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Learn How to Get the Most Out of the SSL Fusion
The Solid State Logic (SSL) Fusion is an all-analog 2U rack-mount stereo outboard processor designed for mixing and mastering applications.
It combines several analog tools in a single device: Vintage Drive, Violet EQ, High-Frequency Compressor, Stereo Image Enhancer, and SSL Transformer. You can utilize these coloration tools individually or in combination to shape the tone and character of your mix.
In this article, we provide suggestions, tips, and use cases to show you how to get the most out of the SSL Fusion. Though the focus will be on using the SSL Fusion in the Analog Matrix Plugin, you can apply many of the examples to a Fusion you may have in your own studio.
The Fusion is a great choice for audio professionals looking to add some warmth and character to their recordings while maintaining precise control over their mix.
The SSL Fusion in the Analog Matrix Plugin
Below is an image of the SSL Fusion as it appears in the Analog Matrix Plugin user interface. Though a couple of the knobs are in different locations, they operate the same. When using the Analog Matrix Plugin, you are connecting to the actual hardware in the cloud and streaming in real-time to a robotically controlled SSL Fusion.
Suggested Coloration Settings
This nonlinear saturation circuit adds harmonics, soft-clipping, and natural compression to your signal. Use it to add analog glue and cohesion to your mix bus or to create more aggressive saturation effects on individual stems such as drums or bass. The Vintage Drive has two controls: Drive and Density.
The Drive knob adjusts the amount of saturation, while the Density knob changes the character of the saturation, from subtle to aggressive. A tri-color LED indicates how hard the circuit is being driven: green for mild, orange for moderate, and red for heavy. You can adjust the amount of drive and density to achieve different levels of analog warmth and punch.
- Glue Effect on Drum Bus: For a glue effect on a drum bus, set the Drive to 4 o’clock and the Density to 9 o’clock. The LED should flicker between green and orange.
- Warm and Thick Bass Guitar: For a warm and thick sound on a bass guitar, set the Drive to 6 o’clock and the Density to 12 o’clock. The LED should glow orange most of the time.
- Crunchy and Distorted Guitar: For a crunchy and distorted sound on an electric guitar, set the Drive to 8 o’clock and the Density to 4 o’clock. The LED should be in the red zone.
This is a 2-band shelving EQ that lets you boost or cut the low and high frequencies with four selectable frequency points each. This EQ is designed to be musical and intuitive, adding low-end weight and high-end sparkle to your mix. Use it to fine-tune the low-end and high-end balance of your mix or to add some extra brightness or warmth to specific instruments or vocals.
Use subtle boosts or cuts (±3 dB) to shape the overall tone, and focus your ears on the low-end (30-100 Hz), low-mids (200-800 Hz), and presence (3-6 kHz).
The Violet EQ can be used to add low-end heft and high-end shimmer to your mix, with minimal artifacts or harshness. Here are some suggested settings:
- Balanced and Transparent: For a balanced and transparent sound on a full mix, set the Low Frequency to 50Hz and boost by 3dB. Set the High Frequency to 8kHz and boost by 2dB.
- Bright and Airy Vocal Stem: For a bright and airy sound on a vocal stem, set the Low Frequency to 60Hz and cut by 3dB. Set the High Frequency to 12kHz and boost by 4dB.
- Dark and Moody Synth Stem: For a dark and moody sound on a synth stem, set the Low Frequency to 90Hz and boost by 4dB. Set the High Frequency to 4kHz and cut by 6dB.
This compressor helps smooths out harsh or brittle highs and enhances your mix’s perceived loudness and clarity. Use the HF Compressor to tame harsh or sibilant highs on vocals, guitars, or cymbals, or enhance your mix’s loudness and presence without clipping.
Set the threshold to catch harsh frequencies in the 3-10 kHz range and adjust the recovery time based on the material (fast for vocals, slower for instruments).
The HF Compressor can be used on any type of instrument or vocal, but it works especially well on cymbals, acoustic guitars, pianos, and vocals. Here are some suggested settings:
- Smooth and Natural Cymbal Bus: For a smooth and natural sound on a cymbal bus, set the Frequency to 10kHz and the Gain to 0dB. The LED should blink occasionally.
- Bright and Crisp Acoustic Guitar: For a bright and crisp sound on an acoustic guitar, set the Frequency to 12kHz and the Gain to 3dB. The LED should blink frequently.
- De-essing Effect on Vocals: For a de-essing effect on a vocal, set the Frequency to 8kHz and the Gain to -3dB. The LED should blink only on sibilant sounds.
Stereo Image Enhancer
This stereo enhancer widens or narrows the stereo field of your mix. You can use this tool to create more depth and space in your mix, correct phase issues, and balance the stereo image. It has two controls: Width and Space. The Width knob adjusts the level difference between the left and right channels, while the Space knob adjusts the phase difference between the mid and side channels. You can also switch to Mid-Side mode and process the mid and side signals separately using the insert, send, and return connections.
Use this tool sparingly to maintain mono compatibility; a slight increase (around 10-20%) is often sufficient for enhancing the stereo image.
The Stereo Image can be used on any type of instrument or vocal, but it works especially well on pads, strings, keyboards, and vocals. Here are some suggested settings:
- Wide and Spacious Pad Stem: For a wide and spacious sound on a pad stem, set the Width to 5 o’clock and the Space to 4 o’clock. The LED should glow blue.
- Narrow and Focused String Stem: For a narrow and focused sound on a string stem, set the Width to 9 o’clock and the Space to 12 o’clock. The LED should glow red.
- Mid-Side Balance Vocal Stem: For a mid-side balance on a vocal stem, set the Width to 12 o’clock and adjust the Space according to your preference. The LED should glow green.
One of our favorite features is the pair of custom SSL transformers that add subtle harmonic distortion and low-end weight to your mix. If you prefer a cleaner sound, you can bypass them, but we recommend that you engage them for some transformer magic. These transformers impart a characteristic SSL sound that is rich, smooth, and punchy.
Experiment with engaging the transformer at any point during the mixing process.
The SSL Transformer can be used on any type of instrument or vocal, but it works especially well on drums, bass, guitars, and synths. Here are some suggested settings:
- Punchy and Warm Drum Buss: For a punchy and warm sound on a drum bus, engage the SSL Transformer and engage the drive section. Turn up the drive until you hear the desired effect. The LED should glow yellow.
- Fat and Rich Bass Guitar: For a fat and rich sound on a bass guitar, engage the SSL Transformer and boost the Low Frequency by 3dB. The LED should glow yellow.
- Bright and Lively Electric Guitar: For a bright and lively sound on an electric guitar, engage the SSL Transformer and boost the High Frequency by 2dB. The LED should glow yellow.
Additional Sound Shaping Suggestions
Warm and Smooth Sound
- Use Vintage Drive with low drive and high-density settings.
- Violet EQ with a gentle boost at 60Hz and small cut at 8kHz.
- HF Compressor with a low threshold setting.
- Stereo Image with a moderate width setting.
- SSL Transformer engaged.
Bright and Clear Sound
- Use Vintage Drive with high drive and low-density settings.
- Violet EQ with a gentle cut at 90Hz and boost at 12kHz.
- HF Compressor with a high threshold setting.
- Stereo Image with a narrow width setting.
- SSL Transformer disengaged.
Vintage and Lo-Fi Sound
- Use Vintage Drive with high drive and high-density settings.
- Violet EQ with a steep cut at 30Hz and 12kHz.
- HF Compressor with a high threshold setting.
- Stereo Image with a slightly wide-width setting.
- SSL Transformer engaged.
Warm and Punchy Mix
- Drive the Vintage Drive section until the LED turns orange.
- Boost the low shelf at 40Hz by 3dB.
- Cut the high shelf at 20kHz by 3dB
- Set the HF Compressor to 8kHz with a low threshold and high blend.
- Widen the Stereo Image slightly.
- Engage the SSL Transformer.
Bright and Airy Mix
- Drive the Vintage Drive section until the LED turns green.
- Boost the low shelf at 90Hz by 1.5dB.
- Boost the high shelf at 10kHz by 4.5dB.
- Set the HF Compressor to 16kHz with a high threshold and low blend.
- Widen the Stereo Image moderately.
- Bypass the SSL Transformer.
Vintage and Crunchy Mix
- Drive the Vintage Drive section until the LED turns red.
- Cut the low shelf at 90Hz by 3dB
- Boost the high shelf at 20kHz by 6dB.
- Set the HF Compressor to 16kHz with a low threshold and high blend.
- Narrow the Stereo Image slightly.
- Engage the SSL Transformer.
Experiment with different combinations of coloration tools and settings to find what works best for your mix. You can also bypass each section individually or globally to compare the effect on your signal.
Use the input trim control to adjust your signal level before it hits the coloration tools. This can affect how much saturation, compression, or distortion you get from each section. Use the output trim control to match the level of your processed signal with the original signal.
In the mixing stage, the SSL Fusion can be applied to individual tracks or subgroups to shape and enhance the sound. In the mastering stage, it can process the stereo mix, adding final touches of warmth, color, and spatial enhancement.
The Fusion can be used for any instruments or vocals needing analog color and character.
- Drums: The Vintage Drive can add harmonic saturation and subtle compression to enhance the impact of the drum kit.
- Guitars: The Violet EQ can help shape guitar tones, while the Vintage Drive can provide warmth and character.
- Vocals: The High-Frequency Compressor can tame harshness and sibilance in vocals, while the Violet EQ can be used for tonal shaping.
- Synthesizers: The Stereo Image Enhancer can widen the stereo field of synths and pads, creating a sense of depth and space.
- Bass: The Vintage Drive and Violet EQ can be combined to create rich, punchy bass tones.
The Fusion can also be used as a stereo insert or a mid-side processor for more creative applications. Avoid over-processing; subtle adjustments often yield the most desirable results.
The Solid State Logic Fusion is a versatile and powerful analog processor that can add color, character, and dimension to your stems or full mixes. By using its different circuits and controls, you can achieve a variety of sounds and tones that will enhance your productions.
We hope we have provided you with enough examples and have shown you how to get the most out of the SSL fusion!
For additional detailed information please refer the SSL Fusion Manual and User Guide.
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