Homages to classic processors abound — but this one is much more than a simple clone...
When a radical new song sparks new genre or sub-genre, it’s all too easy to dismiss every track in the new genre that follows as a pale and lazy imititation, but while there are idle plagiarists out there, other artists will add something new, taking the idea in a different, hopefully worthwhile, direction.
Why am I going on about the relative merits of originality and plagiarism? Well, I can’t help but think that the situation is similar when it comes to audio outboard gear. We’ve seen numerous clones of classic compressors in recent years, and one of the most frequently copied of such devices is SSL’s revered VCA bus compressor. There are now more SSL-alike compressors in both software and hardware than I care to count — but while there are plenty that bring little new to the table other than a lower price, some manufacturers have attempted to improve on the original design.
Serpent Audio’s SB4001 falls into this latter category. While it is unashamedly inspired by the SSL G-series bus compressor, it also provides new options for existing functions, and also adds new functionality. It’s made only for the 500-series format, although a similar DIY option, the SB4000, is available as a 19-inch rackmountable project. The SB4001 is rather less expensive than the SSL equivalent, and is also less pricey than many other ‘clones’.
Regular readers, then, will understand when I say that, in many respects, I find myself faced with the prospect of writing the same review I did back in SOS January 2012, when evaluating TK Audio’s BC1 MkII (www.soundonsound.com/sos/jan12/articles/tkaudio-bc1mkii.htm
). Indeed, if you want to know a bit more about the SSL design in question, and some of the ways in which its imitators have tweaked the design, you could do worse than read that review.