Stam Audio SA-76 Review

Every studio should have at least one nice hardware compressor. The SA-76 could be that piece. Here’s my review of Stam Audio’s new 1176 Rev. A clone:

And here are the script notes:

In this video I’ll be reviewing Stam Audio’s SA-76 feedback style FET compressor. It’s a hand assembled replica of the iconic 1967 vintage Urei 1176 Revision A.

Thanks to Stam Audio for making this review possible. They kindly sent me the compressor to review and keep. Therefore this is not an Audio Skeptics Society review but the SA-76 will be honestly evaluated.

The 1176 Rev A, nicknamed the blue stripe, is perhaps the most sought after compressor in the world. Engineers love how it evens out audio volume levels and brings track details out with added mid range frequencies. It even has its own Wikipedia page!

1176 style compressors are also famous for the British mode or all buttons in trick which can work well on drum room mics, bass guitar and certain vocal styles.

Vintage units will run you $2,000 or more. Some have sold for over $10,000. Stam Audio sells theirs for a little under $700 plus shipping.

The SA-76’s front panel features Input and Output knobs. Four ratio buttons along with an analog VU meter. Meter display buttons can be found on the far right side.

On the back is a power switch, fuse and ground connector. Balanced XLR and ¼” phone inputs and outputs round out the back panel.

Stam’s web site they talk about Transformer replicas, Vishay capacitors, Phillips capacitors and New Old Stock Carbon resistors. I honestly don’t know what any of this means other than the parts are combined to closely match the original hardware blueprint.

But enough talk, let’s listen to some samples!

Reviewing the SA-76 was part fun and part learning experience. Since my only previous hardware compressor experience was with FMR Audio’s Really Nice Compressor and an Aphex 320D Compellor, I didn’t know what to expect going in.

Pictures don’t do this thing justice. It looks so small on a computer screen but in real life it is big. 3 ½ inches tall and 19” wide.

The attack and release knobs were not as expected. On the original hardware, the fastest settings are the highest numbers. Joshua, Stam Audio’s owner, on Gearslutz wrote that by request buyers can have their units set to the old way.

Speaking of attack, it goes from very fast to ridiculously fast. The slowest is 800 microseconds. There are one million microseconds in a second…800 microseconds is FAST!

The release is slower, at 50 milliseconds through its slowest 1.1 seconds timing.

Getting the routing in REAPER set up was easier than expected but still required more steps than a regular plugin. The Reainsert plugin is very useful for gainstaging and track alignment purposes.

Another thing I learned was don’t trust the meter. Don’t even look at the meters. Many if not most software meters are nothing like real hardware. You can hear compression happening even when the gain reduction needle isn’t moving.

Before unplugging it, turn your speakers off and then press the meter off button.

Tweaking an EQ plugin before compression, while the SA-76 was processing audio, is how I got things to sound good. The importance of feeding the compressor good quality audio cannot be understated.

Gainstaging is also very important, so I tried to stay under -8 dBFS as much as possible on the output and less than -12 dBFS on the way back into the audio interface.

Find the loudest part of your track to check for unwanted distortion.

With hardware you can use two hands at once!

I read that the Revision A was noisy. The SA-76’s noise floor is quite low, even at the highest Input level settings.

There are no hardware presets. You twist the knobs until it sounds good. Then twist them until it sounds better. You have to use your ears, it is as simple as that.

Engineers love the Release on fastest. Particularly vocals. Try 3 and 7 (5 and 1 on the SA-76)

All Buttons in, try Attack slowest, Release fastest. Also try Release fastest (1) and Attack at 5 (3 on the SA76)

Just as everyone said all along, this compressor works best with vocals, bass guitar and drums. I didn’t like it on piano at all.

Tone shaper. Especially with kick drums.

The Bad:

Sharp edges. Once it’s racked this isn’t an issue.
Fingerprint magnet. I tried using Windex to clean it up before getting the product shots but that didn’t work.

No extended warranty option available.

Worth it over plugins? This is ultimately up to you and your budget. If you run a studio people will take you more seriously when they see pictures of your control room with rack gear.

More gain reduction can be applied vs. plugins.

Using the compressor while recording will save time later on. Just a few decibels of gain reduction, slowest attack and medium release.

If you mix it will only process in real time and obviously uses more electricity than just your computer. 10W isn’t too bad though…it’s less than some LED bulbs.

Twisting real knobs is a more gratifying experience than moving a mouse scrollwheel.

How to Install Acustica Audio Acqua Plugins

I believe that Acustica Audio plugins are the pinnacle of in the box equalizers and saturation plugins right now. Unfortunately their installation process isn’t exactly straight forward. So, here’s how to make it happen so you can try out some of the best EQs out there:

Audient iD14 Review After Two Years of Use

The video:

The script notes:

After long last here is my review of the Audient iD14 audio interface.

I have been using the iD14 since February 2016. I know it very well at this point. It is has constantly been plugged in for over two years and I have rarely had problems with driver crashes on my Windows 7 machine.

The iD 14 features

Two Class A Audient console preamps with balanced Neutrik brand XLR-¼” combo connectors
Each preamp can deliver up to 56 dB of gain plus an additional 10 dB of software
A Class A JFET instrument input
Burr Brown Converters
Selectable phantom power on each input channel
Optical input for up to 8 additional inputs
¼” balanced Line level outputs
Headphone output
Big knob silver knob is called the encoder. Pressing it in quickly mutes outputs. Holding it down temporarily mutes it..
8 segment LEDs display output level and volume settings.
Assignable function to the iD button. ScrollControl, Sum to Mono, Sum/Difference, -15 dB Dim and Talkback
Power supply with US, EU, UK and Australia socket adapters.
Class compliant, so it can work with mobile devices.
There’s also a Kensington lock, to prevent theft.

You didn’t click on this video to hear me talk about features though. You want audio samples…so here are a few…

If you want to find out more product specs, go to Audient’s web site. The rest of this video is going to be my experience and opinion after using the iD14 for over two years.

Power Supply build quality feels cheap, as do the speaker outs. The wall wart uses adapters so you can use it in different countries. This cost savings is one reason the iD14 costs less than $300.

Would be nice if power cable locked into place because it can be easily yanked out by accident.

Headphone output issue. Seems to be a common problem. You have to twist the headphone connector around for both channels to come out.

Drivers failed on me about four times in the past two years. A restart fixed the problem.

Warranty: One year from the sale date for faulty parts and workmanship.

Gain knob range is too broad from 7 o c’lock to 12 o ‘clock and then super tight from 3 o clock to 5 o’ clock. If an updated iD14 is released I would love to see the gain knob have a more even range.

If you record virtual instruments, be prepared to bounce tracks. The low buffer settings only work effectively when CPU usage is under about 15-20%. Otherwise, gremlins appear. This may be updated with new drivers in the future, which are slated to give lower latency capability on Windows plus a new control panel interface.

Right now RME interfaces are still your best bet for the interface with the best low latency and high CPU stability.

That’s the bad. There’s a lot more good.

Full color nicely designed PDF manual available for download. It explains every hardware and software control in detail.

Installed the drivers no problem. Plugged it in and the interface was detected without issue. It’s powered off USB if you use microphones that don’t require phantom power.

I did have to download/install firmware, it’s the first thing I checked in the control panel software under Help>Check for updates . The upgrade process was very easy…just point to the .bin file and click next. Close out of all other programs. In windows you must change playback devices Advanced options to 24/96 otherwise it will revert to 44.1 kHz by default.

Does not have DSP effects.

Although you can get a little more volume out of the main mix, cue mix is nearly real time.

– 10/10 on tech support. Customer service rep Tom sent me detailed emails on how to fix a problem I was having with the interface. REAPER puts out a higher amount of signal in ASIO mode. The problem was resolved with a suggestion to switch to Direct Sound mode and then I got a few more extra tips to help with speaker calibration and output gain staging.

I didn’t think it would work with Camtasia for screen capturing. This allowed me to finally sell my old mixing board.

A very sturdy feel. Doesn’t feel cheap at all with one exception. The ¼” phono line outputs have an inner ring which appears to be plastic that wiggles a bit when you insert and remove cables. If Audient makes a new version of the iD14 I would recommend to them to use the same ¼” connector type that the headphone output and DI input uses. I don’t think it’s a major issue because you aren’t pulling line output cables in and out as much as headphones or guitar cables.

Noise specs are very nice. Here are some tests I did a few weeks after receiving the iD14. And here are some more recent test results.

Power cable length: A little over six feet.

Only +12 dBu of headroom…so Audient advises peaking no more than -12 dBFS for a clean input. Running a -12 dBFS sine wave out to it showed it perfectly at -12 on the

Controlling the headphone and speaker volume in the software is awesome..

I also really like that you can rename the inputs and outputs. The font looks handwritten, which is a nice touch.

The control panel software is one of my favorite things about the iD14. It’s easy to use and not as cluttered as some other software I’ve used. The important controls are upfront and you can hide panels. Lesser used options are hidden away.

I think software preamp boosts are silly/possibly confusing for newbies. It’s a feature I do use when playing video games, however.

The first test I did was to record a voice over with a Shure SM7b. Sounded quite nice and the preamp did have enough juice to boost it.

Glenn Fricker says the Audient preamps remind him of API 512 preamps. A Sweetwater reviewer said it sounds like a Focusrite ISA with less noise. Another guy on Zenpro Audio said the preamps are equal quality of his Shinybox Si4 preamps. Whatever the case is, they have a detailed, slightly bright sound that isn’t harsh. They are the best sounding preamps I have personally used.

Converter wise this interface has chips that are normally out of its price range. Burr Brown PCM4202 for the ADC and Burr Brown PCM4104 for the DAC officially.

Some interfaces that use the PCM4202 are the Metric Halo 8×192, Mytek Stereo 96 ADC version 6, and the Mytek 8×192 ADC, Interfaces that use the PCM4104: RME Fireface UFX, RME Babyface, Presonus Firestudio Mobile Source and the Allen & Heath Zed-R16: Source:

That doesn’t mean that this sounds just like those other interfaces. As important as the converter chips are, the wordclock, capacitors, switching supply, op amps and the overall design of the circuitry is what affects the sonic quality of interfaces. I wish it was in the budget for me to crack this thing open and take a look at its guts but that’s not going to happen.

First Impressions from 2 years ago:

– Installed the interface as my main soundcard on Saturday Feb 20, 2016. I don’t know if it’s a placebo effect but I did notice a quality difference. Not night and day but it sounds like there is more low end detail and the high end is smoother. The sound also appears to not sound stuck to the speakers and therefore the phantom center and areas in between sound more 3D. And again I don’t know if this is a placebo effect or not but I started noticing subtle acoustic reflections more often.

Most importantly though, I can turn my speaker volume knob all the way up and there isn’t any noise unlike my built in sound card. That’s incredible!

I would have liked a marker arrow or indentation on the preamp knob.

The instrument input holds up nicely to my standalone direct boxes. While I won’t be shelving the J48 or BigAmp, I don’t feel the quality suffers. You can watch electric guitar and bass guitar direct box shoot out videos which are linked below.

Headphone amp has plenty of clean gain. When you turn it up very loud it doesn’t distort much. Audio-Technica ATH-M50 as my reference headphones, you couldn’t hear any noise. However, with Sony MDR-7506 headphones I could. This is with USB power.

Quiet pops when switching sample rates

No power switch

All metal construction means you may have issues with static electric build up when touching the preamps and plugging in microphones.

– Gain knob bunching or top heaviness. Instead of evenly spaced gain steps the last 3 o clock to 5 o clock area has a large variance in gain level. That’s the major difference between the preamps on their large consoles and their smaller products.

Volume resets to zero when you shut your computer off. Unless you leave the power cable in (test this). This may be a positive though.

No MIDI. That’s OK, get the iConnectivity mio instead for about $35.

LEDs do not display input levels. You need to look at your computer screen to see that. That’s just as well, since software meters are better/more sensitive and precise anyway, in my opinion.

Centrance ASIO Latency Test Utility 3.7 round trip latency results (rounded numbers):

44.1 at 64 samples: 362 samples / 8 ms
48 at 64 samples: 347 samples / 7 ms
88.2 at 128 samples: Could not test
96 at 128 samples: 573 samples / 6 ms

The Cue Mix is quieter than the Main Mix due the extra slider headroom. So, when recording it may be better to set speakers to Cue mix and headphones to Main Mix.

Line in test. A concern of mine was that they go through the preamps. I ran a bunch of songs that I am familiar with from a variety of music genres through the line ins. I was very happy with the results. You can run tracks through them for about passes before quality goes down. You can watch the analog generation loss test video.

You can download a copy of those tests…the link is on

The only real negative is that you only get two inputs and two outputs. That’s not really a negative to me though due to the ADAT input. In fact, the ADAT input sealed the deal for me.

If you guys recall my video about two high quality inputs there’s a lot that you can do with just two inputs. When you want 10 inputs for recording a whole drum kit or whatever you have that option. Unfortunately you are limited to six total inputs at 24/96 or 10 inputs at 24/48. That’s a limitation of the SMUX format.

Wrap up: In closing, I want to say that I’m glad I waited about seven years to buy a new audio interface. You better believe that whenever I saw new interfaces on Gearslutz or whatever web site I salivated over interfaces with nice built in amps and high end converters. I never thought I’d be able to get that level of quality for under $300 but here in 2015 Audient changed the game.

Two years later and Audient is still supporting it with upcoming driver updates and through their third party ARC Creative Club add-ons. Cubase LE, Cubasis LE2, Eventide Reverb and Ultrachannel plugins, 10 LANDR masters and two free audio courses are included as of March 2018  Please watch some of the companion videos and listen to the raw audio files which I’ll provide links to in the video description.