The SSL Duende Bus Compressor is the most analog emulation for an SSL mix bus compressor plugin on the market. Though this Mix Bus Compressor has fierce competition in the mixing and mastering plugin market, it stands out for tone and the ability the represent analog character in the box.
With companies like Cytomic, Slate Digital, Waves, IK Multimedia, Native Instruments, Universal Audio, and more there is a myriad of options available for all genres and at all price points. While all of these companies make excellent mixing and mastering plugins, we feel that the SSL Duende Bus Compressor plugin is the closest emulation to the analog hardware bus compressor.
At The Continuum Music Studio, we have the X-Logic Bus Compressor by SSL which is the SSL recreation of the classic gray face Bus Compressor unit that is in just about every famous studio in the world. While it would be wonderful to have the vintage SSL at Continuum, we are more about modern sounds vs. the vintage vibes. If we worked with clients and taught the majority of our classes at The Music and Recording Arts Academy on Rock and Pop based music, the vintage compressor would offer a world of awesome old school mojo! Alas, the name of our game is mostly EDM so having an SSL compressor with a more modern sound is something we love.
To get back to the plugins, the MRAA offers courses on over half of the companies listed above, and we would like to think we can offer a valid perspective on SSL and “SSL Style” Bus Compression ITB. First off, the Duende Bus Compressor not only has a tone similar to the hardware, but it also has a movement which is close to the outboard gear. The only drawback is that this compressor does not offer a side chain option. The Cytomic Glue Compressor does offer a side chain option which is very handy, but also sounds very digital in comparison to the SSL Duence Bus Compressor.
You might be asking yourself, “If Continuum is working on EDM why in the world would they choose the SSL version over Cytomic when the Cytomic has a side chain?”
That is a great question!
The SSL Duende Bus Compressor is best used on subgroups or the mix bus set at lower-medium ratios (2:1 and 4:1) on program material that is NOT “kick dominant.” Tracks like a pounding electro-house jam meant for a mono club system would not benefit from an SSL Compressor without a side chain. If you want your kick to be as loud as the lead, and the vocal, (rather than behind both), then going with a side chain featured SSL comp would be more suited for you.
Our motto when it comes to compression is helping the kick fit INTO the track. When the kick is 40 percent of the mix, we lose interest in the song because the kick becomes “obtrusive.” While having a driving kick in EDM is vital, many recording artist, music producers, and audio engineers over do the kick and choice in the mixing stage often takes listeners away from the music and lyrics of the song because the kick is the center of attention in the mix. Remember EDM fans; people listening to music on earbuds want to hear melody and harmony as well and crisp rhythms. Not everyone is going to be at a club “raging to your kick heavy mix!” (Laugher)
SSL is known for its tone, and that is what we are after in the digital realm. To be very frank, the IK Multimedia Bus Comp sounds better than the Cytmoic glue and offers more options and, in our option, a “more harmonically pleasing” digital tone. The IK Bus Comp does not sound as analog as the SSL Duende, but the IK Bus Comp does sound punchier and cleaner than the Cytomic. Not to mention the IK Bus Comp has a “Grit” Mode which mimics the “Crush” mode found on the Alan Smart C2 SSL Syle Compressor. Just in case you were wondering 🙂
Overall, the Official Continuum Rating for the SSL Bus Compression is 9/10. One point docked for the lack of the “option” to have an external side chain. The SSL Duende plugin is aimed for those looking for have the SSL tone and groove while taming the low end and high end every so slightly in a very pleasing digital manner. Don’t take our word for it, though, check out this video on the SSL Duende Bus Compressor at both 2:1 and 4:1 ratios and hear it for yourself! The mix bus compression video tutorial covers:
SSL tone, tucking back the kick, how this mixing plugin saturates the highs in an almost “tape” sounding way, and how to A/B settings on the mix bus.
Enjoy the video on SSL Mix Bus Compression!