The 1176 compressor has been a go-to processor for almost every engineer since its introduction in 1967. Featuring a distinctive tone and a wide range of sounds, the peak limiter has become a studio standard over the years. It can be a little tricky to set up, but there is a more-or-less foolproof way to get it to work for you without timing the attack and release to the track (always the best way), and it’s called the Dr. Pepper setting.
First a little about the hardware version of the Universal Audio 1176. The reason why it’s become one of the most emulated processors both in hardware and software really starts with its sound The unit featured Class A amplifiers, input and output transformers, fast attack and release times, and different compression ratios and modes that made it far more versatile than any other compressor/limiter on the market at the time. It also marked the transition between tube and solid state, as at time of its introduction, it was the first true peak limiter with all solid-state circuitry.
One of the quirks of the unit is that the attack and release controls were set backwards from what became the standard. In other words, the fastest attack was all the way to the right, and the slowest release all the way to the left. This caused some confusion back then, and it still does today.
Dr. Pepper Time
So where does the Dr. Pepper soft drink fit into this? There was a research study in the 1920s that found that people regularly lost energy during the day at 10AM, 2PM and 4PM. The parent company of the soda came up with a brilliant strategy – let’s make people aware of this energy dip and sell them a sugary soda to pick them up at those exact intervals. It was called “Dr. Pepper Time” (see the graphic above).
It turns out that an engineer searching for the right sound discovered that setting the attack of an 1176 at 10 o’clock, the release at 2 o’clock and the ratio at 4:1 worked across a wide variety of program material. This became known as the Dr. Pepper setting.
So if you want to set your 1176-style compressor up fast, use these settings:
- Attack – set to 3 (about 10 o’clock)
- Release – set to 5 (about 2 o’clock)
- Ratio – set to 4
You get 10, 2 and 4, or Dr. Pepper Time.
Once again, I recommend that you set the attack and release up so your plugin breathes with the track for the most punch, but this setting will work pretty well without thinking about it too much.
You can read more from The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.