The first thing I should mention is that this was the first hardware compressor I have owned personally, so I have no way of accurately comparing it to other manufacturers versions of the 1176 design, other than listening to audio samples. However, in comparison to any software compression I have ever used this thing is a beast!!!
As with any 1176 it is really simple to use with the standard IN, OUT, ATTACK and RELEASE knobs, as well as the 4 ratio buttons (20:1, 12:1, 8:1. 4:1). The VU meter is also the standard switchable type to show you gain reduction or overall level.
I wanted a good starting place to work from, so when I first got the unit I used it on some vocal takes, electro-acoustic guitar and the drum bus, with some recommended typical settings (thanks fellow slutz!) that I tweaked to taste. This was a nice quick way to become accustomed to how the unit reacted to different sources compared to other compressors.
I have to say that when applied to a vocal it just has 'that sound'. Warm, up front and like it was lifted from a released track. Just perfect every time with a variety of different compression amounts.
On guitar it was much the same, tamed the peaks without it being to obvious and runing the natural nuances of the performance.
On drum bus it wasn't my favorite but on individual drums it was great at bringing the snap out and giving a sense of more 'room' to the sound.
My only negative points would be:
1. the VU meter seems to go out by a small amount every couple of weeks and needs adjusting slightly
2. The output stage picks up more electrical noise than I would have liked when the dial is past 12 o'clock (comparable to a 90's sample player like JV2080 etc).
The two points above are so minor though, you would barely notice either at all. I have since bought other compressors and it really is true what they say that 1176 just has a certain thing that you won't find anywhere else.
If you are thinking about getting a compressor for a few hundred, save up and just get yourself an 1176...or two.
To summarise this is a great, versatile and inexpensive compressor that I would recommend to anyone.