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Universal Audio 6176 review

Universal Audio’s 6176 combines two iconic pieces of outboard gear: the 610 mic preamp and the 1176LN compressor. Individually, these models are highly sought-after, so the idea of having both in a single unit should appeal to engineers and producers everywhere.

We’re looking at the 6176 to see if it meets high expectations and delivers value for money. We’ll also put it to the test on various sources; let’s get into it.

About the author

James is a producer, composer, sound designer, and multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience in the music industry.

Universal Audio 6176 review
Image: Higher Hz

Final verdict on the Universal Audio 6176 4.7

The 6176 isn’t a cheap unit, but it offers a more affordable way to own two legendary devices. It succeeds in capturing the character of the originals and combines that with modern flexibility through its Split/Join modes; it’s epic.

Buy from: SweetwaterVintage King

The 610B tube preamp

If you add a vintage tube preamp to your chain, you expect a few things, depending on the source you’re tracking. But, most of all, you’re expecting that warmth that you just know when you hear it, especially from such a famed preamp.

Let’s get straight to the point; does this preamp section offer the warmth of the original? In our opinion, yes, it does.

There will always be a purist point of view that says it’s not quite the same as an original unit. But you could then discuss how one unit can sound slightly different from the next depending on many factors, and that muddies the waters.

So, it’s fairer to ask if it delivers the overall character of the original, and the answer is yes, very much so.

Universal Audio 6176 inputs and outputs
Image: Higher Hz

Input source selection offers Mic, Line, and Hi-Z (Instrument), with Mic and Hi-Z offering two impedance settings. The variable impedance settings allow you to choose the best match for your microphone output impedance.

Taking a run through the controls, we have a step Gain pot from -10 to +10 dB and a large central Level knob. How you use these together will determine how much you color your sound.

For example, pushing the Gain with a lower Level setting will get the classic tube sound, but the saturation becomes more aggressive when you drive the Level more.

Between those two controls is a useful -15 dB/Pad switch.

The preamp is rounded off by a very musical EQ section featuring step-variable Low (70/100/200 Hz) and High (4.5/7/10 kHz) frequency bands, each with a +/-9 dB boost.

The 1176 limiting amplifier

There’s not much to say about the 1176 that hasn’t been said; it’s one of the most cloned pieces of audio gear ever, thanks to its signature sound.

The 1176 section offers the same controls as the original unit: Input, Output, Attack, Release, and Ratio.

At a glance, potential buyers might think that the “all button” or “British Mode” Ratio setting isn’t available as there are no buttons. But we’re pleased to see the Ratio knob has an “All” option.

This popular 1176 trick changes the bias points across the circuit and delivers a trademark overdriven tone.

The 1176 provides user-definable Attack and Release times, and it’s known for offering an ultra-fast attack. Changing these settings will determine how tight or open the sound will be, and we always encourage experimentation; there’s a place for everything.

However, it’s worth noting that an ultra-fast attack time can be the death of certain sounds, according to many engineers, including the legendary Bob Power.

As a tip, achieving uniform gain control shouldn’t come at the expense of sounding musical. For example, a fast attack, at times, will leave your sound a little flat.

In contrast, a slower attack and fast release on a fairly active beat will allow the compressor to reset before each beat and maintain its natural energy.

Split/Join modes

Besides being a more affordable and perhaps more practical alternative to tracking down two original units, the 6176 has a huge selling point in its Split/Join modes.

In Split mode, you can use each section in parallel with separate balanced inputs and outputs.

Things get a little more interesting in Join mode as the signal takes a linear path from the preamp to the EQ to the compressor.

In this mode, the choices you make in the preamp section will have a direct impact on how the compressor responds to the signal, and it’s fantastic for experimentation.

A genuine vintage sound?

It’s easy to say it sounds great because, let’s face it, if Universal Audio didn’t get it right, who would? But, many current artists and studios who would have the means to access original units are turning to the 6176 for that vintage sound, and that’s very telling.

We think it delivers the classic warmth and character of the original with a versatility that wasn’t available before. We love it on vocals, bass, and snare, but it’s incredibly flexible.

Check out our video to hear how it performs with various sources: