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Thoughts on La3

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by kmetal, Oct 3, 2014.

  1. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    hey all I have an opportunity to grab one for $1000 off of a mobile truck that's selling out. I was planning on a beget 160 mic but this came up. It has the 600ohm mod, not sure of age but it is not the reissue. Thinking it'd be a nice addition to my small gear collection, my only other compressors are from dbx the 166xl and a 163x pretty low rent. Is wat y'all think in general about them. Not a must have to me, but seems like it'd be useful to have around, nothing particularly special. After the mic is eq of some sort, this would sorta just be an impulse buy of something I would eventually get at some point.
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Don't knock 'em Kyle. Those are both very good, useful compressors. The thing is that you really can't compare those two dbx models to an LA, because while their premise is to do the same thing - gain reduction - they really are two completely different beasts. ;)

    The LA3, IIRC, was a departure from the LA2, in that unlike the LA2, there were no tubes involved, so the distortion/saturation texture was different. Some say it's more "transparent" sounding than the LA2. However, it's a kind of cross between an LA2 and an 1176 in that it still uses the optical stage of the LA2, and is reminiscent of the 1176 in terms of transient response... the result it that it is its own hybrid animal, a kind of "combo" of both unit's GR characteristics and sonic textures.

    I've used them often over the years at various studios and I have always liked the way they reacted and sounded. No, they aren't LA2's. But they have their own pleasant sonic textures, too.

    The question is, do you go for a vintage model or a newer reissue? Almost every engineer friend / colleague I've talked to about them actually prefers the newer reissue models. I mean, it's obvious that when you get into a vintage version of anything that you could be facing serious issues... And they don't have to have been abused in order to be in desperate need of servicing; most of the time, the issues are caused by nothing more than time and use. Yes, vintage models are "collectable", and if you are good with repair and can get the parts, and can afford to pay collector's prices for vintage gear, then you should... And $1000 is a pretty reasonable price for a vintage LA3. But ...you should know that replacement parts are not cheap for that model. Say, for example, you needed to replace the T4 attenuator - the current average market pricing for the T4 is around $1000 (used) just for that component alone. You could end up paying up to $200 just for a simple replacement VU meter.

    So, while it's cool to have a vintage WORKING version of this model, there's also something to be said for the newer models, too....the average price for a reissue LA3A is around $1000 - $1200 (U.S.) - and almost every owner I've talked to who has one says that the newer models sound just as good as the original vintage models did when they were new. In short, I've yet to hear anyone complain about the sound or performance of the newer LA3A models.

    Anyway... just something to think about...

    bigtree likes this.
  3. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    1176 uses FET feedback to attenuate the signal. no TB4 in the 1176. Different animal than the La2a or LA3. the LA4's have opto reduction too but the 1176 / 1178 are FET based peak limiters while the LA2 /LA3 / LA4 are all TB4 optos. another cool LA box is the LA22a .... if you can find them.
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I wasn't saying that the 1176 had a T4, Kurt. I was saying ( LOL or trying to say) that while the LA3 dropped the tube stage, it still retained the T4 Opto from the LA2; and that the LA3 was closer to the transient response of the 76 than the LA2 was because it was SS instead of tube. I wasn't trying to say that the LA3 was just like an 1176.

    sorry for the confusion. ;)

  5. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Yeah I been looking around online about the la3s parts seem to be a big thing, I want to make sure all the key components are there. Some people geeking on original caps for some reason, which i guess is cool if they still work to spec, but I could care less about stuff like that, but I definately need to open it up before I even think about buying it.

    If I like had the la3 on top my my hit list I'd definately go w a new one. The whole old thing is part of what sparked my interest. It's got some history ya know, and it's coming off a pretty cool 90s heyday mobile rig. So while I'm not interested in broken gear, I usually buy new and just hang on to things, if I bought this it would be with the understanding that might be unreliable. But I have a very very good tech so while not cheap, I have no doubts any problems could be at least minimized. So we'll see this week, I'm gonna get my funds together and go take a look at it, there's two of them, and my buddy might grab the other. Didn't even show any on eBay when I looked. From a collectors standpoint I'm thinking a vintage unit in good shape would always be worth more than the re-issue.

    My buddy likes it on vocals and bass, I guess it's got more clean headroom than the la2 because of the la2 tube section, It's attack time reacts differently to small transients as opposed to bigger ones, if I understood correctly what I was reading. I'd like something that can get dirty add some harmonic distortions to a snare, I dunno if I'll get it w this, or a nice blown out vocal? I like things that like have a very audible effect to the sound, cuz the transparent department is pretty well covered. This dude was saying it makes things bigger, which is a good thing :)

    I'm gonna try and educate myself on what to look for as far as key parts and stuff that might need replacing and be super expensive. Although if it's worth way more in parts maybe ill part it out and save up more dough and just get the la 2, but I don't know if I'll have the heart, id probably just keep it. A grand seems to be a decent price. Until I have it own a facility I really don't have to buy anymore utilitarian gear than I have, so I've been picking out some things in my head I've the past few years. What I really should buy is a few channels of killer conversion, like a burl b2, but a sample rate selection knob just doesn't sound like as much fun as a Gain reduction one. We ll see how it goes.
  6. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    For hardware based, I think you'd be way better off getting a used spl kultube. However, for that effect, think bit distortion that is available as a samplitude/ plugin.
  7. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    As long as they work, yes. The problem with older vintage gear, Kyle, is that so many of those pieces are either not working at their optimum... or, for that matter, working at all, at which point the seller is relying only on the "collectable" value. A collectible piece that doesn't work is really just "art".... LOL. It's nice to put under glass, or showcase it in your lobby, but past that, there's not much else you can do with it - unless you are in need of a boat anchor. LOL

    And, it's not as if those pieces that need repair need it because they were misused, intentionally or otherwise (like banging around in the back of a mobile recording truck for 20 years LOL). They could have been very nicely taken care of, but, ultimately, time alone simply takes the toll - and mostly on gear that gets hot when it's operating.

    But, if you are good with repairs, or, as in your case, know someone who is, and you can still get parts, then sure, having an original is nice. I would make sure that the one you are looking at works, and I would, if allowed, pop the top on it and take a look inside - at least for any obvious signs of trouble.

    If you are looking for more function (working) than form (vintage but not working), I wouldn't rule out a newer model. In the case of the LA3's, I've yet to hear anyone complain that the older ones sound better than the newer reissues.

    kmetal and bigtree like this.
  8. Tommy osuna

    Tommy osuna Active Member

    I agree With old equipment not working at it's best all the time I use a few limiters the nail by a designs,la2a,retro
  9. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Well, one of the fact that those vintage compressors are so in demand today is that they sonicly well matured over the years.
    I'm pretty sure if we could go back in time, they weren't sounding the same at all. They were not made to change the sound character but to control dynamics.. I guess the drying of the capacitor and wear of the parts make them what they are today.

    I would not go for 1 used la3 compressor. I would go for a minimum of two who were produced in the same year and serie. Cause I know I wouldn't find a sonic match else where to work on stereo signals..

    Just my 2 cents ;)

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