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Warm Audio WA76

Warm Audio WA76

4.9 4.9 out of 5, based on 9 Reviews

A desert island compressor in fish net tights, the WA76 has continued to uphold the good reputation Warm Audio has respectfully earned.


14th April 2014

Warm Audio WA76 by omnialinx

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Warm Audio WA76

I had been lucky enough to pick up Warm Audio's WA76 from an online pro audio distributer a few days after they got them in, which was also -not so coincidentally- a few days before they sold out of them; along with almost every other online dealer. That wasn’t all that surprising considering all the chatter online from many a Gearslut’s excitement about the incredibly (unbelievably, astronomically, ridiculously) low price on Warm Audio's take on one of the most coveted pieces of gear to ever have existed. I know I was. There has been many a discussion online about how Bryce Young (Warm Audio’s designer and owner) managed to keep the price tag so low so there is no need for me to get into what has now become a rather redundant topic. It is respectful as much as it is ingenious and I salute him for it. I hope only for the best for Warm Audio, especially after having owned the WA76 for over a month now as well as the WA12 for over a year. I use them both on every project.
To begin I have a small home studio where my colleague and I do video and audio production, covering everything from cleaning up conference speeches to recording live punk shows to documentaries to singer songwriters to political commercials to jazz and metal bands. It is my second job and part time. I have been involved in pro audio for over a decade (as well as toured nationally many times in bands for many years before) and also have worked and interned in a few professional studios. Mostly I am a musician who does audio engineering as a passion. I have owned one clone Hairball Audio 1176 made by a friend as well as used many of the UA revisions in countless studios for over a decade. I have also built a few clones (G-SSL, CAPI,) as well as modified 90% of the gear in my racks (most bought with the intention of being modified sometime in the future). I am currently gathering the very last materials for a stereo set of clone API 312’s as well as putting the final touches on a set of Five Fish Audio X-12’s. So while not an expert by any means, I know how to solder and have a basic understanding of what components can do to a piece of audio equipment.

I. Satisfaction.

Only a Gearslut knows the almost ineffable feeling of bliss I felt as I played-back an acoustic guitar solo I had just tracked using an AT-4047 into a (modded) CL-7602 through the WA76 (on it's second day in the studio) and realized I would barely have to touch up the track; it fit into the mix perfectly. The rewards of a decent room, good mic placement, and quality gear producing tight tracks is a high junkies can never obtain; it is reserved for us sluts. It was hard not to smile at the 3 dimensional euphoric audio nirvana being created, as the guitar floated like a wave across the monitors and came into the mix perfectly. It ‘fell/filled’ into the mix. There is a depth and density being created after the audio goes through the WA76’s juicy analog circuits (and Cinemag input and output transformers) that resonates with the deeper slut in me; the one that really only wants high end gear. It is this beautiful multidimensional effect that can really make a track blend or stick out in a mix, and that is what the WA76 does. It is the magic it performs.
The WA76 can be pushed pretty hard with a 20:1 ratio high output/fast release setting or added as a barely discernible hint with a nice 4:1 ratio low input/low output fast attack/slow release setting and in either it works fabulously. Compared to some of the other legendary dirty-girty hardware comps like the DBX 160 or the Urei la2a, the WA76 is more of a subtle sounding compressor, but by no means is it transparent. It is definitely a character compressor. It has mojo. Although not always obvious, take the WA76 off a track and you will immediately notice there is something dramatically missing. A hole has opened. Now don’t get me wrong when it’s in “all button’s in”, balls to wall, smooshing and gooshing, and crushing without blushing mode you will definitely notice it, since it is at a state of such phenomenal sonic awesomeness that Buddhist monks in Timbuktu would walk miles barefoot in the snow to bow to its beautiful black and silver (and orange) glory as if it was the Buddha himself reincarnated (and yes I can be a little hyperbolic). Otherwise it can sit idly by, taming vocals as if they were lions ready to pounce and for the untrained ear appear to be doing very little at all. Personally I like to drive it mid-way and absolutely love what it does to vocals at an 8:1 or 12:1 ratio with a mid-input/mid-high output and fast attack/slow release setting. It is just enough to let the vocals rise up to claim that upper echelon of the mix and punch their way through that range and/or space reserved for the main focus of the song. The area that is throbbing for your attention. The person who is singing to you. In all honesty it can be really damn hard to not use the WA76 on every vocalist -or in every vocal track- but one must show some reserve in this trait or thus be another schmuck making boring bad mixes and giving the rest of us home/project studio owners a bad name. On vocal tracking duty the WA76 is like the secret service; on top of it and highly effective. It makes me feel safe.

II. Bassically

If there is another key instrument where this compressor really glows -other than guitar, violin, drums, and vocals- it is the bass. What the WA76 does to bass tracks is alone worth its ridiculously affordable price. And my god is it easy to use. For instance, I had been working on a 17 track rock mix and had just gotten the drums where I liked them when I realized that the bass had become all but non-existent. Somewhere at the bottom of the mix the bass was hanging by a thread, a jejune and inept noise shadowing the kick like some disabled echo of its former self. Now raising the gain would only raise the volume and what the bass needed at that moment was to be retied into the mix. It needed to be brought up from its depths by the dynamic amplification the 1176 is renowned for.
I had already done some preliminary work with the bass and last I had remembered it had sounded pretty damn good. I promptly patched the WA76 in, quickly adjusted the input, ratio, and output, then sat back and listened as the WA76 performed its magic. Instantly the bass jumped out creating a punchy low end clarity that sometimes can take an impossibly long time to obtain with some of my other compressors. With only a fiddle of a few knobs the bass was raised from its cavernous depths and molded right into place. It wasn’t so high that it felt like some half inflated ball bouncing down the street or a lost feather floating somewhere in the aether but instead had density and force. It had girth. Satisfied with the result I returned my attention to the rest of the tracks and began the sometimes arduous task of summing via a console and daw controller in this hybrid analog/digital world I have created for myself, swearing that the Wa76 just winked at me with its one orange/yellow eye.
Now whether you want the bass to drive its way through the mix like a bulldozer in a trailer park, or to just ride along with the guitars and kick like a Lamborghini on the autobahn; the WA76 makes either task easy. Having a bass go through the DI of a WA12 mic pre with a mid to high gain setting and tone button engaged then sending it through the WA76 has achieved some of the sweetest and meatiest (yet natural sounding) effects I have heard in quite a while. For some driving it this way would actually be a bit too much, but in my experience sometimes too much is just enough for what the track needs (and it’s just awesome for punk or metal) or what ones desired outcome is. One can always “tone” the bass down by lowering the gain on the mic pre (or they can use the output pad located at the back of the comp) and after setting the input a bit higher and output a bit lower, and then slowly easing the attack and release times; treat the compressor like a Lamborghini cruising around in a trailer park. Or (if one was feeling a little wild) one could just as easily raise it to 20:1 and set an even higher input and output and using mid attack and slow release times, send the bass plowing through the mix like a bulldozer on the Autobahn. Either way it’s versatile and highly controllable. And incredibly easy.

III. Family.

In comparison to another clone 1176 the WA76 held its own just fine while also imparting some character of its own. Using a Hairball clone of a Rev. D 1176 to compare the WA76 with showed only subtle differences between the two. Running some metal guitar stems through the two compressors I felt both just did what they were known for and breathed a life or character into the tracks with neither one sounding better or worse. Now I am sure if it had been a Blue Stripe (a notorious mojo having 1176 revision) or maybe a real McCoy UA 1176 Rev. D (although I have read that Hairball’s and Drip’s were just as good with some saying actually better sounding) the differences would have been more noticeable, but unfortunately I don’t have endless racks of such hardware at my disposal in my humble home studio. Whether there are sonic differences hardly matters though, really both could be driven hard or soft and both easily pulled any instrument into the fold to pleasantly ride along with the other instruments in the auditory marathon of mixing. It is worth repeating that just driving a track through its analog gooeyness can really be all that it is needed from an 1176 and the WA76 can provide that just as good as its older brethren, since it too is equipped with Cinemag input and output transformers that tastily impart their classic iron fisted strength into the signal. While tracking guitar both performed exceptionally while taming the dynamic range of some metal riffs that jumped in and out with the distortion in an Opeth like montage of spastic jazzy blackened weirdness (hey if you are gonna test something, test it!) Neither seemed to effect the guitar more than the other with both just adding that glue that makes those on and off distortion parts blend so well. So all in all like many of the other 1176’s the WA76 is no one trick pony, which makes it perfect for the pro/home/project studio but is also a perfectly reasonable option for even the multimillion dollar facility. Yes it is that good.

IV. The wheels on the…

As far as the stereo buss, it’s probably one of the few things I wouldn’t use set of WA76’s for, especially since I have other compressors that were designed for just that and they seem to be doing their job quite well. If not there’s always a large variety of stereo buss compressors to pick from these days (albeit they are usually a little more expensive) or one can just build their own like I had. That all said; throwing a pair of WA76’s on the stereo buss could definitely have a distinct and excellent effect on a song (as long as it doesn’t screw up the stereo image) and I would never dismiss the idea completely. If I ever get another I will be sure to try it.

V. On a desert island with fish net tights

Like the highly respected compressor it is cloned after the WA76 has character, and time has proven that our ears and minds like the effect it has on tracks and therefore like the character it imparts. The mojo it makes. I am pretty sure that if I had to pick one compressor out of my rack that is going to be with me for the next decade the WA76 would be the winner but there would be more than a few sitting in a very close second place. This is also not something I say easily.
The WA76 is also a sexy looking compressor (I am a sucker for black and silver) and I applaud Bryce for not making the thing entirely orange like the WA12 and TB12 as that would have been just a tad too much and I am sure it was probably a little tempting. All the knobs and buttons feel completely solid, and the meter responds very accurately which is something I really appreciate since I can be a visual-aid kind of guy sometimes, especially when I have headphones on and my attention is on the instrument I am recording. The interlocking buttons on either side of the VU work flawlessly with one side for ratio settings and the other set of buttons for the meter. The power button being in the rear doesn’t bother me and neither does the power transformer wall wart (I have a 2U shelf in one of my racks that holds my various wall warts in one spot). It’s not a heavy piece of gear but it has certainly got some weight to it and feels sturdy. It’s enclosure is nicely built and the balanced in and out jacks in the back feel solid like it could put up with the abuse of plugging and unplugging cords for a pretty long time.
So as I am sure you can tell by now I am very happy with my investment and I am sure it will pay for itself if it hasn’t already *edit: it has. It is a great all around compressor that is useful on almost everything (just not all the time) and like the WA12 can hang with the far more expensive gear. The richness in tone that the two units produce together is really something awesome yet distinctly its own thing. Warm is definitely the right word. Bryce I imagine heard this as well and realized it was necessary for him to share this match with the rest of the pro/home studio owning community. I have yet to try the WA76 with the WA12’s older (more mature) brother the Tonebeast (or TB-12) but I am sure it would be a match made in heaven and I am currently putting some change away to pick up a TB-12; since I like the WA12 and the WA76 so very very much.

Last edited by omnialinx; 14th April 2014 at 04:09 PM.. Reason: posted twice do to bad gateway please delete

  • 5
26th December 2014

Warm Audio WA76 by Bradovic

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Warm Audio WA76

omnialinx review is hard to top.. Amazing compressor in every way

  • 1
7th May 2015

Warm Audio WA76 by telecasterrok

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Warm Audio WA76

Warm Audio WA76 1176 style compressor x 4. vocals, check. bass, check. acoustic, check. drums, check. parallel smash, check. horns, check. electric guitar, check. piano, check.

Do you have 4 original, or decently cloned, 1176s. Cool. If not, buy 4 of these.

27th January 2016

Warm Audio WA76 by Arthur Stone

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
Warm Audio WA76

I wanted to build a simple tracking chain and decided on the Warm Audio WA76 as compressor - suitable for a home-studio budget with features to match the original.

Sonically it does a great job. It adds a bright harmonic that can bring out pleasant overdrive-style distortion on some sources (e.g. active bass guitar on a quick release setting). I scored 4 rather than 5 as the sound didn't 'blow me away'...it's more utilitarian than that but it does so with a pleasant character; also, I can't compare it to real 1176's or clones having never heard or used them.

It's not the easiest compressor to use until one gets the hang of it; even then, it still requires careful input/output settings although the attack/release/ratio controls are a joy to use. I scored 4 although that might apply to all 1176's. I do think use will become more intuitive with experience.

The WA76 has all the features of an original plus an input pad with a button on rear. The unit feels solid as do the controls. The meter is clear and functions well. All buttons in 'nuke' mode is available. Scored 5 for features.

Excellent 'bang-for-buck. A straightforward, well-built compressor that doesn't damage the source and controls levels adding a pleasant harmonic. Score 5.

27th January 2016

Warm Audio WA76 by Toadfish

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Warm Audio WA76

This was my first ever hardware effect unit and I couldn't possibly be happier with it. It f****** rocks!

Being a complete novice when I first purchased this compressor, I had a lot of stupid beginners questions; I had regular contact with Bryce (I think that's the right name; if I'm wrong I do apologise) from Warm Audio and he went above and beyond the call of duty to help me get this baby up and running correctly. He helped me out with everything from cables to gain staging (the latter being something I'd never heard of at the time - n0oB, yeah I know).

The WA76 is now a permanent fixture in my vocal recording chain. I'll send 90% of vocal stems through this unit during the mixing process also. Vocals/soft guitars/strings/keyboards/horns all sound perfect through this (I'm sure it has a tonne more useful capabilities too but these are where the compressor shines for me).

Occasionally I'll just run a signal through the box with absolute minimal compression just to impart a bit of that sweet WA76 sound.

Basically, I love it. I'll be adding Warm Audio's latest offering, the la2a-inspired box, in the very near future.

28th January 2016

Warm Audio WA76 by ST.Studio

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Warm Audio WA76

I got this compressor a few months ago and I have yet to find something that it doesn't fit. I have tracked multiple vocals, basses, guitars, snares, kicks, ukuleles, (insert instrument here) and ran them through this without any regret. Honestly, my favorite piece of gear. When I have the funds, at least one more will be on its way because I need this for stereo mixes.

That's another great feature about these: stepped pots for recall and ease of stereo compression. The original 1176's needed a separate box in order for them to run in stereo; those days are over.

My only complaint with this is that the meter is not always accurate and needs adjustment quite often. But, ears are more important than your eyes while mixing, so I got over that pretty quickly.

I would recommend this for anyone in either a home or pro studio. They seriously are amazing.

29th January 2016

Warm Audio WA76 by Strangeland

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Warm Audio WA76

I jumped on this comp back in the pre-order days. At the time, it was my dream gear scenario. An 1176 for under $1K?!?!? Hell, an 1176 for under $2K?!?!? With real Carnhill transformers?!?!? I don't know how anyone made money off of this product but the price, build, and quality sure made me a happy customer. FYI, I buy 99% of my gear used, but I did not hesitate to pick this one up new, before there was even a used market for it.

In terms of what an 1176 is, this thing does it all. ALL buttons in to brutalize the signal. As well as a smoother ride through the lower ratios. My favorite application was vocals, using the standard setup -- 4:1 ratio, slowest attack, fastest release, maxing out at about -9db of GR. It was instant rock and roll. Once you hear it, you know you've achieved that sound you've heard on so many albums. My least favorite application was acoustic guitar but I like softer/cleaner compression on acoustic.

I know that the WA76 was faithfully modeled after the Rev D original. But the one feature that I would have loved...absolutely loved...for this comp would have been a high pass filter. I would not say this is a knock against the WA76 in and off itself but just a personal preference.

If you are a home studio person looking to go outboard, then this is the comp for you. I've used VLA2, PBC-6A, and others, and although they are all really great in their own regard, this one is the winner hands-down. I've gone strictly 500 series lately and sold off all my rack gear but I definitely miss the WA76 and wish it was still in my arsenal.

8th February 2016

Warm Audio WA76 by t1t0production

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Warm Audio WA76

I purchased the Warm 76 after watching video clips of it used on drums, bass, and vocals a few months ago. I must say it does a great job taming transients while adding to the character of the signal from the preamps I use. I ran a few tests through the Vintech X73, Vintech 573, Avalon 737, and Focusrite ISA 1. Obviously, each preamp imparts its character or tone to the signal and this made things interesting. I found the WARM 76 extremely useful on kick and snare. The features are pretty straight forward. Compressions settings can be set for very subtle or heavy compression just by adjusting the attack, release, and ratio controls. This compressor is very different from my favorite go to La 2a compressor I use in the studio. The attack is a lot faster than some opto-style tube compressors I tend to use as well. I found the Warm 76 works great for instruments and recordings that have very strong rhythmic content. It can help a recording achieve that glue you may need for an instrument, vocal, and other sounds. Overall, I believe it is great value for the current price tag, easy to use, and a wonderful FET compressor for many recording applications.

23rd August 2019

Warm Audio WA76 by CPhoenix

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Warm Audio WA76

This compressor gets more outstanding the more I use it.

I have sincerely never been able to get my kick drum sounding this good. I use this in accompany with a Warm EQP, which I use to give the kick a boost/cut around 100hz to really bring the thump character out. Once I have that... I compress at a 4:1 ratio, set the input/software gain so that I'm hitting about 3db of compression on the meter.. and set the output to taste.

The result is a kick that stands out amongst the crowd. A kick that when played back anywhere sounds like whoever produced this hiphop track knew exactly wtf he was doing. A kick that punches you in the gut, but then consoles you as you lay there hunched over, waits for you to feel better and then offers you a ham sandwich.

On vocals, it's perfect for taming the peaks before routing to my Stam 2A for final leveling. Vocals keep their clarity, get the stref of de bleck pantha, and go on their merry way through life's signal chain.

All jokes aside, this beats any plugin I have. Unfortunately I can not compare to a real 1176, however I can tell you this beat my UAD 1176mkii plugin when I A/B'd. The UAD was great and they behaved similar (UAD is absolutely worth it), but I preferred this and would pick it any day. If UAD is a A- I call this an A. This certainly smokes the 76 clone that comes in Presonus' Fat Channel.

I gave the features a 4, b/c it would be nice to have an on/off switch in the front. I prefer to turn my gear off when not in use, but can't b/c they have to share the same power conditioner. [EDIT!!! I just noticed (after several years) that there indeed is an off button on the front!!!! So I updated this to 5 stars ]

You can really nuke things with the "all buttons in" mode. I tend to not nuke my music haha, but I'm aware there are purposes for it.

FYI... I bought this 2-3 years ago but waited to give my opinion to make sure it wasn't gear bias. I currently own this, Stam 2A, Stam 4000+ and a Golden Age 3A. Although I think my Stam unit is the highest quality compressor I own, this unit gets the most burn b/c the 76 is more usable than a 2A in many many situations. If I had a large studio and needed more 76's... I would certainly grab more units... but I prefer to save money and bounce tracks one at a time.

 
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