To say I’m a fan of the classic 1176 limiter would be an understatement. It’s my desert island studio compressor, my go to squash box. I’ve even built two for my home setup. When I heard I could get a clone for $599.00, my curiosity was peaked since It cost me more to make one. So, the Warm Audio WA76 had to get an audition.
The WA76 replicates the familiar look of the originals. The chassis is all black with the exception of the orange Warm Audio coffee mug logo and the model and setting printings. Layout is the same, with the two big knobs, two small knobs, two chunky switch assemblies, and single lamp lit VU meter.
The biggest change with the WA76 is the power supply, which is a “lump in the line” external power supply; a cost saving idea for the design and preferable to a wall wart that has the transformer on the plug. The rear has the DC in for the power supply, In and Out XLR and TRS connectors, and a switch for a 23dB pad for when you are running a pre really hot in front of it. Controls and meter in front are all laid out just the same a any other 1176. The input and output knobs have step detents, which will make it easy for recalls. The Attack and Release have a center detent. Ratio buttons work just like the, meaning, you have the option of 4:1, 8:1, 12:1, and 20:1 ratios to choose from with the expected ability for All Buttons In (British Mode), no ratio (1:1 for just driving the transformers) and any combination of 2 or 3 ratios. Meter switch assembly is the same as well: GR, +8, +4, and OFF.
They have decided to model the WA76 after the Urei 1176LN revision D. The rev. D is regarded as the most favorable of the 1176 revisions. It’s just in the place of after including a lower noise and distortion circuitry and just before changing the output amplifier to a class AB (push pull) amplifier. This means it has just the right balance low noise and saturation; clean but not too clean.
Urei used the UTC O-12 input transformer; you can find these used for upwards of $200. Warm has found a solution in the Cinemag CM-2511 microphone input transformer. It’s not a replication of the UTC but is widely used for many clones. The specs are similar with the SM-2511 having a more modern bandwidth. The output transformer is also Cinemag. Everything else is the same discrete circuit with a class A output so it would be expected to be a ballpark replication of the sound of the originals.
I wouldn’t want to do a 1:1 comparison of the limiter with originals, clones, and replicas because they are all so wildly different on what they say is the 1176 “sound”; a problem that has risen from years of tinkering and refurbishing and just plain differences of opinion. I do know what to look for when using a FET limiter and that is near brick wall control of a signal. 1176 just has that added mojo because of its saturation from the 1108 pre amp and the distortion shimmer from the FETs. It will put vocals on your forehead, turn guitars into drills, and set drums on fire.
I’ve included some clips with broad idea of the settings. The most unique choice was “no ratio” setting for the kick drum for added mids. The kick was recorded with a D112 inside and about a fists distance from the beater. A towel was thrown inside as well to dampen the sound. As a result, you get a very good attack but not much body or tone. Driving the input of the WA76 did nicely to resolve that. Another find was combining 8:1 and 4:1 for a program depending sounding behavior for a very slow guitar strum.
Every studio should have a FET limiter and the Warm Audio WA76 is among the best choices with a price that set to make it a no-brainer acquisition.
- True to the Classic 1176 compressor in design and performance
- Completely discrete signal path
- Modeled after the D revision
- Utilizes USA made CINEMAG input and output transformers
- Supports the famous “all buttons in” ratio setting
- Ultra fast attack time
- Class A line level output amplifier
- Input impedance – 600 ohms, bridges-T control (floating)
- Frequency Response ± 1 dB 20 Hz to 20kHz
- XLR and TRS inputs. XLR and TRS outputs
- 55db of gain
- Less than 0.4% total harmonic distortion from 50 Hz to 20 kHz with limiting
- Signal to noise ratio is greater than 74 dB at +25 dBm
- EIN -104.1 dbm
- Attack time, 20 microseconds to 800 microseconds
- Release time, 50 milliseconds to 1 second
- Meter provides dB gain reduction and dB output
- Internal power supply, external 24v AC power transformer
- 19″ Rackmount chassis, 2U
- 1-year warranty