"For the first time in more than ten years, I'm back to a true analogue workflow and I feel like I'm just scratching the surface of what I can do with the console"
When he's not mixing for the hugely successful Low End Theory dance party at the Airliner nightclub on Wednesdays in LA, producer engineer and Alpha Pup Records label co-founder Daddy Kev, can be found at his California recording studio, Cosmic Zoo. With a parade of successful underground electronic music artists coming through the door, including Flying Lotus, Run the Jewels, Mr. Oizo, Thundercat, Nosaj Thing, Daedelus, Jeremih and Shlohmo, Cosmic Zoo recently became one of the first studios to feature SSL's new XL-Desk. To keep up with the ever-changing sounds of the underground electronic movement, Kev installed the console for a variety of mixing and mastering applications.
Daddy Kev's affinity for SSL sound goes back to the late 1990's when he was recording at Paramount Recording Studio B. When the XL-Desk was introduced, he jumped on it. Kev considers himself a "low rider," positioning his monitors at 36 inches, so he had a custom desk built for the XL-Desk to accommodate the way he works. The custom setup combined with the ability to have his 500 modules within reach is changing his workflow - particularly for his mastering projects, his primary workload at Cosmic Zoo.
"I have mastered more than 40 albums this past year alone," he explains. "In that process, I use a bunch of 500 modules. As soon as I installed the XL-Desk, I immediately took the 500 modules and installed them in the console's built-in 500 format rack. Now, I'm able to access those modules - as well as the new SSL bus compressor that comes with the XL-Desk - through the console. I think that the whole genius of the XL-Desk is the ergonomics of having the 500 rack in-line with the channels. In the past, I'd sit at the mix position with my outboard processors on either side of me. I'd always have to move a few feet in either direction to access the outboard gear, which would take me out of my ideal listening and operating position. Now, my Focal CMS 65 monitors are on 36-inch stands, putting the tweeters perfectly at my ear level. So, I'm right on top of the console, but nothing blocks the monitors and I have everything within arms' reach."
Kev says that location isn't the only element that has changed his mastering process. "The integration for controlling multiple monitors on the XL-Desk is fantastic," he explains. "I'm using the speaker switching and LF management to run between both my Focal monitors or QSC KW153s three-way monitors and a pair of JBL SRX728S subwoofers, and the monitor path is still very clean. This might be the only XL-Desk wired to four 18-inch subwoofer drivers - so we can probably levitate the room if necessary!"
Kev reveals that, until now, he feels like he's never been able to properly integrate his compressors and EQs. "I've been collecting outboard gear for years, and in my old situation without a console I was really just doing a lot of two-bus treatments. This is literally the first time in more than ten years that I'm back to a true analogue workflow. Now, when I mix, I can group or submix tracks in Pro Tools® and send them in stereo groups to the XL-Desk. I have all of the 500 module inputs, outputs, send and return insert points - as well as all of the XL-Desk's channel insert points - on my patchbay, giving me a very easy way to integrate that outboard gear into my mixing and mastering processes.
"I can insert the 500 module that sits inline with a particular channel simply by pressing a button or using the patchbay to patch it into another channel. With the additional 'INS' button on every channel, I can actually have two processors on a single channel. The four '500' buttons in the master section connect the mix buses to the 500 modules without need for patching. This gives me a wide range of options to best suit each project."
In addition to his 500 modules - EQs from Avedis, Electrodyne, Rupert Neve Designs, Elysia and Empirical Labs, Kev also has an SSL X-Rack with two 9000 compressor modules and an SSL FX G384 bus compressor. "So, I have three different SSL compression options to work with during mixing or mastering and it's very nice," he adds. "I feel like I'm just barely scratching the surface of what I can do with the XL-Desk; it's incredible. It's very inspiring for me to come to the studio and want to work as much as I can on such a beautifully-designed piece of gear."