Welcome to my Behringer X32 FX Series tutorials. Today we are going to be looking at the Ultimo Compressor. Be sure to watch my YouTube video that I released on the Ultimo Compressor as it goes along with this blog post!
Behringer Ultimo Compressor
The Behringer Ultimo Compressor is compressor/limiter effect that is built into the Behringer X32 & Midas M32 Effects Rack. It is an emulation of the famous Urei 1176LN which was released in 1968. The 1176 was well known for having a crazy fast attack time of 20 microseconds (0.00002 seconds) at the fastest setting of 7. The Ultimo Compressor is a compressor/limiter as it has multiple compression ratios available, with settings of 4:1 and 8:1 the Ultimo Compressor would act as a compressor. With ratio settings of 12:1, 20:1 and ALL button mode, the Ultimo would act as a limiter. The Ultimo Compressor is offered in a Dual Mono and a Stereo configuration.
Behringer Ultimo Compressor Controls
- Input Gain – The Input Gain not only sets the gain going into the Ultimo Compressor, but it also sets the threshold of the compressor. Control allows for adjustment from -48 to 0.0 in increments of 1.
- Active – Turns on and off the compressor.
- Out Gain – The Out Gain sets the output makeup gain of the compressor. This is post compression. Control allows for adjustment from -48 to 0.0 in increments of 1.
- Attack – Attack sets the attack time of the compressor. 1 yields a slower attack time, where 7 yields a faster attack time. Control allows for adjustment of 1.0 to 7.0 in increments of 0.1.
- Release – Release sets the release time of the compressor. 1 yields a slower release time, where 7 yields a faster release time. Control allows for adjustment of 1.0 to 7.0 in increments of 0.1.
- Ratio – Ratio sets the compression ratio of the compressor. Control allows for ratio of 4:1, 8:1, 12:1, 20:1, and the infamous ‘ALL’ setting.
- All – Pressing this sets the compression ratio to the ‘All’ setting.
- FX Home – Pressing this button takes you back to the ‘home’ tab of the effects.
The input gain sets the gain of the signal going into the compressor whilst also setting the threshold of the compressor. Turning the Input Gain to the right (increasing in value) will increase the gain and lower the threshold adding more compression. Turning the Input Gain to the left (decreasing in value) will decrease the gain and raise the threshold lessening the amount of compression.
The unity gain point of the input gain is sitting at -33dB on the Input Gain. This is the point where the Ultimo Compressor will start to compress a -15dBFS signal (unity on the X32, aka 2 orange LED’s on the meter). As you add input gain from this point, you will start to compress a -15dBFS signal. With a 4:1 Ratio, you can add up to +9dB from the input of the compressor to the output of the compressor by putting the Input Gain to +0.
The Out Gain controls the output gain of the Ultimo Compressor. This gain is POST compression and will have no effect to the compression or threshold. I have found that unity gain for the Out Gain sits at -21dB. As you turn the Out Gain to the right (increasing in value), you will add gain to the post-compression signal, As you turn the Out Gain to the left (decreasing in value), you will lower the gain to the post-compression signal.
The good thing is that each time you add or subtract a dB of Out Gain, you will add or subtract an equal dB in the signal. SO this means that 1dB Out Gain = 1dB of real signal! If you took the Out Gain from -21dB to -19dB, you would be adding +2dB to the post-compression signal.
Unity Gain Setting, NO Compression
I love measuring the turning point of all of the effects of the X32, it really gives a baseline to start from! The unity gain setting where no compression would take place at a -15dBFS signal is:
- Input Gain: -33dB
- Out Gain: -21dB
If the signal of your channel increased past -15dBFS, then it would go into compression as the Input Gain not only sets the gain, but also the threshold setting.
Ultimo Compressor Attack
The attack of the original 1176 series boasted a crazy fast attack time of 20 microseconds, yes MICROSECONDS! This would be 0.02ms at an attack setting of 7.0. At an attack setting of 1.0, the 1176 would have a fast attack of 800 microseconds or 0.8ms.
When you turn the attack to a higher value, you shorten the attack time. Right = Faster, Left = Slower.
Ultimo Compressor Release
The release on the original 1176 series had a release time from 50ms to 1.1 seconds. When you turn the release to a higher value, you shorten the release time. Right = Faster, Left = Slower.
All Button Mode
Another famous setting of the 1176 is its ‘ALL’ button mode. The original 1176’s would allow for multiple ratio buttons to be pressed at the same time to give some interesting compression ratios, the most commonly used multi-button mode was to press all of them in. This would generally yield a 12:1-20:1 compression ratio which is in most regards a limiting ratio. The ‘All’ button mode mostly gave a very specific sound which really smashes drums and can cause a very awesome sound in your mix. Using this on the drums subgroup is a perfect purpose for this!
Just FYI, using ALL button mode will add +1dB of signal through the effect.
Compression & GRIT!
The 1176 is notoriously known for its character for adding distortion and grit to a signal while also adding compression to the signal as well. The Ultimo Compressor also can add a similar colouration to your signals, using this type of effect is really perfect for bass guitar! To get the grit into your signal, setting the Attack and Release to the fastest setting of 7.0 will be the easiest way to get the sound in your bass guitar!
What is happening here is that the attack and release is happening so quickly that there is an audible effect to the signal that sounds like distortion.
What do I use the Ultimo Compressor on?
The Ultimo Compressor is a fantastic compressor to use on drum overheads for adding a bit of liveliness, using on bass guitar for getting some compression and grit at the same time and is also a great compressor to use on other instruments like the snare or guitar. But, for me, the main things being drum overheads and bass guitar.
I would start with these settings as a good baseline:
- Input Gain: -30dB
- Output Gain: -21dB
- Attack: 3.0
- Release: 5.0
- Ratio: 4:1
Want to see more Effects Tutorials?
To view more of my Behringer X32 Effects Tutorials, click here: dBB Audio FX Series.