The 1176 is a FET compressor that’s been a key component in hit after hit for the last 50 years. You might use it on drums and vocals already, but are you getting the most out of it? If you’re not using it for parallel compression, the answer is no. But don’t worry, that’s about to change because ,in this article, you’ll learn exactly how to use and dial in the best settings for 1176 compressors.
1176 Parallel Compression Settings (TL;DR)
The classic approach is loading an 1176 on a parallel track, then pushing all ratios in, setting a slow attack time and ultra-fast release time to really squash the incoming signal and blend (using the fader). For a rounder tone, use the blackface and for an edgier, grittier tone use the blue one.
However, the way you’re going to set up the attack, release, and ratio depends solely on the source material. Besides the compression, the distortion and harmonics of this analog unit will be parallelly colouring the raw source, which will also vary according to the revision you’re using, so you need to be mindful of the result you’re after because it might have a noticeable impact on your mix.
How To Parallel Compress Using The 1176 Compressor
Since the 1176 is insanely fast, it can be really convenient to get good results with little effort. For example
To add warmth to a vocal:
You create a parallel bus, add the 1176 and send it to the vocals. Once done, set the send to pre-fader and listen to be able to hear the effect more clearly and solo it.
As you can see, I’m using all the ratio buttons to get a grittier and very distorted sound out of the compression.
Set the attack to the slowest and the release to the fastest to get more transients and squish the sustain.
Now, we add a tube distorter to introduce 3rd order harmonics, which will give a warmer sound.
In this particular case, we’re working with a female vocal so the increase of 3rd order harmonics will help thicken the tone and give it some character.
And we add a DeEsser to avoid sharpening the vocals.
Particularly with female vocals, DeEssers can be tricky, but this is why you should solo the parallel bus to add the processing before you blend it in with the rest of the mix.
I ran into an awkward situation as I was trying to blend my parallel processing with the original.
I was hearing a sort of phasing when I tried to blend the raw vocal, so I added a trim plugin to flip the phase and see if that was the problem.
As it turns out, the phase got flipped at one point of the process.
I also dipped 284Hz by 6dB because it was muddying the vocals.
The result sounds like this:
To make your drums sound thick:
When I think about thick-sounding drums, the first thing that comes to mind is a fat and punchy kick and snare. One way to achieve that is by using an 1176 Blackface and a combination of two types of harmonic distortion.
So, load an instance of Klanghelm IVGI2, which is a free distortion plugin. Then, set the drive up to 7, balance the response to high, and take the ASYM mix almost to the maximum to color the signal as much as possible.
This will help increase the punch while flattening the transients so that the compressor works a lot smoother and creates more movement.
We also increase the crosstalk balance to have a wider sound.
Now you feed the signal into an 1176 blackface. We’re using this model because it’s the best for preserving the lower frequencies and low mids, which make things sound fuller and rounder.
For this unit, settings will be the same as before, all ratios in, slowest attack, and fastest release, and we’ll try to set it in a way that the needle looks like it’s dancing to the music
Finally, we add a tube distortion to add third-order harmonics, which are the ones that add warmth and a sense of roundness to our audio.
We set the drive pretty high and lower the Bias to get a much more distorted sound.
Finally, the result should be something like this:
Why Should I Use an 1176 Over A Digital Compressor?
If you want to compress and introduce harmonics, it’s better to use an 1176 because it adds 2nd and 3rd-order harmonics when taken to a certain spot. If you want the parallel compression to not add any tonal variation, it’s better to use a digital compressor because they’re meant to be transparent and not have any artefacts.
You might prefer to use an 1176 over a digital compressor with:
- Vocals – parallel processing with a 1176 blue revision on vocals gives it a better definition to the midrange and can improve the tone and allows the vocals to cut through a lot easier.
- Drums – parallel processing with the blackface 1176 can bring a lot of warmth, which can help adding depth and fatten the drums, making them sound fuller.
- Acoustic guitars – parallel processing with the blue edition on acoustic and clean electric guitars is good for a richer and edgier sound, but if you use a blackface, you’ll make it sound fuller and deeper.
A digital compressor is better for situations like:
- Distorted guitars – Parallel processing with a digital compressor on distorted electric guitars is best because it doesn’t add any artifacts that might modify the tone.
- A mix bus – In some cases, the mix bus compressor is added at the end, so a digital compressor is best because it won’t add any extra harmonics, but only regulate the dynamics.
- Bass – Low frequencies are a particularly sensitive area of the spectrum because it has the most energy. Most of the time, harmonics can be problematic for your bass tone, making a digital compressor more effective for the job.
When Should I Use Parallel Compression?
Whenever a track sounds boring or lacks energy, it’s cool to use parallel compression to bring that energy into the mix. If you add an EQ before the compressor boosts the high and low frequencies, you’ll be using New York-style parallel compression.
Parallel compression is the best way to compress a signal to make it stand out or add depth to it without actually damaging the dynamics and sound of that instrument, so it’s a good solution for dull performances, adds aggressiveness, creates excitement and even hype up an entire section of the mix.
WHICH COMPRESSOR STYLE SHOULD I USE FOR PARALLEL COMPRESSION?
When it comes to parallel compression, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to which compressor-style is the best. However, certain compressor styles tend to work well in parallel compression scenarios. Usually, FET compressors are best for punch, VCAs for transparency, and Optos for sustain.
FET-style compressors, such as the classic 1176 or its emulations are known for their fast attack and release times, which can help preserve the transients and punch of the original signal.
VCA-style compressors, such as the SSL G-Series bus compressor or the API 2500, and their emulations tend to have a more transparent sound and can work well for evening out the dynamic range of the parallel signal without compromising the original signal’s impact.
Finally, Optical-style compressors, such as the Teletronix LA2A are known for their slower attack and release times, which can be good to extend the sustain of a sound. This type of compressor is often better used on synths, strings, and other signals with little to no transient information, otherwise, they can flatten the transients sounding dull and lifeless.
Javier is a mixing and mastering engineer who specializes in Rock and Hip Hop, and writes and produces his own music. He is additionally a TV, Film, and advertising audio editor who has been working freelance for 7 years. He loves sound design and is an avid expert in his field, having written hundreds of articles for other publications online about music production-related topics. To put it simply – Javier knows his stuff.