Universal Audio LA-610 by edva
(Note: the unit on review here is the original model, which has been supplanted by the "Mk II" version; they are generally very similar however.)
The LA 610, manufactured in the USA by Universal Audio, is a mono, tube, mic pre-amp and compressor that both in appearance and sound harkens back to the vintage days of yore, specifically the '60's and the times when tubes reigned supreme. The vintage vibe is only enhanced by the old-school big bakelite knobs, front panel VU meter, and small switches. However, the ergonomics and layout of all the controls is very good, and the unit is very easy to use. Although at first glance appearing rather basic, upon closer inspection one will find many useful features, including a nice little EQ section and variable impedance settings, along with an excellent DI "instrument input".
As a pairing modeled on two classic units, both pre and compressor do in fact exude a sound with loads of character and signature tone. I have gotten good results with the LA 610 and "vintage style" microphones such as the SM7b and the Mojave Audio MA200 when the source and the material were well served by a vintage vibe. The pre sounds beefy and substantial, can be run pretty clean, and has plenty of headroom, although it quickly gets increasingly "colored" with level. At the extreme, the sound can get a bit "honky" in the lower mids.
The compressor is a nice LA-2A style optical design, and it functions in that classic manner, applying a smooth envelope that favors most sources. Like the pre-amp, it is fairly clean sounding unless driven hard. Even the clean signal picks up a little 60's tone that is inherent in the box.
The DI is fabulous on bass, and has gained accolades for the LA 610 in that regard. I suspect as a stereo pair it would be pretty cool on stereo keyboards too.
The downside to any "color piece" however is that you don't always want that particular sound, or that too much of it becomes overbearing, and those caveats certainly apply to the LA 610, since it has such a signature tone.
But it is without a doubt a good sounding, somewhat versatile, well built, and easy to use piece of professional equipment at a fair price. Properly used, it can give very good results, especially when a vintage flavor is desired.