Hardware vs Software: UREI 1176 Compressor/Limiter

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Whether in hardware or software, the UREI 1176 Limiter is one of the best dynamics controllers around, as John Pickford discovers…

UREI 1176

Launched in 1967, the UREI 1176 limiter is the granddaddy of solid-state dynamics controllers. Designed by Bill Putnam using FET (Field Effect Transistor) technology, the 1176 went through several revisions during its infancy. With four selectable ratios – 4:1, 8:1. 12:1 and 20:1 – the unit is particularly good at processing vocals, especially when used in conjunction with the classic Teletronix LA-2A. A subtle boost of lower midrange frequencies adds body and warmth.

The UREI 1176 is characterised by a big, clear and open sound, yet it will also happily contribute a degree of bite and grit when pushed hard. Long ago, engineers discovered an aggressive, yet musically pleasing style of compression achieved by selecting all four ratios simultaneously. This effect is known as ‘all button mode’ or ‘British Mode’, giving a ratio somewhere between 12:1 and 20:1, for a dynamic effect that is particularly good on drum tracks and bass guitar.


Many engineers like to pass audio through an 1176 even when no compression is required, taking advantage of the unit’s lovely full-bodied yet bright tone, which flatters the original signal.

Universal Audio still manufactures the 1176LN, based upon the most revered revision of the original units. Specially trained staff hand-wire and test each unit, ensuring a no-compromise approach to quality.

This attention to detail does come at a price, though, with a genuine UA 1176LN costing around £1,999 (www.uaudio.com).

For a more affordable, yet still great-sounding take on the original, check out Warm Audio’s WA76. It features a fully discrete signal path and uses superb CineMag transformers. Designed to offer the character of the much-loved Revision D, the WA76 delivers all of the 1176’s legendary performance and sound at a fraction of the price of the hand-wired UA 1176. The use of an external wall-wart power supply might put off some; however, this means that Warm Audio has spent money on the components that really matter. Current cost is £609 for a single unit or £1,499 for a stereo-linked pair (Nova Distribution 0203 589 2530).

Launched in 2013 but now discontinued, Lindell Audio produced the 17XS MkII which we described as “a thoroughly modern take on the classic UREI 1176 compressor with several useful features that make it an extremely versatile single-channel dynamics controller. This is a seriously good compressor at a very reasonable price.” Pre-used models in excellent condition should cost around £300 – £400.

UREI 1176

Universal Audio also offers a trio of 1176s as a plug-in package. It comprises Bill Putnam’s original Revision A ‘bluestripe’ model, complete with its higher distortion and unique FET gain amplifier characteristics, along with a classic ‘blackface’ 1176LN from the early 1970s. This classic Revision E simulation produces a more linear compression response along with the Low Noise circuitry introduced by Brad Plunkett. The third simulation – the 1176AE – emulates UA’s 40th Anniversary edition, complete with unique modifications including an extra 2:1 compression ratio. UA currently offer this package for £115.

Waves’ 1176 –styled plug-in package, named CLA-76, also features simulations of the original Revision A and classic Revision E. This can be bought for under £30 if you shop around.

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John Pickford