The Birth of an Icon
What makes a great compressor? Is it the way it keeps things under control, or is it how it allows for controlled movement of the music in a way nothing else can?
This is the question I ask myself when I look at the 1176. Truly an iconic compressor, in 1967, it began the long journey of finding its way into the hearts and minds of tens of thousands of sound engineers and producers around the globe.
When we looked at what we had done with the blue stripe 1176, we weren’t satisfied. Not because it wasn’t good, but because we just wanted...MORE.
Having access to different revisions of 1176 was something only the massive studios had access to. We just knew that we had to change that.
Not only did we decide to make the 1176 stereo and a VERY stable stereo at that(more on that later), but we decided to implement two extra revisions that truly give you the best of what the 1176’s history had to offer.
We engineered the Revision D, which sounds identical to the 1176 sold today by UA. We also built the Revision G, a very precise, clear-sounding version that sounds amazing on anything modern pop/clarity focused.
This is the start of our expansion into usable racks/gear chains that actually make a huge difference in getting your source processed on a high level from start to finish.
Let’s talk about the details, shall we?
All of them have the same attack, release, and ratio settings.
The G Version, however, has Lundahl Output Transformers and not the regular Bournes B11148 output transformers. This makes quite an important difference to the way it sounds.
Rev A: (The Famous Blue Stripe)
Bill Putnam created the first 1176 compressor in 1967. Although it was the basis for all 1176 revisions, the rev A has numerous peculiarities that set it apart from the others. It is the only revision to use FETs rather than bipolar transistors in the preamp and line amps. It is also cosmetically unique, sporting a distinctive blue stripe through the meter. Finally, the rev A does not have the low-noise circuitry of later revisions, which means it imparts more harmonic distortion at the expense of a higher noise floor. The Universal Audio website tells us that only 25 of this revision was made (serial no. #101-125), which makes them about as rare as a piece of gear can be.
Most 1176 fans reading this have already noticed two conspicuous differences between the rev A and the compressor most of us know today: the black front panel and the "LN" signification. "LN" stands for "Low Noise," and all of the circuit changes in rev D were intended to reduce noise and distortion. These include reducing the voltage going to the gain-reduction FET to make its operation more linear and incorporating a Q-bias pot to minimize distortion.
Universal Audio's current reproductions are based on these revisions, so if you’re looking for something that sounds the same as what’s made today, rev D is the way to go.
From the beginning, the 1176 had used the class-A 1108 preamp for output gain. Rev G replaced this with a push-pull amplifier based on the 1109 preamp. This gives the rev G more output gain and a slightly different sonic character than previous revisions. Despite this, this revision measures the lowest harmonic distortion of any revision, making it the best choice for those looking for 1176-style compression with less coloration.
Rev G replaced the UA-5002 output transformer with a Bournes B11148 which, adds a slight boost in the extreme high and low frequencies.
Rev G was also the first to incorporate integrated circuits. The rev G replaced the input transformer with a NE5532 IC. This gives the rev G the potential to be the cleanest 1176 yet.
To secure a highly stable and quality method of stereo operation, we have used a method similar to how SSL approaches their bus compression. First, we sub-mix both the left and right channels into mono, and this allows the compressor to achieve stable stereo compression.
The original way of bolting together both control voltages gets many artifacts and a feeling of stereo image shrinking/expanding or floating left to right.
So when the compressor is stereo-linked, like now, the mono signal is looked at in order to achieve perfectly stereo-balanced compression.
What should you use it on?
Everything! Jokes aside, vocals, drums, bass, keys, guitars, synths, and more truly shine on this, and it has to be one of the most versatile compressors ever made and imparts a wonderful sonic character to a mix that truly gives something special to any source you throw at it. The controlled movement I mentioned at the beginning of the article is one of the most amazing features of this compressor. Sometimes, controlled movement in the right way brings about the control you need, with the nuanced movement and feeling to make your mix come alive.
We’re going to be leaving this free for three weeks, and then after that, the blue stripe will remain free, while the revisions D and G will move to paid options.
Try it out today below!