The pre-Christmas week is turning out to be a great time to load up your plug-in folder. Next – an IK Multimedia rendition of a landmark dynamics processor.

After two versatile and essential reverbs for free this week, now you get one of the most effective dynamics processors of all time, too. Broke producers, Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to us!

Through Christmas, you can get IK’s Black 76 Limiting Amplifier via Audio Plugin Deals. You’ll need to fill out a form, but you can opt out of any marketing use. Then you get an authorization code and use IK’s own Authorization Manager toregister, then (annoyingly) head back to IK’s site to download an installer and manually install.

The 1176 is a 1976 classic from Universal Audio. (At the time, UA was operating under the name UREI, or United Recording Electronics Industries. Uh… we’re glad they went back to the original name.)

It uses a FET (field effect transistor) wired in a feedback configuration to reduce gain. The important thing about that technical detail is that it also colors the sound in a way that a lot of people then – and now – find pleasing. It is actually a Bill Putnam Sr. original, with later revisions by UA’s Brad Plunkett. So if you want a faithful copy, you can get either a hardware reissue or software DSP-based recreation from UA themselves.

IK Multimedia’s recreation here is accurate but pretty basic – it’s an older plug-in, so it’s possible you have a better rendition already in your arsenal. For instance, in addition to the UA plug-ins, I’m a big fan of the Native Instruments – Softube collaboration on the Vc 76. That one deviates from the original hardware by adding a dry control (for parallel compression) and a sidechain input (for… various ideas).

That said, if you don’t have an 1176 amplifier, this one is a versatile and characteristic dynamics processor you can use all over the place. You get the most popular rev, revision E of the 1176LN (low-noise, signifying that Brad improved the circuitry).

And crucially, IK did a good job of the “all button mode” or more serious-sounding “British mode.” That’s a fancy way of saying that sound engineers discovered that they could mash all the compression ratio buttons together at once, and get a unique, squashed sound. They also found a “no button mode” – that is that they could get all the buttons to release at once. That lets you just color the sound with the 1176, but I think it may be missing on the IK.

Let’s pause, though, and reflect – some of the most famous sound engineers in history were mucking about with the buttons on their insanely expensive gear. Hey, what is sound tech if not something you can intentionally misuse, at random? Some things never change. Here’s an example of what you get, but – you’ve heard this everywhere, you just may not have known it:

Actually, I guess this is the funny thing about plug-ins… there is a certain alchemy to all of this. By the time you’re at mixing and mastering, you probably want to know what you’re doing, or hire someone who knows what they’re doing. But I don’t know that there’s any scientific way to describe “hey, let’s mash buttons together and see if we like what we hear.”

And that’s a very good reason to go download this.

IK Multimedia product page, where this is 99 bucks. For a better buy, get their T-Racks tool that’s got a bunch of different choices in a single, integrated interface (but still with skeumorphic interfaces so you feel like you’re looking at the real thing).

While we’re at it, Universal Audio has some tips on using their 1176 collection – and it’s possible you got a version of this bundled with your hardware, if you bought from them. But you could apply these tips to other plug-ins that model the 1176.

I’m going to try this one just to compare its all-button and no-button sound to the Softube Vc 76. And of course sometimes this really is trial and error on source material, as accuracy may or may not be important to what you want to do. Someone who does have the original hardware or, like, actual engineering skills, I’m glad to hear from you.

More free holiday stuff – I’ll put together a full list if there’s more.