Warm Audio WA-2A by jimmyklane
I've owned my WA-2A compressors (2 of them) for just under a year now, and have used them on every source I can think of, including those that one would t usually go to an LA-2A for like drum busses and loops. I have now split them up from a stereo pair and have a dedicated "tracking" and "mixing" signal chain for each unit that is a bit unique. I'll briefly explain my usage case first so my review makes sense. For tracking, I'm often using the unit for more traditional duties: vocals, bass/synth, kick, guitar, etc. Using the patch bay the common path is Demeter Tube DI-->Neve Portico 5012 preamp--> Warm Audio WA-2A compressor
(and occasionally when I need to dime the gain for "that" sound I'll run the output of the compressor into an old, heavily modded BiAmp Quad Limiter using 2 series limiters.....this provides a pretty much invisible volume drop from the WA2A output)
Using this input chain, you might guess I've gone for a maximum of tube and transformer effect, and I get both the oomph of great transformers as well as the smooth top of tubes and opto compression. As I'm often using the DI as the front, I also have the clean parallel path to record direct or send to effects via the patch bay. The preamp controls how hard I hit the threshold of the compressor, and the compressor output gain controls what comes into the DAW. One of my favorite "targets" for this chain is my Moog synth. With the 10ms attack time of the WA-2A, the envelope of bass sounds is enhanced, which translates to bass guitar as well. It's glued into place but pops out when transient content is high.
The "Mixing" compressor is set up as a time/phase aligned insert from my DAW(Nuendo) using Nuendo's automatic time delay and a little labs IBP to tune the phase response, and shows up in the plugin listing as "external effect". So here, I'm hearing the pure compression without the extras involved in the tracking chain. My standard practice is to print these tracks back to the DAW so that I can use it on another track. The phase tool I have inline with it means that I can use this as an aux send as well and put a mix of the mono program elements into it as a parallel "crush" to the mono elements....I've done this in M/S as well and sent the side signal for a really cool "bloom" in the stereo program.
Something that is fantastic on both the original and this unit is the preemphasis knob. You can make this a much more transparent compressor....even at 10-20dB of GR by turning it full tilt away from the standard. This is the hardest unit to make sound bad that I own, even including the sta-level...whatever goes into this box comes out sounding bigger and better, especially if you just want Color you can run it with Peak Reduction at 00 and have a soft bypass. Another perhaps unknown property of this box is the stereo link input. It can be used as a ducking input just like a side chain input on other compressors, with a bit of a twist. The fixed threshold means that the level of the....let's say kick drum into the link input and position of the preemphasis knob gives one a huge range of effects from very subtle to trance sidechains to totally obliterating the audio signal running through it!
The price of this box and the faithful recreation of the LA-2A circuit mean you should buy as many of these as you can afford with only a 2-buss and more aggressive tracking comp needed to compliment your outboard.