TECH TIPS: From Pedalboard to Outboard Using the Cali76 in Your Home Studio

If you’re an owner (or tyre-kicker) of Origin Effects pedals, you’ll almost certainly have heard our claims of “studio quality compression in a pedal”. It’s what we’ve built our entire reputation on and it’s something we take very seriously. Since Origin Effects founder, Simon Keats, first hooked up some Urei® 1176® rack compressors at home and thought “I need to make a pedal that does this”, we’ve stuck by the principles of low noise, high headroom, transparency and tweakability, all in pursuit of the most studio-worthy compressor pedal. 

Hopefully a number of readers have one of our compressor pedals on their boards and know the value of a high-quality compressor pedal. But surely a studio-grade compressor pedal ought to be usable in the studio too, right? Luckily, the answer is yes, and this article will give you information you need to integrate your Origin Effects compressor into a home studio rig. 

So, you’ve got a modest audio interface with a few outputs, a computer running your DAW of choice and a Cali76 waiting be used in your mix. How do you hook it up? 

Example 1 – Unbalanced Connection: 

If your interface has unbalanced outputs, the following simple instructions will get you outboard compressing in no time! 

  • Make sure your Cali76 is running at 18V for maximum headroom. 
  • With your project’s main outputs set to your interface’s Outputs 1 & 2, set the output of the track you wish to compress to Output 3. 
  • Connect your interface’s Output 3 to the input of your Cali76. 
  • Connect the Cali76’s output to Input 1 of your interface. This should be set to line level. 
  • Create a new track in your DAW and select Input 1. 

The Cali76 has plenty of headroom to receive line level signals when running at 18V. Expect the response of a great studio compressor, with plenty of punch and warmth. If you’re looking to achieve parallel compression, you should use the DRY control on your Cali76, rather than creating an extra track in your DAW and blending the two, as this will make sure you do not encounter any phase problems. 


Example 2 – Balanced Connection (and the “Reverse DI Trick”): 

If your interface uses balanced outputs, and if you want to connect the output of the Cali76 to a balanced input, there’s a little more to it. You will need to follow the same steps as in Example 1, whilst also doing the following: 

Use a “Reamp Box” between your interface’s Output 3 and the input of the Cali76. A Reamp Box takes a balanced, line level signal and converts it to an unbalanced, instrument level signal (which is what the Cali76 is expecting). You will also need to use DI box after the Cali76 to convert the signal back to a balanced, line level signal, ready for the balanced input of your interface or mic preamp. This can be particularly useful if you want to add other pieces of equipment into the chain, such as a favourite mic preamp or other outboard gear. You may also want to use your Cali76 at the tracking stage, between the output of a mic preamp and your interface’s input.  

For those of you who don’t own a dedicated Reamp Box, there is another way, the “Reverse DI Trick”. If you own a passive DI, you can connect it “backwards” and still convert a balanced, line level signal to an unbalanced, instrument level signal. Passive DIs use a transformer to change levels and convert unbalanced to balanced, so it really doesn’t matter which way the signal flows. All you need is a female to female XLR cable to make the physical connection and you’re good to go. 


Example 3 – Recording Console Insert: 

The Cali76 Compressors can also be used in a mixer’s insert. The high internal headroom of the pedal can handle the signal levels from a console’s mic preamp and a compact pedal certainly takes up less space than a rack compressor! In fact, the Cali76 could even enable the use of other guitar effects in an insert signal chain. By withstanding high signal levels at the input, and also being able to attenuate its output, the Cali76 can output a more manageable signal level to more traditional guitar pedals, such as drives, modulations, delays, whatever you can think of! 

It’s this compatibility with both studio gear and guitar pedals that means the Cali76 compressors can open the door to all sorts of home studio experimentation which, after all, is what allows us to be most creative. 

So, if you’ve got a small home studio, an Origin Effects compressor and a few odd cables and DI boxes, you have everything you need to unlock a whole world of potential. Not only do you get the warmth, immediacy and realism of working with analogue gear, but you also free up some processing power for plug-ins where you really do need them! That’s something we can all appreciate.