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Microphone Month

All-Button Mode

A somewhat obscure term first put into use on the Universal Audio (originally the UREI) 1176 compressor. This is sometimes called the “four button trick” or, notoriously, “British Mode.”

The 1176 has selectable ratios operated by four pushbuttons. The preset ratios are 4:1, 8:1, 12:1 and 20:1. An unknown engineer decided to try pushing all four buttons at once and the result was a unique-sound that soon became widely copied in rock music mixes and has been imitated by other compressor manufacturers. Universal Audio assures us that this process doesn’t hurt the unit.

The way the 1176 sounds, and specifically, the way All-Button mode sounds, is partially due to its being a program dependent compressor, meaning the attack, release and ratio are dependent upon the type of signal passing through the circuitry. The 1176 will faithfully compress or limit at the selected ratio for transients, but the ratio will always increase a bit after the transient. The degree of increase is also material dependent. This is true for any of the 1176’s ratio settings, and is part of the 1176’s sound.

But in All-Button Mode, a few more things are happening. The ratio goes to somewhere between 12:1 and 20:1, and the bias points change all over the circuit. As a result, the attack and release times change. This change in attack and release times creates a compression curve that results in an “overdriven” tone. The attacks and releases in All-Button become more like a severe plateau than a gentle slope! Furthermore, in All-Button mode there is a lag time on the attack of initial transients, creating a punchy attack (famously heard on hard rock drum kits in the early 1970s). This is followed by a “sucking” phenomenon that might be described as a “reverse look-ahead”.

Finally, the perception of distortion is increased with lower frequencies in All-Button Mode. Because of this, you can get a very “explosive” sound from overheads or a room mics with the 1176, especially with the frequencies and transients created by the kick drum.

The new hardware 2-1176, which contains two compressors in one rackmount unit, actually includes an “All” position on the ratio selection dial. Universal Audio’s 1176LN plug-in software also includes a digital emulation of All-Button mode. Other brands of equipment that attempt to mimic the 1176 generally have the setting as well.

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