The best 1176 plugin will become a go-to on just about every mix. There’s good reason why it’s one of the most famous compressors of all time, and in plugin format, you can use it everywhere.
What Is an 1176 Plugin & What Does It Do?
An 1176 plugin is a software emulation of the indelible UREI/Universal Audio 1176 FET compressor of the late ’60s and early ’70s. As such, it’s a dynamics processor capable of taming some of the sharpest transients of any instrument. It’s frequently used as a vocal compressor, usually early in the chain and followed by a less aggressive compressor like an LA-2A. In any case, it’s a phenomenal piece of equipment that now has numerous emulations.
A Brief History of the Iconic 1176 Compressor
The 1176 is a FET (field effect transistor) compressor — a type of solid-state device that controls current flow using electrical components. FET compressors were largely developed as an alternative to tube compressors of the day.
Bill Putnam of UREI/Universal Audio fame designed the famed 1176 compressor between 1966 and 1967. The earliest versions consisted of revisions A and AB, which had a silver faceplate and a blue stripe over the meter section. These first models weren’t without their issues, so Putnam revised them once more to make them less noisy and saturated. In 1970, revision C debuted with its iconic all-black faceplate. It was named the 1176LN, and is the most renowned version of the compressor.
What Is The Best 1176 Plugin? (Our Top 6 Favorite Compressors)
A major factor setting Arturia plugins apart from the competition is their patented TAE (true analog emulation) technology. This proprietary modeling tech lets them emulate analog equipment right down the component level for extreme accuracy. It even includes the individual imperfections amongst units that make each and every processor unique. The FET-76 is a beautiful recreation of a timeless classic with plenty of modern appointments for additional ease of use.
Who knows the ins and outs of an 1176 compressor better than the mind who created it? Bill Putnam, Sr. is unfortunately no longer with us, but his sons have introduced whole new generations of engineers to their father’s remarkable inventions. The first 1176 plugin, launched by UAD in 2001, single-handedly cemented the UAD plugin platform. This collection includes revisions A, AE, and E for a bit of sonic variety.
Softube’s take on the legendary FET compressor is one of the few that doesn’t actually model the look of the original hardware. That said, sonically, this is every bit an 1176 plugin with all of the aggression and lovely saturation when you push it hard. Apart from common modern features like parallel blend control and sidechains, the Softube FET compressor uniquely features a continuous ratio control in addition to the selectable ratios of the original compressor.
The CLA-76 by Waves is an easy-to-use and faithful recreation of two of the most beloved 1176 versions. It’s also an incredibly affordable 1176 plugin, and is a great place to start if you want to dip your toes into the world of iconic FET compression. Controls are truthful to the hardware, and a fun inclusion is the ability to introduce excess analog noise into the signal with 50 and 60 Hz hum selections.
Overloud’s Comp76 contains three versions of the analog gear: Revisions A, D, and F. Like the best 1176 plugin does, it goes beyond the hardware and introduces some features key to modern digital mixing. These include built-in mid-side, built-in parallel compression, and a tool to control the amount of harmonic saturation it imparts on the signal. It even has a totally unique “scribble strips” feature allowing you to take notes anywhere on the plugin interface.
The Native Instruments VC 76 is part of their Vintage Compressors collection alongside an LA-2A and a dbx 160. Native Instruments collaborated with Softube to bring users this value pack of painstakingly modeled compressors that engineers reach for all the time. The VC 76 is every bit that fast, punchy workhorse with a ton of clarity and presence for vocals, drums, and more.
Closing Thoughts: Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment!
Multiple 1176 plugins exist because they’re all a slightly different interpretation of a classic. Taking the time to experiment, you may find that you like a certain emulation for one thing, and a different emulation for another. Most plugin companies these days offer free trials, so you can get hands-on. As always, have fun and enjoy the mixing experience!