Pro Audio Files

Introduction to Waves CLA-76 Compressor

What’s up people? Today let’s talk about compression. Sort of.

Someone asked me to kind of go over these 1176 compressors. There’s a lot of different versions. Universal Audio makes one, Waves makes them, there’s I think a Digi version of it. They all kind of have their own vibe.

Here we have the CLA-76. I think this is modeled after Chris Lord-Alge’s actual hardware units that were in — that he uses to mix on. They’re really cool. I like them. They emulate sort of the sound of these old — you know, UA 1176 compressors, which are really — you’ll hear them on all kinds of records. People use them all the time, they’re staples in most of my work. Definitely worth the investment.

Just kind of wanted to give you an overview of it and how to work it and what all these buttons do. There’s not a lot. It’s pretty simple.

First of all, there’s two versions. There’s a Blackface, and there’s a Blueface, and I’ll talk about sort of the differences there as well, but we’ll get started with the Blackface.

First you’ll notice on the left, you have input, which is essentially going to drive signal into it. It does what it says. The more input you drive in, the more gain reduction you’ll have, so check this out. I have this on a vocal track right now.


Crank up the input.

[vocals with compression]

Way more gain reduction. I’ll bring it back. Less compression, right? So that’s pretty much how that works. I’m going to try to exaggerate a lot of these examples, just so you can really tell what’s going on.

Output, obviously is going to change the output of the plug-in. How much signal is coming out of it. You can switch your metering over here. Right now we’re doing gain reduction. We can switch it over to output, and you can check that out.


If the red light is clipping, that’s bad. So pull that shit back.


There you go. You don’t want anything to turn red ever if you’re working completely inside the box. In the analog world that’s cool. You can clip and you can drive that stuff and saturate it and it sounds great, but in your computer, in the digital domain, in the box, as soon as you clip, it’s instant distortion, so it’s instant garbage.

So watch your levels, your gain staging. That’s the output knob.

You’ve got attack and release, like all compressors. Roll it all the way to the right, fast attack, all the way to the left, slow attack. Here’s kind of what that sounds like. Here’s super quick, so it’s really going to grab those transients super fast.


As opposed to a little lazier…


Right. Put this back in the middle.

Release, same thing. Really quick release, you’re going to hear that compressor work a lot.


You can see that needle just letting go off the transients really quickly.


Pull that all the way to left and it’s going to hold on to the transients for a long time. So it’s going to compress and it’s going to stay compressed, and then you gradually release.


Right. So super fast release.


Really slow release.



Right. So that’s release, attack, input, output. Next we have ratios.

These 76s have specific ratios you can pick from, it’s not like another compressor where you can kind of dial it in from two to one to twenty to one and have all the options in between. This has four to one, eight to one, twelve to one, twenty to one, and then it’s got an all button, which is essentially all of those ratios mashing together, which some guys here also call that British mode, which is pretty aggressive.

So here’s four to one, what we’ve been listening to.


Eight to one.


Twelve to one.


Twenty to one.


Then you can go all and just get really aggressive with it.


Right. Put this back on four.

Again, this is where you can switch between gain reduction metering, input, output, you can turn the compressor off, where you still retain — sometimes you don’t want to compress, you just kind of want the vibe of that box. So you can turn the compressor off and just kind of keep the sound of it.

Down here, you have this analog Waves audio magic button here. Basically, these — it simulates I think the noise floor of these boxes. I could be wrong. Essentially, these things make a lot of noise. 60Hz and 50Hz.

If you stack eight of these up in your session, you’re going to hear it. You’re going to hear some hiss when it’s just sitting there turned on. So you can kill this, essentially, and it’ll kind of affect the color, I think. In my opinion. Then obviously, switch between the Blueface, the Blackface.

The Blueface is a little brighter. Check it out.


Blackface. A little darker.


As opposed to Blueface.


Right. Those are your basic controls. The presets that come loaded on it aren’t bad, man. You can put this thing on literally anything. Guitars, drums, vocals. I like to use it on vocals. I also use it on electric guitars, I’ll use it on piano. There’s lots of options with it.

If I was using it on a bass guitar, I’d probably use the Blackface, since it’s a little darker, if I’m using it on vocals like I am, I’d probably use the Blueface, overhead cymbals, Blueface.

These aren’t rules by any means, but typically brighter instruments, you want the brighter sort of vibe. Darker instruments, darker vibe.

That’s really it. Again, this isn’t really how to use it in a mix type of situation, but hopefully it gets you started with using it. You’ll see these controls on pretty much any compressor. You know, input, output, attack, release, ratio. So check this out. I think it’s a cool plug-in. It’s one of the ones I end up using a lot. They did a great job with it.

Hit me up with questions, hit me up on Twitter, subscribe, like, whatever you want to do. I’ve got some more videos coming and I’ll see you next time. Thanks.




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