Before I answer if that's possible - let's go back to the 60s when modern music production really took off for the first time. Recording labels and studios started springing up everywhere. Records by The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan and many others started to push the envelope of what could be achieved with recorded sound. And then the 1176 came along.
Naturally this exposed many limitations of existing devices - the new generation of recording engineers wanted more headroom, more control over distortion and less noise. But more than anything they wanted new sounds to go with the new music. They wanted to shape the sound like it has not been shaped before.
That's something that we at mix:analog can really identify with. We too are seeing more and more people reach the limits of what their hardware or software can do for their music. After carefully selecting instruments and writing songs, the sound in hearts and minds is simply not happening. We want to help and in this instance, we won't be charging any money for that. But more about that later down this article.
About the 1176 "Blue Stripe"
The 1176 Revision "A" or commonly called "Blue Stripe" was Universal Audio's invention that really stood up to this challenge. Billed as a “true peak limiter with all transistor circuitry and superior performance on all types of program material," the 1176’s major selling point was its ultra-fast attack time — a mere 20 µS (.00002 seconds) at its fastest setting.
Engineers soon found out that the 1176 also injected character, attitude, and vibe to anything run through its circuitry. Some even used the 1176 with the compression turned off, just for the distinctive tone it imparts. The unit’s amplifiers and transformers all by themselves give a desirable “hot” quality to anything passing through them.
Upon its release in 1967, the 1176 Limiting Amplifier became an instant classic because of its unique lightning-fast attack and release times, musical Class A output stage, and its wide range of sounds, ranging from subtle, near-transparent compression, to all-out drive and distortion.
The preset ratios are 4:1, 8:1, 12:1 and 20:1. An unknown engineer decided to try pushing all four buttons at once and the result was a unique-sound that soon became widely copied in rock music mixes and has been imitated by many other compressor manufacturers. Feel free to use it as much as you like, this setting doesn’t hurt the hardware unit at all.
How it works inside mix:analog
Inside the mix:analog real-time gear access web app, we are going to GIVE AWAY access to the 1176 Rev. A hardware unit that we built for you, FOR FREE. It's a high quality unit made with reissue transformers, original transistors and a custom designed control circuit. It will not cost you any money to use it. All you need is a modern web browser and a free account at mix:analog and you can use the 1176 as much as you want.
This offer will be available at least until the end of February 2019, possibly longer.
You can access this legendary compressor from the same screen as the rest of the mix:analog devices. After you log in, click its tab and then a square with a time slot that works for you. You can book up to four days in advance, from 15 minutes to up to an hour at a time.
You should figure in a few minutes extra to upload your files in advance before the session starts, then you can activate it and use the compressor directly from the web browser in real time with a screen similar to the following:
In order to dial in your sound, just use the mouse to turn the knobs and click on the ratio settings. If you want the "All in" mode, you can do that to by holding down "SHIFT" on your keyboard and clicking any of the ratio buttons.
The metering push buttons will be implemented at a later date and are currently in there just of aesthetics.
The Blue Stripe has been used on countless records to bring out the best in instruments in vocals. It really shines on bringing out the attack on a snare drum: you can do this by setting the attack to the slowest (counter-clockwise) and dialling in the rest of the settings to taste. In particular, the release setting can be used to control the ringing of the snare.
To get a solid body out of a bass instrument like a bass guitar or synth, use medium attack, and a medium to slow release setting with a 1:4 ratio. You can control the amount of transient distortion with the attack setting. Don't be shy to experiment with this as your initial approach to other instruments as well. It's a good starting point on your voyage to a great use of the 1176.
Pushing forward lead vocals is also a great application for the 1176. Use a medium to fast attack with the fastest release setting (fully clockwise). This will give a certain bite to the lead vocal that will cut through the mix easily without being too annoying. A high ratio can help to make it more even.
In all cases, the release setting is directly connected to the rhythm of the song and adjusting it to fit with the groove is a hallmark of good audio engineering.
The 1176 is an awesome creative tool and its first version, the revision A can be used to great effect on vocals, drums and guitars. Use it to thicken up sounds with very interesting type of distortion that is simply not available anywhere else. The input transformer combined with a class A JFET circuitry is an instant classic and still very relevant today.
Give it a try and contact me in the chat for further info. I'm always happy to help!