SSL SiX Desktop Mixerby September 1, 2022
Solid State Logic, or SSL for short, has long been one of the top brands in the industry when it comes to high-quality products with a revered and highly sought-after sound. Their desks have been used on countless legendary records over the years, and you've probably heard many of them yourself. Serious quality comes with a serious price tag, and as such, most people will never get a chance to own an SSL desk, let alone use one, until now. Last year, SSL did something rather unprecedented and created a small format desktop mixer at a reasonable price point packed with features from its predecessors. They called it the SiX, and since its release, has taken the studio world by storm. In this review, we'll be taking an in-depth look at its features, how I used it, and whether or not it's worth checking out yourself.
WHAT IS IT?
SiX is a condensed professional console for use in the studio, in post-production, on stage, and for podcasting. SiX offers professional sound and an impressive set of utility features in a format that is small enough to take with you on the go. There's even an optional carrying case. It may not be the cheapest or lightest solution out there, but is it the best? Possibly.
SSL SiX Desktop Mixer
SiX packs a punch, as it offers two recording channels with SuperAnalogueTM mic pres, two-band EQ, an essential one knob version of the classic SSL Channel Compressor, a new two-band Channel EQ, inserts and 100mm faders. There is a two-knob version of the legendary G-Series Bus Compressor on the main mix bus and the unique Listen Mic Compressor on the Talkback. In mixdown mode, it is a very capable twelve channel summing system that offers analog detail, depth, and width to your mixes.
I've been a producer for 10 years now, and not once have I ever had the opportunity to touch or see a real SSL mixer in a studio environment. I've always wanted to, but such is life. When SSL first announced SiX, I thought "now is my time to actually see what all the fuss is about." Sure, Waves and UAD have their emulations, but there's nothing like the real deal when it comes to actual hardware from companies like SSL. And not only that, but the size of the mixer was perfect for my studio needs. I have much more room than I ever did before, but even still, space isn't unlimited.
Upon receiving the mixer, I immediately started trying every button and knob on it to see what it did, as one does, and admittedly, it wasn't as simple as I had expected. That's most likely due to me thinking it was a more basic design than it was, but after about 20 minutes, I started to get the hang of it. Once we got to know each other, I got right to work on running all of my current tracks through it to see how big of an impact it would make on my music, and let me just say holy shit.
I've been using a mostly analog/hardware setup for almost two years now, and I love the richness of the sound and textures that come from my synths, but this is a different level of analog sound altogether. Once you learn the EQ section and the master out compressor, your tracks are brought to life in a way that you've never experienced before. How I was using it was running a stereo out from my interface into the two main channel strips of SiX, panning them hard left and right, and boosting the lows and highs a touch, and using the master compressor to trim a touch off the top. The results were vivid and dynamic, yet controlled and able to be pushed further with a bit of limiting.
Ins and outs
I've been using the Glue Compressor in Ableton and previously the SSL G-compressor from Waves for years, but there is no comparison to this slimmed-down version. I'm not sure what the settings they used for it other than a ratio of 4:1, but for whatever reason, the SiX hits different. You do have to be careful not to overdo it with the compressor though since you don't have control over the attack or release, which makes it very easy to turn your track into a dense and dynamic free brick.
I am convinced that, for any producer who is completely in the box, if you were to only buy one piece of gear that wasn't over $2000, this is what you should buy. Without a doubt, this is hands down the easiest way to give your music that professional-quality sound. I do wish there was a mid-band EQ, but I actually appreciate the simplicity of the design in terms of the EQ and compressor. It's easy to get lost in the sauce, but with the lack of options, you're able to focus on adding that extra bit of flair with easy. There are so many different applications in which SiX can be used that it very quickly becomes an extension of yourself. While it's not the cheapest thing on the market, in my opinion, this is an essential piece of kit. Even if you have to get a used one, it's worth every penny.
Assistant General Manager, Resident DJ, Presenter and Host of In Conversation