Last Friday, Lauren, Christos, Martin, Ev, and I had a great time trying out an analogue mastering chain on Lauren and Christos’s recent live performance recordings.

We ran stereo out of Logic into tracks 1&2 of the SSL, applying significant EQ right there to reduce bass muddiness and add some high frequency sparkle. We added a little mixbuss compression before going out to the Vertigo for some more compression (AB’ing quite a bit along the way) and finally into the Manley Massive Passive for sweetening EQ.

The character of the Vertigo compression was quite different to the SSL’s mixbuss.  Perhaps the Vertigo was more transparent, with a more open top-end.  The SSL mixbuss was thicker, seeming to apply more glue.  The SideChain filter on the Vertigo had us listening hard: the difference when in or out was very subtle but we agreed that it did affect the bass and ‘thud’ content to a noticeable degree.

We didn’t really compare the SSL and Manley EQ, rather we used them for quite different tasks: tonal balancing on the SSL as the first step in the chain, sweetening on the Manley as the last step.  Spoiled?  Yes.

To go out of the desk to the Vertigo and Manley we first used the handy SSL Mix Insert point on the patchbay before plumping for the actual Mix out (mainly so we could take advantage of the mixbuss compressor–we weren’t sure where this was in the chain actually*).  We ran the Manley output back into the computer by patching into the DAW inputs directly (i.e. the top Mytek).  This allowed us to record the mastering chain directly back into Logic.

By setting the outputs of the recording in Logic to channels 3&4 on the desk, and routing these to the SSL’s Record buss instead of the Mix buss, we were able to flick the monitoring source on the desk to compare pre- and post-outboard signals**.  If we’d have added a clean send from Logic to some more desk channels we could have compared pre-SSL EQ too for some A/B/C comparison, but time got the better of us.

* Update: Seems like we did the right thing as, according to the signal flow diagram, the mixbuss compressor comes after the mix insert.

** In retrospect it might have made sense to have reversed this i.e. sent the mastering chain (channels 1&2) to the record buss and the rest to the mix buss, but according to the signal flow diagram it doesn’t make any difference.