Submitted March 23, 2016 by Scot S in Hutchinson, KS
"Spirit of '76"
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Warm Audio seem hell-bent on bringing high-end audio down to Earth. Case in point: the WA76 Discrete Compressor. Here we have a nearly indistinguishable clone of the Urei 1176LN in a unit costing only a quarter of that of the "official" reissue. Some corners have been cut, to be sure, the most obvious of which are the use of an external power supply and a somewhat generic enclosure. However, the inside is loaded with the "good stuff" (tantalum caps, Cinemag transformers) a fact which becomes apparent once you plumb a signal through the thing. It does just what you want from an 1176. It's a familiar tone from countless records made over the past (almost) five decades and it's a thrill to hear it one's home studio. I myself have primarily used it on vocal tracks thus far. On its own, the WA76 provided presence, clarity and an instantly recognizable vintage vibe. I got my best results with the WA76 slotted between Warm Audio's EQP-WA and a vintage Urei LA-3A - a combination that sounded like a million bucks.
The WA76 breaks no new ground in design. It looks like an 1176LN (with the exception of two splashes of gaudy orange legending). You get the same Attack and Release controls, the same four Ratio buttons (and yes, you can do the famous "all buttons in" trick), the same four buttons for selecting the VU meter's display options (with an "Off" button at the bottom) and, of course, the big Input and Output knobs for dialing in your input level/threshold and make-up gain levels, respectively.
I have yet to experience any issues. Upon arrival, the VU meter required adjustment - due, according to Warm Audio, to the temperature in the surrounding environment. Minor calibration is facilitated by a trim pot easily accessed from the front panel. Broader adjustments are made with a pot accessed around back. Initial versions apparently required opening the case to access the latter - it's rather nice to see that the company is willing to implement such design changes to make life easier for users.
I was pleasantly surprised with the WA76. Sure, it's gotten a lot of good press and word-of-mouth, but I always take such things with a grain of salt - after all, we all would like to believe we've scored a great deal. In this case, the scuttlebutt is on the money. This is a terrific compressor for a ridiculously low price.
Three-and-a-half decades of music and recording
Art rock, psychedelic
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