1968 Universal Audio/UREI 1176 Peak Limiter

Aug 28, 2008 3:09 PM


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Long considered a classic, the 1176 peak limiter story began when engineer/producer/designer/studio owner Bill Putnam experimented with the idea of using Field Effect Transistors (FETs) as voltage variable resistors for gain control devices. To get some real-world feedback, Putnam asked engineer Bones Howe to try the first 1176 prototype, which he used on some Mamas & Papas records with excellent results.

Putnam's Universal Audio was an engineering-driven company, and the 1176 went through constant revisions (at least 13 during its run), the most significant of which was Brad Plunkett’s addition of low-noise (LN) circuitry in the preamp stage—hence the version 1176LN with the familiar black faceplate. In 2000, the reborn Universal Audio company released an exact re-creation of the 1176LN, and its popularity continues today.

But in any form—some 8,000 original units were manufactured—the 1176 still sounds great and is easy to use. In fact, the 1176 even includes a hidden feature: By pressing all four of its retro-modern pushbuttons for selecting compression ratios (20:1; 12:1; 8:1; 4:1), the unit goes into the "Button Mode." This provides an aggressive distortion mode that's makes vocals, guitars, bass sound like nothing you've ever heard—a pretty good trick for a 40-year old processor.

Click here to check out a vintage spec sheet on the UREI 1176.

For a short video historical overview of Bill Putnam and Universal Audio, click here for a Mac Quicktime or here for a Windows Media.

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