Producer and engineer Richard Chycki has just added a second SSL Sigma to his 5.1-capable mix facility, Street of Dreams near Toronto. Chycki was looking for a way of bridging his Pro Tools mixes with the classic analogue SSL sound. He turned to the SSL Sigma remote controlled analogue summing unit.
“When I first heard about Sigma, I just knew it would be a great way of combining the work that I do in the workstation, with DAW-level controllability, and the SSL sound,” says Chycki. “I was in the midst of doing some mixes for Rush, a remix of a very old song called La Villa Strangiato, and that became my acid test – to see if I could actually get that old analogue sound using modern technology and Sigma did it in spades! It was quite an enlightening experience. The idea came to expand with a second unit because in my mix style I stem elements like background vocals and perhaps some keyboards, but I prefer to leave most elements, especially drums, as discrete as possible. So, I end up with quite a number of mono sources. Having two Sigmas is the answer, essentially making the system more console-like where more of the mix is happening outside of the box.”
Chycki recalls the first time hearing Sigma in action, likening it to the first time sitting down in front of Duality. “I had the immediate sensation of it feeling right. Having any piece of equipment that adds doubt is not desirable, as a mixer, we hate doubt. There’s something about the SSL summing process that is just more substantial, and any doubt goes away. Sigma has a tremendous amount of headroom. I’ve tried to drive it super hard and break it and I haven’t actually figured out how to get it to sound bad yet. Modern mixing is all about efficiency. I can’t afford three-hour recalls. Sigma allows me to maintain a proven method of mixing, which is outside the box, but have in-the-box efficiency. I really can’t speak highly enough to that sort of perfect blending of two technologies.”
This embracing of a modern hybrid workflow is evident throughout Chycki’s setup. “I have a 32-fader Avid ICON D-Control, so I’ve constructed a VCA group in Pro Tools that, when I hit it, all of the Sigma faders come up on the controller. Literally, it’s not unlike what the Duality does with its DAW function. And thanks to Sigma’s discrete CHIP and CHOP facilities, integration of outboard is done very intelligently. Before Sigma came along, you’d have to create analogue inserts using your interfaces, each contributing an additional round of unwanted conversion. Not so with Sigma. Everything’s converted to analogue straightaway before summing, and then I can route channels back to Pro Tools to organise post-fader sends. I also love that Sigma has Mix Bus A and Mix Bus B. It’s just like using the front and rear busses of the SSL G- and E- Series consoles. And the web-based interface is fantastic! My iPad is configured with the Sigma browser always open and sitting on a stand right there beside me at all times as I mix. It’s just that one extra level of everything being immediately visual and in direct contact at all times that I love about Sigma.”