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Jeff, you are killing me, did your LA-2A arrive yet, how do you like it?

Sweetwater has them on sale now for 3499.00


thatjeffguy Sat, 02/11/2012 - 10:40

Chris... Yes, the LA2A arrived just a few days ago. I had my first session with it yesterday. It is, in a word, STELLAR! It is exactly what I had hoped on vocals. You can crunch the heck out of your signal and it still sounds good. This is what I had originally hoped my Avalon 737 would bring me when I bought it 5 years ago, but it never lived up to my expectations.
I'm driving it with my Great River MP-2NV preamp. What are you feeding yours with? Do you use a separate Phantom Power supply?
I've got a lot of testing to do... want to hear this thing with all of my vocal mics.
And yes, I noticed that the going price has gone up... got mine for USD $2699.00 at Front End Audio. It was your tip about the impending price increase that prompted me to act when I did, so a huge "THANK YOU" goes out to you for that tip.


audiokid Sat, 02/11/2012 - 11:18

YES! **** YA!
I am so ecstatic over that box. 30 years I have been wondering how to get that sound. Now we know. smoke

Everything sounds awesome with the MP 2NV! Its a wonderful preamp, clean or vibe.

I recorded an operatic vocal over the weekend using, oh my, you got to get some of these now... SPL Premiums, WOW! I just bought 8 of those. Talk about sweet and big. I'm certain they will excel on everything. U87> LA2A straight into a Premium was glorious. Matched DPA 4011's on piano, stellar. I now know I have to treat my house because its so obvious what sucks. I have stellar gear, poor acoustics. This is next.

I added an 1176LN to the vocal chain, ordered it before the price increase too but it didn't arrive on time for this last session. I'm going to put it in front of the LA2A. Do you have one? She did some high level staccato and the LA2A could have used a faster comp in front for that stuff. As you noticed, being able to clamp down really gives it the vibe eh! But when she hit those fast attacks, I had to compromise. If I would have had the 1176, it would have been the bomb and some!
I messed around with it yesterday and its another choice comp but nothing like the LA2A. Wow hehe. I'm very pleased to hear your same rave. Not very many times have I bought something that did it for me like this.

Separate Phantom? You mean a dedicated 48V? I just use the phantom provided by the micpre. Is that what you mean?

audiokid Sat, 02/11/2012 - 11:34

I used a RODE Classic 2 and it was no disappointment. That's another mic that doesn't get the praise it should. It has a rich vibe to it and loads of options. I like it on ballsy baritones.

This will improve all vocal mic. Its a must have compressor.

Did you track with it? After hearing it going in, I will always track with it now. I've been afraid to compress vocals going in, but this is such a no brainer.
I've been trying it on older tracks and it definitely improves the VOX in the mix, but they don't have the glow like this last session. But, I never had the SPL premiums either so I'm using a lot of new things all at once. Difficult to be anything more than just thrilled right now.

(This is turning into a good vocal compressor / LA2A thread so I might move it into its own thread.)

thatjeffguy Sat, 02/11/2012 - 15:55

Re: Phantom Power... the LA2A does not have phantom power, and it has relatively little gain. Hence my preceding it with the MP-2NV.

Yes, I tracked with it. Over the years I gotten comfortable compressing on the way in on vocals, and now with this box it is, as you say, a 'no brainer'.

I don't have an 1176 (yet!). Right now I'm quite impressed with how fast the LA2A is compared to my Avalon. Is the 1176 that much quicker?

Interesting about the prices... this is the first time I bought a new piece of gear that instantly became more valuable!


audiokid Sat, 02/11/2012 - 18:10

thatjeffguy, post: 384325 wrote: Re: Phantom Power... the LA2A does not have phantom power, and it has relatively little gain. Hence my preceding it with the MP-2NV.

Yes, I tracked with it. Over the years I gotten comfortable compressing on the way in on vocals, and now with this box it is, as you say, a 'no brainer'.

I don't have an 1176 (yet!). Right now I'm quite impressed with how fast the LA2A is compared to my Avalon. Is the 1176 that much quicker?

Interesting about the prices... this is the first time I bought a new piece of gear that instantly became more valuable!


Why would you need Phantom for it? Go into the micpre first, then the LA-2A! You are going to flip when you dop that. It has loads of makeup gain that is the bomb.

audiokid Sat, 02/11/2012 - 18:22

The 1176 has a fast attack, the LA-2A is slower and rich, hence why it is so perfect as a vocal leveling amp. If you have fast transient peaks, the LA2A won't catch them in time. If you chain the 1176 together, putting it in front so it grabs the fast stuff first, the LA-2A takes whats left and does a glorious thing to the vocals. Its a perfect marriage, the golden combo. The 1176 is great for this and so much more.

If you have another fet comp with a fast response, try that in the mean time. Put it in front.

The 1176 has an edge to it, which you will want eventually. Besides, you are in it this deep now, go for it.

Theres a video on UA, I'll post it for a reference.

audiokid Sat, 02/11/2012 - 18:26

Chaining the 1176LN and LA-2A Compressors for Maximum Control

Sometimes you can’t reign in the dynamics the way you need to with one compressor without causing audible compression artifacts. For example, if you like the sound of getting 5 to 7 dB of compression with the LA-2A, a large peak might suddenly cause 12 dB of compression and the release might not recover in time for the next audio transient. You'll hear the level slowly come back up: your basic “pumping and breathing” effect. So using a fast compressor right before the LA-2A does the trick. Some people use three or more compressors on a track! One basic rule is that each successive compressor has a lower compression ratio than the one before it, and the first one is typically just catching the peaks.

To review the two compressors, the [=""]1176LN Classic Limiting Amplifier [/]="http://www.uaudio.c…"]1176LN Classic Limiting Amplifier [/] is a FET-based compressor. It has Input and Output gain, Attack and Release controls, and four compression Ratios. It doesn’t have a threshold control, but turning up the input gain has the effect of turning down the threshold. Aside from that, it is very much like most utility compressors.

The [[url=http://="http://www.uaudio.c…"]LA-2A Classic Leveling Amplifier[/]="http://www.uaudio.c…"]LA-2A Classic Leveling Amplifier[/], on the other hand, is an opto-based compressor, which means it uses a electro-optical device to perform gain reduction. There are no attack, release, or compression ratio controls. There is Peak Reduction, which increases the amount of compression by lowering the threshold. The tube-driven output Gain control makes up for the gain lost by the peak reduction. Finally there is the Limit/Compress switch, which increases the compression ratio from around 3:1 (compress) to 10:1 (limit).

The most common combination is to put the 1176 first and set it up as a peak limiter. To do this, set a high compression ratio, like 12:1, and a fairly fast attack and release. The point here is to just flatten the higher peaks. This compressor should not be doing a whole lot, just knocking 2 to 3 dB off of the loudest peaks.

The input gain needs to be adjusted carefully to do this. Usually it is best to find a part of the track with the highest peak or peaks and cycle that, and adjust to get the effect I described. Then use the output gain to match the level. To do this, disable the compressor and listen to the average level of your track, then enable it and adjust the output gain until you can’t really hear a difference in level.
The LA-2A should be set up just like you would if it were being used alone, with the Compress/Limit switch set to Compress, and Gain Reduction and Gain set to taste. But the 1176 knocked the big peaks down, which would have thrown the LA-2A into quite a bit of compression.

You can also reverse the order of the two, using the LA-2A in Limit mode to knock down the peaks, and the 1176 to smooth out the rest of the track. Just like all audio tools, there are no hard and fast rules. If something has the desired effect, go for it!

Watch the video here:

They're using plug-ins in this demonstration, everything applies, but we have the real deal and are tracking with it. Copper, tube and voltage is part of the signature sound/magic. Welcome to vocal heaven.

Chaining the 1176LN and LA-2A Compressors for Maximum Control
[[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.uaudio.c…"]Chaining the 1176LN and LA-2A Compressors for Maximum Control - Blog - Universal Audio[/]="http://www.uaudio.c…"]Chaining the 1176LN and LA-2A Compressors for Maximum Control - Blog - Universal Audio[/]


Here is some history on the 1176LN


Davedog Sun, 02/12/2012 - 10:51

audiokid, post: 384327 wrote: I contacted them, had a few exchanges and a wallet full of cash and passed with no return. Bought the STC-8 and the Nail instead. I've heard its a nice box but the LA-2A is plenty cool for vocals and some. I think the Squeezebox is better suited for the 2-bus.

Ah, thats too bad. "better suited for the 2-bus" is probably true in comparison to an LA-2A which is way too slow for a whole mix but lovely on voices and strummed guitars.....Hammond organ etc....But you were talking about a 'fast compressor' and the Squeezebox is that as well as having no discernable "edge" as you described the 1176. Theres a setting for the 1176 which isnt in the manuals. Try pressing all the buttons at once. Run a signal through it alone. Or latch the 4 and the 12 together. I dont know if the new allow for this but old ones did. Try it and run a guitar through it.

This is the classic compressor sound of the 'majors' for a very long time.

Another 'biggie' not mentioned a lot but is one that is something of itself is the GloryComp. Groovetubes mate to the ViPre. Now theres a vocal chain.

RemyRAD Sun, 02/12/2012 - 19:23

Funny, I generally follow my LA-3 with the 1176 not the other way around. Though on occasion I have done it that way but rarely. And the Great River... isn't that patterned after a Neve?

Welcome to the improved sounding world of tracking this stuff while recording it. That's truly old-school, the way I used to do it and the way I still do. You just have to rely on your expertise not to overdo. You can do do even more later. And end up without any do do.

Do Doobie Brothers do do also?
Mx. Remy Ann David

audiokid Sun, 02/12/2012 - 21:09

Well what took you so long to chime in! I would never have realized this until I got this gear, Remy (gear is important). As soon as I plugged into this, I instantly knew it was right and felt 100% confident to track with it. I will never settle for less now.

Yes, I believe Great River is modeled after Neve so you don't need to leave North America to get that sound.

audiokid Mon, 02/13/2012 - 11:02

what order to put a compressor, before or after the mic pre

thatjeffguy, post: 384396 wrote: So Chris, what preamp are you putting in front of the LA2A?


Most recently SPL Premiums, they are LUSH! However - ALL preamps! I would never do this order: Mic>Comp>Pre. Your impedance is wrong, including the 48v is having to pass through he comp which explains your wondering about phantom and a previous patch bay setup.
Always, Mic>Pre>Comp>AD>DAW. thumb Change that order and you will for certain be doing cartwheels. Your life is about to change.

This goes for EQs as well. Now there could be some reason and a much more technical explaination for doing it backwards but if you are using the MP 2NV, switch it!

Think about a console and the channel strip. mic> preamp and then the strip. you then insert effects. Your eq and faders are post but the preamp is always "Pre" amp or microphone preamplification.

Please share your first moments with us after you switch things. smoke

thatjeffguy Mon, 02/13/2012 - 11:57

You misunderstood, I always go Mic>Pre>Comp>AD. Doesn't make sense to do it any other way. My chain is Mic>MP-2NV>LA2A>AD, sounds great. The Phantom Power question was wondering if LA2A could be used as a Pre, but I now know it doesn't have that much gain.

I've got a female singer coming in Thursday to record an A Cappella version of the US National Anthem to use as an audition tape to try to get to sing it at one of our stadiums at opening of a ballgame. With the huge dynamic range of that song it will be a great opportunity to really put this setup through its paces!


audiokid Mon, 02/13/2012 - 12:23

thatjeffguy, post: 384325 wrote: Re: Phantom Power... the LA2A does not have phantom power, and it has relatively little gain. Hence my preceding it with the MP-2NV.

No worries, your wording suggested it was what you were doing. Its not the first time someone has done it that way, including me while rushing around and wondering why something wasn't responding right. duh

You are going to love it for A Cappella. Set it to the hottest passage and you will be golden.

lostindundee Mon, 02/13/2012 - 14:54

Regarding an LA2A

I was all set to get one of these things by springtime. With the recent price rise UA can go to hell.

IMHO, they were already having a laugh prior to the price rise with me grudgingly coming round to the idea over a two year period. Now it's almost laughable and I just can't justify the purchase now.


RemyRAD Mon, 02/13/2012 - 20:52

Nothing wrong with a used LA-3A. Same T4B gain reduction element. Really good transformers. Incredible headroom. Sounds great with API & Neve and if you want, utilize a tube mic preamp in front of it. You'll still get that tube soft saturation with simply a solid-state intermediate stage. There's more than one way to skin a tracking channel strip. All of which produce great quality results with great character behind it. Those used LA 3's can be had for around 800-$1500 for a pair. Hey even that YouTube demonstration of the hardware vs. software version sounded nearly identical to me. I was rather pleased by that plug-in comparison. It sounded worthy. Of course you can't push anything digital like you can a tube and it's the sound you are going for. Then you'll just need something else to provide that sense of authenticity. Which I think to be totally realistic. It's all in the technique and what you are daisychaining together.

Improvisational specialist
Mx. Remy Ann David

audiokid Mon, 02/13/2012 - 22:37

Oh man, I hear a big difference and that difference is the easily missed and what plagues ITB. The hardware is not only more pleasantly pronounced and vibrant, its part of that "big 2 percent" that separates each (track, group stem) you only get combining analog with digital. Thus, better imaging, tails and space between everything. Hardware clearly defines the edges where plug-ins wash everything together more. The plug-in is boring compared.
When you track with the LA2A, the clarity is even more evident than this. They are only comparing that vocal in a mix too, tracking with one is a whole step up in vibe from this again. Analog summing is yet another % improvement.
This is one of the best comparisons that exposes ITB processing to me.

No disrespect to those not hearing this but I have to say this with total confidence. Yes, they do sound very close to the unaware, however, what quality analog processing has over ITB is what allows a track to sit better in the mix without needing more volume and less equalization to cut through. I am hearing this exactly in my studio and loving it more and more.
Listen again, its there and very audabile. Once you know what to listen for, you won't forget it.

thatjeffguy Tue, 02/14/2012 - 13:22

I have to say that the difference between hardware and ITB is tremendous when it comes to compression on vocals. Five years ago I was blown away when I got my Avalon 737 and started tracking with it on vocals. It was/is head & shoulders better than ITB. Now, with this LA2A I am blown away again... the LA2A is again head & shoulders above the Avalon. Finally I can attain what I've heard on so many recordings.
That is not to say that the Avalon won't get used or that the LA2A will always be used for every application. I intend to keep & use the Avalon.


Davedog Tue, 02/14/2012 - 16:21

thatjeffguy, post: 384449 wrote: I have to say that the difference between hardware and ITB is tremendous when it comes to compression on vocals. Five years ago I was blown away when I got my Avalon 737 and started tracking with it on vocals. It was/is head & shoulders better than ITB. Now, with this LA2A I am blown away again... the LA2A is again head & shoulders above the Avalon. Finally I can attain what I've heard on so many recordings.
That is not to say that the Avalon won't get used or that the LA2A will always be used for every application. I intend to keep & use the Avalon.


I like those (Avalon 737) on acoustic instruments. And I guess they've been the go-to for Rap for a long time. Thats a channel strip? A while back I got to use an older Avalon M22 mic pre and one of my clients/friends has a U5. Both of these are superb boxes.

thatjeffguy Tue, 02/14/2012 - 17:04

Davedog... yes channel strip. Though I rarely use the EQ, especially not on the way in. I have used the Avalon to re-amp bass guitar and did use the EQ on that application. Also, using the Avalon as a DI on Bass guitar (using the Avalon's "instrument" input setting) has also yielded excellent results. Was able to set the compressor to give me a nice pluck at the beginning of notes and nice sustain.
As hard as it is to part with the money these toys cost, it continues to be true that in most cases 'you get what you pay for' ! (As long as you are a prudent and careful buyer).


thatjeffguy Fri, 02/17/2012 - 11:03

I tracked a female vocalist yesterday, using my Mohave MA 200 mic > GR MP-2NV preamp > LA2A > Board. She was singing the US National Anthem A Cappella. Turned out beautifully. At the loudest peak "...and the rocket's red glare..." the LA2A was knocking some 15 Db of gain reduction. So transparent it just sounds 'right'. And so easy to do the settings with just two knobs to twist. I'm very happy with this purchase!


audiokid Fri, 02/17/2012 - 16:41

right on Jeff.

Its easy to know when you have too much eh. So smoooOth

I've been messing with the 1176LN > LA-2A chain and it definitely takes some time getting familiar on setting the gains between the two. Both compressors stay very smooth until you know its too much. A fine line but once you get it, its a beautiful thing. I wish they had a hard bypass. I do get around that somewhat with the MixDream's insert bypass (right on SPL). However, having them both on the same channel still makes auditioning hard to do.

Seems the best method was setting the 1176 up first and then bringing in LA2A to taste. Setting the gains though, going to be experimenting for a while. I can tell it will be a very effective once I get onto it.

If I had to choose between the two, the 1176 would go first. The LA2A is amazing. But I'm still getting used to the 1176.

thatjeffguy Fri, 02/17/2012 - 17:10

You're up to the challenge, Chris!

I can imagine this will be a bit tricky until you really get familiar with both units and how they respond. Might be a good idea to work with each box independently in order to gain that familiarity, then chaining them together will be more intuitive.

It's like most of the mics in my collection I know so well that I can intuitively choose the most effective mic for any given application. But it came about by constant experimentation until I really knew the individual characteristics of each. Similar experience when I first got my Avalon. Had to push it too hard a few times 'til I knew where its limits were. I'm still learning the Great River, and I'm pretty comfortable with my AEA RPQ pre because I use ribbon mics a lot which is why I bought the RPQ.

When you've got a bit more time under your belt with both units post an update, I'd love to know how they work together and what application you have found for that configuration!


thatjeffguy Sun, 02/26/2012 - 10:13

I have to say, having now had the opportunity to do a number of tracking sessions with the LA-2A on vocals going in, that this piece of gear has made a tremendous difference! The vocal tracks sit so comfortably in the mix when their dynamics are properly constrained. Takes much less fiddling around after tracking because all the work was done on the way in. And never a bad, over-compressed type of sound! Just sounds so natural that the untrained ear wouldn't know anything had been done. Nice!


audiokid Sun, 02/26/2012 - 12:18

Yup, same thing. The sound of serious tube vibe and transformers. You feel it sizzling in a groovy way thumb, yes! Oo la la...
All noise bothers me but its worth it for this one. I'm playing around with gain staging to see if I can lower the NF but I'm cool with it. This is the s@$t famous records were made of. And you can tell right away.
My system has been stellar quiet until I added UA gear. The CharterOak SCL-1 was a cool comp but I sold it because it didn't add any vibe and was a bad loud. This thing is awesome.

When I get the second one I will be able to compare, which I'm very interested in hearing.

I think we can over do the LA-2A because it is so awesome. And the more you add gain, the more addicting it is right?

Do you have a really fast FET comp? Put that in front, just grab the peaks and let the LA2A smooth-en out the rest. Even if you don't chain anything with it, not even working is magic.

Less gain will be less noise but damn, that is serious self control lol.

thatjeffguy Sun, 02/26/2012 - 12:31

Thanks Chris. So we just need to work around it I guess. Tricky gain staging, the input is not too sensitive. Balancing act between the preamp feeding it and the LA-2A 'Gain' knob. It's doable, just tricky. Had to use a noise-reduction plugin and an expander on one of the vocal tracks I did yesterday. Turned out fine, just not used to it!

Let me know what you find when your second unit arrives!


audiokid Sun, 02/26/2012 - 12:44

Once I turned that thing on, I remembered the old analog days. The analog gems all made "vibe noise" back then. There was a point in the 80's when analog was at its best. The sound was beautiful. This is part of that generation.

Good singers, kick ass preamp and an LA2A is golden. Try not to use that plug-in crap for NR. It will kill the "vibe". Others can disagree all they want with me but I think most compressor plug-ins in general are crap compared to this stuff. (plug-ins do what to audio as = florescent lighting does to a room).
I don't think I would even use a gate on this either. I would manually take it out. We're so sensitive to noise these days. Buts its a trade off isn't it.

The opera singer I just recorded turned out great. You cannot hear (notice) noise. Are you hitting the LA2A hard enough?

thatjeffguy Sun, 02/26/2012 - 13:09

Yeah, hitting the LA-2A hard enough to nearly pin the meter back on the loudest passages, probably about 15db of gain reduction on those loudest parts. I think I need to keep the gain knob on the unit down and maybe adjust the Trim knob on my board to allow a little more gain in. Normally when tracking a line-level signal via my board's XLR mic inputs I keep the trim all the way down (trimmed) so the line-level won't overload the mic input. My board does have Line inputs, but they are 1/4" TRS, and are the same circuit as the Mic ins but with a resistor in between, so the Trim knob does the same thing.


audiokid Sun, 02/26/2012 - 18:01

LA-2A noise

Hey, related topics below about LA-2A noise: In my opinion, anyone that say's their unit is totally quite is full of BS, or their hearing is bad or they don't even have one which I tend to believe more common than not on GS. never the less, some really good info here for older units.

The LA2A has enough gain to drive a mic but not enough to trigger the comp. I think gain staging is the key, plus clean power and where its located doesn't hurt. I'm going to mess around with mine to see if I can reduce things more. But like I say, the amount I get isn't a big deal for me so far. I wouldn't be doing any mods with mine either, as is described and recommended by some in the links below. The older units were just as noisy, if not worse and why some upgrade them. There is a bunch of DIY and vintage chat about LA2A's that gets tossed into topics all the time. So much misinformation as always. Got to read between the lines :smile:.
These were designed for the golden years of analog and they needed to have a hefty gain. Its all part of their sound!

I bet resetting your trim for this will be just the ticket.

audiokid Sun, 02/26/2012 - 22:02

Jeff, been messing all night with gains and the pre make a huge inpack on how it all responds including noise level. ( I love the SPL Premium Micpre's BTW , OMG are they nice!, (thank you Paul!) Seems pres with silky transformers are a nice touch with this setup. Tube mics also. I've never used so may tube pieces together that I like so much. Not getting that dark wooly sound for so much tube, but... its still the honeymoon month with all this.

The only noise I'm getting is a min amount of room sound. Its the LA2A opening up that sounds like a room. I have no 60 cycle hum and very subtle hiss (when cranked to 40/50). When my levels are matched the comp gain is around 20 and peak reduction is around 20. At this I'm pounding the LA2A pretty decent, too much for comfort. If my pre is down too low I have to obviously push the LA2A gain up which introduces noise and a less vibe sound. If the pre is set right, this thing friken opens up like Motown. Its really inspiring me to start singing again or to become an FM DJ lol.

Looking at the wave on the DAW, I could never get a level like this without it. Like you said so perfectly a few posts back, it just makes mixing that much easier. Vocal sound more in place, not out of place, more belonging. Hard to explain until you hear it eh?

I've been comparing the 1176LN to this and when I get the gains right, there is very little difference in noise between the two. The 1176 has a cool bite to it but its weird to get used to because the setting are opposite to most comps. I hate that but will get used to it. The 1176 is killer too. I want 3 of them. I'm having a UA GAS increase indeed. This stuff will never date. Its vintage gold.

Hope that helps!


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