Peter Gabriel is cashing out – kind of.
12 years after becoming the majority shareholder of console manufacturer Solid State Logic a.k.a. SSL, Gabriel is handing over the keys to an audio conglomerate. The new owner is Audiotonix, a larger-scale UK-based entity that was borne out of DiGiCo and designs, engineers and manufactures a range of audio mixing consoles and ancillary products. SSL now joins a corporate umbrella that includes DiGiCo, DiGiGrid, Calrec and Allen & Heath.
The result for Audotonix is a giant uptick in credibility for the studio world. SSL brings considerable cachet to a range that has already demonstrated strength in live sound, broadcast, theatre production, installations, and houses of worship. Now, they’ll have a lure for recording studios and producers with solutions that include the Duality, AWS, Matrix2, Nucleus, X-Rack, Alpha-Link, and a number of Duende native plugins.
With the acquisition, Audiotonix has also eliminated a former live and broadcast competitor from contention by bringing them into the fold. SSL had been heavily focused in expanding its share of the live sound segment with its “SSL Live” series of consoles. While not as well known for its forays into the broadcast market, consoles like the System T had its own fan base.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, and as of press time Audiotonix had not responded to requests for information. Peter Gabriel does remain fiscally involved with the outcome, however, since he has become an investor in Audiotonix as part of the transaction.
“My relationship with SSL began as a user, a customer and then as part owner,” said Gabriel in a prepared statement. “SSL has always made wonderful innovative equipment that encourages creativity and I got involved because I never wanted to imagine a world without SSL. It is obvious with this sale that there are many in this growing Audiotonix group that are as nuts about new tech and good audio as we are. Each manufacturer has their own particular markets, strengths and idiosyncrasies but through collaboration, there will be a lot of opportunities to spread knowledge and skills to benefit the group as a whole.
“I am also excited by what could be created by all these new potential synergies so I have chosen to use a chunk of the sale money to invest in this newly expanded version of Audiotonix. I wish Audiotonix and all who now sail in her, every success.”
SSL owners right now are certainly wondering if their relationship with the legendary console manufacturer will change. Staff cuts are a looming possibility with any acquisition, as redundancies across departments are eliminated. Presumably the expertise of SSL support staff will be regarded as highly valuable, but their status – along with the executive team, sales, and marketing personnel numbering an estimated 160 in total – will remain to be seen. The Oxfordshire, England-based company currently maintains offices in Los Angeles, Milan, New York, Paris and Tokyo, bolstered by a global network of distributors.
Founded in 1969, SSL and the consoles it has created have long stood as status symbols within the recording world. The sound of its large format consoles and associated circuitry have cultivated a fiercely dedicated following, with desks like the 4000 G, 9000 J and 9000 K tracking and mixing untold numbers of platinum hits for multiple generations of mixers and artists, throughout studios worldwide.
While big boards like the Duality have remained a part of the SSL product mix, the overall move away from large-format consoles in the studio world would have put a significant dent in the company’s business. More compact offerings like the AWS, Matrix and Nucleus have helped to keep SSL relevant in the studio world, but margins and sales volume have no doubt been impacted by a production mindset that has moved steadily ITB.
It is now up to Audiotonix to be good stewards of arguably the most respected name in studio consoles, one that is matched only by its Neve counterpart. The additional muscle that comes from a group that already holds DiGiCo, DiGiGrid, Calrec and Allen & Heath, may well provide a welcome lifeline to a brand that was having it struggles, despite its legendary luster.
James Gordon CEO of Audiotonix, offered his assurance of respect in a prepared statement. “We are growing the Audiotonix Group with professional audio brands that have exceptional technology, committed people and a real passion for what they do,” he said. “With their incredible history and reputation, their enthusiasm and loyal customer base, SSL is ideally placed to be the next partner in the group. The whole group will benefit by having SSL as an integral part of the team going forward. Having their help to further expand our international reach, technology and customer base will be a lot of fun.”