There are few names in the production world that enjoy the same status as SSL, who have been building some of the world’s most desirable studio equipment since the '70s from their base in Oxford. The reasons why so many ultra high-end studios choose SSL mixing consoles is that they sound amazing and perform flawlessly. So it is no surprise that most producers in the know lust after SSL desks.
While once upon a time the cost of owning an SSL desk would run into the hundreds of thousands of pounds, in recent times SSL have been creating products for those of us on a much more modest budget, and have made major inroads into the project and home studio market.
The SSL Nucleus is a continuation of this trend and also a culmination of the lessons learnt from previous products to create a workstation designed to become the heart of the studio, offering complete DAW control as well as taking care of audio input and output needs in one neat package.
In a nutshell the Nucleus is a 16-channel DAW control surface with touch-sensitive flying faders, an analogue monitoring path, two pre-amps and USB sound interface in one package. The analogue signal paths use the same SuperAnalogue circuitry as found on the SSL Duality and AWS consoles, and the soundcard is 192 kHz capable, so the sound quality is nothing short of amazing.
Each of the channels has a touch-sensitive flying fader, rotary pot, mute, solo, channel select and a 10-segment level meter to provide a fully featured mixing console interface. Because the Nucleus has flying faders, scrolling between banks of channels is a breeze, with each channel’s settings instantly recalled, and the LCD “scribble strips” are updated with channel names making this controller perfect for working on projects of any size even if there are a large amount of channels in use.
The design and build quality of the Nucleus is absolutely top-notch and what one would expect of a brand name like SSL, with many of the components also being used on their ultra high-end products. The Nucleus offers a range of options when it comes to workflow and encourages experimentation. Once the initial learning curve has been overcome, it becomes clear that the Nucleus makes production work faster, more fun and offers the kind of precise control over parameters that high-end productions require. The layout of the control surface is very well-thought-out, with controls nicely spaced, giving the Nucleus a very slick finish.
The Nucleus is a truly cross-platform device and is designed to work with a PC or Mac running Cubase, Logic, Ableton, Protools as well as all other major DAW software. While the set-up procedure isn’t the worst we have come across, it certainly isn’t the easiest mainly due to the use of ipMIDI to control the DAW. While fast, once it is up-and-running, it can be something of a challenge to install and get working correctly. This is a minor gripe in the grand scheme of things and once sorted will be forgotten about, but this could be a source of pain for the less technically minded.
The SSL Nucleus is an incredibly clever and useful box of tricks that will quickly become the heart of the studio, making workflow more efficient not to mention giving amazing sound quality, both in playback and recording. While the cost of the Nucleus may seem high, this level of pre-amps and digital converters alone would come close to the purchase price without even thinking about the cost of a DAW controller. Nucleus owners who make full use of the pre-amps and monitoring will find themselves in the happy position of having a truly high-end DAW workstation, mixer, pre-amp and monitoring package for a very reasonable price indeed.
To further sweeten the deal SSL have also included the Duende Native Essentials bundle, which includes SSL Channel EQ & Dynamics and Stereo Buss compressor in VST/AU/RTAS plug-in formats, making the Nucleus a very tempting proposition.