SSL SiX Desktop Mixer | Writing & Performing Electronic Music
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SSL SiX Desktop Mixer | Writing & Performing Electronic Music

SiX is the brand new compact mixing desk from Solid State Logic. It’s been dubbed ‘the ultimate desktop mixer’ on account of its size & sound quality. Don’t be fooled by its small footprint - SiX offers a surprising amount of flexibility, with more routing options available than you’d expect at first glance. You might say SiX is the audio equivalent of a Swiss army knife, useful in a variety of situations. 

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So what applications is SiX best suited to? How can you get the most out of the additional inputs, insert points and secondary mix bus? SSL have provided a number of signal flow diagrams in the manual to illustrate scenarios that SiX could be used in. They’ve included configurations for songwriting, post production, recording and live sound. We thought it would be interesting to put one to the test, whilst exploring some different ideas and techniques. 

We’ve decided to break out the synths & hook them up to SiX for writing / improvised performance of electronic music. Our main goals here are to connect up our instruments in a streamlined configuration, create a well balanced mix, setup an FX send for delay and work out a way to integrate a looper. Let’s get into it...

Plugging in

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Before we get started, we’ve made a list of the equipment we’re going to use and the function we’re using it for. We’ve also included the number of ins & outs each instrument. That way we can map out how to configure it all with SiX.

Hardware
FunctionIns / OutSiX
TE OP-1Looper / Keys1 / 2Ext 1 / Bus B
TE OP-ZDrum / Bass0 / 2Stereo 3-4
TE PO-33Sample Player1 / 1 SuperAnalogue 1
AKG C7Mic0 / 1SuperAnalogue 2
DOD RubberneckSend FX1 / 1Stereo 5-6 / ST Cue 1

7 analogue inputs from our hardware list is perfectly manageable for SiX, as it can handle a total of 12 channels of audio inputs. 


SuperAnalogue Mono Channels



The first 2 channel strips on the SiX are the ‘SuperAnalogue’ ins. The premium pre-amps in these channels take their design philosophy from the larger AWS and Duality consoles - super clean signal path with plenty of gain. They will comfortably accommodate a variety of mic, line and even hi-z sources. The 100mm fader gives precise level control for these channels.

They also feature signal processing in the form of a one-knob compressor and 2 band EQ. Both can be switched in or out of the signal path and are particularly useful in taming whatever you throw at it. 

Both our mono sources - the AKG C7 & TE PO-33 - are perfect to use with these channels. The C7 requires phantom power which either of these channels provide. They will also benefit from a touch of compression and EQ. We won’t be using the channel insert this time, but it provides an extra option for signal processing if required.


• The Channel Compressor has a fixed ratio of 2:1, a source dependent attack time of 8-30ms and a fixed release of 300ms. The amount of volume into the compressor determines how hard it works on the sound. Automatic make-up gain kicks in to match the level loss from compression.

• The Channel EQ has 2 bands, both switchable between shelf and bell shaped curves. Despite the lack of precise control, the Channel EQ has been tailored to work musically with a large variety of sources. The shelf curves are set at 3.5kHz for high frequency and 60Hz for low. When using the bell curve, the EQ bands are switched to centre around 5kHz and 200Hz. 

Stereo Channels

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Next along from the mono inputs we have the 2 stereo channels. Although they don’t have a mic preamp, EQ or compression they still serve as a super clean signal path for line level sources. If you need the channel for a mono source, plugging into only the left input turns this into a mono channel, with the balance control becoming a pan pot to the mix bus.

One of these channels would be ideal to use with the OP-Z which has its own onboard compression, mixer and filters. It still allows us to send signal out on a cue send. We’re going to use the other stereo channel as a return path for our DOD Rubberneck pedal. This might surprise you, as we could’ve used this channel for the stereo output of the OP-1. We’ll explain why we've chosen to do this in a moment…


Mix Bus B

The 2 mono & 2 stereo channels on SiX have a button beneath the fader labelled ‘Mute’ and ‘Bus B’. In regular use, this button operates as a channel mute. If we turn our attention to the back of SiX you’ll see the majority of outputs are located here, including a pair of TRS outputs labelled ‘Bus B Out’. Plug into these, and you’ll find the audio from muted channels is routed here. This output option allows you to process re-routed audio separately from the main mix bus. 


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We’re going to use this feature to switch channel routing between the Main Mix Bus and Bus B, which will be connected to the line input of the OP-1. This means we can divert our inputs to the OP-1’s virtual 4-track tape recorder and use it as a looper. When you’ve finished recording looping a channel you can simply flip the output back to the main mix. Simple!


Ext Inputs



The Ext (external) inputs provide 2 additional stereo inputs on the SiX. They can be assigned to the main out, monitor out or foldback outputs using switches on the top panel. They only have a volume control, but make for very useful additional inputs. It’s worth mentioning that they can operate in mono, just like the stereo input channels. We’ve made use of Ext 1 to plug in the OP-1. This is ideal because we won’t need to be adjusting it as much, and we’re also not going to need to send it any send FX.


Stereo Cue Sends



SiX has 2 stereo cue sends, often labelled aux sends on some other consoles. Each channel has an on switch, level & pan control for both sends, allowing you to perform precise adjustments to your cue sends. They can be used for a number of operations, but most commonly are used to create a separate monitor feed to a recording / performing artist.

In this case, we’re going to use ours for a Send FX signal path. We’ve plugged the left output of foldback 1 to the input of our DOD Rubberneck Delay. This has then been plugged into one of the channels as previously mentioned. 


G Series Bus Comp


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The final bit of ‘glue’ to bind our mix together. Now that our connections have been setup, we can introduce the The G Series bus comp to our main bus. The circuit topology is based on the original compressor found on the G Series desks. There are a few differences, the obvious one being the fact that it’s been squeezed down to fit into a small section on the SiX. Because of this, you don’t have a full set of compressor controls. A carefully selected attack / release time with a fixed ratio of 4:1 reflects the most popular settings used by engineers on the original hardware. It does feature a make up gain control and fixed sidechain filter hi-passed at approx 50Hz. This gives smoother performance on bass heavy tracks.

The End Result

And with that, you’re ready to go! For its small footprint the SiX has a huge amount of I/O and some extremely well thought out features, a few of which we haven’t touched on with our setup. Watch this video to see the end result!

Find out more about SSL SiX on our product page.

You can also read more about the Teenage Engineering OP-1 in our Musician's Blog Guide.

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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.