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UA LA2A Reissue v Retro STA-Level
Old 23rd October 2018
  #1
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Kroc's Avatar
UA LA2A Reissue v Retro STA-Level

Hiya folks!

I'm pretty close to finishing my 'perfect' vocal rig. It's based around a 2018 Neumann U67 Reissue going into an Avedis MA5 (both of which I love. Very balanced, detailed and warm). I don't have any hardware reverb, so I plan on adding a Bricasti M7 when I can - I love how rich and thick it sounds in every clip that I've heard.

However, I also want to add in a really great tube compressor. At the moment I have a Warm Audio WA2A. I have a Warm WA76 too; but I just built a Hairball Audio Rev D clone for a cleaner, higher-quality 1176-style comp - so I have that base covered. I like the WA2A, and it does a great job of smoothing out bright material, but I'm aware that it isn't nearly in the same league as the stuff I'm using it with. It seems a little rude to put a 67 through a super low-end comp, with super cheap components and transformers.

The two I'm mainly considering are the Retro STA-Level and the current UA LA2A reissue. It'll be for both tracking and mixing. At the moment I'm leaning towards the STA. My impressions from listening to samples of the two on the Clipalator were that the STA just sounds bigger, thicker, and more present than the LA2A.

But I'm also aware that the 76 > 2A chain is a classic combination, and have lusted after a 'real' 2A for a while. From reading other threads on this subject, it seems like plenty of people favor it also. I also find the simplicity of the 2A design appealing for tracking, particularly when I'm self-producing my vocals.

I'm aware that they're two very different beasts that are great in their own right, and I'd probably be happy with either.

Which would you choose to go with my rig? I'd love some input.
I'm a singer-songwriter, and most of my stuff varies from quiet acoustic to retro soul-influenced full-band tracks. But I'm generally going for a thick, full, organic kind of vibe.

Any thoughts?

Cheers,
Dan
Old 23rd October 2018
  #2
Gear Maniac
 

The studio I work out of has a pair of early LA2A reissues. I still lust after the STA for very good reason, and honestly, wouldn’t ever think about LA2As if we already had STAs instead!
Old 23rd October 2018
  #3
Gear Addict
 

One of the studios I work out of has both an LA2A reissue and a Retro STA. The STA is almost impossible to get wrong. The LA2A will shine on maybe 1 in 5 vocals, but there will always be one phrase that hits too hard. The STA is the most forgiving compressor I've ever had the pleasure of using with vocals, but it does tend to push the mids forward. It has a much broader sweet spot though, and the tone becomes a flavour you can't live without. There is just something about vari-mu's I love, they move more with the music.
Old 23rd October 2018
  #4
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foldback's Avatar
I own and regularly use the UA LA2a, UA 1176, WA-76, KT-76, WA-2a and the new KT-2a.

There is nothing low cost or low quality about the transformers used in the Warm Audio gadgets, they're made in America by Cinemag. You can go to Cinemag's web site and compare prices for yourself since they sell to anyone. You'll quickly learn these are premium components. They don't make a lower grade model.

What you create with gear is all that matters. How you get there is the fun part.

In the end you will need to buy the Sta Level and the UA LA 2a so you can have them there long enough to really understand how they react. They operate on entirely different principles and the results are different as night and day. The Sta is much faster and tight sounding. The LA 2a does not inherently have a fast attack, the UA 1176 has much faster actual attack time.

The 2a boxes from each of these companies all sound different from each other.

I like the UA LA 2a most on bass guitar, I use it as an insert on my Soundcraft/Neve analog console. It pretty much lives there but sometimes I switch it out to see if something else that challenges it.

The WA-2A is fine sonically and the build is not bad either. It has much quicker attack than the UA LA 2a (probably due to the very high quality Kenetek attenuator component used in the WA-2A along with the pricey Cinemag transformers). Like the WA-76, the WA-2A has a brighter sound overall than similar products. I view this as a different interpretations of the vintage circuit, not a shortcoming. I would not own the UA LA 2a if either the Warm or KT versions existed when I went shopping originally, the lower priced units offer plenty of performance. What you use and choose really depends on the sources of the sounds. I mostly record and mix rock music which we compose in-house.

I have a stereo pair of the new KT-2A and use them locked together for mixing stereo synthesizers and keyboards, they level out really nicely and I got the pair for about the same price as one WA 2A.

What works for you is what is best. If you really care about your sound you'll only know the truth after you live with and work with the actual products yourself.

Good luck and good music to all!
Old 23rd October 2018
  #5
All I know is that I didn't like the WA 2a. To wobbly, either to little or to much GR.

You really should try both then you would know which one you like the most within the hour.
Old 24th October 2018
  #6
Gear Maniac
 
Kroc's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rec_Eng View Post
The studio I work out of has a pair of early LA2A reissues. I still lust after the STA for very good reason, and honestly, wouldn’t ever think about LA2As if we already had STAs instead!
Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkandKurious View Post
One of the studios I work out of has both an LA2A reissue and a Retro STA. The STA is almost impossible to get wrong. The LA2A will shine on maybe 1 in 5 vocals, but there will always be one phrase that hits too hard. The STA is the most forgiving compressor I've ever had the pleasure of using with vocals, but it does tend to push the mids forward. It has a much broader sweet spot though, and the tone becomes a flavour you can't live without. There is just something about vari-mu's I love, they move more with the music.
Thank you both for the feedback! This is cool to hear!!
I will be recording other artists at my studio too, so it would for sure be beneficial to have something versatile, euphonic, and forgiving.

Quote:
Originally Posted by foldback View Post
I own and regularly use the UA LA2a, UA 1176, WA-76, KT-76, WA-2a and the new KT-2a.

There is nothing low cost or low quality about the transformers used in the Warm Audio gadgets, they're made in America by Cinemag. You can go to Cinemag's web site and compare prices for yourself since they sell to anyone. You'll quickly learn these are premium components. They don't make a lower grade model.

What you create with gear is all that matters. How you get there is the fun part.

In the end you will need to buy the Sta Level and the UA LA 2a so you can have them there long enough to really understand how they react. They operate on entirely different principles and the results are different as night and day. The Sta is much faster and tight sounding. The LA 2a does not inherently have a fast attack, the UA 1176 has much faster actual attack time.

The 2a boxes from each of these companies all sound different from each other.

I like the UA LA 2a most on bass guitar, I use it as an insert on my Soundcraft/Neve analog console. It pretty much lives there but sometimes I switch it out to see if something else that challenges it.

The WA-2A is fine sonically and the build is not bad either. It has much quicker attack than the UA LA 2a (probably due to the very high quality Kenetek attenuator component used in the WA-2A along with the pricey Cinemag transformers). Like the WA-76, the WA-2A has a brighter sound overall than similar products. I view this as a different interpretations of the vintage circuit, not a shortcoming. I would not own the UA LA 2a if either the Warm or KT versions existed when I went shopping originally, the lower priced units offer plenty of performance. What you use and choose really depends on the sources of the sounds. I mostly record and mix rock music which we compose in-house.

I have a stereo pair of the new KT-2A and use them locked together for mixing stereo synthesizers and keyboards, they level out really nicely and I got the pair for about the same price as one WA 2A.

What works for you is what is best. If you really care about your sound you'll only know the truth after you live with and work with the actual products yourself.

Good luck and good music to all!
Hiya Foldback. Thanks for writing. I'm not trying to rag on the Warm gear (I might amend my original post to make that clearer) - it's still nice stuff, and I'll be keeping it in my rack. I'd forgotten about the Cinemags. I have the WA2A, the WA76, and the EQP-WA - the 2A gets the most use. It's fantastic for smoothing out anything that sounds a little too harsh or bright. They're all great for the price.

I guess I'm just a little skeptical of anything branded as, "Like X bit of gear, but cheaper!" because there are bound to be a few corners cut to make it so affordable (perhaps in this case it might be capacitors or other components). Hence why you can have mods done, like the ones offered by Revive Audio, where they'll upgrade the signal path with 'premium' parts. Though I suppose it's subjective as to whether that kind of thing is worth the extra money anyway.

What bothered me more about my WA76 was the higher level of noise. The Hairball Rev D 1176 clone I just built sounds much more transparent - the Warm version sounds fuzzier, with higher distortion levels. It sounds a little less detailed, which may be related to that, if the distortion is rounding off the transients. But it does sound pretty fat and thick. I do indie rock, so sometimes it's useful to have something that can add a little bit of dirt.

I'm totally splitting hairs here. I'm just at a point where I'm trying to ensure that every part of my vocal chain is top notch.

From what you're saying (especially that you wouldn't have bought the UA LA2A if the Warm version was around when you were shopping), it still might be better for me to go for the STA when I have the Warm box for when I want the "LA2A vibe".

Have you kept your WA2A stock? I'm curious as to what would happen if you stuck some good NOS tubes in there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by crille_mannen View Post
All I know is that I didn't like the WA 2a. To wobbly, either to little or to much GR.

You really should try both then you would know which one you like the most within the hour.
Word. Not sure where or when I'd be able to do this, unfortunately. But nothing beats hands-on experience!

Cheers,
Dan
Old 24th October 2018
  #7
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roger's Avatar
 

Get UTC iron original LA2A! There’s a reason it’s #1 on the Compressor top 20 list of all time (nevermind the schmuck who made the list! Haha!).
It’s a great sound. Really great!
STA without modded release times holds for days & days.....& days. Cool with 1176 but then so is LA2A.
Iron makes a difference unfortunately. Unfortunately coz these days you gotta pay+ for the good stuff.
Old 25th October 2018
  #8
I just love the UA LA2-A reissues. It sounds great on vocals, acoustic guitar, and bass. I much prefer its character and slower reaction time to the Warm version. It has been used on thousands of recordings and there is a reason why, it just sounds great. I also A/B it over the Manley ELOp +and it was not even close, the UA had a much more pleasant character.
Old 25th October 2018
  #9
Gear Maniac
 

Can't go wrong with either the STA Level or the LA2A.
Old 26th October 2018
  #10
Gear Maniac
 
Kroc's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by roger View Post
Get UTC iron original LA2A! There’s a reason it’s #1 on the Compressor top 20 list of all time (nevermind the schmuck who made the list! Haha!).
It’s a great sound. Really great!
STA without modded release times holds for days & days.....& days. Cool with 1176 but then so is LA2A.
Iron makes a difference unfortunately. Unfortunately coz these days you gotta pay+ for the good stuff.
Ha. One day.
Would love a real original eventually, but those are really pricey. For that kind of cash I could get a reissue and a STA. And at this point with my studio, I'd be better off building a strong, diverse locker than getting a single holy grail piece. Also, if I went with the 2A, I could potentially mod it with a UTC transformer, no?

The aim is to be able to put my 67 through the Hairball 1176 into the LA2A/STA for my rockier full-band tracks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason rocks View Post
I just love the UA LA2-A reissues. It sounds great on vocals, acoustic guitar, and bass. I much prefer its character and slower reaction time to the Warm version. It has been used on thousands of recordings and there is a reason why, it just sounds great. I also A/B it over the Manley ELOp +and it was not even close, the UA had a much more pleasant character.
Cool to hear! Thanks for sharing.

___________________


Side question for everyone... If you were mixing a very sparse arrangement with just vocals and guitar, and you were doing light compression and wanted stuff to breathe but sound really big and present, which comp would you reach for first: 1176, LA2A or the STA-Level?

Cheers,
Dan
Old 14th November 2018
  #11
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hasbeen's Avatar
I got one of the UA reissues when they came out. I Liked it okay but never really loved it until I changed the tubes. Then I put a Kenetek T4B opto in and it got even better!
Old 15th November 2018
  #12
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roger's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by hasbeen View Post
I got one of the UA reissues when they came out. I Liked it okay but never really loved it until I changed the tubes. Then I put a Kenetek T4B opto in and it got even better!
....then you put an original NYC UTC A10 in and the audio heavens parted?! No? Try it! You can send me a quiche by way of saying thanks! (I love quiche).
Old 15th November 2018
  #13
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kennybro's Avatar
Between the STA and the UA LA2A, I went for the 2A. Auditioned both and the 2A edged out the STA. Could be that it was just a more familiar sound to my ear because I've been using them in studios for so long, and we hear them on so many records. I think puts the right polish on just about every vocal I've put through it. Also love it for bass.
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