Solid State Logic SSL 4K B: What is it?
SSL has developed numerous excellent plugins, but with the arrival of its Native Channel Strip 2 and UC1 hardware controller the brand has taken things up a level.
The latest addition to this system is SSL 4K B. Based on its rare early 4000 B series desk (only six were ever built), SSL has gone back to basics and used component-level modelling coupled with its own specialist know-how to deliver a vibey channel strip that’s the perfect partner to the Channel Strip 2.
Solid State Logic SSL 4K B: Performance and verdict
So, what are you getting? Much like the Channel Strip 2, the 4K B is a full strip, based sonically and visually on SSL’s hardware, but with plenty of software extras. It works as a regular plugin and also dovetails with the company's UC1 hardware controller. It’s currently free for UC1 owners, and is also included in its SSL Complete subscription package. Alas at present there’s no perpetual licence option.
It includes the obvious stuff such as 4-band EQ with two fully parametric mid bands, low and high shelves with independent Bell option, and high- and low-pass filters. There’s also a combined Dynamics section with Compressor and Gate/Expander, and accompanying LED meters. In the centre you’ll find the main fader section (with Cut and Solo) flanked by input and output meters (Peak and RMS). Stereo plugin instances also include Pan and M/S Width.
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At the top are the input gains including the switchable 4K B pre-amp saturation option. Software extras are dotted round the interface and include compressor Mix level (0 to 100%), Output Trim (-20dB to +20dB), side chain listen, Undo/Redo, the preset browser, oversampling (HQ), the SSL 360 launcher (see box out) and the routing menu, where you can also assign EQ, Filters and an external source to the dynamics side chain.
Despite the visual familiarity, the 4K B differs from the Channel Strip 2 in some important ways. First up, the compressor. This is much more like the classic SSL bus compressor, albeit with automatic gain makeup, and without adjustable attack and fewer release settings. At both 2:1 and 4:1 ratios, this delivers the classic SSL feedback compressor vibe. It can also be switched to de-esser mode (set both the Release and Ratio controls to the ‘ds’). This is easy to implement and we found great for taming high frequency harshness, not just de-essing.
Of course, the big deal with 4K B is the sound. It’s clearly more coloured than Channel Strip 2, and on the analyser adds an obvious second harmonic distortion even when flat – this is down to the dbx202 VCA emulation. Switch in the 4K B transformer based pre-amp saturation modelling and you get more complex harmonics. Here the even harmonics are boosted at higher frequencies, and the odd harmonics (but not the even harmonics) increase as you change the red gain-compensated saturation knob. It’s an interesting profile, but is great for adding some spice to lacklustre sounds. Load up multiple channels and you’ll get desk-style harmonic enhancement, which is ideal for multitracked sounds such as drums.
SSL 360 is a consolidation window that allows you to view all your SSL Native 2 plugins at the same time. It’s arranged like a traditional mixing desk with all the respective SSL plugin controls visible. It’s also an integral part of SSL’s UF8 and UC1 DAW controllers. Whether this will interest you very much depends on your working methods, and if you’re using just a few instances of the 4K B it’s probably not much help. However, if you use a 4K B or the Native Channel Strip 2 on every channel combined with a few Native Bus Compressor 2’s, which you’ll see over on the right, then you have a pretty compelling environment. Throw in the solo and mute features, the zoom option and the unquestionable beauty of the design, and you’ve also got a clear demonstration of what an SSL DAW could look like.
As channel strip plugins go, the 4K B is about as well-equipped as you’ll find. Add in the vibey harmonics, 360 implementation and beautiful visuals and you’ve got a winning design that’s the perfect companion to the super clean Channel Strip 2.
MusicRadar verdict: The SSL 4K B is a lovely plugin that lets you decide how much of the hardware flavour you want to dial in.
Solid State Logic SSL 4K B: Hands-on demos
Andre Rodrigues _ House of Rock
Solid State Logic SSL 4K B: Specifications
- mac: Provided as a universal binary for macOS and features native M1 support. Tested on Monterey (12), Big Sur (11), Catalina (10.15).
- Windows: Tested on Windows 11, 10.
- CONTACT: Solid State Logic