In the time of COVID-19, everyone is looking to get the biggest bang for their buck in everything they buy. Audio interfaces are no exception. In this new era, where the entire landscape has changed, artists want to be able to create music, podcasts and more outside the traditional confines of formal recording studios.
I’d be lying if I said the new Solid State Logic 2+ didn’t catch my eye for the same reason it probably caught yours: the SSL name and brand legacy. Some of the world’s most iconic albums were recorded on SSL audio consoles, by artists such as Tupac, Usher, Nirvana and Paul McCartney. The impact SSL audio consoles have had on the industry is undeniable.
SSL is offering something new here, however, in an audio interface that’s an alternative to the usual suspects (Focusrite 4i4 and 2i2, UA Arrow, etc.) and coming in under $300. Now that’s worth exploring. At that price point alone, how can your curiosity not be piqued? Before we get into the practicality of it, let’s talk specs:
- 2 XLR/line inputs with Neutrik connectors
- 48V, line and Hi-Z switches
- 2 balanced outputs, 4 unbalanced outputs and MIDI in/out
- 2 Neutrik headphone outputs
- USB powered 2.0 type C connectivity (comes with Type C-to-C and Type C-to-A cables; Type C locks in place—a simple but nice touch for live applications)
- 24-bit/192 kHz AKM converters
- 4k Legacy mode imparts a 4000 series analog console sound
Now that you have the backbone of the specs, let’s talk about practicality, since many of us are juggling our time and location more often than not.
Being on the road anywhere from 8 to 10 months out of the year (you know, that pre-pandemic life) makes portability a huge factor for me when I consider acquiring gear. At times, I’m trying to track guitar in a hotel room or a green room or the back lounge of a tour bus. Sometimes I’m trying to squeeze in a quick session with a vocalist or trying to record that daylong corporate gig. For my needs, I’d say this interface is a little bit bigger than I had anticipated. Its design is similar to an Apollo Twin, but it presents itself as a bit wider. For scale, envision the width and height (top to bottom) of three iPhone 11s.
The housing is plastic with a metal top, but it appears durable. The knobs seem sturdy, with minimal wobble, and are all placed on the top of the interface. Personally, I’d be careful about tossing it in a backpack and making it your go-to road interface. The design seems to lend itself more to permanently living on a desk in a studio, unless you are diligent about using a proper case with adequate padding.
What I love about this interface is that a first-time user or an audio novice would not have any issues just “plugging in and playing.” The directions for installation were intuitive and user-friendly, guiding me through each step of the process.
The interface ships with a small starter production software pack: Ableton Live Lite, Avid Pro Tools First, Native Instruments Hybrid Keys and Komplete Start, and samples from Loopcloud. The inclusion of software is pretty common and should be expected with interfaces at this price point.
The SSL 2+ also comes with SSL Native Vocalstrip 2 and Drumstrip plug-ins, and a six-month trial of various other SSL Native plug-ins including the Bus Compressor and Channelstrip. You will need an iLok to activate and use the SSL Native plug-ins.
There’s always going to be debate about which SSL plug-in (or plug-ins in general) “sounds better” between Waves, UA or SSL Native, but I think that debate is subjective. Frankly, I think having access to the SSL Native versions is a good way to get a general idea of how they sound and decide for yourself if the alternative versions are worth splurging on.
One of my favorite parts of the SSL 2+ interface is the Legacy 4k button. In short, if you have the button engaged, the analog effect is supposed to “breathe some life into boring or dull input sources” by adding harmonic characteristics that are inspired by the SSL 4000.
As a guitar player, I think nothing sounds more boring or dull than a guitar recorded straight to a DAW. What really sets this interface apart is that right out of the gate, the SSL 2+ puts more desirable characteristics straight to my DAW (Logic) than any interface I’ve played through. The Legacy 4k mode added subtle harmonics and a surprisingly smooth presence to the top end (4k, to be specific) that made an immediately noticeable and favorable difference.
We all know tracking instruments can be extremely frustrating at times. If there’s anything that has ever had us all bummed out and shaking our fists at the sky after thinking we completely nailed a take, it would be the common gotcha: latency. What I appreciate the most from this interface is that if you’re tracking by yourself and battling latency, the monitor mix provides a nice workflow. The monitor level knob is able to adjust the amount of direct input to playback monitoring, saving you from having to dive into your DAW settings to make the adjustment.
If you’re in a collaborative environment with two or more people who may want to hear two different mixes, you’ll really appreciate the interface’s ability to route headphone A and B to separate outputs via the 3 & 4 button.
The Bottom Line
Your average audio elitist could be skeptical of a legacy brand like SSL operating in the “affordable” space, but I think they nailed it. Other than its size being a bit larger than my personal preference, it complements almost every practical use I can think of for a two-channel mixer. And again, the Legacy 4k feature really does put the SSL 2+ in a category all its own. I think the SSL 2+ could very well be the best bang for your buck without you having to sacrifice sound quality or flexibility.
Solid State Logic • www.solidstatelogic.com