During his lifetime, Antonius Stradivarius made around 2000 instruments, but dying gave his productivity a real boost. Stradivarius’ name appeared posthumously on hundreds of thousands of violins, violas and cellos, most of which were frankly nasty. Did Americans buying five‑dollar German‑made fiddles really believe they were getting the real thing? Unlikely. What the label advertised — optimistically, in most cases — was that these instruments were built to the Stradivarius pattern, not that they were actually made in the master’s workshop.
In a more subtle form, this sort of marketing still prevails. The aim is not to pass off one manufacturer’s product as another’s, because that would be illegal. But the intention is certainly to associate the product with a classic original. And in every case, the striking thing is that the more clones, tributes and lookalikes flood the market, the more desirable the originals become. Every time a new mic preamp appears with Marconi‑style knobs and the number 73 in the product name, an original Neve 1073 gets further out of our reach.
The striking thing is that the more clones, tributes and lookalikes flood the market, the more desirable the originals become.
Where the makers of those originals are still around, this presents a dilemma. It’s important not to dilute the brand: the current version needs to be perceived as being the same as the original. Yet rivals are free to go off‑piste, using the same basic design as a starting point for something cheaper, more flexible or better adapted to today’s studios. Sometimes it seems that you can’t win either way. Roland use samples instead of analogue circuitry to recreate the 303 and 808, and people complain that they’re not the same; Korg faithfully reintroduce the 2600 and Odyssey and then get undercut by other manufacturers’ ‘improved’ versions. Some people insist that no SSL bus compressor will have the authentic sound unless it uses a certain vintage of dbx VCA chip; others will only consider one if it has modern features such as digital I/O or wet/dry controls.
Which is why we’re thrilled to be able to bring you an exclusive hands‑on review of The Bus+. SSL’s response to this dilemma has been a while coming, but it’s mighty impressive. You want the authentic sound? Sure. And would that be authentically E‑series, G‑series, J‑series...? Doesn’t matter. You want extras like sidechain EQ, Mid‑Sides processing, wet/dry balance, dual‑mono operation, even a dynamic EQ? Not a problem. The Bus+ is the kind of product that could only be created by a company who are both masters of their own heritage and in tune with the latest design trends. And I want one.
I’m glad I’m not a violinist, though. Have you taken a look at Stradivarius prices lately?
Sam Inglis Editor In Chief