In 1967, Universal Audio released a rack-mounted limiting amplifier that was so good and so powerful that it would revolutionize the music world. It has been heard on more classic records than any other compressor and led to some of the most iconic rock albums of all time, including Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album. You know, the really big one with Stairway to Heaven!
That effect was the Universal Audio 1176.
In the world of rock, there’s arguably no better compressor than the iconic UA 1176. Unfortunately, the rack-mounted version can be expensive and hard to find. Many brands have made their own pedal-based versions of the compressor. But finally, there’s an 1176 compressor pedal from the original manufacturer!
Introducing the UAFX 1176 Studio Compressor pedal from the O.G., Universal Audio.
What is the UAFX 1176 compressor pedal?
Everyone knows how awesome the original 1176 rack-mounted compressor was (and if you didn’t before, you do now). Well, the engineers at Universal Audio boiled all the iconic features and tones of the original compressor and crammed them into a compact stompbox that fits snugly on your pedalboard.
The UAFX 1176 Studio Compressor pedal is built on the powerful UAFX engine and delivers all the same expressive, punchy tones from the original 1176 that you’ve heard countless times over the years — whether you knew it or not.
Compressor pedals are designed to limit peaks in your guitar or bass’s dynamics. Soft notes get louder, and loud notes get softer. It makes everything sound more even (and better). Some players describe it as “smothering your sound a bit” — but in a good way!
But unlike the original rack-mounted effect, the UAFX 1176 pedal gives you more creative control over your compression, including single, dual, and sustain compression modes, along with simple vintage-inspired controls. If you’re looking for the best compressor to add to your pedalboard, you don’t have to look far anymore!
The breakdown: UAFX 1176 features and controls
Not sure how to use the UAFX 1176 compressor pedal? No sweat. Let’s take a deep dive into all the lovely features, knobs, switches, and buttons this incredible new effect pedal has to offer.
The Universal Audio 1176 compression pedal has five control knobs and a three-way toggle switch on the front, a stomp-able button (obviously), two switches on the top, an input and an output, a USB port, and a power insert. And that’s it. Now you know everything about how to use the UAFX 1176!
Just kidding. Here’s what you really want to know:
Remember when we said the 1176 was used by Jimmy Page to create his iconic sound? Well, he didn’t do it by just adding one compressor to his effects rack. Legendary producer Andy Johns actually used multiple UA 1176 compressors to achieve the sound, and the UAFX 1176 compressor pedal lets you recreate that amazing tone without needing to buy several pedals!
A magical three-way toggle switch on the front face of the 1176 stompbox is the key to achieving incredible tone (and perhaps the most exciting new feature). With a flip of the switch, you can choose between Single, Dual, and Sustain presets to recreate tones from the past.
In the Single setting, you’ll get that classic UA 1176 Rev E compressor sound we all know and love. It’s the “standard” setting if you just want some nice, tight compression on your guitar or bass signal.
Get the Led out! With the switch in the center position, the pedal kicks into Dual mode. This puts two UA 1176 Rev E in series, just like Jimmy Page did for his sound on so many Led Zeppelin albums! The UAFX 1176 Dual setting puts your compression tone almost into overdrive territory.
Want to keep the good times going? Flip the toggle switch to the right to go into Sustain mode and get dual UA 1176 Rev E in series to create an almost endless sustain that just keeps going and going and going and going and going and going…
Front face control knobs
Presets are fun, but they’re just a base to build on. With the UAFX 1176 Studio Compressor, you can control almost every aspect of your compression to create your perfect tone. There are five control knobs on the face of the pedal based on the original UA 1176 Limiting Amplifier that you can play with to alter various aspects of compression:
The input control knob on the UAFX 1176 compressor pedal is in charge of how much signal that makes it into the pedal and the threshold. If you want your entire guitar or bass signal to be compressed, crank the Input knob all the way to the right for harder compression. Back it off to compress less of your signal and lower the compression threshold.
It’s always nice when the compressed signal level matches your mix. Don’t want anything to stand out too bad! That’s what the Output control knob is for.
The Output control on the 1176 pedal adjusts the compression makeup gain and pedal output. Turn it up to give your signal more output for louder, more gainful sound, or turn it back to make it quieter. It’s easy to find a compression makeup that matches your overall mix.
What does the Attack control do on the UAFX 1176 compressor pedal? It lets the pedal know how quickly it should respond to an incoming signal.
The original UA 1176 became popular for its super-fast attack speed. At its fastest setting, it could compress a signal at 0.00002 seconds! And the 1176 Studio Compressor pedal is no different.
If you want a faster attack (meaning the pedal compresses the signal more quickly), turn the adjustment knob clockwise. If slow and easy is more your style, turn the Attack knob counterclockwise to tell the pedal to take its time when you send it a lovely signal from your instrument.
The Release control on the UAFX 1176 is the opposite of Attack. It controls the compression recovery rate. In other words, how quickly the pedal stops compressing the signal after it falls below the threshold (set by the Input and Ratio controls).
Use the Release control alongside Attack to find your perfect compression and maintain the natural dynamics of the signal.
Now for the fun part! The UAFX 1176 Ratio control sets how much your signal is reduced above the set threshold.
Naturally, Ratio is set in the form of a ratio. Makes sense, huh!? If you look real close at the Ratio knob, you’ll find little numbers all around it. Those numbers are the compression ratio.
These are the compression ratios available on the UAFX 1176:
Math isn’t fun for anyone, so just remember this: The higher the ratio, the more compression you’ll get.
In the “Off” setting, you get the regular old circuit color without any compression. What good is a compressor pedal without compression active? Well, the 1176 is known for much more than just compressing signals. It adds a distinct character to any signal running through it. Many musicians used the original 1176 with the compression turned off just to get its unique tone!
But if you really want to get crazy, flip the Ratio control to “All”. This recreates the legendary “All buttons in” mode from the original 1176.
This British-sounding setting mimics the original 1176’s increased harmonic distortion and program-dependent release. If you don’t speak pedal, that means you’ll get a very distinct aggressive sound. It’s definitely something you’ll want to try out!
If you lay your face on the floor and look at the pedal from the top (or just pick it up and look at the top panel), you’ll see a few more switches for even more tonal control — plus the input and output jacks for your guitar and amp, along with the power input.
It’s all a lot of fun, so let’s dig in!
Fights break out over whether true bypass is better than buffered bypass for effects pedals. But with the UAFX 1176 compressor pedal, you can get both! You can choose between buffered bypass or true bypass with the flip of a switch.
With buffered bypass, the pedal stays in your signal path all the time. You can tell it whether to compress the signal or not with the activation switch on the top (the part you stomp on).
True bypass means the pedal is taken completely out of the signal path when the pedal isn’t active. Your signal just flies right on by without any interference.
So, what happens when you turn the pedal on and off? It’s completely up to you!
The 1176 Parallel switch determines whether you want to have any dry signal included in your output. With the Parallel switch to the “On” position, your dry and compressor signals are blended. When the switch is “Off”, you’ll hear only the compressor signal through the output.
Input and output
Hopefully these 1176 features are pretty self-explanatory…
Take the cable from your guitar and stick the open end in the “In” slot. Take the cable that leads to your amp (or other gear) and plug the open end into the “Out” slot.
The UAFX 1176 Studio Compressor runs on 9-volt DC power. Connect any 250 mA isolated power supply to the power input, and your pedal will be ready to compress to your heart’s content. (Power supply sold separately)
And just to clarify, the UAFX 1176 pedal does take a little more juice than your regular old analog overdrive pedal because of the DSP processing. Make sure you get a power supply that provides at least 250 mA of current if you want the compressor to be more than just a good looking paperweight!
On the side of the pedal, you’ll find a little slot for a USB-C cable. Every now and then, plug your 1176 pedal into your computer to get firmware updates from the UA Connect app. There’s always new stuff being released that’ll help you achieve your perfect sound.
Okay, this feature might not be on the front panel, but I didn’t want to make a separate section!
The history of the legendary UA 1176 compressor (and why it’s a big deal)
The rack-mounted Universal Audio 1176 Limiting Amplifier first hit the music scene in 1967. It became an instant classic because musicians loved its ridiculously fast attack and release times — all the way down to 0.00002 seconds at its fastest setting!
In addition to the amazing attack and release, the 1176 added a unique tonal character to any signal that worked its way through the circuits. It could range from a subtle, almost transparent compression all the way to full-on, crazy distortion and drive! It was much, much more than just a compressor.
Many musicians at the time even used the 1176 with the compression turned all the way off. Its tone was that good!
By 1970, Led Zeppelin was in the studio recording their fourth album. It was a big one, and producer Andy Johns wanted to create a unique tone the world would never be able to forget. He loved the sound Buffalo Springfield had going on, so he asked their sound engineer, Bill House, what he did. All he said was, “I just put two of them in series.”
House didn’t really explain what “they” were, but Johns soon figured out he meant the amazing UA 1176. By putting multiple 1176 in series, you could achieve an amazingly unique distorted tone that turned out to be perfect for Led Zeppelin. It was used on the album, and Johns used it on every album he produced after.
Pretty soon, the Universal Audio 1176 became the most heard compressor in the music world, making appearances in countless albums over the decades.
The Universal Audio 1176 is widely regarded as one of the best (if not the best) compressor ever to hit the market. Even vintage models are still used to process guitar, bass, and percussion. It’s also one of the best vocal processing effects you can possibly find! See? I told you it’s a big deal.
And now finally, after almost 60 years of music-changing history, the power of the iconic Universal Audio 1176 can be added to your pedalboard with the UAFX 1176 Studio Compressor pedal.