Review: SSL UF8 DAW Controller

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Review: SSL UF8 DAW Controller

Words by Paul French

Amber Technology | Enquire for pricing

Back in 2019, legendary studio icons Solid State Logic shook things up with their excellent SiX desktop mixer, an affordable (at least by high-end studio standards), compact, all-in-one portable desktop mixer solution. It was in many ways a statement of intent from the legendary brand.

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For years, people had wondered which of the big three console manufacturers (API, Neve, SSL) would be the first to repackage their colossal reputation in the commercial recording sector and translate it into the burgeoning home studio market.

The SSL SiX came in at just the right price point and with just the right feature set and onboard processing to serve as the perfect entry point for budding producers looking to integrate two premium quality SSL channel strips into their home setup, but the lack of A/D conversion meant that there was still a vital link in the signal chain that needed to be addressed.

That came recently, with the release of the 2 and 2+, SSL’s all-conquering line of small-scale, modestly priced desktop interfaces.

With their combination of rock solid preamps/conversion, egalitarian price-point and with the weight of the SSL name behind them, needless to say the 2 and 2+ were a roaring success, but it begged the question, where to next for the legendary brand, now that they had skilfully and successfully bridged the gap between $200k professional 48 channel console and $400 2 channel USB interface?

The answer, it seems, lies somewhere in the advanced DAW workflow and its similar level of importance to both the pro user and home recordist alike.

This brings us to the UF8, SSL’s new premium small scale desktop control solution and an absolute go-to for anyone looking to take their Mix workflow out of the box and onto a set of faders, but with a level of scalability that won’t require excessive upgrades down the line.

For the home recordists (especially those who are primarily used to an in-the-box workflow), the UF8 serves as the perfect, scalable entry point into a ‘console’ style workflow, with all the visual and haptic upside that comes with mixing through fader banks and rotary dials (and with the option to chain units together as your mixing needs expand).

For the seasoned pro, the UF8 serves as a delightfully portable fader option for location and post work, absolutely ideal for riding dialogue or for getting in-the-box desk mixes ready on the fly. The naturalness of the navigation/display and the portability/stowability of the unit itself, makes it your new best friend for any small scale mix applications or minimalist studio setup.

Utilising SSL 360, the UF8 is a professional quality MIDI controller that can interact with three DAWs at once and have 43 fully customisable keys per DAW via the aptly named soft and quick keys.

This software also allows seamless use of this controller with Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, Ableton and Studio One. For all of these integrations, SSL has provided standard button assignments which get you going faster and still allow you to tailor the hardware to your specific needs.

As with all SSL products, the UF8 build quality is decidedly field-ready, with a metallic enclosure, high quality. motorised faders, rotary encoders and durable soft key buttons throughout.

High resolution LCD TFT screens adorn the device with key information that is track specific including level, pan and track name. Fast USB connectivity lets you connect the UF8 to pretty much all devices imaginable.

The UF8’s large rotary knob is called the CHANNEL encoder, and has a range of different functions depending on what you’re focused on.

It can be used to scroll through tracks one by one on the device as standard, scrub through a track with the playback head in nav mode, move a selected clip using nudge mode and modify specific parameters using focus mode.

The multiple uses of these encoders is yet another intuitive way to get the most out of your software using this controller.

If eight faders aren’t enough for you (or if your track counts are edging closer and closer into Brian Wilson territory), SSL have added the ability to chain together four units for a classic 32 channel SSL experience, giving each channel with a dedicated fader.

Chaining four together allows each to have a different set of assignable buttons which creates an absurd amount of possibilities including mixing your track in a couple passes. Alternatively, you can use a single UF8 and scroll between different channels on the track with a click of a button and watch the motorised faders snap into place.

Dedicated plugin buttons also allow you to select a plugin on a channel and use the endless rotary encoders to modify them without using your mouse.

If the encoders aren’t fine enough for you, hovering over a parameter in your DAW will enable use of the CHANNEL encoder in the aforementioned focus mode to be used as a mouse scroll wheel, allowing for fine tuning.

Swapping between windows in your DAW is easy by using the default assigned quick keys on the device. Utilising the send and swap buttons allows with a click of a button, the snapping of your sends to the faders, switching between pre and post fader and flipping back to your mix in seconds.

If there was ever any question as to how SSL would navigate the move from classic large format console, to the compact world of the modern DAW workflow, the answer is: incredibly well.

The UF8 expertly toes the line between premium (but not out of reach) desktop fader option and scalable pro workhorse, in turn making it a more than justifiable investment for engineers on both sides of the fence.

Head to SSL’s website for all the UF8’s specs, and contact Amber Technology to enquire about orders within Australia today.