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Universal Audio 1176 LN Compressor

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Universal Audio 1176 LN Compressor

Postby Glenn Bucci » Fri Jun 20, 2014 2:24 am

Universal Audio 1176 LN (low noise) compressor

I received a new 1176 LN compressor from Vintage King who provided excellent customer service and timely shipping.
Sound on Sound provided a very good review of the compressor. I will therefore focus my review on how it compares to the newer UAD 1176 Plug in Collection.

The compressor has a field effect transistor (FET) that uses as a voltage-controlled variable resistor as oppose to a opto, or VCA type compressor. The ratio options are 4:1, 8:1, 12:1, or 20:1. You also have the option of pressing combinations of buttons to provided different responses as well.
There have been many revisions of the 1176 since it came out. Model C included a low-noise circuitry which later in Model D was revised. Model E came out in the early 1970s that included a European 220V voltage selector on the rear panel. Model D or model E appeared to be the most popular over the years.
Universal Audio states the following regarding the new reissue:
True to the original in design, manufacturing and performance
Modeled after 1176LN, blackface, D and E revisions
Ultra fast attack time -20 microseconds to 800 microseconds
Class A line level output amplifier
Custom built Putnam-designed output transformer
Stereo interconnect operation
Hand-built in USA; backed by 1-year limited warranty
Input Impedance
600 ohms, bridges-T control (floating)
Output Load Impedance
600 ohms
+50 db

Lets get to the finishing line and tell how it compars to the UAD 1176 Collection. The answer is a clear audible difference. The hardware sounds like a part of the original signal that provides a clearer sound while the UAD 1176 Collection adds some more color, and has the ability to smear the notes if not used properly.

For my bass guitar DI test (Fender jazz active), I used the UAD 1176 bass guitar preset. This provides a med fast attack and very fast release with a ratio of 4. The hardware unit offered a clearer sound which resulted in hearing every detail of each note very well. The transformers add a little more bottom end while still remaining clear and detailed. When you compress up to -3db, it is more on the transparent side. When you compress more, you hear it reduce the signal in a gentle way controlling the peak levels. The compressor controls the transients while still allowing the track to breath. Obviously you can hit it harder and get more of an effect including pumping. Having large control knobs make using this a joy to use.

The UAD 1176 Rev E (purplish face) adds character which clouds the notes slightly in a good way if adjusted correctly. The same settings on the hardware and software provide different results. I actually found the AE 1176 plug in to sound closer to the hardware. It still though affected the signal so it was slightly cloudy.

In comparing the 1176 hardware to my Portico compressor with feed forward (cleaner option) option, the Portico added more smoothness to the signal with its transformers. It was not cloudy like the plug ins, but it gently rounded the signal. The 1176 offered a cleaner sound like the bass amp was in front of you with a nice punchy sound. Depending on your needs, one will be better than the other. After using the large knobs on the 1176, the tiny knobs on the half rack Portico were a little disappointing.

On vocals, the hardware provided great control of the peaks while providing a punchier sound if so desired. The plug ins also sounded very good, but could add (positive word) character (negative word) slight cloudy-ness to the signal. Depending on the type of music, and character you want, one will be better than the other.

I tracked with the 1176 on guitar and bass. I then tracked with the Portico compressor, and then tracked with no compressor and added the UAD 1176 compressors with the same attack and release settings and matching up the amount of reduction which peaked around -6db. Once again I found the 1176 offering a clean modern punch with a little low end umph added. The Portico smoothed the signal and its transformers made the sound a little thicker. The UAD 1176 AE took something away from the clarity and added a gentle character as did the Rev E version. It was like it added a veil to the signal.

Some people claim the original 1176 or other 1176 compressors from other company’s offer a better character than the new Universal Audio 1176. I cannot comment that but know each has their own flavor. If you want character you can easily go to Portico, or API compressor. I personally really like the clean punchy sound of the new Universal Audio 1176 compressor. I also like that the transformers add a little more fullness while still maintaining the original sound of the bass. It simply sounds better going through this compressor. When it reduces the signal, it never makes the sound too soft or a jumpy reduction in volume when used with normal settings. It sounds very smooth when it reduces the signal.

Would I still use the UAD 1176 compressors if I had the hardware? The answer is yes; when I want to add a little smoothness or color to the signal. If tracking with the 1176, I would be gentle with the settings since if you over compress while tracking, you can’t undo it later on. Even with gentle tracking, the transformers make the overall sound fuller and more up front. As I said before, having large controls make it a joy to work with. It does lack a ratio control, and feedforward/feedback option as some other compressors offer. However I found it was very easy to obtain the results by playing with the input (which affects the ratio) and output control. In the States, it cost $2,000 and used ones are seen around $1,300. If this type of compressor appeals to you, I encourage you to try one out.
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Glenn Bucci
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Re: Universal Audio 1176 LN Compressor

Postby Martin Walker » Sat Jun 21, 2014 1:20 pm

Well done Glenn - always a pleasure to read your finely-considered reviews 8-)

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Re: Universal Audio 1176 LN Compressor

Postby Glenn Bucci » Sat Jun 28, 2014 2:59 pm

Thanks Martin!

I want to emphasize that the UAD 1176 plug ins do not sound like the hardware unit. The hardware offers a open, detailed, clear compressor that reduces the signal is a very smooth way with gentle settings. The meter also seems more sensitive than the software version. In addition, the transformers add more weight to the signal while still maintaining the clear sound. The plug does not do any of this. What it does though is add some coloration, and it has the hardware character of making a track punchy and up front. Both are good and useful. I cannot duplicate what the UA 1176 does with anything I have in my studio. I find there are many times when I want that clean, clear punchy, fuller sound on guitar, bass, and vocal tracks. There is a very good chance I will have one in my studio in the near future.....after I pay off some bills. :blush:
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