U.K.-based Solid State Logic has a well-deserved
reputation for building large-format recording consoles, both analog and
digital. Over the last decade they’ve jumped into the digital end of the pool
with a series of interfaces and other outboard devices for broadcast and music
production. Naturally, they’ve expanded into offering digital software
emulations of some of their famous hardware designs, such as their legendary
stereo buss compressor, as well as channel strips and reverbs.
Solid State Logic Listen Mic
Somewhat hidden in the bowels of their website
are a couple free VST plug-ins that offer a taste of SSL technology, but
without the SSL price tag.
First up is the LMC-1. This very simple mono compressor
plug-in is modeled after an obscure feature of their famous SL4000E console. In
addition to having compressors and gates on each input channel, the console
also had a dedicated “Listen Mic Compressor” on a talkback return for musicians
in the studio to talk to the engineer in the control room via a dedicated mic.
The heavy compression allowed musicians far from the mic to still be heard. The
compressor had fixed attack and release settings and a simple “less/more”
This feature found a new use when
engineer/producer Hugh Padgham was working on Phil Collins’ hit single “In the
Air Tonight.” Phil happened to play a drum fill that was picked up by the “listen
mic” and as the signal through made its way through the compressor, pop music
history was made.
The LMC-1 plug-in retains the simple operation
of the original, offering just three controls. There’s input and output trim,
and a big “Less/More” knob. It doesn’t get much simpler. And, yes, it will
squash the daylights out of anything you run through it. On a complete mix, it
sounds very much like overdone airchain processing; but it’s good for helping a
vocal track or snare drum cut through a mix.
Solid State Logic X-ISM
Next up is the X-ISM. At first blush, this is a
glorified level meter, but it goes a bit further in dissecting your digital
audio. Its first job is to catch intersample peaks in digital audio that can
sometimes be missed by traditional peak meters. Intersample peaks occur when
the analog signal experiences a peak that fits neatly between digital samples.
These can cause clipping without registering on the meters. Not only does it
include the traditional peak meter, it also offers separate digital and analog
peak indicators on each channel. Going further, the X-ISM includes a peak bit meter,
showing all available bits up to 24 and indicating how many are actually being
used at a given moment.
Both plug-ins are, as mentioned, absolutely
free. Registration at the SSL website is required to access them, but that’s
free as well. There are Windows and Mac versions, and they work with just about
any DAW that uses VST, AU or RTAS plug-ins.