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December 19, 2019

1176 Settings on vocals | Greg Wells




Of all the vintage hardware compressors, the UREI 1176 is one of the most revered. Featuring FET (field-effect transistor) circuitry, it’s extremely fast and can be super aggressive. However, it’s also quite versatile, and in this excerpt, you’ll see how Greg Wells sets it for tracking vocals. 

For Bryce Drew’s lead vocals on the song “Lucky Number,” Wells uses a hardware 1176 compressor as one of the processors in his vocal chain. It’s an 1176 LN, which is one of the models that featured a black faceplate. 


Because it’s a tracking session, not a mix, Wells is setting the 1176 to compress pretty lightly, only about 3dB of gain reduction at the most. It’s advisable not to compress too heavily when you’re tracking because if you decide later that you overdid it, you’re stuck with the results. However, a little compression on the way in can help with keeping dynamics even and creating a good vocal sound, and it’s certainly common to compress vocals on input, although perhaps not as much as it once was.

Greg talks about what a big fan he is of the 1176 compressor, both for tracking and mixing. He mentions how vocals sound fat and loud though it, and not “choked.” To help keep the vocals sounding natural, he sets the attack at its slowest and the release at its fastest. That makes it sound more “immediate,” he says. 

The Attack and Release knobs on this UAD 1176 LN Legacy are set the same (slowest attack, fastest release) as they were on the vocal chain for Bryce on “Lucky Number.”

On the 1176 compressor, the Attack and Release knobs work backward from normal, he explains. Instead of fast to the left and slow to the right like most compressors, it’s the opposite. The slowest setting is at 7 o’clock and the fastest at 5 o’clock. Many engineers set the attack at 10 o’clock and the release at 2 o’clock, but Greg says he usually prefers the same attack and release settings he’s using for this session.

He points out that for some people, his settings might be a little too “caffeinated.” But for him it sounds right. Occasionally, he says, he’ll slow down the release and speed up the attack. But he points out that even at its slowest attack setting, the 1176 always sounds like it’s compressing.


Getting good results from an 1176 compressor is easy—it’s going to improve almost anything you put it on. That said, there are a few keys to being able to control it and get the type of sound and response you want.

The Input knob on the 1176 also functions as a threshold control. Turning it up is one of the ways to increase compression.

One crucial fact is that the 1176 compressor has no threshold knob. If you want more of the incoming signal to be compressed, you need to turn up the Input knob. The harder you hit it, the more compression you’ll get.

Then, of course, there are the Ratio buttons. You’ve probably read about crushing a source with the “all buttons in” setting, but did you know you can get a heavily compressed sound even with the ratio at its lowest setting of 4:1? You can do so by turning up the input and setting the fastest release time. 

In the excerpt, Wells dials in settings on the 1176 that are pretty restrained, and they sound great. But, not surprisingly, the 1176 compressor is also really powerful when you dial in more substantial compression.


In the article for Episode 2, we looked at the effect of adjusting attack time. In this article we’ll focus on the impact of the Release knob. On the 1176, particularly when you’re applying a lot of gain reduction to percussive sources, its setting can have a huge impact. We’ll use the UAD 1176 LN plug-in for the following examples.

Example 1: The 1176 is inserted here on a 2-measure stereo drum loop. Although the Ratio is only at 4:1, the Input gain is set to 30 (10 o’clock), which is enough to create quite a bit of gain reduction. As you’ll see, though, the Release knob can change the character of the compression significantly. The loop repeats three times in this example. The first time the release time is at its slowest setting, the second time at its midpoint and the third time at its fastest setting. With a fater release, the drums—particularly the snare—sound louder and significantly more crushed.

The setting for Example 1, when the release time was fastest.

Example 2: This time you’ll hear a four-measure guitar track that repeats three times. The first time the 1176 is bypassed. The second time it’s set with the input at around 20 (1 o’clock), which is pretty high. The release is at its slowest setting, as is the attack. When the compressor kicks in, it adds to the guitar’s sustain and adds a subtle sheen to the tone. The third time has the same settings, except the Release is at its fastest. The difference isn’t as stark as it was on the drums, but it does intensify the effect a fair bit.

The setting for Example 2 with its fastest release. The high setting on the Input knob resulted in a lot of compression.

Example 3: Here’s a conga part with a UAD 1176 LN plug-in on it. The pattern plays four times. On the first two, the 1176 compressor is providing a pretty significant amount of gain reduction (up to -10dB), but the release is relatively slow (about 9 o’clock). The third time it plays, the release is a lot faster (about 3 o’clock). Listen to how the conga hits sustain more with the quicker release.

The setting for Example 3, when the release was at its slowest.