Black Rooster Audio VLA-FET - The Best 1176 Plugin Emulation

When talking about audio compression, we can’t skip the legendary UREI 1176. Created by Bill Putnam in 1967 and been through a number of revisions, the so-called limiting amplifier was designed based on the cutting edge at that time transistor FET technology, developed as an alternative to tube circuits.

This unit became the most popular and widely used compressor of all times. Most likely it stands behind the present and forward sounding vocals of your favorite song. UREI 1176 is extremely popular and desired among engineers because of its status and unique sound which is also reflected in its high price.

This is where the guys from Black Rooster Audio come in. Led by André Kirchner, they develop a remarkably accurate plugin emulation of 1176 - VLA-FET. The plugin is available for macOS and Windows in all popular formats like AAX, VST and AU. It lets you have as many 1176s as your processor allows for. Having in mind the excellent SSE2 code optimization, it is safe to say that the number will be more than enough.

A closer look

VLA-FET emulates all classic functions of the original hardware - easy control of input and output, attack, release and ratio. This makes the tool very intuitive and user-friendly. The attack varies between 20 and 800 microseconds and the release from 50 to 1100 milliseconds. The ratio selection is between the usual 4:1, 8:1, 12:1, 20:1 and the original explosive all-button mode which makes the device run on steroids.

Black Rooster Audio VLA-FET Screenshot

Apart from the classic control, the developers at Black Rooster Audio added a couple of modernized smart functionalities, which make VLA-FET even more precise and flexible than the original:

The metering and potentiometers move smoothly and respond very well which makes working with the plugin even more inspiring.

The sound of VLA-FET

The sound is the most exciting thing about this plugin. André Kirchner and his team modelled the unit according to Rev F of the original 1176 LN. This means that the output amplifier is push-pull class AB, however, compared to the original, VLA-FET emulates Lundahl transformers instead of the typical for this revision B11148.

The compressor sounds more than beautiful. There is no sign of digital harshness, actually, quite the opposite - you will be nicely surprised by the charming character and creamy saturation which reminded us of Michael Jackson’s vocals - one of the famous 1176 users.

Black Rooster Audio VLA-FET Frequency Response
VLA-FET Frequency Response

The attack has an incredible musical action and grab, leaving the right amount of transients. The authentic emulation of the circuit, recreated by Mr. Kirchner, sounds so good that it appears like the trendy and even cult following nonlinear convolution sampling rather than the typical algorithmic modelling.

Black Rooster Audio VLA-FET Total Harmonic Distortion
VLA-FET Total Harmonic Distortion

The author also paid attention to the suppression of aliasing artifacts by introducing a design with a linear phase and automatic oversampling.

The following video compares the VLA-FET with a hardware clone of 1176 - Klark Teknik 76-KT. Notice the gorgeous grab action and the plentiful transients of VLA-FET:

Final words

Whether you will use this plugin for gentle peak reduction, slamming amplitudes or just run the signal through it to get some colour and character, VLA-FET is probably the best choice for a plugin emulation of UREI 1176 and one of the best plugin compressors overall. The only minor flaw is the graphic interface which surely can be more inspiring and slicker, even futuristic.

You can try and buy VLA-FET here: