Review: Universal Audio Teletronix LA-2A Classic Level Collection
The best sounding LA-2A compressor to date
3 “flavors” to choose from
Models not just compression, but the full analog signal path
Sounds GREAT on vocals and is known as THE vocal compressor
Significant DSP use
Default gain boost makes A/B more challenging
Universal Audio’s Teletronix LA-2A Classic Level Collection, in my opinion, is the definitive LA-2A plugin, and is simply the best sounding emulation of the Classic “cult status” hardware to date. The LA-2A compressor has been a hardware staple in professional studios for YEARS and is probably one of the best all around vocal compressors ever made. Though UA gives you a version of the LA-2A compressor plugin free with any UAD purchase (see my review of that version) the Teletronix LA-2A Classic Leveler Collection is an updated version containing 3 different LA-2A compressors, each with their own behaviors and sound.
The three versions in this bundle are the “Silver,” “Grey,” and the original LA-2, each of which do sound noticeably different. The Silver, to my ears, sounds like its more “full frequency” and has more punch and transparency vs the rest of the line up. The Grey is noticeably warmer and reduces the high frequency content more, and also base a noticeably slower recovery from compression, making it not as punchy as the Silver. The LA-2 sound more like the Grey in terms of recency response, but its even slower, making it not very good on faster songs but could work magic on smoother ballad type material. Of note, like the new 1176 collection, UA has also modeled the entire signal chain for each of these three units, and though not nearly as pronounced as the 1176 upgrade, you can still hear some wonderful analog goodness being added when comparing the new LA-2a’s versus the originals.
Some important things to note when comparing, these three different versions were modeled off of three different distinct units in history and do react differently. So if you setup each plugin the same in your DAW on a track, you will notice that they do sound different, even in terms of loudness, even though you have the exact same settings. This is because UA, arguably to a fault, model their plugins to sound EXACTLY like the hardware, and since the three different versions had different gain / performance, the plugins do as well. Just something to keep in mind when you A-B. Another important note, which actually makes me kind of mad at Universal audio, is that each plugin imparts its own volume boost to the signal, sometimes as high as 4db at unity! This means you cannot do a direct comparison vs the older plugin which seemed to have a fine unity gain relationship. I guess in the end its about how they sound, and in my opinion these sound AMAZING, but it is a little annoying that they feel they need to cheat a bit with the “louder is better” syndrome. Perhaps this really is how the original hardware reacts, but in my opinion its no excuse.
Another negative is the inevitable fact that with this new modeling comes more DSP usage. What use to take only 4% of a DSP chip for a stereo instance of the original plugin, the new take over 21%! Wholly DSP increase Batman!! However, this trade off is worth it in my opinion, as there is something special about these new emulations that did not exist in the originals, making them well worth the extra DSP.
Overall this plugin is HIGHLY recommended. Looking for the best vocal compressor on the market today? Look no further than the Teletronix LA-2A. Could be a nice jingle 🙂