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Fact, opinion and blah... - eccentricblog
Fact, opinion and blah...
A few days ago I received an email asking my opinion of the difference in sound and facilities of an SSL 4000 and the new AWS.

i'm watching your website and i'm interested in the ssl
4000 24 channels,i never had an ssl consolle,so i
have 2 questions for you:
1)can i have more details pictures of this consolle
and also where is possible to see it.
2)wich one is better in sound quality the ssl 4000 or
the new aws 900+?
thank you

I answered honestly as follows;

There is no comparison between the real SSL and the AWS. In comparison,
the AWS is like a toy.
Differences are;
1. The SSL has full in line monitoring, giving 48 channels on mix.
The AWS is very simple 24 channel.
2. The SSL has dynamics on all inputs (24 x compressor/gates) plus
the classic 'quad' compressor on the mix bus
The AWS has one compressor that can be assigned.
3. The SSL is fully modular, meaning that if a channel goes down, a spare
can be used while it is being fixed, or alternatively that channel can be
removed for fixing, leaving 23 in use.
The AWS has chanels in blocks of 12, so if one has a fault, all 12
channels have to be removed for fixing.
4. The SSL is easily repaired and serviced, as eq, dynamics etc are on
internal cards and are 'discrete' (i.e., easily repaired components)
The AWS components are 'surface mounted' (i.e. stamped onto the PCB
by machine) which requires special tools to remove and resolder. It
is really only repairable in the factory.
5. The SSL has an external power supply which can either be fixed or
replaced if it has a fault (all our desks are supplied with completely
rebuilt power supplies which are guarranteed for a year and will last
for decades)
The AWS has a built-in switch mode power supply. If this developes
a fault, the entire desk must go back to SSL to be fixed.
6. The SSL sounds like an SSL - full bodied and positive.
The AWS sounds like an AWS - much less powerful than an SSL
The SSL cost in excess of £150,000 when new (at a time when £150,000
was worth far more than it is today). It is innevitable that the build quality and
performance are far higher than a desk costing £37,000 today.

On the downside, the SSL requires more installation, will need occasional
servicing and draws more power. However, it will last far longer than an
AWS and is a fully professional piece of equipment.
Best Wishes

Now, I think this is a pretty fair assessment. You may dissagree, but we all have our opinions. Equally, though, I can't see my comments about the ASW as being particularly negative. It is what it is, we sell quite a few and for a whole variety of modern day useage, it's the perfect tool for the job. But come on - the AWS is to a 4000 what a Smart Car is to a BMW. You get what you pay for, and SSL made their reputation with the 4000, which is a beautifully designed, engineered and sounding console.

The point of this blurb is that it seems that my email found its way into the hands of the sales department at SSL, who were offended, outraged, pricked. Now, quite apart from the fact that I am miffed when an email of mine is circulated without my consent, I see nothing in any way offensive in my comments. Actually, I'm pretty laid back about my mails doing the rounds; I'm always honest in my comments (whether in private or on the website), express a fair opinion and am happy to stand by that. I will never say one thing to one person and another behind their back. With me, what you see is what I am (a blunt northerner, I guess).

This anecdote is symptomatic of the age we live in, sadly. When I first became involved with the industry, the monthly bible was a magazine called Studio Sound. All my fellow engineers turned straight to the reviews section to read about the latest recording equipment. And we believed what we read. Why? Because the reviewers were honest. If a piece of gear sucked, they said so. If it shone, they said so. If it sparkled but lacked lustre in certain areas, they said so. And when we got our hands on that bit of kit we found...the reviews were spot on. In the interests of fairness, Studio Sound allowed the manufacturer or distributor the right of reply. But what often happened was that the manufacturer took these technical reviews seriously and rectified the faults, making their gear fit for purpose. Thus Studio Sound were in no small way responsible for much of the excellent vintage gear still happily in use or trading hands today.

Now, compare this with the modern review. I can tell you as a fact that the more filthy lucre a company spends advertising in the 'Pro Audio' rags, the better will be the reviews for their products. We call this 'Advertorial' and it's an open secret in the trade that these days, to all intents and purposes, good reviews and purchased rather than earned. Indeed, I can quote a number of new products that we've had in our hands with serious design faults - mics that are inherently noisy, compressors that distort if the threshold is set above one, eq's that don't eq - yet these units have received five star ratings in so called respectable magazines.

Yes, bro, integrity went out of the shop window years ago.

And this is why I stand by the comments I make, when asked, in correspondence with customers. I won't gild the lilly. I won't polish an electronic turd to generate a sale. I am an opinionated snob and proud of it. Because audio gems deserve the highest praise and sewage deserves none.

I like SSL consoles. I like the mind that conceived them, the skills that made them, the ears that use them, the ethos that sustains them. Strangely, I also like the AWS900, even though on day one, when a company representative showed me the mock up, I pointed out a series of shortcomings - the lack of even simple in line monitoring, the lack of dynamics, the switch mode power supply, the non- modular construction, the surface mounted components. And the rep's response? He agreed with every damned point, but added...'It's not supposed to be a proper SSL. It's built to a price.'

The AWS is a valuable tool for modern recording. But it ain't an SSL 4000. And if those within SSL take the hump at this simple truth, then I pity them. They should take pride in the history of the company, in past acheivements and in the fact that so many of their great desks remain in daily use rather than nosing around in private correspondence.
SSL is dead. Long live SSL.
4 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 16th, 2009 10:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interestingly enough it looks like the AWS has enabled Neve to deliver the Genesys, which I'm actually quite excited about. If it's any good, it could ruffle things up a bit..
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 14th, 2009 06:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
where have you gone? we need some more posts!
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 18th, 2009 06:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

SSL Consoles

Hi there.
Regarding this last post, and since you know your way around the SSL's, I have a few questions that I'd appreciate if you could hit me back...

1 - The SSL's cannot be turned off, so thats is what everybody means when they mention electricity bills and air condition to cool it off. Correct?

2 - The SSL's are named with 4 numbers and a letter for the series. The last two digits refer to the number of inputs. Right?

3 - Still on the inputs. You can split the console and use half of the inputs for recording and half for mixing. Can you make it simple for me? So, if I have 24 signals coming into the desk tracking to a 24 input DAW, then I mix the 24 tracks on the console, so I should never get less then 48ch if I plan to track and mix on the SSL. Correct?

4 - Series... E G G+. Since its possible to have a custom console with all EQ's, what about the computers? Or what would be better from these 3 series, to incorporate with a DAW serving as a "tape recorder"?

5 - Extras - Total recall, automation, etc. Since we can program automation in the DAW, what features are really to look for in a custom console? The MUST HAVEs?

I think that is pretty much it. So if you get to read this, and answer... God bless you. :)

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4 comments or Leave a comment