with the output gain if required.
  • Gate / Expander – Also has a fixed attack with a fast option. Threshold, Hold and Release controls set how reactive the Gate / Expander is to your source audio. The range sets the level of the gated audio / when the expander isn’t active. This can be set anywhere from fully silent to the same volume as source, making it inactive.

As with the EQ section, the dynamics can be switched in and out of the signal chain using the ‘In’ button. The Dynamics section also has a key input for side chaining, which can used for a number of techniques, including the typical sidechain ‘pumping’ you get in dance music.


Channel Controls

Adding to the EQ & Dynamics sections, UC1 has also has a selection of global channel controls available in the bottom right-hand corner. These include:



  • Phase invert – Inverts the phase of the audio passing through the Channel Strip.
  • Cut – Mutes the audio out of the selected Channel Strip plugin.
  • Solo – Solos the selected instance on Channel Strip 2 and mutes audio through any other active instances (we’ll explain how this later).
  • Solo Clear – Clears all solo’d instances of the plugin.
  • Fine – Hold this button when using the encoders to make precise changes with greater resolution.
  • S/C Listen – Monitor the sidechain signal.
  • In – Master on / off for the selected channel strip. Still allows to audio pass through.

The input and output gain controls for the channel strip can be found along the black bands either side of the centre, beneath the long LED VU meters. From here you can set the signal level pre & post Channel Strip Processing.

Bus Compressor

It’s fair to say that there’s a comprehensive list of Channel Strip 2 controls on UC1. Thankfully the Bus Compressor controls are a little more straightforward. They are nestled between the input and output level meters, right in the middle of UC1. The Bus Compressor plugin features all the classic character of the original, with some more modern additions that are also a part of the current hardware revisions too:



  • Threshold – Sets the level at which Bus Comp kicks in.
  • Make up – Manual make up gain to increase level after dB reduction from compression.
  • Attack – Fixed attack times, which match with the hardware.
  • Release – Fixed release + auto, same again as the hardware.
  • Ratio – Switchable between fixed positions.
  • S/C HPF – Allows the low frequency audio to pass through uncompressed, focussing compression around the low mid – high frequency range
  • Mix – Blend between compressed and uncompressed signal, great for parallel compression techniques for more dynamic results.

Just like the Channel Strip, the ‘In’ button lets you switch the instance of Bus Compressor In or Out of the signal path. It even has a backlit physical dB reduction meter – how cool is that?! It's really responsive, so much so that you’ll need remind yourself that you're not working with the real thing here.

360 Software – Plugin Console Mixer

The real genius of The UC1, Channel Strip and Bus Compressor is how it’s all tied together with to SSL 360. If you’ve read our UF8 First Look Blog, you might have come across 360 before. The addition of UC1 means that it has now been updated with the ‘Plugin Mixer’ - a central hub for all instances of Channel Strip and Bus Compressor open in a project. The Plugin Mixer in 360 is instantly accessed from UC1 using the ‘360’ button.



UC1 can control 1 instance of Channel Strip and 1 Bus Compressor at a time, but software links all instances together, so that you can easily navigate between them using the TFT screen and black selection encoders. The plugins automatically pull the track names from your DAW and assign them to the plugins so you can always see which track you’re working on without even looking up at your computer screen.

As well as being able to seamlessly switch between all the Channel Strips and Bus Compressors in your session using UC1, 360’s Plugin Mixer combines them all together into one window, in the form of a virtual SSL mixing console. Here you can view the settings for all your Channel Strip and Bus Compressor plugins, and even adjust them in the 360 window.


This method of interaction with the plugins is really intuitive, and there’s also no complicated configuration involved. Simply install 360, install the plug-ins, and UC1 and is ready to control your virtual mixing system!

A typical scenario would be to add Channel Strip to every track in your DAW, so that you have immediate hands-on mix control of your multitrack via UC1. No more selecting tracks and opening lots of plugin windows – You can view your entire mix from the 360 window.

Other Controls

Channel Strip Routing

The Channel Strip has flexible routing options for the Filters, EQ, Dynamics modules. From the UC1, you can use the ‘Routing’ button to open the routing settings for the selected Channel Strip. There are 10 configurations to choose from that determine the order of the Channel Strip’s components. You can use these modules in parallel, or with external audio sources to feed into the ‘Key input’ (or sidechain) of the Dynamics module.


Presets

If you need a starting point for mixing with the SSL plugins, you can apply presets to the Channel Strips or Bus Compressors, direct from UC1. Simply use UC1 to select the instance you want to load a preset for. Then press the ‘Presets’ button, choose whether you’re loading it for the Bus Comp or Channel Strip, locate the name of your preset and press confirm to load it up. Simple!



In Summary

The Solid State Logic UC1 is best thought of as the hardware element of a hybrid SSL mixing system. It gives you a virtual console mixing experience - with hardware that feels authentic and responsive, as if you were at the helm of a real SSL mixing desk. You also have the full advantages of software plugins – instant recall, presets, post tracking edits, and you can work on your mix wherever you like. UC1 is compact, and even if you don’t have it with you, the plugins will still work as normal. Plus, you don’t ever have to through the arduous process of zeroing a large mixing console!

With a Channel Strip loaded on every track, UC1 makes plugin mixing an absolute breeze. No need to load up each plugin, its right there in front of you. It also makes a powerful combination with UF8 for complete control of your DAW. If you’re mixing in the box, UC1 is an absolute must have!

Where to buy SSL UC1 in the UK

Andertons Solid State Logic UC1
Gear4Music Solid State Logic UC1
Guitar, Amp & Keyboard Centre Solid State Logic UC1
KMR Audio Solid State Logic UC1
Music Matter Solid State Logic UC1
Studio Spares Solid State Logic UC1
StudioCare Solid State Logic UC1
SX Pro Solid State Logic UC1

Thank you for reading this first look article on the
Solid State Logic UC1. For more information on UC1 please visit our product page.

To find out more about Solid State Logic, you can
visit their website here.

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