Westlake Pro’s David Arnold Outfits PonderRosa Studios with an SSL XL Desk

About this Post

Westlake Pro is proud to welcome David Arnold to our team in Nashville. We brought some of his most popular Studio Build Blogs over to our site to give you a look at some of his previous work.


Almost exactly one year after outfitting, designing, and installing a brand, state-of-the-art recording system at PonderRosa Studios in Lafayette, New Jersey.  I was a bit surprised and excited to get a call from studio manager and head engineer Tom Askin. Tom was interested in taking their system to a whole new level.  

You can check out the original blog post of our first installation at PonderRosa Studios here

Over the past year, business was booming at PonderRosa Studios. And the majority of inquires they were receiving from potential recording clients included a demand for an analog console.  PonderRosa’s original setup combined…true analog front end with DAW connectivity and control.  But when it came to mixing and summing, a genuine analog console was the missing piece of their puzzle.   

Along with the installation of the Solid State Logic XL-Desk, we expanded PonderRosa’s Pro Tools HDX system with some additional Inputs and upgraded some of their software.

After chatting with Tom about console options… and what would be the best fit for him and his staff’s workflow…the XL-Desk made sense.  Its functionality, footprint, reliability, and most importantly budget were all within PonderRosa’s needs.  Tom wanted to primarily track and sum through the console.  All monitoring and cue mixes would still take place on their original setup.  All automation and processing would still take place within the Pro Tools HDX environment but tracks could be mixed/stemmed down the XL-Desk and then (if preferred) 2 Buss compressed with either the built-in SSL G Buss Compressor or PonderRosa’s Rupert Neve Designs Master Buss Processor.  Of course, the desk has an array of insert points on most channels including the mix buss sections. The 500 Series section of the XL Desk not only has individual Ins and Outs but also has dedicated Insert Points for each 500 series slot. Which really means you get 3 insert points on the first 16 channels. Which really really means if you have a ton of outboard gear…this small footprint console can take a lot.  PonderRosa can take advantage of all this as they expand their outboard or if guest engineers and producers bring in their own.

Design and Installation

PonderRosa’s existing setup would not change for the most part.  All of the gear from the original install would stay in its same place except for their respected location on the patchbay.  The SSL XL Desk would essentially become what we call a “sidecar”. I unhooked all the patchbays and started from scratch.  We were adding an additional 216 Ins/Outs to the set-up. For those who are not aware, the rear connections of the XL Desk are all Tascam Pin-Out DB25 (except for the Listen In Mic and Main Monitors Outs).  

Rather than building (27) individual DB25 to DB25 snakes, it made more sense to build the snakes out of 48 and 24 pair wire and get as many channels as I needed with less bulkiness. I knew we would be dealing with some tight spaces running cable as well.  On this project, we used a Mogami 48 and 24 Pair wire. The DB25 Connectors are  AMP Solid Metal 25 Pin D-Sub Male with Gold Pins. All our DB25 cables are hand soldered.

So we hooked PonderRosa up with (4) 48 Channel DB25 to DB25 Multi-Channel Snakes (12) Total DB25 connectors per snake or (6) DB25 connectors per side and (1) 24 Channel DB25 to DB25 Multi-Channel Snake (6) Total DB25 connectors per snake or (3) DB25 connectors per side Giving us 216 Ins/Outs Total.
*For those of you out there installing an SSL XL Desk themselves the above cables are all you need along with some Audio Accessories DB25 patchbays to get up and running.  Of course, you can substitute any type of cable (Belden, Gepco…) or connector you prefer. 

*Note…of course you will need (3) Standard XLR cables if you are using the Listen In Mic and Main Monitors Out
I have been working closely with Caldwell Bennett Inc. (C.B.I) for over 13 years on most of our major cable building projects.  It allows us to focus on the design aspect of the wiring and lets the guys at C.B.I do what they do best…. solder away! If you can think of it there is a good chance we can build it.

New Audio Accessories DB25 Patchbays are labeled and ready to go.

Thanks to Tim Symonds at Audio Accessories.

Putting it Back Together

After re-labeling and re-configuring all the Normal and Grounding switches it was time to get the bays back into place and starting connecting the XL-Desk to the Patchbays. 

Mogami 48 and 24 Pair Wire with AMP Solid Metal 25 Pin D-Sub Male with Gold Pins.
I also like to keep things color-coded for easy install and troubleshooting in the future.

Firing up the console for the first time and getting signal flowing is a great feeling.  One of the coolest features included on the XL-Desk is the SSL G Series Buss Compressor hardwired into Mix Bus A.  As most engineers know, the G Buss compressor is an iconic 2 Bus compressor used for adding the “glue” needed to keep your mix inline.

Another Install is complete.

Thanks to both Jim and Rod at Sterling Modulars Systems for designing and building the Custom Desk for the SSL XL Desk 

Contact David Arnold at [email protected], or use the form below!

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