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Universal Audio UAD 175B & 176 Tube Compressor Plug-In Collection – A Real-World Review

By Rich Tozzoli. PSN reviewer/TV composer Rich Tozzoli puts the plug-ins to the test and loves the glowing results.

With all the great hardware and software we have at our fingertips, it’s hard to imagine a time where gear was available only to a select few in the studio business. Such was the case with the 175B and 176 compressors from Universal Audio. Introduced in 1960 and designed by Bill Putnam, they were the first audio compressor/limiters built solely for studio recording and music mixing. It’s notable that they were first installed at both Sunset Sound studios and United/Western, where a rack of the 176s still lives.

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The release of these plug-in versions for UAD hardware and UA Audio Interfaces lets you get that classic sonic character of tubes and transformers. The software, based upon the study of several of Bill Putnam Sr.’s own ‘golden’ hardware units, models the full control set and circuit path.

These versions can be used for both tracking and mixing. The 176 features 2:1, 4:1, 8:1 and 12:1 ratio controls, while the 175B features a fixed 12:1 ratio. Being that this is software, they feature a Sidechain Link, Dry/Wet Mix for parallel processing and both have a good number of presets from the likes of Joe Chiccarelli, Jacquire King and others.

Input sets the compression threshold and Output set the final level. You’ve got Attack and Release and the VU meter shows gain reduction (GR) or I/O levels. Each of these two models has unique sonic characteristics and to hear what works best, you just have to try them. On bass, I even used both, using the ‘older’ 175B for Input drive and the 176 for some limiting. I don’t often compress guitars too much, but driving the Input while pulling down the Output delivered some thick and nasty sounds. I especially like the 176 on drum loops, cranking up virtually all of the knobs and adding tone and attitude without some of the crispy crunch that 1176s sometimes deliver.

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If you want to add some serious character and ’tude to your tracks, it’s worth checking out the UA 175B and 176 software plug-ins. Like the virtual tubes inside these units, your tracks will glow.

Universal Audio •