Solid State Logic, better known as SSL, boasts a four-decade history of producing leading products for commercial studios, broadcast facilities, and live sound. However, SSL has recently directed their attention towards project and home studios, and they’ve seriously upped the ante of modern studio tools with their latest product, the BiG SiX. This mixer effectively functions as a high-end small-format studio (or live) mixer, multichannel audio interface, and monitor controller. All this in a compact but powerful mixing console that would be equally at home in a project studio, commercial facility, streaming production setup, or small live venue. The BiG SiX provides mic inputs, line inputs, instrument inputs, sophisticated monitor control, cue mix with talkback, and all the functions of a modern USB audio interface. This 18-input mixer employs SSL’s legendary SuperAnalog circuitry, and they’ve thoughtfully included their famous (infamous?) Listen Mic Compressor in the bag of tricks.

With so many possible uses, let’s go through its features, and then it will become apparent how this unit can integrate into just about every setup you can imagine. The BiG SiX provides four input channels with SuperAnalog mic preamps that can accept mic, line, and instrument level signals. These channels feature phantom power, polarity switching, high-pass filters, and Hi-Z (1 megohm) inputs for instruments with passive pickups. The mic preamps can handle line or mic level signals and provide up to 72 dB of gain with 10 dB of extra gain available from the high-quality channel fader.

The first four channels include a three-band EQ based on the E-Series curves and a simplified version of SSL’s renowned channel compressor, each of which may be engaged or fully bypassed. The compressors provide the familiar auto makeup gain of SSL’s channel compressor, with a low ratio, gentle knee, and musical preset attack and release times. Each of the first four input channels also provides a switchable balanced insert via 1/4-inch TRS send and return jacks on the unit’s rear panel. These four input channels route to one of two mix buses and also to USB channels 1-4 in the DAW. The USB record signal path can be as short as the mic amp directly to the A/D converter, or you can choose to activate any or all of the functions of the EQ, compressor, analog insert, and even assign the record path to be pre- or post-fader. When mixing inside a DAW, these input channels can be changed over to pick up their respective USB inputs and used to process or sum signals from the DAW, with all the same functions of EQ, compressor, insert, and fader control. Each channel also provides a PFL solo button and two cue sends that can be assigned to headphone mixes or sent to the USB outputs 9/10 or 11/12 for routing submixes to the DAW. The input channels typically sum to the stereo Main bus, complete with its own balanced insert point, but when muted, the channels are actually reassigned to an alternate MIX B stereo bus, which has its own master level control. Both the Main bus and Mix B can be independently routed directly to your DAW via USB channels 13/14 and 15/16.

For those with an investment in outboard mic preamps and compressors for tracking, the BiG SiX allows you to easily integrate those tools into its workflow. For instance, you could record through the onboard SSL preamp with a favorite compressor patched into the channel insert. Alternatively, an outboard preamp routed to a compressor can patch into the insert return of a channel on the BiG SiX to be routed pre- or post-fader to the DAW using the BiG SiX solely as a USB interface with level control. Of course, one can still also activate the onboard EQ and/or compressor to further process this track. Before sending them to the DAW, it’s even possible to blend signals, like a top and bottom snare mic together.

The sound of this mixer is 100% SSL. The preamps provide clean gain and the clarity SSL’s Superanalog preamps are known for whether they are being fed by a gain-hungry Shure SM7B or a hot output tube condenser. As a flavor, I would say the BiG SiX preamps fit between the Duality console (on its clean setting) and the 9000 J console preamps, with a punchy and clean sound that is almost impossible to push too hard. The short and transformerless signal path keeps the signal pure but not anemic. The BiG SiX’s simplified compressors sound great on voiceover, and, as with all SSL compressors, they flatter drums and sticky electric guitars. The Main bus compressor provides transparent glue at mellow settings, but can also add intensity to a drum or full mix bus when pushed hard as a parallel mix compressor. The bus compressor on this mixer is a top-down mixer’s dream! I found the EQs useful for adjusting high end clarity, midrange presence, and low end warmth or boominess on voiceover, drum overheads, and piano mics while tracking, without ever worrying if the EQ was hurting the sound in any way. When mix time comes, EQ and compression options are available for processing signals from your DAW. Select the USB source as the channel inputs and process DAW signals with onboard and/or outboard insert processors. Then route the mixer’s channels directly back to your DAW or sum signals through one of the mix or cue busses. The options are almost mind-boggling.

In addition to the first four input channels, four stereo input channels provide line inputs with up to 20 dB of gain, mono summing, panning, the same three-band EQs, two cue sends, and the same fader, mute, and solo functions as the first four channels. These four stereo inputs typically send their signal either pre- or post-fader to USB channels 5 through 12, and their faders also feed either the Main bus or the Mix B bus. These channels can alternatively be switched to pick up USB signals from the DAW for analog remixing. The EQs may be switched in or completely bypassed for a pure or processed signal path as with the first four channels.

The Main stereo bus provides a simplified version of SSL’s G-Series Bus Compressor, with controls for Threshold, Release, Make Up gain, and a true bypass. The bus compressor can also be reassigned to pick up the signal from Cue 1 and then sum that signal into the Main bus, effectively providing parallel compression for the Main bus mix. An external SUM stereo input is also provided to mix a sidecar summing mixer (such as the SSL SiX [Tape Op #139] or X-Desk [#82]) into the Main bus of the BiG SiX. The external (Ext) 1 and 2 stereo inputs can also be mixed into the stereo bus as additional stereo effects returns, for instance. In total, 18 analog signals can be mixed into the Main stereo bus, providing a lot of power in such a compact footprint. By the way, the Ext 1 and Ext 2 inputs can also pick up and control USB channels 13/14 and 15/16 from the DAW as a way to add those signals back into the Main bus or Mix B.

The monitor section provides volume control for a Main and Alt set of monitors (connected via TRS jacks on the rear panel). The speaker controls include Dim, Cut, and Mono switches. Two headphone jacks on the top panel allow the engineer and a guest to monitor the main monitor source, cue mix 1, or cue mix 2. Two separate stereo cue feeds on the rear panel can be used for artist cue mixes or as effects sends. The cue sources can be created from the Cue 1 and Cue 2 sends on each channel, or from a combination of the sends plus the Ext 1 and Ext 2 sources, so there are plenty of options in building cue mixes from either the console or the DAW. A talkback mic can be plugged into an XLR mic input on the face of the console that provides phantom power and the Listen Mic Compressor. The talkback signal can be sent independently to Cue 1 or Cue 2, and a mic routed through the Listen Mic Compressor can easily be tracked into the DAW by assigning a Cue output to its USB bus. For talkback duties, I would recommend using a mic with an on/off switch, as the talkback buttons on the console are latching instead of momentary, and they are somewhat buried in the center section.

As you can see, this flexible console covers a wide range of applications while maintaining the SuperAnalog signal path and large-format studio console routing capabilities that SSL is known for. The A/D and D/A converters can run at up to 96 kHz. The BiG SiX thoughtfully provides all its connections via TRS and XLR jacks, which further simplifies wiring without the expense and strategy involved via D-sub connections. Moreover, the metering on the channels and master fader effectively represents the levels that are actually hitting your DAW.

The BiG SiX ships with an external DC line lump power supply that allows the console to run on the same voltages as SSL’s studio consoles. This outboard power supply contributes to the mixer’s incredibly high headroom (>+27 dBu) and outstanding frequency response (20 Hz - 20 kHz +0/-0.2 dB) and noise specs. With all the possible studio and live applications of this mixer, I would recommend downloading BiG SiX’s user guide, which provides routing diagrams and function descriptions to help determine the most useful setup for almost any situation.

I work at a studio in Hollywood with three huge SSL consoles, but most of our tracking sessions utilize only a small portion of the console’s functions, mainly the monitor section and between two and eight input channels. While it’s impressive to sit in front of a 96-input giant, the BiG SiX actually provides all the functions these sessions require in a more compact, easy-to-use package. In a production or home studio, this BiG SiX serves the functions of several input channel strips, a USB interface, monitor controller, headphone cue mixer, and summing mixer. You won’t outgrow the BiG SiX anytime soon, and with its hybrid workflow, it can be expanded in many different ways. The BiG SiX connects to your computer via USB-C (a USB-C to USB-A cable is also included), requiring no drivers for Mac or Windows.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

Or Learn More