The XLogic G Series Compressor is another addition to the Solid State Logic family and is part of their SuperAnalogue series. This 1RU stereo compressor is modeled after its patriarch, the compressor in the SL4000 G Series console. There are three switchable ratios (2:1, 4:1, and 10:1), six switchable attack settings (0.1, 0.3, 1.3, 10, and 30 ms), and five switchable release times (0.1, 0.3, 0.6, 1.2 ms, and Auto). The threshold and the make-up gain are both continuously variable. Also on the front panel are a gain-reduction meter and an external sidechain button which selects the key input on the rear panel as the trigger. For external metering, there is an optional remote. The inputs, outputs, and key input are all balanced XLR. An Auto Fade button, in conjunction with a Rate knob, provides smooth fade-ins and fade-outs. This feature is also available on the optional remote.
I put the compressor to test during some recent mixing sessions, trying it out as both a buss compressor and a stereo mix compressor. In both applications, I found the SSL to be of the proverbial "clean and transparent" variety, especially in comparison to my Alan Smart compressor. In fact, when I first started using the SSL, I had a hard time discerning whether it was actually compressing the signal or not. And unless you've got a peak meter to watch post-compression, it's difficult to tell how much makeup gain you can dial in-that's how transparent it is. On the other hand, my Smart adds so much "character" to the mix that it's immediately apparent when you take it out of the chain. Sometimes you want "character," sometimes you want "clean."
On a recent project with a local jam band, we were looking for "clean," so I strapped the SSL across the drum submix. I was pleased that the cymbals rang true and remained undistorted and clear. Using the make-up gain, I was able to push the drum track up quite nicely without any noticeable artifacts. In fact, the band members were excited about the punchy drum sound we were able to achieve. Furthermore, the SSL's Auto Fade feature came in handy on this session. The band wanted me to fade out all the busses, leaving only the toy piano to carry on to the end of the song. I had only enough fingers to pull everything but the drums, so I delegated that responsibility to the SSL's Auto Fade, which brought the post-compression level of the drums down to zero smoothly (without changing the amount of compression).
On another session, I sent my entire mix through the XLogic G Series, looking to give the song just a little extra bit of love. I always like to use a stereo compressor before my mix source. This particular mix was tricky due to an inconsistent kick drum. Even though I had compressed the kick already with a dbx 160, I was still hoping that the stereo compressor could help handle the intermittent and uncontrollable drum transients that were sneaking through. I had a hard time taming this mix, due largely in part to those poorly-performed drums. Because the compressor is permanently linked as a stereo unit, I found it difficult to discern which side of the overheads was picking up more kick drum and skewing the triggering of the compressor. I definitely missed the option of being able to choose between two independently controlled monos or one linked stereo, and I got a bit frustrated at the inability of the compressor to separate the two channels. This may not be the ideal compressor for sources with a widely swinging dynamic range, and I wish there were more ratio options, especially between 4:1 and 10:1.
For the sake of fairness, however, I tried the G Series on a mix of a band that was much tighter with more consistent drumming. I had better luck in this case, and the compressor performed smoothly and added nice lift to the stereo mix. As with all quality high-end audio equipment, good things will sound better and bad things will sound worse. I found this compressor to be more of an enhancer than a problem solver.
All in all, if you're looking for the transparent sound of the stereo compressors found in SSL's legendary consoles, the XLogic G Series might be for you. ($3355 MSRP; www.solid-state-logic.com)