Review: UAD UA 1176 Collection
Best sounding software compressor I’ve ever heard
3 “flavors” to choose from
Models not just compression, but the full analog path, allowing the compressor to be used as a tone box as well
Significant DSP usage
Strictly a “model” and no new enhancements made to original hardware
Universal Audio’s UA 1176 Collection is a great sounding emulation of the Classic and much sought after studio hardware, and is by far the BEST software compressor I’ve used to date! This compressor has been a hardware staple in professional studios for YEARS and is probably one of the best all around compressors ever made. I’ve used it on a wide range of material from drums (both subtle and crush buss style) Bass, Guitar (acoustic and electric), Synths, Brass / horns, and sometimes find I even like it better than the LA-2A on some vocal tracks (particularly rock style vocals). With its flexibility and great sound, and the nice sonic character it imparts thanks to UA’s new modeling of entire signal patch, this compressor plugin has raised the bar.
With the new 1176 collection you have all your 1176 needs covered, as UA has not just modeled one 1176, but 3 different flavors, all with their own sound which becomes more apparent the more you make them work; The 1176 bluestripe Rev A (the original), the 1176LN Blackface Rev E (early 1970′s “low noise” version) & the 1176AE Anniversary edition, which is unique as its the only 1176 that has a compression ration of 2:1, and 10ms supper slow attack, making it great for subtle buss compression or even on the master bus. Note, these three different versions were modeled off of three different distinct 1176′s in history and do react differently. So if you setup each plugin the same in your DAW on a track, you will notice that they do sound different, even in terms of loudness going through the plugin, even though you have the exact same settings! This is because UA, arguably to a fault, model their plugins to sound EXACTLY like the hardware, and since the three different versions had assumably different gain / performance (dont know for sure as I dont have their units) the plugins do as well. Just something to keep in mind when you A-B. Also the differences between these 3 “flavors” can sometimes be difficult to judge and is really dependent on the material. For example, a female vocal its harder to hear the difference than say a drum kit, but I personally DO hear a difference in the frequencies present when driving the 3 different models. For example, I’ve generally found the AE version to retain more of the top end frequencies vs the other two flavors, so its worth it to take the time and understand the differences between the 3 models so you can choose the one best suited for your particular task.
Unlike the original UA 1176 plugin, which only modeled the compression characteristics, with these new “collection” versions Universal Audio have also modeled the input & output chain of the compressors. This is great as you can actually use the 1176 without compression as a tone box of sorts, adding some nice analog flavor and distortion to your tracks. I was able to get some pretty nice distortion on bass recently just driving the input. Unfortunately with great modeling comes great power usage, meaning that there is a cost to all this analog goodness. Each stereo instance of the new 1176 compressors takes a little over 16% of a single DSP chip, where as the original 1176 plugin only takes 5%. So either add more UAD cards to your system, or be diligent on when an why you use the new model vs the old. For example, I’ll use the new 1176 on the lead vocals, and the old on backing vocals if I’m running low on UAD goodness. Or of course you can always print the effect and move on.
All and all, the UAD Universal Audio 1176 Collection are, in my opinion, the single best plugin compressors I’ve heard to date. You owe it to yourself to demo these plugins if you own a UAD card, and if you don’t I HIGHLY recommend trying them out at your local music shop. Its plugins like these that make the UAD platform worth owning!