The history of the SSL 9000 J

The History Of The SSL 9000 J

It’s no secret that Solid State Logic’s iconic E and G series were among the most successful large-format consoles ever designed. Thousands of these classic consoles were made, and they became key tools in crafting some of the biggest hit records of the 1980s and 1990s.

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SSL Oxford Studio (UK)

But SSL’s constant forward development didn’t end with the E and G series. When the company’s improved SL 9000 J was finally released in 1995 (more than 25 years after the first 4000 G), it set a new bar for just how good an all-analog SSL console could sound.

The new 9000 J would fast become a key component in the sound of some of the biggest pop, hip hop, and R&B releases of the late 90s and throughout the 2000s, thanks to the newly-devised “SuperAnalogue” technology under the hood, which gave the desk a bigger, smoother and more impressively “hi-fi” sound than ever before.

While the earlier SSL E and G consoles were especially popular among rock producers for both their flexibility and their signature sound—sometimes lovingly described as “aggressive”, “crunchy”, “gritty” or even “grimy” by their fans—they also had their limitations.

The tight, assertive tone and gentle saturation that made the earlier SSL consoles so popular with rock mixers turned out to be a liability for major hip hop and R&B producers who were in search of much bigger bottom and an even more extended top end.

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The Hit Factory (USA)

Similarly, pop, orchestral, and even rock engineers with more forward-looking tastes longed for a console with more control, that was capable of putting out sounds that were fuller, cleaner, deeper, beefier and glossier than in the past.

That’s where the SL 9000 J sparkled. Before long, it was being used on major projects for artists from Aerosmith, Santana, and Evanescence to Britney Spears, The Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Kanye West, and countless others.

The remarkably clean, big and open sound of the 9000 J was achieved through the use of SSL’s new “SuperAnalogue” technology, which allowed the company to completely eliminate the use of capacitors in its audio path. Theoretically, this new approach could allow the new console line to stay clean from an earth-quaking low of 5Hz all the way up to 500kHz. (In practice, the engineers at SSL had the good sense to limit its bandwidth to an impressive 10Hz - 80kHz.)

Legendary mixer Michael Brauer, famous for his work with Coldplay, John Mayer, James Bay, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, and Luther Vandross was impressed by the bottom end of the 9000 J from the first moment he heard it on a visit to a French studio during an orchestral session.

When the timpanis entered, Brauer recalls being absolutely “floored” by the sound of the bottom end of the J compared to the earlier SSL's he had been working on. And when he began using one for himself, he quickly found that the new desk could stay cleaner and more “open” in sound than the earlier desks.

But it wasn’t just rock, pop and cinematic producers who were enamored by the 9000 J. Due to the sheer power and extension of its bottom end compared to earlier SSL consoles, it quickly caught on in the newest large studios, becoming a “must-have” tool for the world’s top hip hop and R&B producers.

This was the console that the Fugees’ Wyclef Jean would put into his Platinum Sound Studios. It became a fixture at iconic studios like The Hit Factory, Avatar, Electric Lady, Roc the Mic. It became a favorite desk of major producers, engineers, and mixers including Tony Maserati, Ken “Duro” Ifil, Stu White, Serge Tsai—who between them have worked with artists including Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Shakira, Nicki Minaj, Mary J. Blige, Yo Gotti, John Legend, DMX, Mary J Blige, Nas and so many more.

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TK Sequence (Japan)

In addition to the improved bandwidth, and headroom, The SL 9000 J added additional flexibility to the EQ circuit, including the ability to switch between “E” and “G” modes, as well as an improved dynamics section and several workflow enhancements.

After the success of the J series, SSL released a 9000 “K” model, which improved the on-board automation and computer systems, and included some minor tweaks to the audio circuit, but the “SuperAnalogue” sound remained very close to that of the J series. Between the two versions, these more modern SSL's became responsible for a huge number of the biggest songs to hit the charts in the 1990s and 2000s—especially in hip hop, R&B and pop.

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Brainworx Studio, during SSL 9000 J modeling

In the DAW age, the topology and design of the SL 9000 J remain an excellent choice for those who want to integrate some of the legendary sound and workflow of SSL into their setup without the tighter and more aggressive character of the historic E and G series consoles.

The 9000 J set SSL up for success in an era when engineers and artists demanded deeper, more powerful low end, and cleaner, clearer, and more open highs. Today Brainworx makes that all available in plugin form—with the benefit of its proprietary TMT technology for the closest possible emulation of a physical console.

Watch the video below for an in-depth tutorial and to explore the sound of the Brainworx bx_console SSL 9000 J:


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