Released in 1967, the UREI 1776LN Peak Limiter is one of the most legendary pieces of audio gear there is.
While the 1776 is known by some for its ultra-fast attack times and lack of threshold control, it's probably most widely associated with the so-called "all-buttons-in" mode, a trick activated by pushing in all four of the unit's ratio buttons to trigger a steep compression slope and an overdriven sound.
Rather than pay the better part of ten grand for an original, let's load up IK Multimedia’s Black 76 plugin instead. It’s slightly cheaper at €80, and there are many (many) more 1176 emulations out there.
The effect is best heard on a guitar or drum loop, although you can apply it to any sound in a mix; or indeed an entire mix should you wish to go a bit wild. Here we’ve loaded in a drum loop and guitar loop to check them both out. Give yourself plenty of input and output gain but don’t clip the signal.
Try adjusting the Attack and Release dials and the Ratio button options (between four and 20) to hear the 76 in action. Just using it in Amplifier Mode (using the appropriately named preset), gives you an idea of what the 1176 can bring, without even dialling anything in.
Now engage the All Buttons In mode, the unique 1176 feature where the resulting ratio is changed to between 12 and 20:1. The attack and release times change, along with the compression curve, to result in a much more overdriven sound. It’s especially great for guitars and very up front.
If it’s not that noticeable, simply dial in one of the presets – Extreme or Indy work well on the IK version – and then switch the plugin on and off to hear it in full effect or bypassed. That is the ‘all-buttons-in’ sound in full flow!
There are a few compressor options in the Computer Music Plugin Suite (a bundle of plugins free with every issue of our sister magazine Computer Music) to give you a similar overdriven sound, but we think Ignite VST’s Vice One gives the closest. Dial up the Input gain and Saturation while keeping the Attack and Release options low to hear it in action.
If you're looking for a 1176-style compression on a budget, Analog Obsession's FET Bundle can be snagged for only $5. Alternatively, if you're a Logic user, you already have an 1776 emulation in your DAW; open up Logic's stock compressor plugin and select Studio FET to give it a try.