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 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.
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...