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Solid State Logic Fusion Violet EQ and Fusion HF Compressor review

Individually, SSL’s Fusion HF Compressor and Fusion Violet EQ can add polish to your mixes, but used in tandem they can make your mixes

  • £139 each
Solid State Logic Fusion Violet EQ and Fusion HF Compressor
(Image: © Future)

MusicRadar Verdict

These plugins are excellent individually but combined they create mixes that sound like they come from a £1000/day studio.

Pros

  • +

    Convincing pro analogue sound.

  • +

    Add sparkle and space to your mixes.

  • +

    Individually great; superb double-act.

  • +

    Intuitive gain reduction metering (the HF Compressor).

  • +

    Perfect “smiley-face” EQ (Violet EQ).

Cons

  • -

    Large despite few controls.

  • -

    Quite expensive individually.

Solid State Logic Fusion Violet EQ and Fusion HF Compressor: What is it?

Despite its unassuming looks, Solid State Logic’s Fusion processor is a brilliant piece of kit. Designed specifically for digital studios, this box of analogue tricks can sit across your main mix buss, or a stem buss, from where it treats your audio to some extra-special SSL pampering. The results can be spectacular, giving your mix the body, space and sparkle that you’d expect from a high-end analogue console, not a mid-range processor.

The Fusion hardware is reasonably affordable, but this hasn’t stopped SSL from converting the analogue processors of the hardware into plugins that are affordable for all. We looked recently at the first two of these, Fusion Vintage Drive and Fusion Stereo Image but now it’s the turn of the next two releases in the series: Fusion HF Compressor and Fusion Violet EQ.

Solid State Logic Fusion Violet EQ and Fusion HF Compressor: Performance and verdict

Solid State Logic Fusion Violet EQ and Fusion HF Compressor

(Image credit: Future)

Fusion HF Compressor

Unsurprisingly enough given the name, Fusion HF Compressor is a compressor that works its magic on the higher frequencies in a signal. The processor itself is very straightforward indeed. A crossover splits your audio signal into high- and low-frequency components, with the high frequencies component being fed to a compressor. 

The high and low signals are then re-merged and passed to a wet/dry balance mixer before heading to the plugin’s output. This makes for a very small number of controls – one to control the compression threshold, one to set the crossover frequency, and one to set the wet/dry balance. Simples!

The very intuitive readout makes it really easy to understand how the compressor is responding

As well as a conventional gain reduction meter, HF Compressor also has a panel showing the current waveform overlaid with a gain reduction history graph. This very intuitive readout makes it really easy to understand how the compressor is responding, and is something you don’t get on the Fusion hardware. 

The compressor itself uses very fast attack and release times so that it can catch and control loud peaks in the upper part of the spectrum without creating any noticeable twitching of the overall volume level. Reducing the threshold – and therefore increasing the compression – does reduce the high frequencies, as you would expect, but it does so in a way very different to an EQ, smoothing out the higher registers while retaining top-end presence and airiness. A very slight haze of analogue-like sparkle adds a distinctly musical character to the effect too.

Solid State Logic Fusion Violet EQ and Fusion HF Compressor

(Image credit: Future)

Fusion Violet EQ

Modern EQ plugins routinely offer at least five multi-mode bands, and sometimes as many as 20 or more, so you may be surprised to learn that Fusion Violet EQ boasts just two shelving bands and a single high-pass filter. While this renders the plugin largely useless as a track-level EQ, it makes it very useful as a full mix, stem or mastering equaliser.

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The low- and high-shelving EQ bands offer 9dB of cut or boost, and each has a choice of four corner frequencies: 8kHz, 12kHz, 16kHz or 20kHz for the high band, and 30Hz, 50Hz, 70Hz or 90Hz for the low band. 

Using shelving EQ to boost low frequencies can lead to a lot of very deep rumble (and you may not even be aware of it unless you have a sub in your monitoring rig), which is where the high-pass filter comes in handy with its choice of 30Hz, 40Hz or 50Hz cutoff frequency. 

As an extra trick, when the high-pass filter is engaged, the plugin’s “FAT” button enables a gentle resonance on the filter, adding an extra bit of weight down low.

If you’ve been paying attention you’ll realise that Fusion Violet EQ has been designed to create the perfect “smiley face” EQ curve, with a fat, weighty bottom end and a bright, scintillating top end. And my-oh-my does it do it well! With the added subtlety of the Fusion plugin range’s analogue-flavoured colouring and character, Violet EQ buffs your audio to a glittering, professional shine with astonishing ease and speed. 

Greater than the sum of its parts

Individually, both of these plugins are very good at what they do, and each can add a distinctly expensive-sounding, analogue-like quality to your audio. But, like Laurel and Hardy, gin and tonic, or drums and bass, when teamed up as a double-act, the combination of Fusion Violet EQ and Fusion HF Compressor is far greater than the sum of its parts.

The magic of the combination happens when the plugins are applied across a full mix, with Violet EQ feeding into HF Compressor. Boosting the high frequencies with the EQ pushes them harder into the compressor, which in turn reduces those high frequencies. But, as we mentioned a moment ago, while HF Compressor does reduce high frequencies, it doesn’t behave in the same way as an EQ. With a bit of careful tweaking, what we end up with is huge amounts of top-end detail and clarity, but with all of the brittle intensity removed. And not only does this bring out the top end detail of your mix, it also enhances that hard-to-describe analogue-like airiness and spaciousness that runs throughout the Fusion range.

Nothing else, other than the actual Fusion hardware, makes it so easy to get your mixes sounding so good

Although fairly priced considering the quality of results, at £139 a pop, the cost of buying standard perpetual licenses for both plugins may seem steep. If so, the $14.99 per month of SSL’s Complete Subscription Bundle may be more attractive, especially when you consider that it includes all of the Fusion plugins. Nothing else that we’ve seen, other than the actual Fusion hardware, makes it so easy to get your mixes sounding so good. 

MusicRadar verdict: These plugins are excellent individually, but combined they create mixes that sound like they come from a £1000/day studio.

Solid State Logic Fusion Violet EQ and Fusion HF Compressor: Hands-on demos

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This Mix Is Sick

Solid State Logic Fusion Violet EQ and Fusion HF Compressor: Specifications

Fusion Violet EQ

  • Modelled on the SSL Fusion Violet EQ processor
  • First new SSL analogue EQ circuit for more than 25 years 
  • Carefully selected frequencies and response curves 
  • Includes the high-pass filter from the SSL Fusion hardware unit
  • Four switched frequency points and +/- 9 dB attenuation 
  • NEW: FAT button adds subtle 'oomph' to the low-end when the HPF is switched in
  • ECO mode: drop into 'ECO' mode for reduced latency and CPU-use, for tracking and recording purposes 
  • Modelled using a combination of real-life measurements, analogue circuit designs, and close collaboration with the original analogue designers of the SSL Fusion hardware and validated by real-world producers 
  • Built on the SSL Plug-in Engine 
  • NEW: Built-in help! Simply click the '?' symbol and mouseover the GUI for more information about each of the parameters 
  • SSL’s cross-platform preset management and A/B-ing system 
  • Built-in UNDO/REDO support 
  • Comes with presets from world-class producers and engineers Adrian Hall, Sean Divine and Wez Clarke

Fusion HF Compressor

  • Delivers analogue-style HF rounding for taming brittle high-frequencies
  • Modelled using a combination of real-life measurements, analogue circuit designs, and close collaboration with the original designers Fusion hardware
  • Ratio, attack and release optimised for maximum transparency
  • MIX for instant parallel processing 
  • AUTO GAIN introduces an automatic makeup gain to only the compressed frequencies, retaining HF rounding but not loosing level
  • The Gain Reduction History graph and Gain Reduction meter make it easy to visualise the effect of the circuit.
  • Use LISTEN to solo the frequencies that are being compressed and removed from the signal.
  • ECO mode: Reduce latency and CPU-use, for tracking and recording purposes
  • Built on the SSL Plug-in Engine
  • Built-in help Simply click the '?' symbol and mouseover the GUI for more information 
  • Comes with presets from world-class producers and engineers Adrian Hall, Caesar Edmunds and Sean Divine

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