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To Buy or DIY?

by | Dec 14, 2012 | DIY | 0 comments

I have lusted after UREI/UA 1176 FET compressors all my music tech career. They are one of the compressors that is name-checked more than any other and seem to be a go-to for many engineers – with good reason: they have an ability to go from transparent glue to all-out pumping madness with just a few small changes to the setup and impart something magical to whatever you use them on – even when bypassed.

So how to satisfy my lust for a unit that costs around £2K per unit? Many people seem to think that the UA re-issue units haven’t captured the magic of the original units – but trying to find one of them is like finding hen’s teeth! The only other option were the Purple Audio MC77 clones, but they still stack in at around £1200 each – and let’s face it, one is never going to be enough……

So I decided to set myself a challenge – I would build a couple.

There is a great Seattle-based company call Hairball Audio who will supply you with a chassis, pots, switches and all the transformers – input, output and power. All you then need is the PCB – designed by a guy calling himself Mnats, and the components. Handily the Hairball site has a BOM (bill of materials) link where these can all be bought very easily.

The only thing left for you to do is then build the compressor – stuff the PCB with the components (practice your soldering first!) and wire the unit up.

The first of my Rev D boards took me about 4 days to complete but the second only took a day and a half as I was much more confident the second time around.

And the cost? The first unit obviously came in a bit costlier than the second as I needed to purchase hookup wire, heat shrink etc but I reckon the 2 units cost me around £400 each – not a bad saving!

So how do they sound?

My benchmark for comparison are the Waves Audio CLA plugins modelled on the Chris Lord Alge compressors and an AB between the two? Well I couldn’t hear much difference when I matched the level – obviously the sound changes a lot depending upon how the pots are set – remember this isn’t a normal compressor setup at all – but I could get a very similar sound indeed with the hardware units. the main benefit is that I can track with them very easily and save some CPU come mix time…

Threecircles Recording Studio Rev D FET 1176 Compressors

The 2 Revision D 1176 FET clones I have in the studio.

So what’s next?

Well I’d ideally love an LA-2A clone and I have seen some LA-3A products out there and more importantly I wouldn’t be daunted about picking up the soldering iron again. My advice to you? – Give it a go – you’ll (hopefully) end up with a unit that has a unique sound and you’ll learn a lot along the way!

Threecircles Recording Studio
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Kieren Jones
Kieren Jones
2018-04-28T14:45:45+0000
Excellent recording facility and Adrian is a top professional guy! Thoroughly enjoyed it, will definitely be using your services again thanks for a great productive day.
Richard Simmonds
Richard Simmonds
2018-02-25T10:39:15+0000
Adrian, thank you for a great day and a half of recording finishing last Wednesday. Having been together as a group back in the 60s and now getting together 50 years on to record was a bit nerve racking but you made the thing so much easier with your professional advice and guidance. You've got a great set up and since we had Rog playing flute and drums [for some reason not at the same time!] the layering down of the instruments went really well. We had a great time and ended up with a CD and lots of happy memories. Martin living in France doesn't make it easy but we have all vowed to be back with something completely different for you to cut to disc. Thanks again and see you soon. Sam, Andy, Roger and Martin of Old Lemons fame.
Richard Ellis
Richard Ellis
2016-12-19T05:50:37+0000
This is a relaxed studio in a lovely location near the beautiful town of Saffron Walden. Adrian is a great sound guy, he listens and responds and adds enthusiasm to the day. Top recordings with the best equipment for a great price ... highly recommended ��
Ashley 'mAsh' Garbett
Ashley 'mAsh' Garbett
2016-12-17T12:19:23+0000
Having recorded at Threecircles several times, there's good reason why I keep going back... with such high end equipment, Ade's expertise and competitive pricing there's no need to go anywhere else!!
Andy Webster
Andy Webster
2016-12-14T22:55:28+0000
I first met Ade when a charity band event needed a sound technician and PA rig at short notice, he provided top notch sound for the event and also offered a very well priced live recording, which he would go away and mix at Threecircles Studio. The results were brilliant, I have never heard myself recorded live so well and the mixing was fantastic too. As a result, one of my bands then used Threecircles services again, this time at the studio to record a track for promotional purposes. We had a great time and were really happy with the results! Would highly recommend for both studio work and live sound.
Dan Mailer
Dan Mailer
2016-12-14T20:26:42+0000
Three Circles is excellent. Great studio that I have recorded at various times over the year. Ade is a hard working producer who gets great results.
Victoria Mills
Victoria Mills
2016-12-14T20:25:21+0000
I've both recorded and rehearsed at Threecircles and I can't recommend them enough! Nothing was too much trouble, the facilities are excellent and our demo sounds amazing! Thank-you!
Steve Watts
Steve Watts
2016-12-14T18:46:27+0000
Loved working with the chaps at Three Cirlces, they have all the gear and every idea! Super talented guys who get the very best out of you! 5/5
Rob Clark
Rob Clark
2016-12-14T18:20:10+0000
Very professional sound, genuinely listens to what you want and the sound you wish to create, and makes it better in every way! Highly recommend!
Stephen Ellis
Stephen Ellis
2016-12-14T18:19:54+0000
Recorded the last Kaine single at this studio; very professional set up, Ade is a great guy and the coffee is also good.
Gemma Marner
Gemma Marner
2016-12-14T18:04:48+0000
I've always loved recording at Three Circles - lovely, comfortable space and surroundings and Adrian is so easy to work with. Would recommend it in a heartbeat!
Joel Priest
Joel Priest
2016-12-14T16:57:59+0000
Great location as so close to London by road or rail. More mics than you can imagine and Ade has always done a highly professional job whenever I have used his services.
Kennedy Clark Herring
Kennedy Clark Herring
2016-12-14T16:42:36+0000
Truly professional attitude and highly capable. Recommending these guys for studio work as well as live sound... Cheers guys, appreciate the extra effort you put in,making us sound truly amazing. 5 stars : )
Chris MacKinnon
Chris MacKinnon
2016-12-14T16:41:46+0000
Ade at 3C is a true hero. Aside from having professional equipment, incredible understanding and knowledge of music production and a brilliant studio - he is a real genuine man. If I could I'd give this studio 6*, Ade recently recorded a single for my band completely for free because he knew we were doing it for charity.
Saxon Davids
Saxon Davids
2016-12-14T16:39:40+0000
Great recording facility! I've recorded at Threecircles twice now and enjoyed both sessions a lot, Ade is great to work with and has an set up of equipment and can produce excellent sound, and charges at a reasonable rate also! And the coffee is also a huge plus! 😉
Matt Milligan
Matt Milligan
2016-12-14T16:01:56+0000
Excellent recording studio, highly recommended!