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Urei La4 blackface

UREI LA-4

4.65 4.65 out of 5, based on 2 Reviews

This is a review of the Urei La4 blackface unit.


16th March 2014

UREI LA-4 by ElectroNick

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Urei La4 blackface

This is a review of the Urei La4 blackface. Note that there is differences between the Urei La4 blackface and the Silverface version, the blackface been the first and original version.

Some facts :

The topology of the Urei La4 blackface and the silverface are differents :

The Blackface use 2 X RC4136 chips in his topology, the Silverface use 3 X RC4136.

The Blackface have a better quality VU Meter than the Silverface.

The Blackface have big ELKO capacitors in the power supply and not the Silverface.

The Urei output transformer number might be different in the early Blackface and the later Silverface unit.

There is 3 differents La4 unit :

1- The original La4 blackface
2- The original La4 Silverface
3- The later La4a Silverface

The Review :

The one thing i like about the Urei La4 blackface is that it does not mess with the bass content of the audio program and that is something that not all compressors offer. It is a clean Leveling amp that can give you some super natural compression and also add some glue to a mix or some grab in the upper mid of a signer or an electric guitar.

The controls on the La4 are really simple but in a really complex way. You will need to play and experiment with it to get used to the palette of sounds you can create with this unit. The one thing that is super important to understand with La4 is that the gain structure before hitting the compressor have a big impact on the sound and how the compressor react. There is only a threshold, output volume and ratio to control the sound but don't forget about the hi and low switch in the back, using that and playing with the gain structure before hitting the La4 will give you a clean or saturate sound, a fast or a slow compresion mode. There is a red light in the front of the unit that indicate went the input is saturated so you will know that if the light go in the red you are in a slow mode of compression. If you want to be in a fast compression mode you should not see the red light glowing so it is very important to build your gain structure in front of the unit in consequence of what kind of compression caracter you want to acheive...

There is a lot of modifications possible with this unit. I've wrote in a gearslutz forum about all the modifications i did to mine so you should follow thoses and many more if you want to lurn more about mods and enter this territory...there is a lot of options and lots of peoples offering differents mods but i can tell you that if you have a solder iron and a screw driver you should be able to do all of them by yourself and lurn in the process.

The La4 is a perfect all around compressor/limiter. Just let me tell you here that there is nothing that the La4 cannot do, big thank you to the low and hi impedance switch in the back of the unit. You can use the La4 as a DI with great results, you can used balanced or unbalanced line and you can even use the unit as a mic preamp (using a hi output mic like a tube mic) with or without modifications. Since the unit is super clean it will work well with all kind of material and there is nothing you cannot throw at it, super great all around unit and first compressor to get !

The bang for buck here is enormous cause La4 is the cheapest Urei leveling amp available and is also the cleanest. If you want a compressor with a sound or a compressor to pump and smach your drumkit look else where but if you are looking for a super clean tracking compressor a leveler for mixing to give some grab or pressence to your voices and instruments...or maybe you are looking for a stereo buss compressor for your drumbuss or Master buss at mixdown, here's your ticket !

I want to point out that the blackface unit don't suffer from the slow slew rate peoples are talking about from the silverface unit. In fact i can use more than 15db of gain reduction and not affecting the hi freq in a bad way. I tend to use a lot the 4:1 ratio compression with around 15db of gain reduction...it seem a lot but the unit is so transparent ! The 20:1 ratio give you a pretty agressive sound that can be helpfull to beef up some track. The 2:1 is the most natural and neutral setting of course, it's like only using a fader almost... I use the 2:1 ratio when i use the La4 as a mic preamp with a tube microphone and to help out with very dynamic signer or screamer don't worry, even if it goes to 20db of gain reduction in the way in it will sound natural and sit perfectly in the mix without any artefacts or bad peaks.

I would say that the La4 is the perfect first compressor to get cause it's still cheap, it will handle anything to throw at it, it does not mess with the bass content and that is very important in modern productions like Rap or Danse music but most important it will make anything you throw at it sound better and bigger !

If you have any question you can PM me,
ElectroNick

  • 4
3 weeks ago

UREI LA-4 by SwitchesAndDials

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 3 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
Urei La4 blackface

I love this compressor. It's the cheapest compressor that I own and use on every session. I have later model silver face and bought it to specifically mod it with new IC chips. Before the mod I felt the compressor was EXTREMELY dark and not suited to much of anything I would use it for. After the mod of new chips, some soldering in new bigger IC chip slots to accompany the better IC chips of today, and a very meticulous solder job (this job is best suited for an experienced solderer rather than your first-timer), my LA4 became my one channel workhorse compressor in my studio.

Upper range increased drastically and the compressor became airy and wow, how else can I say this other than I can literally compress the HELL out of a signal without it sounding incredibly compressed. Its so smooth and gets used exclusively on all my vocal chain recordings as well as usually bass guitar. I'll probably never record another lead vocal track without this guy from this day on if I have a choice. In fact, when I visit other studio to do tracking or mixing I bring my modded LA4 with me and I get some weird looks since it's widely considered a kind of "sub-par" compressor; but after I've tracked literally EVERY engineer has had their mind changed and most either ask me if I want to sell it or go out and buy their own. It's that good. And for a cost of around $400 nowadays and with a little time and about $50 in parts this thing turns into one of the smoothest and hard hitting compressors without artifacts I've ever heard.

There are options to use this as a mic pre and hi z and low z settings on the rear as the previous review specified; but I've never messed with those settings as I have other gear that I'm more excited to use to accomplish what I'm guessing are similar results.

This compressor is very easy to dial in and is as transparent as they come with beautiful compression that it very hard to make sound bad on a recording. I love being able to really peg the VU on this thing with compression and how incredibly smooth it sounds now after the modification. I think this is probably one of the compressors EVERYONE should have in their repertoire of gear not only for recording but also for mixing.

Wonderful unit that I think over time will only increase in value as people start to see how versatile and smooth these units can sound with only a slight modification.

These aren't necessarily a fast compressor since they are based on an optical cell, but that's what makes them so smooth due to their slower-than-most compression attack. I like to put this directly after my preamp, hit it with a lot of compression, and then go into either my Daking FET III or JDK 22 compressor to touch just a little bit of the overs before going to tape or protools. Wonderful combination and definitely an undervalued compressor with the modifications you can very easily do yourself if you are decent with a solder iron.

Pick one or two up today!

 
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