Just picked up an original SSL / Solid State Logic FX G384 mix bus compressor. I've been running it through my usual mix bus tests.
Just to get it out of the way, to my ears (and I just had them tested during my annual physical) the Smart C2 sounds NOTHING like this compressor. In fact, after running it through three different converters (apogee, i88x, ksp8) it consistently sounds quite similar to the API and not the Smart C2.
I've been A/B'ing the API and SSL for a few hours now. I set both with the just about the same settings -- difference being the release on the SSL is .6 and the API is .5. Both the threshold and make-up gain were eye balled for accuracy.
At the same level of compression (4-5db) the SSL was a little more open but not so snappy. The API was more crushed, but in a super sweet way on the drums ... it's like it knows where the drums are in the mix.
With the SSL the snare in particular was more forward and open but not as snappy ... so I guess it's whatever you are looking for. Snappier drums or not.
Also, the SSL low end was so very similar to the API -- running out of my Genelec speakers. I also patched in an 18' subwoofer loudspeaker ... pretty much the same bottom end.
So, in the end, the API 2500
and SSl FX G384 work quite nicely together.
I'm going to test them on just the drum bus next and see if the SSL does something else to the snap. But, to be clear, the API somehow makes the drums snappy in the mix, whereas the SSL does, but not so overtly.
The weirdest thing that I found or the most surprising, was when I patched the Portico 5012
instead of the DM2000 pre's on the i88x.
While the Neve was louder by 3db recorded, once I made up the gain in my DAW for the i88x, the i88x pre's were right there with the Portico in terms of body and overall resolution.
I just bought a Portico 5032
from MichaelT right here on Gearslutz which, with the EQ, is a whole different animal from the 5012. So, I'm thinking that if you want a single channel pre specifically for guitar or vox, you could quite comfortably use the i88x pre's for stereo applications like synths etc.
So, I guess what I am saying is, if you are a small studio, recording hobbyist or are on a tight budget, I would say the i88x should be counted as good pre's and quite usable at least from my limited tests. So there you go i88x people ; )