Over the years, SPL have earnt themselves a reputation for designing innovative, unique and — most importantly — useful products, and they look set to maintain that with their latest piece of hardware, the M/S Master. Designed for mastering applications, the unit is essentially a Mid/Side encoder and decoder, which allows the middle and side components of a stereo signal to be processed independently of each other.
Such Mid/Side processing methods have been increasing in popularity over the last few years (though the technique itself has been around for decades), partly because dedicated products from companies like Rupert Neve Designs and Brainworx have made the task easier, and partly because the unlimited track count of most DAWs has meant that extra track usage (as needed for manual Mid/Side matrixing) is no longer a problem.
The SPL M/S Master looks extremely intuitive to operate, with only five knobs and a handful of switches. There’s a Balance control for correcting any left/right level anomalies, a Center knob for adjusting the level of the Mid component, a low-shelf EQ for the Side signal (which can be switched out, if desired), a Stereo Width control for increasing or decreasing the amount of stereo information, and an Output level knob.
The unit features insert points for both the Mid and Side channels, and these can be engaged or disengaged from the front panel. The Mid and Side components can also be individually muted, which would be useful for checking the mono compatibility and stereo content of a mix. As befits a mastering unit, the M/S Master’s metering is also highly flexible: the ballistics of the two VU meters can be switched to PPM, and they can be set to monitor either the left and right output levels or the Mid/Side levels. Furthermore, the metering sensitivity can be switched between 0dB and -10dB.
The low-shelf EQ on the Side channel can be switched between 500Hz and 1kHz, and the Side channel also features a Float Off switch, which apparently eliminates all mono information from the Side channel for an extra-wide stereo effect.
Unfortunately, the unit was too new for pricing to be available at the time of writing (in fact, the front panel shown here is a prototype and has already undergone some subtle changes), but SPL hope to be showing the final model at Musikmesse later this year.