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Hacienda Labs HL 4000

Hacienda Labs HL 4000

4.9 4.9 out of 5, based on 2 Reviews

the single clone of the dynamic section of the legendary SSL4000 !! with its addictive knob color !!

6th June 2016

Hacienda Labs HL 4000 by Dowsed

Hacienda Labs HL 4000

Manufacturer: Hacienda Labs
Model Number: HL4000
Product Type: 500 Series Dynamics Module
Website: HL 4000 dynamic SSL comp
Price: 339 € plus tax introductory price (439 € after introductory period)

The Hacienda Labs HL4000 brings a dynamics module based on the SSL4000 E series channels dynamics section to the API 500 series format. The dynamics section of the E series is a tried and trusted disciple of recording and mix engineers alike and I was incredibly excited to give the Hacienda a put through its paces. As it comes in at a price point roughly half of SSL’s own 500 series version, it is sure to interest anybody with a 500 series chassis. Upon trawling through their website (which is minimal at the point of writing this) it is clear that Hacienda are a recently set-up company based in France, and the HL4000 is one of two products currently available (the other being a Studer based pre-amp – review coming soon).

My first impressions upon unboxing the HL4000 were extremely favourable. From just looking at the module you can see it is sturdy, well made and built to last. I gave each button and knob a bit of a test before installing it to my 500 rack, and all was good on that front.

If you compared the HL4000 directly to SSL’s own 500 series version, you will see that the front panel is slightly different, but it is close enough to feel immediately familiar to those of you who have used the dynamics sections of SSL consoles. Other differences include no high-pass filter or linear release controls. That said, the hacienda includes a “color” knob not featured on the SSL and the location of the metering is arguably improved by keeping each meter closer to their corresponding pots. Thus far, there are lots of positives, although the proud Brit inside me is slightly irked by the Americanized spelling of the word “color” on the front-plate; SSL are a British company, in recognition I think it should be labeled “colour”.

Once I had it installed and powered up, it was time to make it blink like a Christmas tree. It is with some excitement that I can tell you that operating the HL4000 triggered all the muscle memory in my fingers developed from many, many hours using SSL consoles (in my case, largely on a G series). Another similarity to the original SSL dynamics is just how awesome it sounds on acoustic drums. The compressor on the slow attack is great at making the transients “pop” and the gate is extremely useful at reducing spill in a way that isn’t intrusive to the vibe of the performance, such is the magic of the range knob. In some cases, the expander is also extremely useful, like when trying to bring out ghosts notes on snare drums that need a bit more to cut level through the mix. I could quite easily have 6-10 of these in a rack just to process drum channels with and with the HL4000s price point that isn’t beyond the reach of dedicated and serious project studios and above. The one area where Hacienda Labs stray from the beaten path, is with the “color” knob, which they describe as a way to change the “attitude” of the compressor to give a colouration more like a Neve compressor. Reading that statement, you might assume that the difference between the two is dramatic. In reality, it is a lot more subtle than you’d expect, but no less useful! For me, the “color” button once engaged is a bit addictive and I seldom want to take it off, as it can really help to counteract the more clinical nature of digital audio.

In summary, the HL4000 has all the traits and the sound I love about the real thing, and, whilst I can’t completely verify its authenticity to the original E series as I haven’t been able to do a side-by-side comparison, it certainly gave me what I expected! Like the original SSL dynamics, the HL4000 is extremely flexible. Although there may be some compressors that sound better on particular instruments or in certain situations (and likely much more expensive), the HL4000 is the perfect workhorse module for project and professional studios alike. Hacienda Labs have made a great-sounding product that has all the advantages of the original at an attractive price. I would recommend the HL4000 to anyone who has a 500 series rack, particularly those working with acoustic instruments regularly. Spelling aside, I don’t really have a lot of negatives. If I were majorly critical, I might have suggested adding input and output trims to the feature set, which would make it even more attractive for those using a hybrid setup. This is because the compressor section of the HL4000 uses auto make-up gain (as does the original SSL), so when you are “smashing” transient heavy material (like acoustic drums) with a slow attack time, you can end up with a dramatic increase in peak volume. If left unchecked, it can mess with your headroom when going into other analogue units, or, even worse, it could cause problems when converting back into digital if you aren’t vigilant with your gain staging.

To demonstrate the HL4000 in action, attached are a few examples of rock instruments with various settings. Apart from a little subtractive EQ, there is no further processing taking place on any of these sound bites.

Attached Thumbnails
Hacienda Labs HL 4000-acoustic-processed-fast-attack-compression-.jpg   Hacienda Labs HL 4000-acoustic-processed-slow-attack-compression-.jpg   Hacienda Labs HL 4000-clean-picked-guitar-processed-fast-attack-.jpg   Hacienda Labs HL 4000-distorted-electric-fast-att-.jpg   Hacienda Labs HL 4000-distorted-electric-slow-att-.jpg  

Hacienda Labs HL 4000-kick-drum-eq.png   Hacienda Labs HL 4000-kick-processed-fast-attack-gate-slow-attack-compression-.jpg   Hacienda Labs HL 4000-kick-processed-slow-attack-gate-slow-attack-compression-.jpg   Hacienda Labs HL 4000-snare-drum-eq.png   Hacienda Labs HL 4000-snare-drum-expanded.jpg  

Hacienda Labs HL 4000-snare-drum-gated.jpg   Hacienda Labs HL 4000-vox-processed-fast-attack-compression-.jpg   Hacienda Labs HL 4000-vox-processed-slow-attack-compression-.jpg   Hacienda Labs HL 4000-clean-picked-guitar-processed-slow-attack-.jpg  
Attached Files

Acoustic Processed (Fast Attack Compression).wav (2.71 MB, 680 views)

Acoustic Processed (Slow Attack Compression).wav (2.71 MB, 579 views)

Acoustic Un-Processed.wav (2.71 MB, 555 views)

Bass Processed (Fast Attack Compression).wav (1.45 MB, 464 views)

Bass Processed (Slow Attack Compression).wav (1.45 MB, 464 views)

Bass Un-Processed.wav (1.45 MB, 469 views)

Clean Picked Guitar Processed (Fast Attack).wav (4.73 MB, 550 views)

Clean Picked Guitar Processed (Slow Attack).wav (4.73 MB, 547 views)

Clean Picked Guitar Un-Processed.wav (4.73 MB, 539 views)

Distorted Electric Guitar Processed (Slow Att).wav (2.39 MB, 504 views)

Distorted Electric Guitar Un-Processed.wav (2.39 MB, 502 views)

Distorted Electric Guitar Processed (Fast Att).wav (2.39 MB, 502 views)

Kick Processed (Fast Attack Gate and Slow Attack Compression).wav (2.11 MB, 522 views)

Kick Processed (Slow Attack Gate and Slow Attack Compression).wav (2.11 MB, 519 views)

Kick Un-Processed.wav (2.11 MB, 519 views)

Snare Processed (Expanded).wav (3.76 MB, 530 views)

Snare Processed (Gated).wav (3.76 MB, 534 views)

Snare Un-Processed.wav (3.76 MB, 534 views)

Vox Processed (Slow Attack Compression).wav (2.88 MB, 517 views)

Vox Processed (Fast Attack Compression).wav (2.88 MB, 504 views)

Vox Un-Processed.wav (2.88 MB, 627 views)

  • 4
24th May 2016

Hacienda Labs HL 4000 by elsonido

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Hacienda Labs HL 4000

I have the preamp HL169 of the same brand
have been working on consoles SSL4000, the dynamics section is of high quality
I use hugely emulations Universal Audio and I always dreamed of owning this dynamic section
So it's done with the HL4000
we found perfectly sound and the quality of the original but has a really accessible price
by adding the color button Hacienda Labs is a success on numerous sources, such as voice or acoustic guitars, it becomes difficult to do without
a module that I recommend to buy, very versatile, it works wonders on the drums and the price is really accessible for a unit of this quality

  • 4
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