Welcome back to behind the gear at The Record Shop. Are you ready to roocccck!?!?!? (cue stadium of screaming fans) This week we take a look at the Purple Audio MC77. The MC77 is a superior recreation of the legendary URIE 1176 Peak Limiter. This piece of gear bleeds rock and roll. If it was magically transformed into a person it would make Slash look like Yanni. From Drums to guitars to vocals, this thing will give you clarity, punch, and attitude for days. Let’s start by giving you a quick back story on the MC77’s estranged father, the URIE 1176.
The 1176 was designed by audio legend, Bill Putnum in 1967. Bill was a revolutionary in the audio world. He is noted to have been the first cat to use artificial reverb, double a vocal recording, and develop a multi-band equalizer. So it is no surprise that he was also the dude that created what is arguably the most commonly used limiter in modern recording. The 1176 became the first true peak limiter with solid state circuitry. It was popular for its super fast attack time, resulting in a signature tone that can be heard on countless records.
In 1997, a new audio company called Purple Audio released their first product, the MC76 (If you paid attention in roman numeral class you’ll get it). Designed by Andrew Roberts, the MC76 looked like an 1176 that Barney got a hold of in the restroom, and it sounded like one that hung out with Jose Canseco (if your not hip to baseball or the news, he did a lot of steroids). It had all the vibe of a vintage 1176 without the price tag, and it quickly became a highly sought after piece of gear. The MC77 is an update of the original with a few extra features.
Aside from the paint job, the MC77 really stands out in the crowd. It has the sonic characteristics of the classic, vintage 1176 with an improved high frequency response and added grit. We’ve used it on just about everything when we are looking for something to give a track some attitude. If we want to add some punch to drums, smooth out guitars, round out a bass, or put some rock in a vocal, the MC77 delivers every time.
We have one trick in particular that produces some really unique results. But in order to explain clearly, let’s start with a story. At some point back in the day, there was an audio engineer who spent way to much time playing with the gear in the studio. One day he said, “Hey, I wonder what would happen if I pressed down all of the ratio buttons on this limiter at the same time?” Once he had all four of the ratio buttons locked in place, he cranked the input and the rest is history. There are a few different names for this trick; all buttons in, nuke, British mode; but the result is a super compression that has been used to create some really unique sounds. I’m a big fan of smashing the drum room mics with this setting. The setting creates a lag in the attack time, resulting in extra punch, and a drastic compression slope, resulting in a quick drop in level. As this push and pull repeats with each transient hit we can achieve a rhythmic pumping of compression that breathes with the track and amplifies the “room sound”. Listen to any modern rock record and your bound to find this effect in play.
And that concludes this evenings presentation. Check back next week for our next installment of “Behind The Gear at The Record Shop”, where we take a look at another colorful device, the CL1B tube compressor. In the meantime, feel free to drop by our Gear Page for more information on our vast array of equipment.
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