UK Sound 1173 Mic Preamp & Compressor
- 1073-inspired Mic Pre
- 1176-inspired FET Compressor
- 48v Phantom Power
- Made in California
In a world filled with brilliant plug-ins that emulate the classic circuits of yesterday, there are few pieces of outboard gear that fall into my “must own” category. The UK Sound 1173 is one of them.
The 1173 is the brainchild of producer Warren Huart and gear engineer Michael Stucker. While the concept seems shockingly obvious, to the best of our knowledge, no one has ever dared to combine the famed circuits from the Neve 1073 preamp and the Urei FET compressor. And who better than UK Sound, a subsidiary of BAE Audio to bring it to market?
OUT OF THE BOX
For a number of years, with the exception of my Millennia Music & Media Systems HV-37 mic pre, I’ve lived “inside the box”. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m a dyed in the wool Universal Audio fanatic. Ironically, their 1176 Rev A plug-in is my go to Limiting Amplifier on my Master Fader – the Andy Johns Stereo Bus preset is virtual perfection. That said, that little voice has been nagging me for some time that I really wanted to find the right piece of outboard gear to “frame and tame” the sound at the beginning of my recording signal chain the way I’ve been doing it at the tail end. Enter the 1173.
When I first read about the 1173 that same little voice chimed in and said, “You know you want this, it’s what you’ve been waiting for!” And after putting this little gem to the test, I got want I wanted and needed!
In addition to engineering all the guitar and bass tracks I did for Guitar Hero and on my own on Favored Nations disc, I have done a ton of demo work for the likes of Orange Amplifiers, Ernie Ball Music Man, as well as for the Friedman and Ampeg amp collections for the UAD-2 platform. In the amp demo world, my goal is to capture the essence of the way the amp sounds in the room via the right mic(s) and placement. Ironically, my go to EQ is the UA 1073 plug-in, which I use if I wasn’t able to accurately capture something on input. That said, the musical magic of the 1176 Rev A on the Master Fader tames some of the wayward transients that thanks to the 1173, I can now whip into shape on input. I also get the added benefit of the mighty mojo of the 1073 mic pre circuit. And, by manipulating the Gain and Preamp Out controls you can create organic distortion, when and if you need it.
LET THE MUSIC DO THE TALKING
This is a good time to invite you to listen to the SoundCloud file for the demo I did.
One of the things I love most about the 1173 is that the preamp adds a bit of color that sounds and feels natural – probably because we’ve heard it on countless iconic recording. To my ear, this impacts the way the compressor section responds to transients. Per the demo, I was able to dial the exact amount of squishy goodness I wanted for the DI’d bass and guitar tracks. But as I added the thumb on the bass and opened up the palm mute on the left guitar, the dynamics also swelled – without a single fader move! Being able to track with this level of dynamic control is nothing short of awesome!
In addition to all the classic 1073 mic pre and 1176 leveling amplifier features, the 1173 has a secret weapon in the compressor section called an “SC Filter”. This groovy little feature allows the compressor to gently tame the high frequencies without grabbing the dynamics out of the lower ones, which is why my little funk jam sounds as dynamic as it does.
UK Sound is a subsidiary of BAE Audio, famed for their spot-on Neve reproductions. The testimonials page on the BAE web site is filled with a virtual who’s who of great producers, engineers, and players. Their stuff is outstanding, and the price reflects that. One of the most exciting things about the 1173 is that like all the UK Sound offerings, it is manufactured here in California to the same exacting standards as the BAE Audio products are. Thankfully, the BAE Audio folks have learned a thing or two about manufacturing, including how to cut costs without cutting corners!