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SSL Bus Comp Shootout (SSL X-Rack, Stam SA-4000+, Duende, Slate, Waves, bx_townhouse)
Old 6th January 2019
  #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 6th January 2019
  #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 6th January 2019
  #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 6th January 2019
  #4
Talking

Yes,is another point of view!
Thanks for your work!
Old 6th January 2019
  #5
My pleasure. If you wanna know the results right now feel free to PM me.
Old 7th January 2019
  #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 7th January 2019
  #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 7th January 2019
  #8
Thanx for chiming in, guys! Hopefully more will join...
Old 7th January 2019
  #9
Gear Maniac
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 7th January 2019
  #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; 8th January 2019 at 05:00 PM.. Reason: Typo
Old 7th January 2019
  #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 8th January 2019
  #12
Gear Addict
 

My favs are C and E.

Thanks for this.

Daniel.
Old 8th January 2019
  #13
Talking

my fav C & E .
Thanks
Old 8th January 2019
  #14
Keep it coming guys!
Old 8th January 2019
  #15
Gear Head
 

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 11th January 2019
  #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 11th January 2019
  #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 11th January 2019
  #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 12th January 2019
  #19
Lives for gear
 

I like the hardware version better...
Old 12th January 2019
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by lydfar View Post
I like the hardware version better...
Which hardware? ;-)
Old 13th January 2019
  #21
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JSchlomo View Post
Which hardware? ;-)
Old 14th January 2019
  #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; 15th January 2019 at 08:10 AM..
Old 18th January 2019
  #23
Gear Head
 

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; 18th January 2019 at 08:18 PM.. Reason: see text
Old 20th January 2019
  #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 22nd January 2019
  #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.
Old 5th February 2019
  #26
Here for the gear
 

Thanks for the test! I liked A, B is the one I least liked. Can you share in PM the results ?
Old 5th February 2019
  #27
When are the results to be shared? I tried opening the Dropbox files but couldn't for some reason. So haven't listened.
Old 5th February 2019
  #28
Lives for gear
 
b0se's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by blayz2002 View Post
When are the results to be shared? I tried opening the Dropbox files but couldn't for some reason. So haven't listened.
Sharing results would 'ruin' the blind test, you can request them privately of course.

The link works. Don't click the 'SSL Shootout Blind' folder, click the Download button top right of the page, then select Direct Download.
Old 5th February 2019
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mosaico View Post
Thanks for the test! I liked A, B is the one I least liked. Can you share in PM the results ?
PM'ed you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by blayz2002 View Post
When are the results to be shared? I tried opening the Dropbox files but couldn't for some reason. So haven't listened.
Link should work, have you tried again? I initially wanted to share the results here by now, but for the moment I enjoy leaving it blind. I will PM the results to everyone interested.
Old 5th February 2019
  #30
Lives for gear
 
funka's Avatar
 

Please let it blind unless you're flooded under PMs...
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