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Universal Audio LA 610 Tube Pre-Amp/Compressor

Universal Audio LA-610

4.45 4.45 out of 5, based on 10 Reviews

A good quality tube pre/compressor with true vintage vibe


23rd February 2012

Universal Audio LA-610 by edva

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
Universal Audio LA 610 Tube Pre-Amp/Compressor

(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.

28th February 2012

Universal Audio LA-610 by silenthwk

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
Universal Audio LA 610 Tube Pre-Amp/Compressor

I've owned the LA-610 pretty much since it was introduced. It is such a fantastic addition to my studio. I am not a great engineer by any means. I am a singer/songwriter who needs gear easy to use (fool proof) and which gives me an end result that is truly professional sonically.

I have used it for my vocals, for stringed instrument recording (cello and violin) as well as acoustic guitar and percussion and the results are extremely pro. I hand off my songs to a pro engineer in Paris, France who's worked at the best studios in the world, including the famed ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS. His critique of my files I hand him are always fantastic. He takes it from there for all of the mixing though. I know my limitations.

Many of my songs using the LA-610 have been used on major FILM/TV shows, from NBC'S hit show "THE VOICE" and many more, so the sound was pro enough to sound great coming out of TV speakers. Music Supervisors are very picky about sonics, for it has to be excellent sounding coming out of little speakers as well as home theater size sound systems.

It's doubling as a pre-amp and compressor is very handy, user wise and space wise in my small project studio.

I HIGHLY recommend this piece.
Michael
Michael Brandmeier

28th February 2012

Universal Audio LA-610 by masterminds

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
Universal Audio LA 610 Tube Pre-Amp/Compressor

I have owned the LA-610 for 3 years. I track vocals and occasional bass in my studio. I will be brief. The LA-610 is a vintage vibe dream. To start it off, it just looks vintage, gorgeous silver face with super cool looking huge black knobs. It makes any vocal you throw at it sound amazing. The vocals acquire a huge personality. The drawback to that is that if you want an uncolored tone this unit may not be for you. It just oozes with vibe and color. I personally love that color and how EVERY artist I record is blown away when they hear back their vocal takes, without any pluggins to further modify the signal. That alone keeps them coming back to my place. I mostly use a Sputnik tube mic with it. Most people would tell me how it might just be too much color but after they hear the combo they are truly impressed. As I said, I record some live bass with it too. That is also exceptional. I do nothing else to the bass after that. NO other amp simulators, no compressors, NOTHING, and it just sits perfectly. Now, as we all know there has to be something that this unit might not be best for. For me, I have not had the best luck with acoustic guitars. A cleaner pre has worked best for me. Also, the level knob (LOVE the big vintage knobs) is beginning to sound “scratchy” (tech term). Otherwise this is really a time were I truly have no issues dropping $1500.00 for this thing. I got what I played for.
Want cool vintage color and personality? “Get it”.

13th March 2012

Universal Audio LA-610 by Lpmike75

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
Universal Audio LA 610 Tube Pre-Amp/Compressor

The sound quality is excellent if you are looking for a wonderful tubey sound. A very nice tube sound with an added bonus of a fantastic sounding Opto compressor. I purchased this mainly for vox but after running my Bass through it I dropped to my knees and said "where have you been my whole life??!?". I didnt stop there, I also plugged my guitar direct and got a nice warm tube sound into my amp sim (guitar rig). It cleared up all that high end noise that can be distracting with amp sims and also fattened it up. You are able to achieve a wide range of tubular saturation with this unit. It will get very saturated quickly so you have to adjust in small increments. That is the only reason it received a 9 and not 10 for me. On the other hand, thats also what makes this unit what it is.

Ease of Use - It doesn't get much easier. I gave it a 9 only because I am not a big fan of the EQ toggle switches. No problem with them, just a personal preference.

Features - Compressor, Limiter, EQ and easy adjustments for everything. This is an all in one unit. I wish it were a stereo unit so I would not want to buy 2 of them!

Bang for the buck - Uh ya, this is a top flight sounding unit which you will want to use on several different sources (vox, bass, overheads, crunch guitars and even running a mono track through it for some 'flavor' while mixing. I have even used it to record voice overs. It is quite versatile and the compressor is fantastically musical. I would, and do recommend these units to anyone who asks for 'that sound'.

19th March 2012

Universal Audio LA-610 by Nostalgic

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Universal Audio LA 610 Tube Pre-Amp/Compressor

When I was 14 years old, I recorded one of my first tracks at a major recording studio on the LA-610, and as soon as I could afford one, I went out of my way to get it.

With the majority of my recording before purchasing this piece were on the Avalon 737, I quickly threw the 610 in my vocal chain, substituting the Avalon's mic pre, and compressor. I was pretty blown away at how much more color the LA610 has. It was just the flavor I was looking for on lead vocal tracks.

The EQ I find useable on the way in, although it doesn't see much use from me, as I the Avalon EQ is just one of the best.

The compressor is very easy to use. With great metering, it's easy for me to dial in to the gain reduction I want, and is one of the main reasons I use this unit regularly.

Awesome product!

28th March 2012

Universal Audio LA-610 by thedustintate

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Universal Audio LA 610 Tube Pre-Amp/Compressor

The LA-610 mk I is legendary in that it has an all tube design featuring an LA-2A style Optical Compressor. I have used this piece of gear on nearly everything and it continues to amaze me. After purchasing in 2007 for $1,500, still today, the tubes sound warm even after pushing them for extra saturation. With true bypass from the compression chain, there's an authenticity that only the LA-610 has and that's why I've raved over how well it performs. It's a complete analog channel strip with 3 meter parameters: pre, comp, output. There's no doubt that the LA-610 is a favorite among the recording industry and has proven to be legendary.

28th March 2012

Universal Audio LA-610 by datune

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Universal Audio LA 610 Tube Pre-Amp/Compressor

I hesitated and pondered this purchase for quite a while, it is after all a serious amount of money to spend on a single channel strip. The fact that I got a free UAD2 Duo Card on top has nothing to do with this purchase, I swears :-P

I have the unit for 3 months, and so far I can not say a single bad thing about it. For me personally I feel this unit can go from crystal clear recordings to tubey, although the tubey part is still ever so subtle, which is nice!

So far I have mostly been using it to record basslines coming from my Moog Voyager, as is to be expected, the sound quality is outstanding. I also use it to record vocals! I love the optical compressor, it's really really good!

The EQ is very useful to for, among other things, taming those nutty bassplayers, you know the type ;-)

The one thing I feel that could improve this unit is to make the compressor available without being forced to use the preamp, but other than that, perfect piece of gear, which is most likely going to last me forever.

29th March 2012

Universal Audio LA-610 by ThomasRJordan

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Universal Audio LA 610 Tube Pre-Amp/Compressor

I Just picked up this amazing piece of gear this month and all i can say is wow! It took me a long time to gather up the money for this bad boy, but all i can say is it was well worth it!

The la-610 is just an amazing piece of gear every studio should have. I have spent years operating and using the la 610 and was always so impressed by the color and tone coming from this amazing device! Honestly i have never been happier with a purchase. The Eq and compressor are great and very easy to use as well. This thing looks just as beautiful as it sounds! =)

My la-610 gets used for vocals,bass,drum overheads,guitars you name it! i have even been using it on string instruments such as viola and violin lately and i am so impressed!

I highly recommend the UA LA 610 to anyone
Thanks UA!

22nd January 2013

Universal Audio LA-610 by Gold Morgan

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Universal Audio LA 610 Tube Pre-Amp/Compressor

This unit has a lot of character. It is really nice on both male and female vocals. Absolutely phenomenal on bass guitars and synths. The preamp section gain and level knobs allow you to add as much tube harmonics as you please, up to full-on tube distortion. The compressor has a very slow attack and release, which is great for bass and singing.

Overall, this is a great unit especially for the price. Audio basically mixes itself through this channel strip.

24th March 2017

Universal Audio LA-610 by jml designs

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 3 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
Universal Audio LA 610 Tube Pre-Amp/Compressor

With 3 stages of classic 12AX7 tube saturation in your input, you can tweak the heck out of this unit to get the sound you're looking for by simply swapping tubes, which is a breeze with easy top load access. Christian Whitmore here on GS is the MAN and will offer you pages and pages of knowledge and advice on this. He sells them at a great price too so if you pick one of these up, look no further than your friendly GS community!

This unit has been slandered as very hot and hard not to clip. Well, that's kinda true but in the end, once dialed in correctly, it can yield a great tone for just about anything you track. Talk about color, this pre is a rainbow in a box. Obviously it's known for bass but Adel just did her last album's vox on this unit so it can't be that bad (as did many top tier rec artists! Like me! Haha). I like to hit the input gain hard and then dial in the output and optical compressor to give me a warm, saturation and in your face signal. Getting a Motown vocal vibe or vintage warmth is impossible NOT to achieve here. This is not your modern solid state transparent pre, no sir!!

If you have an instrument or voice with large volume fluctuation this unit can prove tricky to handle and another more stable pre might be a solution. I recommend compression to tape in addition to the on board compression cell. The LA-610 pairs beautifully with the classic Distressor in almost any situation and has been defaulted in my studio as a go to signal chain. To each their own but for me, this works like a charm and everyone is always asking how the heck I get such amazing vocal tracks. My other secret is my moded CV-12 and the CLA vocal plugin suite with mix bus that includes fairchild -> ATR-102 -> SHadow hills mastering unit but that may be out of place in this review. Just throwing that out there.

The LA-610 is a classic for a reason. You just have to take the time to find the sweetspots in a range of scenarios so you're prepared for each session and this unit won't let you down!I also own the BF Apollo they make which includes the LA-610 as a UAD plugin. Also a great option and almost the same but not the same thing. Tube warmth is tube warmth and modeling can't quite replace the real thing when driving a good condenser mic IMHO. EQ is handy, straightforward and does what it's supposed to, especially for taming wild frequencies found in the low end range of many instruments. I like the added pad and additional stepped gain (+5+10+15), very helpful in finding that sweet spot in the gain stage.

All in all, this is a steal at $800 (patient buyers can troll eBay and steal one around $600 now that the MKII is out). Pitch the JJ tubes and put some nice old Mullard or NOS telefunkens in there (That's what's in mine, wow!) and you'll have a nice a tube pre as any. Heck, even the JJs sound great stock. Replacement JJ's, made by electroharmonics are easily found around $15 but the old NOS tubes are fetching stupid cash now around $100+. UA offers a great tutorial on maintenance and swapping tubes on their site.

Great unit for the money. Putnam knew what he was doing, that's for sure! Happy tracking

 
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