Few dynamics processors divide opinion like the SSL bus compressor. Whether we use one or not, we continue to hear its surrounding philosophies from both experienced engineers and those new to the game.
Behind the design
The modern form of the glue compressor originates from the famous SSL 4000 G series consoles of the late 80s. Renowned for its punch, drive, and clarity, the G-comp has since been reimagined in both hardware and software iterations the world over.
Apart from its sound, it also offers incredible flexibility. At the time, the ability to patch and process signals from virtually anywhere on the board and its sidechain capabilities made it an essential part of the record-making process.
Although a precise multipurpose tool, the SSL bus compressor became synonymous with mixdown and cemented its place as a go-to mix bus processor.
Where to find an SSL bus compressor?
VCA bus compressors exist in many formats and not all of them are designed by SSL. You can find a plethora of plugin versions from almost every manufacturer on the market. In the hardware world, there are rack units and 500-series versions, as well as the original form inside SSL consoles.
Although the rules of compression are the same, each format presents a slightly different feature set. Let’s explore the options and find out some different ways to incorporate an SSL-style compressor into your workflow.
Using the SSL bus compressor as a plugin
Working with plugins active on your master bus is usually not recommended until the final phase of mixdown. As one might expect, this is the complete opposite approach to how the original 4000 series compressor was used in studios.
In many cases, it was left active in the background even during tracking with more subtle compression settings applied. The flexibility of a console also allows you to compress your headphone and monitor mixes, while bypassing the bus compressor on the way in if you wish.
Plugin emulations of the G-comp aim to shape your mix in a similar fashion to the original. While you can’t get nearly the same degree of ‘knock’ from a plugin, these are still powerful tools for mixing when used correctly. When used on channel groups within your DAW like a drum bus or even in parallel, they can be almost as effective as hardware.
- Most DAW systems like Apple Logic Pro, Ableton Live, or Presonus Studio One have their own versions of the G-comp
- UAD SSL 4000 G Bus Compressor Collection
- Slate Digital Virtual Buss Compressors
- IK Multimedia T-RackS Bus Compressor, also in T-RackS 5 MAX bundle
- Waves SSL G-Master Buss Compressor
- Native Instruments Solid Bus Comp, also in Maschine
- Stillwell Audio Bombardier
- SSL Native Bus Compressor 2
SSL-style bus compressors in 500-series and rack format
A high-end bus compressor is a piece of gear with applications beyond the studio. By adding one to your road-ready rack or 500-series case you can bring the ‘glue’ effect to your live shows, or use it in sessions anywhere you might need an additional G-comp.
When we look at what is available, manufacturers reimagine the basic G-comp in so many different ways. While some seek to improve upon the design or sonic quality of the original, others look to innovate. The way we produce music has changed so much since the 4000 series consoles were introduced, and some compressors are now built specifically for application in the box.
Rather than focus on any single aspect, it’s important to see how compressors like these would fit into your current setup. Bear in mind that all 500-series units require 500-series racks, which is an additional expense.
- TK Audio BC501
- IGS Audio S-Type 500 VU
- WES Audio Dione
- Smart Research C1LA
- Serpent Audio SB4001
- SSL G-COMP MkII
- Dramastic Audio Obsidian 500
- Warm Audio Bus-Comp
- Bettermaker Bus Compressor
- SSL X-Logic G-Series
- Dramastic Audio Obsidian
- SSL BUS+
Using a mixer with a built-in bus compressor
Even if you mix completely in the box, an SSL desktop mixer or console with its built-in G-comp can be a game-changing addition to your setup. More than the high-quality input stages and ultra-low noise floor, SSL offers far more advanced routing options than any other manufacturer.
Though the level of investment is considerable, you’ll be hard-pressed to find channel strips and compressors of this quality separately for the same price. Even the entry-level SSL Six can be used in almost every stage of the recording process. From tracking to summing, or processing stems with individual compression, the only limitation becomes your creativity rather than the equipment.
Although there are more affordable ways to get similar results on your mix bus, very few of them add the same vibe to the overall recording experience. So, a mixer or console with an integrated G-comp certainly still has its appeal.
More about bus compression:
- SSL BUS+
- All about bus compressors
- SSL Big Six
- Everything SSL
- Thomann guide to Audio Compressors
- SSL official page
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