A fascinating area to watch lately has been the way that the big names in recording gear have begun to market more heavily towards the project studio crowd. New studios are often not the million-dollar facilities they once were. Part of this is because recording budgets are shrinking, but it’s partially because advances in digital audio workstations have made pushed the fidelity to the point where the sacrifices of a large mixing console (mainly the loss of easy recall and a slower workflow) sometimes aren’t worth it. Yet most mixing engineers have too much outboard gear that they love, and don’t want to keep the recordings entirely “in the box” (plus, many swear that analog summing has sonic advantages).
Pure summing boxes like SSL’s Sigma, which I posted about recently, are one solution. But some engineers want a bit more of a hybrid–a small console that gives you faders for the important things and passes the buck on the rest. Also, recording fidelity aside, some clients just won’t trust a studio that doesn’t have a console.
SSL has had a hybrid solution like this for a while: the Matrix. The company has just revised this unit and rebranded it as the Matrix 2. It’s more of a software upgrade really, since pretty much every new feature (besides some 5.1 functionality) is available as a free upgrade to existing Matrix users. The new black coat of paint is spiffy, at least. Normally I wouldn’t consider this newsworthy: an update to a $22,000 console that most of our readers will never allocate funds for.
But it’s an interesting juxtaposition with Api’s new just-released mini console, The Box. Unlike the SSL unit, total DAW integration isn’t the intent here. There are no motorized faders or digitally controlled hardware inserts. In fact, there’s no software integration at all. The API unit seems more catered towards the natural crowd that won’t be sound replacing the drums and reamping the guitars. You can obviously automate the sends coming out of your DAW’s outputs, but The Box is really a more bare-bones summing box with 8 stereo faders, plus four channels of API preamps (with two built-in EQs and two 500-series slots on the remaining channels) and a great mastering compressor on the 2-buss. The crusty curmudgeon in me is drawn to the API unit (which is also $5000 cheaper), but I could see why SSL’s approach is more attractive to the modern metal community.
I’m not going to claim to be expert enough of a recording engineer to weigh out all the pros and cons. If you really want to nerd out on high-end project studio gear that you’ll web window browse for but probably never buy, this Gearslutz thread is a great read. And the new promo video for Api’s The Box is below.