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SSL's Listen Mic Plugin -- It's Free!

Digitally modeled version of compressor from SSL's 4000 series consoles By Frank Moldstad

SSL LMC1 plugin
LMC1 interface

Heres a plugin thatll save you $100,000 or so which is approximately the going rate for a used SSL 4000 series console. Solid State Logic has released the LMC1 plugin for free download to Mac users in the VST and Audio Units formats.

The LMC1 is a digital model of the Listen Mic Compressor circuit included on vintage SSL 4000 consoles. Recording engineers often employed the Listen Mic Compressor on drums to produce the classic SSL gated ambience mic sound, so called because the gated ambient room mics were run through the consoles Listen Mic Compressor.

Like many great recording techniques, this one came about through a happy accident. During the recording sessions for Peter Gabriels ?Intruder album in 1979, engineer Hugh Padgham was at the SSL working on the drum sound when it magically fell into place. What happened was that the kit sound was being picked up by the reverse talkback mic in front of drummer Phil Collins.

A feature of the SSL 4000, the reverse talkback mic was heavily compressed to make voices in a live room more intelligible. But its effect on the drum sound was so impressive that the console was rewired overnight to get a split output from the compressor and allow it to be patched into a channel on the board. Later boards were wired for this modification at the factory, and the Listen Mic Compressor can be heard on a wide range of  tracks, from Phil Collins ?In the Air Tonight to Skid Rows ?'Youth Gone Wild.

SSL 4000 console
SSLs plugin version, which is downloadable here, works with any host program on the Mac (OS 10.3 or higher) that can handle VST or AU plugins including Nuendo, Logic Pro 7, Cubase, and Digital Performer. (Pro Tools users hoping for a TDM version are out of luck for the time being.)

I tried it with Apples Logic Pro 7 and later with Soundtrack Pro, and found it to be a unique dynamics tool thats unlike anything Ive used before. Thats unique in a good way, as in specialized. The way it boosts frequencies around the 1000-10000 kHz range is especially good for adding presence to percussion tracks. But its not for everything for instance, at a higher compression ratio it radically changed the tone of a deep string bass into something resembling a toy-synth effect. It sounds huge on a snare drum, cymbals, or drum overheads, however. After inserting it on a vanilla-sounding snare track, I was able to dial in a wonderfully trashy quality that brought it to the forefront of a mix.

The interface is simple, with just three controls. A big knob on the left controls the compression ratio, which ranges from ?Less to ?More. Thats really all the information you need, isnt it? But there are actually 10 steps indicated by markers around the dial. Two smaller knobs for adjusting input and output levels have corresponding LED meters for gain and trim.

Two instances of the LMC1 plugin running in Apple's Soundtrack Pro.
Id encourage anyone whose DAW can use the LMC1 plugin to rush to their computer and start downloading . Not only is the LMC1 free, its a very tasty and useful addition to the dynamics cupboard. As part of the download process, SSL requires registration on its site, asking a details such as your name, contact info, job description, recording platform, audio interface, and any DSP cards you may own. Its a short form which I gladly submitted, considering the reward. And Im expecting to get some interesting emails from the company in the near future.

SSL didnt say why it was releasing this plugin for free, but where there is one, more may follow not for free, of course. Given the companys heritage, it wouldnt be too surprising to see a whole line of plugins that digitally model the sonic qualities of other vintage SSL hardware, a la Universal Audio. With veteran SSL user and digital technologist Peter Gabriel as part of a new ownership team, SSL no doubt has other surprises in store.

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Related Keywords:audio plugin, SSL, 4000 console, VST, Audio Units, plugin, compressor, LMC1, Listen Mic, Solid State Logic


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