Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

JBL/Urei 7110: Urei is famous for their 1176LN, LA2A, and other vintage classic studio compressors; for a while in the 1980's, the brand was owned and manufactured by JBL. The JBL 7110, a mono line-level rack unit, is supposedly based on the Urei LA10; there were also stereo versions, the Urei LA12 and JBL 7112. People disagree about whether the Urei-branded and JBL-branded units are really the same.
 
This one is a single mono channel in one rack unit. It has both balanced and unbalanced inputs, by 1/4", XLR, and barrier strip. However it is only designed for line-level input, it will not operate well with your instrument plugged straight in.
 
It is a fantastic comp for bass, with a big full low end, a smooth warm sound, and low noise. It has one unique feature, a knob to pan between two different modes of compression: peak and average. It's hard to put into words how this works or sounds, but different settings can act/sound more like an optical comp, or more like a VCA comp, and there can be a subtle EQ-like effect as certain frequencies are compressed differently as you pan between the two modes. Unfortunately, setting the knob to 2:00 or higher (towards the peak mode) results in a lot of buzzy clipping on a strong bass signal; but that still leaves enough knob-turn to work with for audible variety. The action is capable of being very punchy or very smooth.
 
A/B compared to a Symetrix 501, the 7110 was darker, with strong warm/thick mids, but the highs seem a bit "choked"; the 501 was more transparent in the highs, and a bit more boomy in the lows. The 661 is more even-sounding from the lows to the highs (compared to both the others), which makes it seem to have a wider frequency range with no "humps". The 7110 can match one or two tones/actions of the Distressor; so it might not necessarily equal an 1176 or LA3A for studio purposes, but it is a good rugged gig-ready way to cop those flavors enough for a live rig. For those of you into modding gear, the 7110 was designed to be upgradable with a Jensen output transformer, for the tonal qualities it can add. It is a very simple and easy mod, you just have to track down the correct model and size of transformer.
 
The construction quality is rugged, and it is powered with an atached AC cord. As with all other old electronic gear, there is some risk that the components will have degraded, requiring some service--so avoid buying one if the seller does not make any assurance about its performance. When they just say "it works" you can interpret that to mean "it powers up and passes a signal, but beyond that you are on your own".
 
Price in USD: used $120-$230, no longer available new.
 

 

 
 
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