Why I Need One/Reason for Purchase
As an independent engineer/producer for over 25 years, I’ve been somewhat reticent to outfit and install a “home” or “project” studio. The majority of my work has taken place in major commercial studios, only occasionally moving to a smaller mix or editing suite if forced by budgetary constraints – or that “overkill” concept when using too much real estate.
These major rooms usually boast a large format console (SSL, Neve, API) with the de rigueur racks of outboard, professional room design and layout choices that (hopefully) make an engineer’s workflow efficient.
When digital audio first reared its head, the “home” or “project” studio had a somewhat negative connotation. “Oh, you have a project studio. Hmmm…how lovely for you!”. Visions of ¼” patchbays with wires hanging out of the back, a home-made, plywood “rack”, the screws barely holding four ADATs.
OK, sorry, maybe your home studio was not that bad. But most were sub-par installations in little more than a spare closet with neither adequate acoustic treatment nor quality signal processing — front end or back end. In most cases, granted, these were “labs”, places where one honed one’s skills, but hardly studios that were capable of producing a finished product of quality. Years back you needed a bigger budget and more space in order to build anything respectable. The gear was still huge and expensive and the thinking was somewhat archaic.
But as the technology has raced to meet the qualitative demands of professionals needing to service clients with ever-decreasing budgets, I have been forced to re-assess my position, to sit up and take notice. These days, I feel it’s essential that working engineers, producers and perhaps even serious songwriters have access to a professional system at all times.
More and more the music has become married to the tech (no comment on that here), and with the advances resulting from years of technical innovation and competition, I further believe that we all can in fact have such access. If well thought out, such a studio can produce work sonically competitive with that of the commercial studio.
We’ll always need big live rooms and iso’s, budget willing, but to arrange, edit and mix “at home”, at a high level is more than just possible now. I still track at major studios, but I would say that a good 60% or more of my work these days happens in my “home” studio. Which sounds fantastic, by the way. I love it.
My latest upgrade has been the SSL Nucleus, a small format console aimed at a really good smaller professional studio — or what we used to in fact call the “project” or “home” studio. The Nucleus is meant to act as the nerve center of a modern digital studio, a communications hub, a liaison with your DAW. In fact, with a few of your DAWS.
But before you read further, let me make a bit of a disclaimer here: During my rather exhaustive research before purchase, I looked at myriad websites quoting the specs, the numbers, the technical comparisons and measurements. I needed to know those things and they are all rather impressive, and I urge you to get out there on the Web and do the same research. But you won’t find them here in my review, since it’s already been done.
Instead, I prefer to talk about my reactions and observations in terms of how the Nucleus affects my work, how it makes me feel about my work and my efficiency. The numbers inform my decisions, certainly. But they do not dictate my decisions.
If a piece of gear sounds great, enhances my workflow and adds value to my final product I usually buy it. If, above that, the gear removes encumbrances to the creative connection between me and the music, I certainly buy it.
I bought the SSL Nucleus. I have had it installed for a little under three weeks. Here are my observations…
No Second Chance to Make a First Impression
The fact that Nucleus is an SSL cannot be ignored. This brand recognition and reputation certainly impacts one’s decision to buy. If it says “Ducati” on the gas tank, it had better respond like a Ducati. If it is from “SSL”, I expect — 100 percent — that the chaps over there in Oxfordshire understand this client perception and would naturally not want to release any new piece of gear that doesn’t measure up. The release of such a piece of gear would be disappointing, would impact client base and would be…downright foolish, right?
They are not fools in Oxfordshire, I am still an SSL fan and the Nucleus does not disappoint.