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Microphone Month 4

Universal Audio LA-610 Review

The more I listened, the more I began to hear the warmth and smoothness of the LA-610.

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try out the LA-610, especially since a friend of mine was very interested in it. I at least wanted to find out for myself what all the fuss was about. I wanted to see what it would do for vocals and guitar. At the time, I was out of town, away from Sweetwater’s studios. So, I tried it out at a friend’s project studio that was more suited for testing this unit. I also ended up playing the role of vocalist and acoustic guitar player.

We used a Neumann KM140 to record the acoustic guitar. A Studio Projects B1 was used to capture my vocal. Everything was recorded at 24-bit/44.1kHz using SONAR. We recorded the acoustic guitar and then the vocal. We first recorded into the preamp channel of a simple, inexpensive 10-channel mixer. No additional processing, no EQ – just straight through. Then we did the same with the LA-610, with the tube mic pre at full gain, no compression. Then we did the same with LA-610 with about 5dB of compression. Finally it was time to listen to the results.

The very first time we listened, we heard subtle differences, especially the parts with compression, of course. The more I listened though, the more I began to hear the warmth and smoothness of the LA-610. There was part of a non-compressed vocal phrase I sang just loud enough to nudge the LA-610 into very slight, smooth-sounding distortion that was pleasant to my ears. It was more obvious with my vocal, but it enhanced the acoustic guitar as well, particularly in the upper midrange. The main thought running through my mind was, “I wish I had more time to delve deeper into this.” However, even just running it through some basics in a mild-mannered way proved it’s worthy of being included in many studios.

I must mention the friend who helped me had never seen the LA-610 before. Having been a recording engineer, producer, and musician for more decades than I should mention, the LA-610 was a wonderful “blast from the past” for him! He loved the vintage look and feel of it the moment we took it out of the box. That was my reaction the first time I saw it too. It’s definitely much more enjoyable to work with than a digital plug-in, but it delivers the vintage sound as well. With its tube processing, optical compressor, EQ, and other controls, it has so much to offer. Again, I was left wanting more. Just like a guitar player would want to keep playing their new guitar, or a keyboardist wanting to play their new synthesizer, I wanted to keep experimenting with the LA-610.

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