One of the great tools in an engineer’s arsenal is the compressor. If you are unfamiliar with compressors and how to use them, try looking at Sound on Sound’s article here… http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/sep09/articles/compressionmadeeasy.htm
If you are familiar with compression, but can’t get that 1176 style compressor to sound good, then fear not. When I first tried 1176 style compressors, I used to set everything all wrong, but now I am going to help you understand how to use this awesome beast.
First, it is important to understand how this style of compressor is built/modeled. There is no “threshold” control like other compressors, instead it has a fixed threshold. The way to apply more compression to the sound is to turn up the “Input” which in turn boosts the overall signal going into the compressor, thus pushing more sound above the fixed threshold. When the sound goes above the threshold it gets compressed. Then, like other compressors, you adjust your “Output” in order to have a moderate volume in order to maximize your signal to noise ratio.
The other controls of the 1176 compressor should be self explanatory. Oh, but wait, theres more! Those pesky attack and release are backwards. Yes, you heard me, contrary to intuition the lower the number on the attack or release, the slower the setting. (1= slow and 7= fast) This is pretty important to understand. When the attack and release are set wrong, nothing sounds the way you want it. The ratio buttons work just as any other compressor’s ratio knob/button works with the exception of the “all in” mode which kind of just makes the thing go crazy and unpredictable. You get heavy compression and no compression all mixed up when all buttons are in. It can create some neat sounds though on drums. The meter has different modes, but I typically leave it in “GR” mode which shows the amount of gain reduction/compression.
There you go, hopefully you can get some great sounds out of this compressor now. I suggest taking your drum room mic track and put an 1176 compressor on it with a 4:1 ratio, fast (remember that would be “7”) attack and release, then try bring the input knob up until you get bonzo-esque drum ambiance. Cheeers!