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Wes Audio ng76

Digitally Controlled FET Compressor By Bob Thomas
Published October 2023

Wes Audio ng76

The Polish pioneers pair their plug‑in remote control system with a classic analogue compressor.

Founded in 2010, Wes Audio’s first product was the Beta76 compressor, an enhanced homage to the UREI 1176 FET compressor. There are plenty of such devices around now, but Wes have come a long way since then. These days, they are best known for their Next Generation (ng) range of digitally controlled analogue outboard, with various offerings for the 19‑inch rackmount and 500‑series formats. Recently, they released the ng76 and, as the name implies, this 19‑inch rackmount device is a FET compressor. Like other products in the range it not only features DAW integration, recall and remote parameter control via a plug‑in, but it’s also worth noting that while it obviously has much in common with the company’s all‑analogue Beta76, it delivers significant increases in functionality.


Like the UREI 1176 and the Beta76, the ng76 is a program‑dependent feedback compressor that utilises a FET as its variable gain‑control element, giving it an extremely fast attack time (80‑200 µs) and a short release time (50‑1100 ms). Although the lack of a threshold control implies a fixed threshold, the original 1176 manual shows that the threshold rises when higher compression ratios are selected. The compressor’s soft‑knee response hardens as ratios increase, making the 4:1 and 8:1 ratios best suited to compression, with the 12:1 and 20:1 ratios aimed more at limiting duties. As a program‑dependent compressor, the amount of gain reduction and the ratio vary according to the level of the signal entering the compression circuit.

The ng76’s build quality is of the highest order. A substantial brushed‑finish fascia fronts its 2U steel chassis and carries the unit’s encoders, switches and meters. The encoders feel good too, offering a reassuring resistance, and the switches have a pleasantly positive action. The encoders are touch‑sensitive, their LED indicator rings becoming instantly brighter when touched, and fading back to their lower default level once you’ve completed your adjustment. This welcome feature is complemented by modest levels of illumination in the switch LEDs and in the 10‑LED input and output level VU meters that bookend the backlit moving‑coil VU gain reduction meter — neither too dim nor too bright, but just right.

The ng76 can connect to your computer using either USB or screen — payableThe ng76 can connect to your computer using either USB or screen — payable

The back panel carries the balanced audio I/O’s male and female XLR connectors, along with two TRS jack sockets to cater for cross‑linked send and receive side‑chain signals when two ng76s are configured for stereo operation. There are also USB and RJ45 Ethernet sockets for connection to a computer (you can use either), and a fused mains connector and voltage selector switch.

Internally, two beautifully laid‑out PCBs are populated by a mix of SMD and through‑hole components. The larger PCB carries all the analogue audio circuitry, including two Carnhill transformers (one of which always balances the ng76’s output, while the other is a switchable alternative to electronic balancing on the input) and the associated digital control circuitry. The second, much smaller board handles data communication, which is carried out using Wes’ proprietary high‑speed GCon protocol, between the ng76’s DCA circuitry and the host computer over USB or Ethernet. Power to the ng76’s circuitry is supplied via a screened‑off toroidal transformer.

We’re Not In Kansas Anymore

The classic 1176‑style compressor control layout is augmented to account for the ng76’s increased functionality. Two of these, namely side‑chain filter frequency selection and Normal/Vintage input mode switching, were already implemented on the Beta76 and to these the ng76 adds a wet/dry mix encoder that makes parallel compression simple and intuitive. Next to that is a side‑chain filter that’s similar to that in the company’s ngBusComp. Featuring both a low‑frequency high‑pass filter and a high‑frequency shelving equaliser, each operates at 6dB/octave across three fixed corner frequencies: 60Hz, 90Hz or 150Hz for the high‑pass filter, and 2kHz, 5kHz or 10kHz for the shelf. A detented encoder allows you to cycle sequentially backwards and forwards through the six frequency settings, each of which has its own LED, but keep on turning and you’ll discover that there are actually a further nine possible combinations of HPF plus shelf. The encoder itself also acts as a momentary push switch that activates the side‑chain detector link when two ng76s are operating in stereo.

The use of a high‑pass filter in a compressor side‑chain to reduce sensitivity to energetic low frequencies is not at all unusual these days but the shelving EQ (and particularly the two in combination) is much less common. The idea of the shelf is to increase compression at high frequencies, either to increase control or to reduce their level in order to emphasise the high‑midrange and darken the sound. With various options to simultaneously reduce compression at low frequencies and increase it at high frequencies, the ng76’s side‑chain filter both offers increased control and potentially opens up new areas of creative sound design for artists, engineers and producers. Broadly similar in concept to the API 2500’s Thrust control, the implementation here is slightly different though it’s not entirely new: Wes first introduced the idea in their ngBusComp, which offered two filter‑plus‑shelf settings.

The classic 1176 setup is augmented with a number of useful features, not least the interesting side‑chain EQ options.The classic 1176 setup is augmented with a number of useful features, not least the interesting side‑chain EQ options.

Below the side‑chain filter sits a two‑row bank of six square momentary switches, each with an indicator LED. Those on the top row activate Saturation, Modern/Vintage input mode and Low/High THD functions. On the bottom row, the outer pair switch between the A and B memory slots — this neat plug‑in style feature allows total recall of settings when using the ng76 as a regular standalone device — while the central button switches the ng76 in and out of hard bypass. The four ratio selector switches sit horizontally underneath the mechanical gain reduction meter, rather than in the traditional vertical alignment, and although these are non‑interlocked momentary switches they look like the originals and have a somewhat mechanical feel.

Switching It Up

Further sonic enhancements, based on harmonic distortion rather than equalisation, can be found in the top row of square momentary switches. In the middle is a switch to select the input stage. Over its lifetime, the UREI 1176 was revised several times, each revision being given a letter of the alphabet. Revision F, introduced in 1973, was the last version to be fitted with a transformer‑balanced input. Revision G, whose introduction date is unknown, was fitted with an electronically‑balanced input, which resulted in a cleaner overall sound due to the absence of transformer‑based harmonic distortion at the input. The ng76’s Modern/Vintage switch allows you to choose between G and F revisions, a choice that will depend on the source material and the overall compression effect that you want to achieve.

To the right of this is a THD button. Wes Audio’s proprietary Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) circuit is used on some of their other products, but in the ng76 the THD mode utilises the FET compression circuitry to produce odd‑numbered harmonics that can be added to the source signal to create, for example, an increased perception of weight, depth and dimension. In conjunction with the Modern and Vintage input balancing options, this means you have four possible THD ‘sounds’ to choose from, and you’ll find that the wet/dry mix control will be extremely useful in tuning the saturation effect to taste.

The button on the left engages the SAT (saturation) mode, which turns the ng76 into a powerful distortion tool whose effect ranges from a subtle distortion to hard clipping. It’s extremely useful for adding character and presence — adding excitement and presence to drum sounds is a classic application of saturation, of course, but literally any source can benefit (where artistically appropriate) from some saturation‑derived edge — and again the wet/dry mix control is extremely useful to tailor the effect to the source. This mode operates in a unique fashion, in which the compressor side‑chain is triggered not by the incoming audio signal, but by a 25kHz sine wave being fed to it via an internal DAC. This establishes static compression at approximately 10dB of gain reduction which, as Wes Audio describe it, creates the harmonic distortion typical of FET compression, and also enables the Sat mode to take advantage of the THD circuit. The attack, release, side‑chain filter, ratio selection and gain reduction metering are disabled, with the input and output level controls changing function to Drive and Trim, respectively. In this mode, the UI’s drive control LED ring turns red, and a red representation of a valve gets brighter as the drive level rises, and the ng76’s side‑chain filter’s LEDs glow a constant red. The input and output level controls are inversely linked, so that when Drive is at its maximum, input is at its maximum and output is at its minimum, and vice versa. This interaction is designed to maintain unity gain until clipping occurs. Any resulting level changes can be compensated for using the Trim control, which can deliver up to 8dB of boost or cut.

The bottom row of momentary switches controls the hard bypass function and toggling between the ng76’s A and B internal configuration memories. The latter are very simple to use: whenever the ng76 is powered up, one of those two memories will be active and automatically store any front‑panel changes you make; switching to the other memory instantly loads its stored configuration, giving you the option of having two different configurations available at the press of a button.

The plug‑in communicates bidirectionally with the hardware. While the hardware can work standalone and its controls are reflected on the plug‑in, the latter offers some additional control features and allows settings to be stored, recalled and automated using your DAW.The plug‑in communicates bidirectionally with the hardware. While the hardware can work standalone and its controls are reflected on the plug‑in, the latter offers some additional control features and allows settings to be stored, recalled and automated using your DAW.

There’s An App For That

The backbone of Wes Audio’s digital control environment is the company’s proprietary, open‑specification GCon protocol, and a key benefit is, of course, that the device can be remote controlled from a computer. Setting up remote control of the ng76 via a Windows or macOS machine is simply a matter of downloading and installing the appropriate GCon Manager software. From there you can select the plug‑in type(s) appropriate for your setup (VST2, VST3, AU, AAX and AAX DSP are available) and these are installed in both mono and stereo versions.

The GCon Manager also handles other ng76 housekeeping duties, such as connection status, firmware updates and setting the intensity level (low, medium or high) of the front‑panel encoder LEDs. With the ng76 connected, instantiating the Wes Audio plug‑in in a DAW track brings up a resizable, high‑resolution graphic representation of the ng76 front panel that contains replicas of all the front‑panel controls, along with tabs that are necessary to access additional functionality.

Once the plug‑in has loaded into a track, the ng76 to be controlled can be selected from the drop‑down menu at the bottom left of the UI. Once selected, the connection type (USB or Ethernet) and unit ID number appear, and a two‑pin plug/socket icon illuminates. When the ng76 is connected to the plug‑in, an H‑Link indicator LED, to the right of its front‑panel attack and release controls, glows green, and when data is passing between the ng76 and the DAW the green Data LED on the other side of these controls illuminates.

The plug‑in GUI controls, for the most part, look exactly like their hardware counterparts. A notable exception is the side‑chain filter encoder, which is replaced here by a bank of six buttons that bring up a little graph of the side‑chain frequency curve when activated. The bottom row of buttons have vanished too, their bypass switching and expanded memory functions moving to the bottom of the UI alongside the ID and connection tabs. The link detector switch moves down next to the bypass tab, and a new, plug‑in‑only Toggle switch that illuminates when active ‘interlocks’ the four on‑screen ratio buttons, so that only one ratio can be selected at a time — this can be defeated by pressing shift — and there’s a new, plug‑in only All ratio button, for the famous 1176 ‘all buttons in’ setting.

In the plug‑in, the A and B configuration memories are replaced by a 20‑bank preset management system, with three locations per bank. The locations are identified in alphabetical order, so Bank 1’s locations are A, B, and C, Bank 2’s are D, E and F, and so on, with the letter allocation starting over again at Banks 9 and 17. Also helpful when it comes to populating and managing the memory locations is that you can copy and paste front‑panel settings. It’s worth noting that, when active, the first two locations in any bank will automatically store changes in front‑panel settings made on the ng76 itself. A multi‑step undo/redo function is also provided, making A/B comparisons between various versions of edited front‑panel configurations really simple. In addition to the 60 configuration memories, the plug‑in allows you to save, annotate and manage front‑panel configurations as non‑volatile presets within five factory‑defined categories: drums, guitars, bass, vocals and other. One point to bear in mind is that if you remove an instance of the plug‑in from a track, its configuration memories for that track will be lost unless you have saved them as presets.

Finally, the plug‑in’s Menu tab allows you to reset all front‑panel parameters to their defaults and, if you’re running two ng76s within the stereo version of the plug‑in, to copy settings from one unit to the other.

Automatic For The People?

In use purely as a standalone hardware device, the ng76’s performance lived up to its impressive specifications. As a compressor, it produced results on vocal, bass and drum sources that, given its heritage, were just as I’d expected, and it nailed the All Buttons ‘drum smash’ effect (other button combinations are available!). Its low‑pass/high‑shelf side‑chain filter, saturation and THD modes and switchable electronic/transformer‑balanced input also combined to give me extensive sound‑shaping options, and the wet/dry mix control always made it easy to dial in the precise compression or distortion effect that I required.

Every parameter can be automated in your DAW, and you have the bonus of being able to write automation directly from the ng76’s front panel.

Of course, it’s the combination of digitally controlled hardware and the DAW plug‑in that really sets this FET compressor apart from the crowd. Indeed, if you want to integrate an automated, remote‑controlled 1176‑type analogue compressor into your DAW workflow, the ng76 is, other than its slightly less feature‑packed 500‑series sibling the Mimas, the only game in town. But what a game it is! The plug‑in was a pleasure to use, and worked flawlessly throughout to deliver the full potential of the unit’s expanded functionality, total recall, DAW integration and automated parameter control. What’s more, every parameter can be automated in your DAW, and you have the bonus of being able to write automation directly from the ng76’s front‑panel level, attack, release and mix encoders.

Even used on its own, without the DAW plug‑in, Wes Audio’s ng76 would be very competitive in its market segment, in terms of both price and performance. But the additional functionality, DAW integration and automation that the GCon protocol and DAW plug‑in bring make the ng76 FET compressor highly attractive, great value for money... and extremely tempting! In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it should be considered by anyone looking to integrate vintage‑style analogue compression into their DAW workflow.


While the world isn’t short of 1176‑inspired FET compressors, the only other one I know of that offers this degree of digital control and DAW integration is Wes Audio’s own Mimas 500‑series module.


  • Plug‑in based DAW workflow integration, DCA total recall and parameter automation.
  • Delivers great‑sounding vintage 1176‑style FET compression with functional enhancements.
  • Competitively priced and great value for money.


  • You’ll probably want two!


Vintage‑style analogue hardware compression partners with plug‑in DCA control to deliver enhanced functionality, DAW workflow integration, total recall, automation and a great sound.


£1069. Matched stereo pair £2699. Prices include VAT.

SX Pro +44 (0)1462 414 196.

$1399. Matched stereo pair $2799.

MusicMax Distribution +1 614 897 0007.

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