SSL X-Logic Alpha VHD Preamp

(first published in CX magazine – March, 2014)


I’ve currently got a four-channel SSL rack-mounted preamp – the X-Logic Alpha VHD Pre – setup down here to marry up with a dummy-head stereo microphone I regularly use as an ambient mic. Ambient miking techniques can tax the noise floor of any mic/preamp combination, especially if the source sound is itself quiet, let alone when the microphone has a woefully low output.

Every other preamp in the studio hasn’t quite been able to muster the gain required for the dummy head without inducing an intolerable amount of noise. The SSL, however, is fantastic at providing it with huge amounts of effectively silent gain (up to 75dB), making it my new favourite preamp. Quiet is good.

Moreover the SSL VHD has all the right functionality for a studio pre: XLR in and outs, illuminated phantom and 20dB pad switches, and individual Hi-Z instrument inputs on the front panel (they’re not much use to me on the back). The quality of the circuits and the feel of the controls are superb – as you would expect from an SSL product.

What’s also cool about the VHD pre is its so-named Variable Harmonic Drive knob – again, one per channel. This control introduces fully analogue, 2nd- and 3rd-order harmonics to the signal path, turning your pristine sound into a beautiful mess to any degree you choose. Just dial it in.

The VHD circuit not only allows you to wind some amazing distortion into all manner of signals, you can do it with full control of the output into your recorder.

Like most SSL gear, the price tag of the VHD pre is at the high end of the spectrum, but the quality is almost without peer.


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