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December 24, 2009

SSL X-Desk: Art for All?

Filed under: Mixing reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 12:29 pm

SSL X-Desk Review

2009 was a year of changes and Solid State Logic got it perfectly. More than ever, the British manufacturer wanted to perpetuate its leading position in the professional analog mixer market launching a new product, the most refined of all: the X-Desk, a compact, 16-channel, analog line mixer developed for project studios. This human-sized mixer aroused our curiosity…

Even though acronyms have changed a lot with the advent of the internet, SSL (simply think “Oxford, England”…) still remains a synonym for professional quality to any audio enthusiast – both for sound and technical aspects. After many years of having become one of the indispensable products in professional studios all over the world, the British manufacturer started to show interest in modular solutions with its X-Rack Series, allowing (almost) anybody to enjoy their legendary sound if they had the need and the budget. In 2008 they presented the Matrix, which confirmed the manufacturer’s will to win new clients over with a new analog mixer concept. Equipped with 16 inline channels, 40 inputs with digital routing and DAW control, it combines the best of both the “out-of-the-box” and the “in-the-box” worlds. Now, SSL moves even further in that direction with the X-Desk. No more jam-packed mixers: 16 line input channels, no mic preamps nor EQ, but enough mixing and connection possibilities.

SSL X-DeskAt first sight, the mixer’s extremely compact size (17.1″ x 12.2″ x 4.7″) will surprise you, considering it’s an SSL, even if the Matrix had already started with the trend… You can now have the Oxford sound directly in your home studio, even if it’s more a home than a studio – like in this review!

Nevertheless, just look at the mixer and you’ll know it’s a real SSL. First of all, you’ll notice the typical sturdy manufacturing. Reliable production, clear silkscreen and a well thought-out design that makes the workflow easier. The mixer has the same 25-pin D-Sub connectors you’ll find on most professional products. Moreover, all ten D-Sub sockets on the rear panel are recessed, ensuring an easy integration of the X-Desk in your production environment. No connector will be outwardly exposed, therefore reducing the space needed to set up the mixer. We all know that connectors can take up a lot of space and SSL dealt with that issue properly.

The small mixer looks nice and it promises a lot of flexibility and ease of use. But what about the technology inside?  Let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

SSL struck a decisive blow with the X-Desk by offering an expandable mixer that focuses on the real needs of today’s professional music production. This compact device concentrates all the brand’s know-how and philosophy to provide all the essentials for quality mixing. It surely doesn’t have anything to envy its competitors – does it have any competitors, considering its price?

SSL fans will enjoy the typical SSL sound energy. For all the rest who always wanted to work with SSL products, the X-Desk is the best opportunity to realize their dream at an affordable price.

Advantages:

  • Clean but biting SSL SuperAnalogue sound in a compact mixer
  • SSL typical versatility and philosophy
  • Routing, summing and monitoring possibilities worthy of a large mixer
  • Precise functions that make the X-Desk a fully reliable mixer
  • Cleverly designed stereo Cue bus providing 16 summing channels
  • Expandability that allows you to link up to eight X-Desks and use all outboard combinations you wish
  • What a price!

Drawbacks:

  • Talkback sound
  • CUE ST level control without push-push switch (like on the 4000!) to cut/activate the signal without loosing the level setting
  • Cables must be bought separately…
  • No “X-Desk XPander” version without monitor and FX send/return functions to optimize X-Link chaining…

To read the full detailed review see:  SSL X-Desk Review

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