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Wampler Ego 76 Compressor Review

The 1176 Peak Limiter has been a studio staple since its introduction in 1967. As the first solid-state peak limiter on the market, the original, with its FET-based circuit, gave every signal an unmistakable, “improved” sound.

Here with the Ego 76, Brian Wampler looks to reproduce this magic but with contemporary improvements. Brian Wampler makes a point to say his Ego 76 is "inspired" by the 1176 but includes some additional tweaking. It isn't supposed to be an 1176 clone. Brian said:

"From the beginning, I knew that simply “cloning” the 1176’s FET compression circuitry wouldn’t quite capture the original’s sound. It misses the nuances of a recording studio’s preamps, consoles, and the other hardware that we hear on recordings...I made sure that the Ego 76 recreates every bit of that tonal magic. It is my personal tribute to the iconic studio compressor that has shaped the fabric of music over the decades."

The Ego 76 is a FET-based circuit. I tend to like FET designs due to the inherent color or more distinctive personality imposed and the Ego 76 doesn't disappoint. It definitely isn't a transparent compressor, but it isn't overly colored either. It's colored enough though. More on this later.

There are six dials on the face of the pedal. The Compress dial adjusts how much compression is applied to your signal and is tuned to work similarly as the Ratio control on a 1176. Rotating the dial more clockwise increases the amount of compression that is applied. There is plenty of compression on hand and for me the sweet spot seems to be between 9:00 and noon. Above noon, the signal start getting pretty squashed. Attack controls how quickly compression is applied. Turning the dial clockwise decreases the speed meaning the speed at which the initial attack is compressed is delayed more as you rotate the dial more clockwise and therefore allowing more transient through. The Release control is there to set how long the compressor grabs the signal. As you rotate the dial more clockwise it increases the time meaning the compressor holds on to the compressed signal longer. Note that both the Attack and Release controls are set up backwards from the original Urei and Universal Audio 1176 studio compressors. The pedal also contains two functions that the original 1176 doesn’t offer. The first is the Blend control, which allows you to blend as much or as little as your original uncompressed (dry) sound. You can add significant compression to your signal and then blend it to taste with your dry signal and preserve the attack.

I really appreciate compressors that offer this type of parallel compression, especially when playing 5 string bass guitars because the blend helps retain low end.

This blend control is a very important aspect of the Ego 76, more so than other compressors with a blend control. It is highly interactive here with the other controls and there are plenty of sweet spots to be found when you utilize the blend in conjunction with varying degrees of compression and attack and release.

Then there is the Tone (for tone shaping) control that helps restore highs that can be lost with more aggressive compression. Rotate the dial clockwise to introduce more high-end frequency to the signal. Rotating more counterclockwise removes high end presence. To my ear, the dial at noon seems to be relatively neutral. I preferred the Tone dial set between 1:00 and 2:00 which introduces some nice sparkle and shimmer up top. Finally, the Volume dial is there to control the total output volume. Rotating the dial more clockwise increases the volume.

Like other Wampler compressors there is no LED indicating gain reduction or point at which compression is engaging. It is a bit disappointing that a gain reduction meter was not integrated. You are going to need to use your ear.

Brian's pedals have such clarity, and this one is no exception. It lifts and separates notes in a pleasing way. It evens things out beautifully and adds a certain sparkle that is really sweet. It is very easy to dial in and you can quite readily hear what it is doing. You probably won't want to turn it off once you get it dialed in to your liking. On the one hand the Ego 76 can be subtle in effect. On the other hand, it can be dialed in for some serious squash and sustain. When you turn it off you realize the degree to which it is livening the tone and adding subtle excitement in a really good way.

If you want a compressor that is quite easy to dial in and retains the low end well, the Ego 76 is a great option.

It is a punchy and lively feeling with enough color and effect to put a smile on your face. It definitely makes your tone feel bigger but not in a boomy or muddy sort of way. Compared to the original Wampler Ego compressor the Ego 76 has more energy or liveliness for lack of better description. Like the original studio 1176 I hear a bit of grit with higher compression levels. I think that has a lot to do with why it has an inherent liveliness. I generally like the original Ego compressor with guitar and bass. For bass guitar though I prefer the Ego 76. I suspect most will tend to use the Ego 76 as an always on compressor. Like the respected Wampler Ego compressor I find the Ego 76 to be a very useful device for smoothing out your playing and tone albeit in a non-clinical way. If you are familiar with the original Urei or Universal Audio 1176 studio compressors you know of the "all buttons in" function which is sometimes called British mode. It is activated by pushing in the four ratio buttons at the same time. This all buttons in mode delivered what was often described as a smashed but tight sort of compression. For me, all buttons in mode can be too much of a good thing but it certainly was used on a ton of recordings. The Wampler Ego 76 pedal sort of offers this function when you turn the compression dial all the way clockwise. You will definitely need to use liberal amounts of the Blend control and dry signal to avoid an extremely squashed tone and feel. To me, it is fun and useful with guitar but not so much for bass guitar because even with aggressive use of dry blend the output is still highly squashed. It is fun to play with though. I suspect using this mode downline from effects like OD, distortion, and other forms of dirt pedals would yield interesting results.

The Ego 76 is very quiet by itself and quieter than a lot of other compressors on the market (and quieter than the original Ego).

One thing I found with the original Wampler Ego is that headroom could be an issue. Read my review of that compressor here. The Ego 76 is much better in this regard. At higher compression levels and with faster attack you can get the Ego 76 to distort but to some degree that should be expected. At less aggressive settings there is no issue with headroom that I noticed. I like this one. It is my favorite compressor from Wampler to date. I think it is less about squeezing your sound and more about just making it...better. It's a lot of fun to explore. The pedal itself looks fantastic with its high gloss sparkle paint. It looks much better in person than the photos here suggest. The base color is a sheen of blue with other shades of blue and purple sparkle. Very attractive. It has a nice weight to it and all knobs turn with precision and nice resistance. There is a red LED that illuminates when the pedal is activated via the footswitch. This pedal was designed to operate at 9 volts DC center negative pin. It draws approximately 20mA. Input and output jacks are top mounted.

At a retail price of $199 the Ego 76 is priced less than the long-time favorite Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass and on par with the recently released Universal Audio 1176. Deciding between the Universal Audio 1176 and the Wampler Ego 76 is an easy decision for me. The Wampler wins quite handily. It's worth reading my comments about the UAFX 1176 here. The Wampler Ego 76 is easier to dial in and simply sounds better. I found myself constantly tweaking the UAFX 1176 trying to dial it in. Not so with the Wampler Ego 76 which sounds great at so many different settings. It feels livelier and more exciting too. The Wampler Ego 76 has mojo and personality that the UAFX 1176 lacks. There are many reasons the Origin Cali76 is so popular. It is a quality device, sounds great and has a wonderful feature set. The Ego 76 is quieter. The Ego 76 also costs less. The tone control on the Ego 76 is definitely useful and with the dial at 1:00 or higher there is a similar sheen or sparkle up to that the Cali76 is often praised for. The Cali76 does have the High Pass Filter control that I really like. That said, I never felt like lows were lacking or overly compressed with the Ego 76 as long as the blend control was used to introduce the amount of dry signal to taste. But, yes, that HPF is a real nice feature that might be a deciding factor for you. Some people find the Cali76 distorting too easily. I doubt many would experience this with Wampler Ego 76. The Origin Cali Compact Bass does have that single "jewel" LED that illuminates indicating threshold/compression. It works but isn't ideal, yet it is enough to give you a general idea of what is happening and is certainly better than nothing. I wish the Wampler Ego 76 had some sort of LED meter. Then there is the addictive "snap" and sheen up top that is inherent to the Cali76 CB. I don't think you can quite duplicate it with the Ego 76.

If price is a concern and you have been considering the Origin Cali76 CB, you should definitely check out the Ego 76. Even if price isn't a concern, you should check out the Ego 76. It's an excellent compressor.

I realize using the term "feel" when describing compressors can be subjective (and sometimes even considered controversial). With that said, I will say I do really like the way it feels to play through the Wampler Ego 76. Once dialed in I felt like my playing had more bounce and punch. If you are looking for a squeaky clean, transparent compressor, look elsewhere. If you like using compression as an effect (think gooey, or dip and swell) look elsewhere. If you want a non-clinical, lively and useful general-purpose device that sounds great give this one a try. Though there are certainly differences between the original 1176 studio device and the Ego 76 pedal format compressor I think Brian Wampler has succeeded in creating something interesting, useful and exciting sounding in a pedalboard friendly format. The price of admission is nice too. The Ego 76 is a very nice compressor.

Retail price: $199 Pros: • Energy and lively feel • Sounds great • Relatively versatile • Looks great • Nice price considering the total package • Quality • Quiet Cons: • Maybe not enough compression ratio (squish) for some • No LED gain reduction meter • No dedicated ratio control See all compressor pedal reviews.


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