Solid State Logic Listen Mic Compressor U.K.-based Solid State Logic has a well-deserved reputation for building large-format recording consoles, both analog and digital. Over the last decade they’ve jumped into the digital end of the pool with a series of interfaces and other outboard devices for broadcast and music production. Naturally, they’ve expanded into offering digital software emulations of some of their famous hardware designs, such as their legendary stereo buss compressor, as well as channel strips and reverbs.
Somewhat hidden in the bowels of their website are a couple free VST plug-ins that offer a taste of SSL technology, but without the SSL price tag.
First up is the LMC-1. This very simple mono compressor plug-in is modeled after an obscure feature of their famous SL4000E console. In addition to having compressors and gates on each input channel, the console also had a dedicated “Listen Mic Compressor” on a talkback return for musicians in the studio to talk to the engineer in the control room via a dedicated mic. The heavy compression allowed musicians far from the mic to still be heard. The compressor had fixed attack and release settings and a simple “less/more” compression control.
This feature found a new use when engineer/producer Hugh Padgham was working on Phil Collins’ hit single “In the Air Tonight.” Phil happened to play a drum fill that was picked up by the “listen mic” and as the signal through made its way through the compressor, pop music history was made.
Solid State Logic X-ISM The LMC-1 plug-in retains the simple operation of the original, offering just three controls. There’s input and output trim, and a big “Less/More” knob. It doesn’t get much simpler. And, yes, it will squash the daylights out of anything you run through it. On a complete mix, it sounds very much like overdone airchain processing; but it’s good for helping a vocal track or snare drum cut through a mix.
Next up is the X-ISM. At first blush, this is a glorified level meter, but it goes a bit further in dissecting your digital audio. Its first job is to catch intersample peaks in digital audio that can sometimes be missed by traditional peak meters. Intersample peaks occur when the analog signal experiences a peak that fits neatly between digital samples. These can cause clipping without registering on the meters. Not only does it include the traditional peak meter, it also offers separate digital and analog peak indicators on each channel. Going further, the X-ISM includes a peak bit meter, showing all available bits up to 24 and indicating how many are actually being used at a given moment.
Both plug-ins are, as mentioned, absolutely free. Registration at the SSL website is required to access them, but that’s free as well. There are Windows and Mac versions, and they work with just about any DAW that uses VST, AU or RTAS plug-ins.