This classy stereo processor aims to bring analogue colour to your digital recordings.
Neatly summed up by its ‘Stereo Analogue Colour’ front‑panel slogan, the Fusion has been two years in the making, the result of careful analysis by SSL’s engineers of various bits of highly regarded equipment to determine just what creates the desirable characteristics associated with high‑end analogue gear. This was followed by painstaking development and refinement with the help of a team of trusted mix and mastering engineers.
The substantial 2U rackmount box’s front panel has a brushed‑aluminium finish, and its spread of fluted knobs with brightly coloured caps, and square illuminated buttons, is classic SSL. A mains inlet on the rear, with on/off switch for the internal linear power supply, accepts 115 or 230 Volts AC. A label declares the Fusion to have been ‘Engineered in the UK, made in China’; both the engineering and building are to very high standards, with most circuitry taking the form of surface‑mount devices on a large motherboard.
Two pairs of XLRs carry the stereo balanced line‑level inputs and outputs, and there’s a set of balanced insert sends and returns, also on XLR. The intention is for the Fusion to be used for mastering or stereo mix‑bus processing, whether hooked up to a console or to your DAW and audio interface. The Fusion’s insert loop makes it easy to add further analogue processing (such as a SSL’s mix‑bus compressor) to the signal path, and provides some further useful options, as I’ll explain below.
There are eight processing stages, and most are bespoke new tools. The design builds on SSL’s extensive experience, of course, but while the stereo input and output trim and high‑pass filter stages are familiar enough, there’s no repurposing of ‘legacy’ circuitry. Both trim controls have over‑sized, centre‑detented knobs with a ±12dB range, and a pair of tri‑colour LEDs indicate the signal levels. A vertical stereo bar‑graph peak‑hold meter shows the output level, calibrated from ‑21 to +24 dBu, and when the processor’s bypass is engaged this shows the input level. A four‑position rotary switch sets the 18dB/octave high‑pass filter to 30, 40 or 50 Hz, or off.
The most innovative part of the signal path comprises five distinct processes: a Vintage Drive harmonics generator, a ‘Violet’ two‑band shelving EQ, an HF compressor, a stereo image adjustment tool, and an output transformer. Each can be bypassed using the illuminated buttons below the respective controls. There’s also a master bypass, and a couple of buttons to engage and position the insert point.
Relay clicks are heard when buttons are pressed, but all of the internal signal‑path switching is actually performed with solid‑state devices. I can’t think of any other product that works this way, but it’s very neat — it provides feedback to the user that switching has occurred, and is especially helpful when not looking at the Fusion while making adjustments (such as when switching a section in and out). This...
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