Since its introduction in 1968, the Universal Audio 1176 Limiting Amplifier has become one of the most used and most loved pieces of studio hardware. But not everyone has the money or space for a bank of vintage 1176 compressors so we use the plug-ins. But there are so many 1176 style plug-ins out there. Which ones sound good, which ones sound like the hardware and which just sound great? Here is are some of the finest 1176 style compression plug-ins available today.
Universal Audio 1176 Rev A, Rev AE And Rev LN
As mentioned before Universal Audio are the creators of the original 1176 hardware unit. But not all 1176's were created equal. Over the years there have been a number of different revisions of the 1176 hardware and to fall in line with the slight variations in sound and tone and Universal Audio have also mirrored these with different versions of the 1176 plug-in.
The top unit in the image above (Silver with the Blue stripe) is the 1176 Rev A. This is the genesis, the first of a new breed. Then we have Rev AE which in hardware terms dates back to UA’s rare 1176 40th Anniversary Edition, complete with exclusive mods, which included it's lower 2:1 compression ratio. The all Black 1176LN or Low Noise is the version of the 1176 hardware still made by Universal Audio to this very day.
Sadly in my audio career, I have only ever had the opportunity to use the later 1176LN hardware and I have to say that the UA 1176LN plug-ins (to my ears) sound every bit as rich and as 1176 like as the hardware. I would advise you to choose a flavour and go with it but remember, the Universal Audio 1176 models, like all the UAD-2 plug-ins, need some UAD-2 DSP hardware or an Apollo or Arrow interface to operate.
Slate Digital FG-116 FET, FG-116 Modern & FG-116 Vintage
The Slate Digital Virtual Mix Rack (VMR) is where you find the 3 different flavours of FG-116 FET, FG-116 Vintage and FG-116 Modern compressor. Once again the Black FG-116 FET Compressor a model of the current 1176 Rev LN unit, the unit you could go out and buy today. The Vintage is a model of 2 prime grade A condition 1176 Rev A units. You can swap between the 2 models with the "Circuit 1 or 2" button and the Blue FG-116 Modern is a Slate Digital creation of what an 1176 could sound like if it were given the HiFi treatment. This is a very clean version of the classic we all know and love.
Bomb Factory BF76
The Bomb Factory BF76 is probably the first 1176 plug-in we all tried. Now, in my opinion, it does not sound like a real 1176, but it does do much the same job when it comes to controlling the dynamics of a track. It just does not have that 1176 tone we all know and love.
Check out Dan Cooper's video tutorial on How To Mix With The BF76 if you want to find out more about this stock version of the 1176.
Waves CLA -76
If you want to hear an 1176 put to good use, listen to anything mixed by Chris Lord Alge. He loves the 1176 so much the team at Waves built the CLA-76 signature plug-in.
Inspired by two highly-desirable revisions of the 1176 both versions of the CLA-76 (“Blacky” and “Bluey”) offer the superfast attack that made the original units studio legends. With the ALL control that recreates the original’s explosive “All-Ratio-Buttons-In” mode, plus modelled pre-amp distortion for that extra edge, the CLA-76 is just about perfect for the big rock and roll drum sound.
If you are interested in finding out just how good the CLA-76 sounds you can check out Using The Waves CLA-76 On Drums In Studio One by Marcus Huyskens and the Free Video Tutorial - Waves CLA-76 by Paul Drew
McDSP 6030 Ultimate Compressor SST -76
The 6030 Ultimate Compressor from McDSP is a very handy plug-in indeed with 10 different compressor types to choose from. The SST '76 is the 1176 FET style model, which is a fast reactive design that sounds great on drums and other percussive sources. The solid-state (SST) circuit model uses a McDSP designed key circuit to boot. So once again 1176 in operation but not so much in tone.
You can check out Russ's review of the McDSP 6030 below.
Native Instruments VC76 By Softube
The Native Instruments VC76 is one of those plug-ins that slips under the radar. It ships as part of the NI Komplete package but is coded by those very smart audio folks at Softube. The thing I most like about the VC76 is the wet/dry mix knob in the output section to allow easier parallel processing. There is also a Sidechain input to allow the compressor to be keyed from another audio signal. Two features I wish other 1176 style plug-ins had added. VC76 is not much of a looker but it gets the job done.
The PSP FETpressor is the only compressor in our selection to feature a Threshold control. Now some would say this would instantly counts it out as an 1176 style plug-in but I disagree. The team at PSP have set out to build a classic 1176 FET "rock and roll" compressor but with modern day features. The Threshold just makes it easier to get the compression sound you want with less concern for gain-staging. They have even gone to the trouble of modelling the output transformer to give it that real 1176 tone. Hey, it sounds like an 1176 to me.
Softube FET Compressor
Other than looking like something from a 70's Hi-Fi catalogue the Softube FET Compressor is one of my favourite 1176 style FET compressors. The addition of the Input and Output meters is also very handy allowing you to see exactly what is going on at all times.
This is far from a complete list of all the 1176 FET style compressor limiters on the market so if there are any that you have found and are using do let us know in the comments below.