Universal Audio 1176LN Limiting Amplifier

Photo by Grant White


One of the few “studio classics” the Universal Audio 1176LN Limiting Amplifier can be found in almost every professional recording studio on the planet.

Designed by Bill Putnam in 1968 and sold through his company UREI, the 1176 FET compressor has undergone almost ten revisions in the last half century. Fixed compression settings of 4:1, 8:1, 12:1, and 20:1 are augmented by full adjustable attack and release times. Interestingly the input knob also controls the threshold setting allowing the signal to be lightly or aggressively processed. Many engineers swear the by 1176 for vocal, guitar, bass, and snare drum duties. In fact, the 1176 is such a classic that no less than five different companies currently manufacture “clones” or copies of their own: Warm Audio WA76Purple Audio MC77Slate Pro Audio DragonHairball Audio FET Compressor, & Mohog MoFET76.

The 1176 features input and output transformers that impart a weight and body to any sound that runs through the circuit. Over the years, I’ve found that when people speak about “tape sound” or “the way things used to sound” (60’s & 70’s classic rock & soul) most often they are thinking about the harmonics generated by transformer saturation. “That sound” is a cumulative thing of course (microphone preamps, sound of instruments, saturation and console crosstalk) and its difficult to obtain with a single piece of equipment, the 1176 can take you a long way there. One “secret weapon” used by many recording and mixdown engineers is the legendary “All Button” or “British Mode” which changed the ratio slope and allows for a much more overdriven, heavily saturated sound. It can work wonders on bass.

The Universal Audio 1176LN is still manufactured by hand in the USA the way it was almost 50 years ago. Some have complained about the build quality of the units but they are robust and most metal. The VU meter, however is plastic and features an old school pair of 28V #1819 miniature lamps. These lights are wired in series and if one goes out, both will stop working. Replacing the bulbs is not difficult and I created a quick video showing How To Change The VU Lamps on the Universal Audio 1176LN if you ever need to do such a thing (and you will).

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