"An excellent channel strip in reference quality ... at a really favourable price." Professional Audio Magazine
With the finest ingredients from SPL, the new flagship of SPL's channel strips establishes the basis for world-class recordings and each of its particular processing stages can be inserted into studio environments or DAWs like analog plug-ins!
The brand-new Frontliner has all tools on board to record vocals and instruments in perfect quality: it merges a preamp, a de-esser, an EQ and a compressor.
Thanks to it's individual analog I/Os, all these powerful, hi-end analog processors can be inserted into any studio by the Frontliner pilot, i. e. to use them also during mixing and mastering. Thus it appears that the Frontliner is not reduced to a frontend device especially DAW based studios get the chance to integrate high-grade analog processing at any stage of the audio production process.
The hybrid preamp with discrete transistor stage and separate tube stage combines high performance and neutrality with the option for sound coloration by enhancing the harmonic content with the switchable tube drive. The unique one-knob de-esser employs a phase cancelling technique to reduce sibilants. With three bands, the EQ section covers the complete frequency spectrum efficiently, and a tube saturation control allows to apply distortion to any signal from subtle to reckless levels. The compressor offers all classic parameters and a controllable automation of attack and release which adjusts the setting of time constants to the input signal pretty much like a cruise control.
Our preceding recording channels Track One and Channel One have already been successful units by combining fast and easy operation with high processing quality. These channel strips particularly benefit from previous developments for single processors: the DynaMaxx compressor/limiter delivered the essentials for the respective channel strip stage, the unique SPL De-Esser is also available as a single, dual-channel unit and the preamplifier modules were also derived from existing products.
The development of new units in the last years inevitably evoked the wish to conceive a new channel strip which would benefit from our latest achievements.
Now the Frontliner comprises the same discrete, hybrid semiconductor/tube preamplifier design like the GoldMikeMK2. The compressor module is based upon the Kultube providing a full set of classic controls. We also integrated the Kultube's highlight, a signal-dependent automation of attack and release parameters which can still be influenced manually with this option, manual and automatic control can be merged to always find the best settings.
The EQ section provides two semi-parametric filters for low and mid band as well as a bell filter delivering a silky and smooth top end. This filter set offers a perfect frequency first aid kit and is rounded off with a Tube Saturation control.
In contrast to semiconductors, a tube does not clip from a certain level, but approaches its limits by increasingly producing harmonic distortions. The sound effects from saturating a tube can often be used to improve the audio signal. The sound results resemble tape saturation effects and increase the density and perceived energy in a very pleasant way.
The Frontliner concept
The task of a channel strip is relatively complex. There is not one specialized device for one job, but a unit that combines a lot of technology for the preamplification and processing of audio signals. That is why especially the Frontliner benefits very much from SPLs innovations for targeted, efficient work. The SPL De-Esser, for example, performs a highly complex processing, but can simply be adjusted with one single knob.
The straight and clear front panel design also supports fast and safe operation.
In the last years we have been busy with modular concepts. One result is the RackPack series: a RackPack frame hosts up to eight 3U high modules for free placement and (inter-) connection.
But we have also transferred the modular idea to the Frontliner. Each Frontliner module disposes of its own inputs and outputs. Sophisticated switching options allow to integrate Frontliners modules into a studio environment as if they were stand-alone devices. You can also group modules in any combination and you can determine inserts at each modules input.
If you imagine the Frontliner modules as analog plug-ins, the additional value suddenly becomes apparent: this channel strip also is a versatile analog processing station. With one single unit, especially DAW based studios benefit from a first-class recording front-end and have access to high end analog processors for the main signal processing tasks.