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The Universal Audio / Urei 1176 Compressor

Pro Audio Hall of Fame / Urei / UA 1176

Introducing the "True Peak Limiter"

The Universal Audio 1176 Compressor/Limiter was first introduced in 1967, created by Bill Putnam Sr. as the solid state successor to his tube-based 176 limiting amplifier. The 1176 uses a Field Effect Transistor, or FET, as a voltage divider to accomplish the task of compression, in conjunction with I/O transformers and a Class A line level amplifier. The 1176 was meant to be a "true peak limiter" with a very fast attack of up to 20 microseconds, and lots of gain for a compressor: up to 45 dB!

Bill Putnam Sr., creator of the 1176 compressor

Evolving A Classic Design

The design of the unit went through numerous changes, taking a while to hit its stride. The originals were somewhat noisy, prompting Brad Plunkett of Urei to design the Low Noise circuit that gave the unit its "LN" designation. Improvements continued to be made over the years, with the result that there are 9 major revisions of the vintage 1176, given the letters A, A/B, B, C, D, E, F, G, H . The substance of these revisions is detailed below, gleaned from notes by Barry Rudolph, the Universal Audio website, and research on units sold by Vintage King.

Producer, engineer, mixer Michael Brauer

“What's not to like? This is the workhorse of the industry. The most powerful compressor of them all. You can use it on any instrument and it'll do the job of making the drums sound punchy, the vocal sound stressed, urgent and contained if you choose, the bass pop, the drum room explodes, the guitars drive, the piano harmonics shimmer. It's very colored in sound and doesn't have the high bandwidth sound of the newer compressors but who cares. When I go into a studio to mix a record without my racks, I make sure there are 4 of these in the room.”

Michael Brauer

Urei / Universal Audio 1176 faceplate
Urei / Universal Audio 1176 rear panel

A Guide To Urei/Universal Audio 1176 Revisions

Based on the look of their faceplates, Revisions A, A/B, and B are all nicknamed the "Bluestripe," since they all featured a section of blue paint around the VU meter. Revisions C through G all have the nickname "Blackface" for their black anodized aluminum, while the final Revision H is known as the "Silverface", for its natural brushed aluminum. Revisions C, D and E (the first three with the LN circuit) are all very similar, and are generally the most revered. The modern reiss