The smart dumb analogue console.
XL-Desk is a modern twist on the classic analogue studio console. It’s designed for tracking or mixing engineers who require an analogue console within a DAW centric studio, but don’t want or need the integrated DAW control and analogue level automation other SSL console products have made the new hybrid studio standard.
XL-Desk is in many ways a traditional 24 into 8 analogue console but it packs in an incredible collection of features. It has 20 channel strips: 16 dual input mono (switchable between main input or DAW return) and 4 stereo channels. The first eight channels have VHD mic pre’s. There is an 18 slot 500 format rack built in that can be used for processing or mic pre’s. XL-Desk ships with a legendary SSL Stereo Bus Compressor module in slots 17 & 18 (hard wired to Mix A). The rack has its own dedicated high spec’ power supply. There are four main Mix Busses (A, B, C, D) with buses B, C and D able to be summed into Mix A. The Busses and channels can access the 500 rack and each have a separate insert point for processing. There are two mono aux sends and two stereo return inputs. Direct outputs on every channel, stereo return and mix bus enable convenient stem printing. Each channel has a Cue Stereo Bus section (with Pan and Volume) used to provide one of the headphone mixes while tracking. At mixdown the mono channel DAW return signals can be routed to the CUE ST bus and then summed into Mix A, so there are 16 main faders + 16 Cue ST inputs + 4 Stereo channels providing 40 summing inputs (using the stereo returns and insert Sum functions you can squeeze in over 50 summing inputs). There is also a fully-featured monitoring section with bass management (3 sets of speakers + subwoofer), Foldback A and B with individual talkbacks for headphone mixes and a built in Listen Mic input + classic compressor circuit, with its own direct output.
XL-Desk may be compact but it features all of the classic SSL channel strip features which make our consoles so versatile and accommodate such a wide range of production requirements. XL-Desk has 20 channel strips. The first 16 channel strips are dual input mono, meaning they can be switched between a main input and a DAW return whilst tracking. The Remaining four strips are stereo channels. Channels 1-8 have VHD mic pre’s. Channels 9-16 are line level but can use the 500 rack for mic inputs if desired. Each mono channel can access a corresponding 500 format module and also has a separate traditional Insert point. The four stereo channels cannot access the 500 rack and do not have Insert points. All of the channels have an additional Direct Output to facilitate printing processed material to your DAW and this can be switched between pre-/post fader. Each channel has a +/-20dB Trim control which can be used in a couple of ways: for VHD channels in can be used to control the output level from the VHD into the channel when using heavy distortion, when used with a 500 rack module it can be used to drive the level into the inserted module. There is a phase invert switch. Beside the Trim control is a tri-colour signal indicator LED. The metering on XL Desk can be switched between +24dBu and +18dBu Scale to give the following LED settings.
Each channel has a CUE Stereo section with Level and Pan Controls and a pre/post fader switch. When tracking this would typically be used to feed one of the headphone busses. The mono channels have an ALT button which switches the CUE ST section to sourcing its signal from an additional rear panel ALT input, which is then summed into Mix A. This ALT input means we have 32 inputs to the mono channel strips for Mixdown. There are two Mono Aux Sends (globally switchable pre and post fader) and two Stereo Returns (the Returns also have Direct Outputs for DAW printing). Each channel has a Pan/Balance Control and buttons for routing to the four Mix Busses. Completing the channels are 100mm faders which give hands on, precise level control.
The magic of an SSL console x 4
Designed by the team behind Duality and AWS, XL-Desk delivers the kind of stunning audio quality only associated with SuperAnalogueTM SSL consoles. XL-Desk provides the sought after separation, clarity and punch behind thousands of hit records made on SSL consoles. Everyone agrees that the sonic magic of an SSL console happens at the Mix Bus but one bus is not always enough! Many high-profile mixers use multiple mix buses to create parallels or sub-groups of instruments, helping them to compress and manipulate sounds in unique ways. These ‘tricks of the trade’ are some of the most effective to help take a mix from ‘good’ to ‘great’.
XL-Desk provides no less than 4 mix buses – A, B, C and D. Mix A is the master bus, from which the final stereo mix is derived. This has its own 100mm fader. Mixes B, C and D each have their own level control and crucially, the ability to sum into Mix A. All 4 Mix Buses have Direct Outputs for DAW printing, separate standard stereo Insert points and have the ability to access slots 9-16 of the in-built 500 format rack.