Though it has been discontinued for some time, the SSL 4000 series of mixing consoles remain in high demand in the second hand marketplace.
Why this is has to do with the impact that the SSL 4000 series has had throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Solid State Logic, its brainchild, claims the 4000 console has mixed more platinum selling album than all other consoles combined.
Among its users are Bob Clearmountain (a mixer for Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, Ricky Martin, Sheryl Crow, and Demi Lovato), Chris Lord-Alge (a mixer for James Brown, Prince, Chaka Khan, Madonna, and the Smashing Pumpkins), Tom Lord-Alge (a mixer for Santana, U2, Pink, Avril Lavigne, Marilyn Mansion, and others), and Alan Moulder (a mixer for The Killers, Arctic Monkeys, Royal Blood, and Foo Fighters).
Originally developed in the mid-1970s, the 4000 series developed alongside the first SSL studio computer. Between these two inventions, much of Solid State Logic’s fortune was built in the decades that followed.
Though it is commonly associated with pop and rock music from the pre-2000 time period, the SSL 4000 mixing console has also played a major role in the history of hip hop. Tupac’s All Eyez on Me (1996) was mixed on the SSL 4000 and Dr. Dre, among others, used it regularly to put together his mixes.
Needless to say, if there had been no SSL 4000, a lot of what we consider to be the classics from the pre mid-2005 time period would not exist in the form that they do. The 4000 series was the first mixing console of any kind to integrate a studio computer system with an inline audio console, allowing for a leaner, cleaner production sound. SSL mixing desks in general have been coveted and acclaimed by numerous producers but there’s something about the 4000 series that is unique. It was irresistible to mixers who wanted it for its high tech and flexibility. Among its features, there’s the punch master buss compressors, an aggressive and melodic EQ section, and features of automation, routine, and computer control that people today think of as a necessity in mixing. Even today, with its plug-ins, the SSL 4000 still plays a role in shaping music for at-home producers, engineers, and mixers.
In terms of where the SSL 4000 is at today, most producers know it by its reputation and the several SSL digital plug-ins that attempt to imitate its sound. These plug-ins have helped everyone from Soundgarden to 50 Cent achieve massive success on top of huge records. So, in a way, the 4000 series lives on both digitally and in the music that it produced, some of which is still shared on radio today.
As a mixer, it’s important to know where this stuff comes from and how this stuff was built. The 4000 console has fulfilled the dreams of generations of hip hop artists. Today’s top studios continue to use its plug-ins regularly – the rich EQ band, exquisite filters, dynamics, compressions, and gates. For today’s production sounds, some of it does correlate directly with the SSL 4000 series and for the mixers who are hip enough to own one of its analog boards, the SSL 4000 experience is still one that is entirely original and unique.