SSL UF8 Studio Controller review: a high-end and expensive mixing controller



Price $ 1,299 / £ 885
Contact Solid state logic

While SSL has earned its reputation by building large format mixing consoles, the UK audio maker has increasingly reached out to those taking integrated and hybrid mixing approaches in recent years. So how much of the SSL spirit can their dedicated mix control surface, the UF8, evoke? And can it serve all major DAWs equally?

The SSL UF8 is intended to be a versatile, DAW-independent control surface for working with your favorite production software, with templates for Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, Cubase, Nuendo, Studio One, and Ableton Live.

For your money, you get a solid slab of metal-cased hardware with eight channels, each populated with a motorized touch-sensitive fader, rotary encoder (V-Pot), solo / mute / select buttons (plus a softkey). ) and an attractive high-resolution OLED display. The faders are reminiscent of the AWS SSL console, with a very light feel, while the knobs have a bit more friction (although this varies slightly between channels). Over 40 additional backlit knobs flank the center fader bank and can control an array of DAW functions.

There is a lot of control once you get your head around the UF8. For example, the large stepped channel encoder on the right has several functions. By default, it moves the UF8 fader bank control up and down in your DAW mixer. It can also control DAW playhead position (Nav mode) and offset events in Pro Tools (Nudge mode). The most immediately useful mode, however, is Focus.

Focus mode activates the channel encoder mouse scroll emulation, allowing you to hover over and edit any plug-in parameter, much like the scroll control feature of the channel encoder. Audient of the iD range of interfaces.

SSL UF8 studio controller

There are no dedicated transport controls. You must configure the UF8’s softkeys for this if you want to move further away from the keyboard. Some users might see this as a critical omission, but it didn’t bother us much as the transport keyboard controls are already etched into muscle memory. Additionally, SSL designed the UF8 so that you can use up to four at a time, so leaving this as a user-assignable function makes the hardware more user-friendly for expansion.

The mains powered controller connects via USB-C. However, for ease of compatibility, it works using MIDI commands. You need to do a small setup in your DAW to configure the integration using standard HUI / MCU protocol, ensuring maximum compatibility. Due to this MCU integration, the faders operate with 9-bit precision for 512 steps of fader resolution – more than enough for the 100mm fader travel.

SSL UF8 studio controller

For those not fortunate enough to pair the UF8 with a UC1 (review to come), a dedicated Layers button allows you to directly control the 360 ​​° SSL plug-in mixer application. This software provides a way to view native SSL channel and bus compressor plug-ins (if you have them) from one place. It also serves as a front-end for some UF8 configuration elements. For example, you can configure the software to allow switching between control of three different DAWs at once or, space permitting, up to four UF8s.

Due to the inherent differences between DAWs, there are variations in functionality between them when using the controller. It’s fair to say that the UF8 was designed with Pro Tools in mind and where its button labels make the most sense. Other DAWs do not use certain commands or re-use them. For example, the Nudge button and the Send / Plugin section when working with Cubase. These are strange omissions because they diminish the functionality and ease of integration with Cubase and other DAWs. However, there is a good complement of assignable shortcut keys for each of the main DAWs, although the specific list differs subtly between each DAW.

SSL UF8 studio controller

Beyond basic channel settings and automation mode selection, the UF8 lets you immerse yourself in EQ, send, insert and even edit plug-ins via the eight displays and V-Pot encoders (the versatile pan and parameter controls) and softkeys per channel. It’s effective, but to get the most out of it, you need to seriously revise your workflow. Even with all eight OLEDs, there is much less visual information (often truncated) compared to a well-designed plug-in window, and effective control can sometimes involve scrolling through multiple pages.

There are plenty of options available across the price range for those who want a more tactile approach to onboard mixing, including those from Avid, Mackie, Softube, and Behringer. For those on a budget, the Behringer X-Touch is a third the price of the UF8 but lacks the solid professional feel and potential longevity of SSL. As always, you get what you pay for.

In short, the UF8 serves its purpose well, but if you are used to mixing with a mouse, the relearning involved can take some time, especially when using multiple plugins in mixing scenarios. complex.

Main characteristics

  • 8 tactile 100mm faders
  • 8 high-resolution color OLED displays
  • 8 endless rotary encoders
  • Versatile intelligent channel encoder
  • Personalized workflows with 43 keys assignable by UF8 – 5 banks of 8 user keys + 3 quick keys
  • Mouse scrolling emulation – control any plug-in parameter
  • Includes Native Plug-in Bundle SSL licenses (Vocalstrip 2 and Drumstrip)
  • Supported DAWs: Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, Cubase / Nuendo, Ableton Live, Studio One
  • HUI / MCU control protocol for other DAWs
  • Dimensions: 431 x 266 x 62.7 mm (W x D x H)
  • Weight: 2.9 kg

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