There are many terms used to describe innovators in technology, but “visionary” certainly applies to Colin Sanders. More than 25 years ago, his design for the Solid State Logic SL 4000 mixer defined the modern recording console and changed an entire industry.
Sanders founded SSL in 1969 at age 22 to build electrical control systems for church organs. By the early ’70s, SSL moved out of Sanders’ parents’ house in Oxford to a nearby village where a workshop and studio were set up. When Sanders decided to upgrade the studio for multitrack capability, he launched an intensive R&D project, studying existing consoles, while planning to add advanced features such as computerized automation, dynamics and transport control. Clearly, the board was designed for production-scale manufacturing from the very start, and the basis for a commercial product was underway.
At the 1977 AES convention in Paris, SSL debuted the first 4000 Series console, complete with Studio Computer. Though a well-known UK studio owner remarked, “No one will ever buy a console with a television in it,” the board was sold in August ’77 to Dick Cadbury’s private studio near Oxford. The mixer had all the earmarks of the 4000 range: in-line channels, small faders, track-arming and dynamics on every channel, computer-controlled automation and tape machine control. Later models continued the refinements (the current version is the SL 4000 G+) and today there are more than 3,000 SSL-equipped studios and facilities worldwide.
Sanders left SSL in 1991 to pursue various non-audio projects, including high-tech induction cooking systems and water filtration technologies. Sanders, an avid pilot, died in 1998 when his helicopter crashed outside his estate in a light fog.