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SSL Bus Comp Shootout (SSL X-Rack, Stam SA-4000+, Duende, Slate, Waves, bx_townhouse) Studio Headphones
Old 2 weeks ago
  #1
SSL Bus Comp Shootout (SSL X-Rack, Stam SA-4000+, Duende, Slate, Waves, bx_townhouse)

This is the followup to my original shootout which can be found here:

Another SSL Comp shootout - sorry, no SSL involved :-)

Wanted to do this again with the "real" thing involved and include the bx_townhouse plugin as well, so I took the X-Rack hardware version with me from the studio over the weekend.

Sound/Song snippet is exactly the same as in the original shootout as I reopened the original session.*

The hardware contenders:

- Stam Audio SA4000+ (this time without the Carnhill transformers engaged as this is not the original design of SSL bus comps)
- SSL X-Rack Stereo Bus Compressor (in thy Mynx rack)

The software contenders:

- Waves SSL Bus Comp
- SSL Native v6 Bus Comp (files are called Duende for better separation from the HW SSL))
- Slate FG-Grey (which emulates transformers, can't be switched off)
- Plugin Alliance bx_townhouse (which emulates the original comp from Townhouse Studios which itself was kind of a Franken-SSL with original parts)

I spent a lot of time and care to match the amount of compression and levels, I think I did pretty well.

Settings are 4:1, 30ms attack, .1 release (which is my go-to on SSLs)
Compression was calibrated so the tone read 4db of GR on all of these.
In fact they are compressing 1-3 db when the music plays.

This time I included a second set where I raised the level INTO the bus comps 3db to make them pump harder. I wouldn't go that far in real life, but it makes the different tones a little more obvious.

All WAV files are matched to the same LUFS level and are randomly numbered, so they have the exact same loudness and do not correspond to the above order! Should be fun, right?;-)

Here's the link to the files, feel free to import them in your DAW and compare.
Dropbox - SSL Shootout NEW.zip

Very curious about your opinions.
PM me for results, will post them here later.

* A short, but the busiest section of the song (from "Dueling Mixes" in December 2017, really liked the tune, sometimes they have amazing stuff). This is kind of an advanced rough mix, so only levels, panning, some basic FX, HP/LP and my "Brauerizing"-style template before the final stereo compressor.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #2
Talking

Quote:
Originally Posted by JSchlomo View Post
Very curious about your opinions.
I am very curious about yours, because you have the hardware and the software and can tell us in your opinion which is closer to the real team.

Thanks in advance!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcanicos View Post
I am very curious about yours, because you have the hardware and the software and can tell us in your opinion which is closer to the real team.

Thanks in advance!
Well, ain't the fun around here to have folks have a blind listen first, share their findings and THEN reveal which is which?

All I can say regarding my opinion for now is this: The question rather is "Which one do YOU like best rather than which software or clone is closer to the real thing? Because that doesn't matter if you not clearly prefer the real thing in a blind test."
Old 2 weeks ago
  #4
Talking

Yes,is another point of view!
Thanks for your work!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #5
My pleasure. If you wanna know the results right now feel free to PM me.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #6
Lives for gear
 
b0se's Avatar
Will get on this tomorrow, files downloaded and loaded into A/B/X. Thanks again for your efforts.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #7
Lives for gear
 
BM Grabber's Avatar
 

I like A and D the best... By listening to all in order 2 times in a loop.

More feeling than analyzing so far. Will listen some more tomorrow (now to bed, as it's 04.49 AM here ).
Old 2 weeks ago
  #8
Thanx for chiming in, guys! Hopefully more will join...
Old 2 weeks ago
  #9
Gear Nut
They're all very close... I found F does something really musical to the turnaround phrase in bar 2, but it takes a lot out of the on beat snare hits from the higher energy section. The others are so close.. I'd have to spend more time to come to a solid conclusion of a winner. But for me the shoot out tells me any of them do the job very well at these settings, hardware or software.

I also did my own comparison to Glue Compressor in Ableton, for my own curiosity. Night and day

Also compared to IK Multimedia Bus Compressor (part of T-Racks 5) and it was just as close as the others. Hard to say if I prefer it or not compared to the rest.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #10
Lives for gear
 
b0se's Avatar
Had a quick listen as I'm currently enjoy the Console 1 that arrived yesterday :¬)

2 nights only 4 hours sleep (uuuh) so I'm not at optimum critical listening levels. However, B sounds flatter than the others and doesn't inspire me. E and F sound brighter, F feeling slightly wider/open. A has a nice balance to it, as does D. B feeling more rounded (analogue?). C also good.

I'd be happy with any of them, except B perhaps. If I had to pick, D or F I think, depending on need.

Tough test!

Edit: Listened with fresh ears, F my pick. Interesting results!

Last edited by b0se; 2 weeks ago at 05:00 PM.. Reason: Typo
Old 2 weeks ago
  #11
Lives for gear
 

All very close. I would probably be happy with any. D and E being my least favorite. D narrows the image, and E is adding a bit of muddy to my ears.

My favourites are C, F and B.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #12
Gear Maniac
 

My favs are C and E.

Thanks for this.

Daniel.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #13
Talking

my fav C & E .
Thanks
Old 2 weeks ago
  #14
Keep it coming guys!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #15
Here for the gear
 

they sound very similar to me (from my suboptimal Macbook converters on ATH m50 cans) but if I have to choose, would be C (slightly more focused mid lows and a bit more 3D)
Old 1 week ago
  #16
No one else?

To be fair, I had a lot of PM's, but given how much ongoing discussions about SSL bus compl plug vs hardware/what's the best plugin etc. there are around here, it's quite lonely in this thread.

INFO: After revealing the results I will add files of the Stam with transformers to the download folder!
Old 1 week ago
  #17
Lives for gear
 
b0se's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by JSchlomo View Post
No one else?

To be fair, I had a lot of PM's, but given how much ongoing discussions about SSL bus compl plug vs hardware/what's the best plugin etc. there are around here, it's quite lonely in this thread.

INFO: After revealing the results I will add files of the Stam with transformers to the download folder!
Usually the way with hardware vs software blind tests. If the files were labelled by unit or plugin name this thread would be full of opinions on how much better the hardware is :-)
Old 1 week ago
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by b0se View Post
Usually the way with hardware vs software blind tests. If the files were labelled by unit or plugin name this thread would be full of opinions on how much better the hardware is :-)
Sure, that's true. :-)
Old 1 week ago
  #19
Lives for gear
 

I like the hardware version better...
Old 1 week ago
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by lydfar View Post
I like the hardware version better...
Which hardware? ;-)
Old 1 week ago
  #21
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JSchlomo View Post
Which hardware? ;-)
Old 1 week ago
  #22
Lives for gear
 
funka's Avatar
Thank you for this very well done shootout.
Nice levels, alignement and mix!!

I will try to guess...

I listened only to +3db files.

Software:
I prefer A , then E (just a little less than A), then D and C (that has too much distortion for me)

Hardware: I find the stereo image different than others
I prefer B with a little more details in the center, then F

...


For me, all would be ok, maybe except C.

Last edited by funka; 1 week ago at 08:10 AM..
Old 6 days ago
  #23
Here for the gear
 

Thanks a lot, this is very interesting!

For me C and D share the crown, depending of what mood I am in and of course what the given material calls for. But if I would have to rank them it would be:
C, D, B, E, F, A.
It's basically from most to least mojo and size. The differences in size really surprised me. F and A had significantly less low mids and a "pointier" feel. But I can also see where C and D would just be too much and something more subtle would be appropriate. I once heard a rumor that not everything is rock'n'roll

OH WOW: I just saw that the +3 files are smashed but only compared those (that explains a lot). I thought they where just level raised because someone complained about wrong LUFS, so that according to his/her meter this comparison is useless and the worst ever.
I will give the non-squeezed files a listen later and edit in my findings (liking E a lot now). Again work disrupts one of the most important things in life: compressor comparisons

Cheers
Mork

Edit1: Okay, they are a lot closer when not pushed to the limits. Except for C, which does a good amount of punishment. It really has to fit the music and thereof is usable in the least occasions. But when it fits it rocks. The others definitely have different tones, but it's a little bit like deciding the color of your shirt. It depends on the mood you're in and I don't think that either of them is unusable. I only listened on headphones today, so I want to check on speakers tomorrow. I think there are some differences in spaciousness, which are better revealed on speakers. After that I will add my "non-spanked" ranking an a wild guess which ones are hardware.

Edit2: I listened on speakers today. Of course there are differences but I think none of the compressors is unusable. And I think that is remarkable considering the price range of 29$ to something like 2900$. So here are my wild guesses in order of like-o-meter:

E - SSL hardware - Nice glue and most width, tight (never used it)
F - STAM hardware - Fatter bottom than E, loose (never used it)
B - Slate - nice low end to low mids and still nice glue but cleaner than E (used to own but didn't use much)
D - SSL Native - Less low end and a little less glue than B (never used it)
A - Waves - The thinnest and cleanest of the bunch but still very usable (own it but don't use much)
-------------
C - Townhouse - in it's own category (own it, use it occasionaly)

Since I didn't ever use half of the comps these are basically just marketing influenced wild guesses :P
The best thing about that is that I have to be wrong and my Waves G Bus comp is better than I thought!

Last edited by Its Mork; 5 days ago at 08:18 PM.. Reason: see text
Old 4 days ago
  #24
Lives for gear
 
Progmatic-Studios's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcanicos View Post
I am very curious about yours, because you have the hardware and the software and can tell us in your opinion which is closer to the real team.

Thanks in advance!
Curious about this too. Gonna check the files tomorrow
Old 2 days ago
  #25
Gear Head
 

I like C the best.

My guess is its either Native v6 or x rack. V6 when I demoed it kept the low end and highs the most out of my own comps and has a cool motion in its ocean. I expect X rack to sound pretty similar so maybe C is analog.

I liked the +3 files best which surprised me because I don't normally compress a lot on the master and don't like that sound much on my own material. The C file brought the most out of the mix though. I preferred the raw file to most of the other mixes.

D was my second favorite.
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