We take a look at the first in a new, more affordable range of products from BAE.
UK Sound is a new brand of outboard gear from boutique manufacturers BAE, and was launched at last year's Winter NAMM show. The company have long offered an enviable range of preamps and outboard processors, inspired largely (but not exclusively) by classic Neve circuitry. Their no-compromise approach to construction, with hand-wired discrete components throughout, has led to premium-quality products with, inevitably, a price tag to match. The UK Sound range is intended as a vehicle to deliver the company's design and construction expertise at a more competitive price. It's not aiming to be the cheapest gear out there but instead, through the careful selection of some less‑expensive components and use of PCBs and some surface-mount devices, to cut costs without compromising the sound.
Like the BAE products, the UK Sound range is built in California. At the time of writing, the range listed on the UK Sound website comprises only two models: the 176, which aims to deliver the compression and sound of the classic UREI 1176 FET compressor (not UREI's earlier 176 vari‑mu compressor, despite the name!); and the 1173, which pairs the 176 compressor circuitry with a Neve 1073-inspired mic preamp — such preamplifiers are a familiar part of the main BAE line, of course. More products were announced last year, including a dual‑channel compressor and some 500-series modules, so I'll be interested to see what follows. The first product sent to us for review was this, the 176 compressor...
The 176 comes in 1U 19-inch rackmount format, in a nice, solid chassis, and with a matte-black front panel. This panel plays host to black control knobs with white legends. The only elements to depart from the black-and-white livery are a couple of metal toggle switches, the creamy yellow, circular, backlit gain-reduction needle-meter, and the BAE part of the UK Sound logo, over on the right-hand side.
While the 176 makes no attempt to mimic the 1176 aesthetically (more on that later), most of the controls you'd expect of an 1176-style compressor are present. The Input level pot, which is at unity gain in around the 10 o'clock position, allows you to boost...
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