Updated: Sep 15
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'The Cali76 Compact Deluxe is an 1176-style studio-grade FET compressor. Featuring high-current, low-noise, discrete Class-A circuitry, and a dedicated parallel compression control…'
The above is taken directly from Origin Effects website, but what exactly does it all mean?
The 1176 compressor first came about when Bill Putnam decided to start using solid state technology in a redesign of his 175/176 tube compressor and it was first released in 1968. You may not have heard of Putnam, but if you’ve any interest in recording your own music and mixing it, you’ll have come across Universal Audio and their great interfaces and plugins. Bill Putnam was the founder of Universal Audio and an innovator of much of the recording gear and processes that are ubiquitous in studios today.
The solid state technology Putnam utilised was a type of transistor called a ‘field effect transistor’ or a FET, and one major advantage of the FET over the tube predecessors was its incredibly fast attack time – 0.00002 seconds at its fastest!
In case you’re interested in how a FET works, it functions as a variable voltage resistor and pushes some of the input signal to ground and changing gain through working with the electrical field as a whole. But let’s not get too bogged down in the technicalities.
So, back to the original 1176. The amount of compression was set by adjusting the input level, which is carried over in the Cali76 - the higher the input, the more compression that takes place. The 1176 also had a wide range of tones with its compression ratios starting at an almost transparent 4:1, through to 8:1, 12:1 and 20:1 - the first two mainly used for compressing and the latter two for limiting. In fact, the original 1176 was first advertised as a “true peak limiter” when it was first released.
However, studio engineers were not just enamoured with the previously unimaginably fast attack and release times, but the quality of sound that the 1176 imparted to the signal passed through it. Even with the compressor turned off, it imparted a recognisable and desirably snappy, yet warm tone.
With all this heritage behind it, the Origin Effects Cali76 certainly has its sights set high and I was really interested in whether or not could meet the challenge.
There are a few versions of the Cali76 – the Compact, SlideRIG Compact Deluxe Mk1 and 2, the Stacked Edition, the Compact Bass, and the one I used, which was the Compact Deluxe, albeit a limited edition version. The guts are standard, but mine has a Union Jack flag on it.
It is beautifully constructed from an all metal housing, with burnished aluminium knobs, a classy ‘jewel lamp meter’ that changes colour with the amount of compression taking place, and a really nice soft-feel, silent-switching footswitch.
It is PCB construction, but you can see that it’s high class still. It has a very reassuring weight to it and the controls have a really sturdy feel when turning them. It weighs in at 620 g and is 142 x 66 x 59 mm. Lovely!
Here are the tech specs from the Origin Effects site:
· 100% Class-A discrete signal path
· Classic, ultra fast “FET” response
· Studio-grade discrete-transistor preamp
· Dedicated Attack, Release and Ratio coltrols
· Dry Blend control for parallel compression
· Rugged jewel-lamp gain reduction metering
· Optimised for guitar but can process any source
· High-current, low noise electronics
· Ultra-wide frequency response
· Ultra-high input impedance
· Silent switching
· High-quality “signal-conditioning” bypass mode
· Premium components throughout
· Advanced power supply filtering and protection
· Flexible external power requirements (9-18V DC)
· PSU spec. 77mA @ 9V / 104mA @ 18V
· Designed and built in England
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I tested the Cali76 out with my Two Rock Studio Pro 35 and 2x12 cab, my Suhr T-style guitar and a couple of other pedals, mainly a JHS AT+ which is a gorgeous drive / boost pedal.
I was immediately impressed with the tone of the pedal on clean sounds and loved the way it imparted a tonal quality to the signal. This compressor is not totally transparent, but it isn’t really meant to be, that’s the point.
It gives the guitar tone a bit of polish and just makes it shine, on top of doing all the usual beautiful things a compressor can do for a clean signal.
The pedal will go from a hardly noticeable compression, with the ‘In’ and the ‘ratio’ set low, to a full on effect that you’d use for some funk and country guitar work.
The ‘In’ and ‘Out’ settings are extremely interactive, as you might expect, and you do need to adjust both of them together to maintain your signal at unity.
The icing on the cake with this pedal is the ‘Dry’ blend control, allowing for parallel compression. This means you can mix in your dry signal with the compressed for even greater tonal options and is an absolute blessing.
I really do like compression. But, it pays to keep in mind that it is an effect and should be used as such, in my opinion. It can really help your clean solo tone to pop out of the mix and gives that sustain that is lost without the natural compression that occurs when overdriving tubes.
However, it does squash dynamics. A compressor works by squishing the signal so that quiet sounds are louder and louder sounds are quieter. It’s the great leveller in a studio, making all things equal – or almost so.
As a guitarist though, I personally do not like to lose all my dynamics as they are an essential tool in getting across emotion in music. The ‘Dry’ blend allows us to dial some of the dry signal back in though, and we can reclaim some of those lost dynamics but retain the benefits of a compressed signal.
This is not the only compressor with this function by any means – check out the Keeley Compressor Plus or the Wampler Ego as they also do a great job.
Blending the dry signal when using a drive pedal is also pretty cool, especially for legato work. It can make the notes pop better, keep them more defined but again without the loss of dynamics.
The Cali76 interacted really nicely with the JHS AT+, adding little warmth and sustain but without being overpowering.
I also used this pedal to record bass parts, which I used directly into my Apollo Twin interface. Although there is a dedicated bass version of the pedal, I thought it did a fine job.
In my opinion, if you like compressors, this one is hard to beat. It was able to do anything I asked for and did it beautifully. It’s got a classy look to go with its classy sounds and I really can’t find any fault at all with it.
If you aren’t into compressors, this one might just convert you.
And although it isn’t cheap, you get what you pay for – it’s a serious, quality bit of kit. If you’re after something that’ll do the job though but for less money, the Keeley and Wampler pedals mentioned earlier are also absolutely stellar.
Check out their website here: https://origineffects.com/product-category/compressors/
UK price at time of writing: £259