Studio Engineer Junior Neves and Owner / Producer Eduardo Kaplan at  Estúdio Playground, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Date 12 June 2017
Caption Junior Neves (Left) and Eduardo Kaplan (right) with the new SSL XL-Desk
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Playground puts Flexibility First with XL-Desk

“ It's a modern analogue console that's flexible in a way that suits the engineer... It talks to the engineer. ”

Rio de Janeiro, BrazilEstúdio Playground, owned by Musician and Producer Eduardo Kaplan, is located just a few minutes’ walk from Botafogo Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The studio started out as a space for Kaplan's band to rehearse and record, but has since been given a makeover and is now operating as a fully commercial recording and mixing facility. As part of the upgrade, the studio has invested in a ‘fully-loaded’ SSL XL-Desk along with two Alpha VHD-Pres.

Levelling Up

Kaplan developed the studio with resident Studio Engineer Junior Neves after the pair realised there was a need in the local market for a studio with fantastic equipment and expert staff at a price that would not deter new artists. Of course, there is also an obvious attraction to clients from further afield who would love to spend some time in Rio while working on their latest production.

"There are some unique difficulties in Rio that put our bands under pressure. We don't have lots of small venues like you often find in other big cities - venues where they can showcase themselves and their music.
"You might think this means that they are not spending money in studios, but we've found that if you get them in, they're hooked. They experience the quality and creative potential of fantastic kit and they come back. That's a great thing."
The pair set about creating the space, and auditioned the XL-Desk on Neves' initial recommendation. "This is a special console," says Kaplan. "It's a modern analogue console that's flexible in a way that suits the engineer... It talks to the engineer.”

In essence, XL-Desk is a 24 into 8 analogue console, with 20 channel strips made up of 16 dual input mono (main input and DAW return) and 4 stereo channels. However, at mixdown the mono channel DAW return signals can be routed to the CUE ST bus and then summed into Mix A. Add stereo returns and insert summing, and the XL-Desk can be configured with over 50 summing inputs. "It's easy to connect to Pro Tools," continues Kaplan. "And means that where it matters we can work 'out of the box' and bring something special to our clients' projects."

Another of the console's special features is an 18 slot 500 format rack system with flexible on-board and external routing possibilities. Slots 17 and 18 come with the famous SSL Buss Compressor preloaded, while the rest can be populated as required with SSL or third-party 500 format modules. The Playground XL-Desk has eight SSL E-Series EQ modules and eight SSL E-Series Dynamics modules.

People Power

Kaplan goes on to explain that their investments haven't stopped at the console. "We have bought some top instruments, including a high-end drum it, which is very popular."
The combination of Playground's technology and its people is the secret of its success. "We have great human capital here at Playground - some of the best producers and engineers working with us. Now we have the best equipment too."
In addition to the XL-Desk, the facility also has two Alpha VHD-Pre four-channel mic pres featuring the patented SSL Variable Harmonic Drive circuit, providing a wide character palette for any input. The XL-Desk itself has VHD inputs on the first eight channels.
"We are very happy," says Kaplan. "The desk and the processing is marvellous!"