Gear reviews

SSL Alpha Link & Madi Xtreme 64

Generally speaking

The SSL alpha link is a new revision of the Soundscape converter. SSL bought the company together with the licence to make products under the SSL name. Still the development happens mostly with the ex-Soundscape guys.

The converter has 24 analog ins/outs and comes either fittet with ADAT I/Os (AX) or AES/EBU (SX). The routing is made within the converter by pressing the front push buttons. it goes up to 96khz. The unit can act as standalone converter or via MADI-bridge trough SSL MADI xtreme card. I got the Alphalink IO bundle together with the SSL Madi Xtreme64.

The analog I/O is via SubD25 (Tascam standard). I ordered Alva cables which are damned cheap. They are usually shipped with RME converters.

Problems & other technicalities

I took everything out of the box and installed it. everything worked flawlessly. The converter was up and running within 15 minutes after take it out of the box. the annyoing thing is, that It took me more then an hour to redo all the routing stuff. There is no built in ASIO like with the RME cards, so the routing is done within your sequncer with the advantages (studio control room in cubase) and disadvantages (latency) such a setup introduce.

The routing thing drove me crazy, because I needed an analog-signal straight from the in to the output, but at the same time the signal coming from the computer going out to the monitorcontroller. I made a call to Joystick Belgium (where a friend of mine works as SSL product specialist) and he pointed me to a page inside the manual where you can choose output 22-24 which carry the analog input signal as well as the DAW signal.

Problem solved. Thank you SSL.

Sound

I hoked up a cable and started recording a band. Let me tell you first, that I have tested quite a few converters including (Apogee 16x, RME ADI series, RME multiface series, MOTU 192 series, Lynx aurora, Prism orpheus).

So the drum recording went smooth. no dropouts and no latency problem. The SSL driver was down to 1.2ms on the input and 2.8ms on the output with a buffersize of 32 samples. I have a dual core E8600 CPU, so it’s not the brandnew i7 series. no problem. I can’t comment how “different” the drumsound was then with other converters, I just recognized that the drums sounded “together” and I didn’t have a lowend build up as with the MOTU192 converters. Also I think it was not as harsh as with the Lynx Auroras, but I might be wrong here. I really liked what I heard.

Recording guitars was a bit tough. I record usually death metal guitars, so it’s this huge lowend, harsh highend and not enough mid-spectacle happening. I discovered that the SSL converter is a bit mid-shaped, so it does not represent all the mids. Comparing to a PRISM orpheus, it took me longer to record these guitars, as the sound was different then expected while listening on the amplifier-speaker. I made some corrections with microphone placement and it turned out to work well.

Next was bass. Again, it’s hard for me to say it’s better or worse then any other converter used. The bass sounded fine. Usually it’s DI + 421, this time I tried a Violet Amethyst as well and it worked great!

Vocals are usually ran trough an API/AVEDIS preamp, followed by an UREI 1176 and sometimes a pultec style EQ. I have no information here, wheather it would have sounded better with another converter (again.. sorry boring time) but I can confirm that I had no problems making the signal sound in your face which I struggle usually with lowend converters because everything is cloudy (try it with a RME multiface and you know what I mean.. ).

During mixing, I switched forth and back with my Crane Song Avocet and discovered that the RME is cleaner sounding then the Avocet, while not showing as much details. Espacially in the higher mids where the Cranesong is brutally honest and the SSL sounds a bit boring, very gentleman like. I also had to adjust my mixing to the converter specs, but it was not a huuge difference, so I ended up beeing very happy with the mix. No analog summing this time, so what I hear is what I print (ITB).

Conclusion

Recording: Great converter, a bit mid-shaped which occurs in a littelbit more distant and not 100% accurate represantation of what’s coming in but you can make it work!

Mixing: Easy time while mixing. Again upper mids are a bit lush. If you know that, you can adjust yourself to the converter. No problems occured.

Drivers: Very stable, no direct monitoring, which is a drag. It seems together with the MX4 card, it will be possible in the future.

If you are looking for a converter and you don’t have the money for 24 channels orpheus, buy it.

I bought it. Happy.

3 Responses to “SSL Alpha Link & Madi Xtreme 64”

  1. Menno says:

    How did the converters compare to the Aurora?

    You didn’t mention VI’s so I assume that is not something you use a lot. I wondered how the Xtreme card would hold up under heavy ASIO loads at low buffers.

    Thanks for the review! Cheers,

    Menno

  2. Erik says:

    I also wonder how the Xtreme card holds up under heavy ASIO loads at low buffers. Can you notice the latency getting higher firewire and USB soundcards?
    Thanks for a great review!

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