Infused with the soul of the classic Urei 1176, this FET feedback compressor emulation is entering into an already crowded market
The latest dynamics processor from Polish plugin wizards PSP Audioware is a FET-style feedback compressor inspired by the Urei 1176, which is widely regarded as one of the greatest character compressor/limiters ever made. FETpressor (VST/AU/AAX/RTAS) isn’t intended to be an exact emulation, as the substitution of Threshold and Makeup gain knobs for the 1176’s Input and Output dials, and the addition of various new features, make clear. It doesn’t aim to sound exactly the same as any specific revision of the 1176, either – PSP tell us they designed FETpressor to provide the best of the ‘generic’ 1176 sound, but with enhanced controls and a more conventional, modern workflow.
FETpressor’s GUI is typical PSP: a photorealistic hardware-style fascia footed by preset management and A/B controls. The Threshold knob extends up to +12dB, the extra range used to compensate for the automatic internal threshold decrease applied for ratios below 4:1. You see, unlike the 1176’s button-operated fixed compression ratios, FETpressor’s Ratio knob transitions continuously from 16:1 all the way to 1:1. The reason for the 1:1 setting is that the plugin features under-the-hood amplifier and output transformer emulations, imparting their own (very subtle) sound, which you might want to use without applying any compression.
One of the defining features of the 1176 is its incredibly fast attack, which FETpressor matches with its 0.1-10ms Attack range, for effectively instant compression. The Release, meanwhile, can go faster than the 1176’s shortest 50ms setting, ramping all the way down to 10ms (and up to 1s).
Onto those all-new bits and pieces, then. The sidechain high-pass filter proves useful for compressing drum busses and other mixedfrequency signals, taking the low end (10Hz to 1kHz) out of the detector circuit to reduce pumping; while the Blend control mixes wet and dry signals for parallel compression. FETpressor can also compress only the left or right channel, and (back in stereo mode) compress each channel independently or both equally.
FETpressor doesn’t sound exactly the same as the 1176 – PSP have successfully put their own spin on its sound and response. It’s fabulously musical, bringing out the best in all kinds of instrumentation. On the drums bus, it delivers heft, power and bite at high ratios, and more transparent levelling at lower settings; and the curative effect is has on fluctuant vocals, guitars and basses is extraordinary, enhancing their inherent energy, presence and attitude.
There are a couple of sticking points, however. Having to click the names of the sidechain filter and Blend control to activate them is awkward in a UX sense. Also, FETpressor doesn’t yet allow for external sidechaining, although PSP say it will do in a future update.
You may already own at least one decent 1176 emulation, but PSP’s late entry into the game is without doubt one of the best we’ve heard, ably capturing all the utility and character of the real thing but with its own angle. It’s also got that sidechain filter, dry/wet mix control and stereo link/unlink function, of course, which yours may not. The lack of external sidechaining will be an issue for some, but for those who can get past that (or wait for it), FETpressor serves as a totally convincingly reminder of just how authentic software analogue emulations can be.