Tips & Tricks — 1176 Classic Limiter Collection
Get Classic Compression, Quickly
The 1176 compressor has lent its character and punch to some of the greatest recordings in history. The 1176 Classic Limiter Collection for UAD hardware and UA Audio Interfaces captures three revisions of the legendary hardware used by everyone from Led Zeppelin to Michael Jackson. In this article, I’ll share some helpful tips and tricks for quickly getting up and running with proven settings of this iconic compressor.
The 1176 Classic Limiter Collection plug-ins are meticulous emulations of three distinct 1176 hardware units in all regards — including their control responses and interactions. Therefore, each 1176 plug-in emulation has unique characteristics for gain, threshold, compression knee, distortion onset, and “sweet spots.” Note that as a result of UA’s 100% faithful modeling, setting the Attack, Release, and Ratio controls to the same positions on the different 1176 plug-ins may yield different results. But hey, that’s why you want three! This is also true for the Input and Output controls — the same knob positions on one 1176 could produce dramatically louder (or softer) levels or distortion characteristics on another, for example.
Learning the Control Knobs
The 1176's Input knob simultaneously sets the threshold level (which is the point where the compression “kicks in”) as well as the amount of signal entering the 1176. In other words, turning up the Input knob on an 1176 has the same effect as turning down the Threshold control on other types of compressors.
The Output knob adjusts the overall signal leaving the 1176. This control can be used to apply “makeup” gain to compensate for any that was lost during gain reduction and compression. A good starting point is to use the Output knob to match the level of compressed and uncompressed signals (which you can discern by hitting the Off switch / Bypass button). By doing so, the compressor’s effect on the mix can be heard without volume changes affecting your judgment.
The Attack control sets the time it takes the 1176’s compression to respond to the incoming signal. The 1176 boasts anywhere from a lightning-fast, 20 microsecond attack time to a fast 800 microseconds. And, with the 1176AE, there’s also a fixed 10 millisecond, super “Slo” attack time — great for adding “punch” to source material by letting more transient through before shaping the instrument’s remaining signal.
Conversely, the Release control sets the time it takes for the 1176 to return to the original signal level. 1176 release times range from 50 milliseconds at the fastest setting, to 1.1 seconds at the slowest.
Release times are usually dialed-in to suit the rhythm of the song. For example, when compressing a snare drum, try setting a release time that’s fast enough to be shorter than the time between snare hits. Setting the release time in this way will help avoid “pumping” or “breathing” phenomena from the compressor. Of course, a much faster release might be appropriate.
Note that the Attack and Release controls of the 1176 work in the opposite direction of many other compressors (i.e. turning the knobs toward their higher values actually shortens attack and release times).
Learning The Control Switches
Eight control switches surround the VU meter of all 1176s. The four Ratio buttons on the left of the meter are used to set the degree of compression — lower ratios (4:1, 8:1) for compression, higher ratios (12:1, 20:1) for limiting. And, exclusive to the 1176AE, there’s an even lower, 2:1 ratio — for a smooth, soft-knee compression that’s perfect for vocals.
The four buttons on the right set the various metering methods. When set to GR, the VU Meter indicates the Gain Reduction level in dB — this is effectively showing you how much the 1176 compressor circuitry is “working.” When set to +8 or +4, the VU Meter indicates the output level in dB (e.g. when set to +4, a meter reading of 0 corresponds to an output level of +4 dB). When the Off switch is engaged, the plug-in is disabled.
Using the Dr. Pepper Setting
For a solid starting point with the 1176 plug-ins, try the classic “Dr. Pepper” setting. The name comes from a classic ad campaign for Dr. Pepper that recommended people drink a bottle for a needed sugar boost at 10 o’clock, 2 o’clock, and 4 o’clock, everyday. Mimicking these numbers on an 1176 will often yield great results. To do so, set the Attack control to 10 o’clock, the Release control to 2 o’clock, and the Ratio button at 4:1. Then adjust Input and Output controls as the source material dictates, or simply to taste.
Crushing Signals with "All Buttons" (AKA "British") Mode
Engineers typically use “All Button” mode on drums or on ambience mics. It can also be used to make a bass or guitar sound “dirty” or for putting vocals “in your face.” In “All Buttons” mode (sometimes also known as “British” mode), compression distortion increases radically. You’ll quickly hear why everyone from Led Zeppelin to the Beastie Boys have used this trick.
A wide range of “Multi-Button” ratio combinations possible with the hardware are now also possible with the 1176 Classic Limiter plug-ins — including the famous “All Button” sound. Each multi-ratio combination is a variation on All Button, adding compression distortion to a greater or lesser degree. In creating these new plugins, we learned that only the “outside” ratios are relevant to the multi button combinations’ sound, and the plug will “auto-fill” any redundant “inside” buttons. The above illustration represents each possible sonic combination available in these 1176 plug-ins.
Getting Some Grit for Bass and Vocals with Compression Distortion
Another simple 1176 trick is turning the Attack and Release controls up all the way to their fastest settings. This has the audible effect of adding compression distortion to the audio source, and is especially pronounced in “All Buttons” mode. What happens here is the attack and release are happening so fast that minute level fluctuations sound like distortion. It can add a very useful, gritty compression effect.
This setting is especially useful on bass, where compression and distortion might be needed at the same time, and the 1176 can provide both in a unique way. This trick also sounds great on screaming lead vocals.
Adding 1176 “Color” Without Compression — For Direct Guitars and More
Disengaging all the Ratio buttons (just Shift+Click the currently selected ratio) disables compression altogether, but signal continues to pass through the 1176 circuitry. This is commonly used to add the “color” of the 1176 amplifiers without any gain reduction.
This effect can be particularly useful on direct-recorded guitar tracks, or anything that might benefit from the unique character and distortion of the 1176’s input and output amplifiers.
Hopefully these simple tips will help you get off and running with the 1176 Classic Limiter Collection plug-ins. Of course, the best way to approach them is to experiment with your source material and the various controls (especially the Attack, Release, and Ratio button combinations) to dial in your own desired 1176 effects. As with most audio tools, you’ll find that using your ears and natural creativity will often take you the farthest.
Want to dive even deeper into how the 1176 compressor can enhance your mixes? Watch this 5 Minute UAD Tips video.
— Mason Hicks
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