There is some new gear in the Red studio at Musitechnic…

The 1176LN Peak limiter is a classic compressor designed by Bill Putnam and introduced in 1968 by UREI (now Universal Audio). This time I’ll take a look at the history of the compressor before going through the features available on the compressor. Next time I’ll go through some of the different ways of using the 1176.

 Many revisions and clones are available. To keep things simple, let’s just say that the different revisions (there are at least 13 of them!) basically reduced distortion and noise*. Clones are available. That means you can get a clone for under 1000$. You can even make your own for a few hundred dollars if you are good in electronics and are brave enough (Musitechnic professor Gabriel Boucher is brave!). You can also get an original UREI between 2000$ and 4000$ depending on the version and who it belonged to… If you buy a new 1176, Universal Audio and Bill Putnam’s sons manufacture it. Today’s Universal Audio re-issues are based on “D” and “E” models.

Not to many knobs to fiddle with…

I love the simplicity of this compressor. Simplicity is important if you are just starting out and are not too sure how to tweak a compressor. Some plug-ins for example offer so many options they may be daunting at first.

If you had a class on compressors, you probably learned about threshold and make up gain. The ”input” pot serves as the threshold: turning up the pot is like bringing down the threshold. Basically, the more input you give, the more compression you get! Like the threshold I said! The ”output” pot serves as the make up gain: Once you’ve compressed and you need a hotter signal, you use this pot to raise your level.

There are only four different compression ratios to work with 4:1, 8:1, 12:1, and 20:1 (there is also the ”All-buttons pushed” ratio I’ll talk about later). So if you are recording and want slight compression, your only option is 4:1. We can argue that anything above 8:1 is hard compression or limiting. As you choose a higher ratio, the threshold actually increases, like a typical limiter setting.

Attack time is adjustable from 20 microseconds to 800 microseconds. Yes, that is microseconds, not milliseconds, so it is super fast. Note that if you are used to other compressors, these pots may seem counterintuitive. On other compressors, turning the ”attack” pot clockwise increases the attack time, letting the transients through. On the 1176, turning the ”attack” pot clockwise decreases the attack time.

The release times on the 1176 go from 50 ms to 1,100 ms and are controlled with the “release” pot. On other compressors, turning the ”release” pot clockwise increases the release time (making it slower). On the 1176, turning the ”release” pot clockwise decreases the attack time (making it faster).

I did not invent anything, check out wikipedia, the Universal Audio web page and the 1176LN user manual available online… Next time, some notes on using the 1176, including the famous “all buttons” mode.

Questions? comments?

* If you are into electronics, here are some of the major changes since the first revision: changes to transistors, power transformer switch between 110 V and 220 V, output amplifier from a class A to a push-pull design, metering circuit use of an op-amp, input transformer replaced by a differential amplifier. If you really, really want to know, check out this link to Universal Audio’s web site:

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