Universal Audio LA-2A

Electro-Optical Compressor / Limiter with Tube Circuitry
Universal Audio LA-2A image 1
Universal Audio LA-2A image 1
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Universal Audio LA-2A
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Enhance Your Music with the Iconic Tube Compressor

It's perhaps the most iconic piece of outboard gear ever. You've heard it on countless hit records — the legendary LA-2A. Patch your signal through it, and magic happens. First introduced in the early 1960s, the Teletronix LA-2A Leveling Amplifier fast became a staple in the racks of recording and broadcast studios large and small. Today, the Universal Audio LA-2A is crafted to original specifications in Scotts Valley, California, handwired point-to-point, with every component carefully selected for authenticity. Smooth, natural, and eminently musical, the legendary LA-2A's tube-driven electro-optical attenuation circuit delivers instant gain reduction with zero increase in harmonic distortion, massaging audio like no other compressor you've ever used. Every serious studio needs at least one.

An audio legend at work

We at Sweetwater can attest to the fact that there's no shortage of LA-2A plug-ins — testimony to the hardware unit's enduring relevance, sonic appeal, and dynamics-control prowess. A studio staple for over a half century, the LA-2A continues to captivate new generations of retro-seeking audio pros with its uncanny ability to work its magic on synth bass and 909 kick samples, in addition to its decades-long dominance as the non plus ultra compressor for vocals, bass, drums, guitars, and anything else you might care to feed it. Its this program-dependent quality, combined with its 2-knob ease of use, that has made the '2A an intrinsic part of the very fabric of pro audio.

You can't make it sound bad

Top artists, engineers, and producers prize the LA-2A for its subtle, alluring warming qualities. This compressor can be as transparent as needed on vocals, but you can also hit it hard for sizzling overdrive that will pump up a lackluster guitar like a dimed tube stack. It's brilliant as a permanent fixture in your vocal compression chain. In series with another compressor (the 1176 is a popular choice), the LA-2A helps deliver silky-smooth vocals. Hit the '2A hard to smooth out the largest peaks, then run the signal through the 1176 to tidy up. Experiment by reversing the chain. It's impossible to make the LA-2A sound bad.

Still going strong

In the early 1960s, Jim Lawrence, founder of Teletronix, started using photocells to control audio gain in an innovative, groundbreaking optical compression design that far surpassed the transparency and stability of earlier circuits. Universal Audio's founder Bill Putnam later acquired the patented technology and continued to manufacture the LA-2A through the '60s. These units became pro studio staples in the 1970s, and in 2000 UA released a reissue. Meticulously engineered to original specs, the acclaimed tube-amplified T4 electro-optical compressor reissue takes its place alongside the countless vintage units still in daily service in top audio facilities around the world. There may never be a more iconic dynamics processor.

Universal Audio LA-2A Tube Compressor/Limiter Features:

  • Dial in legendary optical tube compression on vocals, bass, drums, and more
  • Record your tracks through legendary vintage-spec tube circuitry
  • Enhance your music with iconic warmth and tube limiting/compression
  • Simple, easy-to-use controls: gain and peak reduction knobs, limit/compress switch
  • Track and mix with a piece of audio recording history
  • Faithful to the original in design, manufacturing, and performance
  • Distortion- and lag-free optical attenuation system
  • Distortion: under 0.5% THD
  • 0dB to 40dB gain limiting
  • Balanced XLR input and output
  • Frequency response 30Hz-15kHz (+0/-1dB)
  • Output level: 10dBm; Gain: 40dB
  • Low noise: 70dB below +10dBm output level
  • Handcrafted in UA's Scotts Valley, California labs

Additional Media

Signal Processing Buying Guide
Plug-ins vs. Hardware -- Which Should You Choose?
LA-2A Emphasis Control
Why Doesn't an LA-2A Have All the Compression Controls?
Universal Audio LA-2A versus LA-3A
UA Rebates
Analog Rebates
MOTU Releases a New FireWire Audio Interface
Universal Audio Launches a Worldwide Promotion
Universal Audio LA2A Review

Tech Specs

Type Optical
Number of Channels 1
Controls Gain, Peak Reduction
Inputs 1 x XLR
Outputs 1 x XLR
Rack Spaces 3U
Height 5.25"
Depth 7.25"
Width 19"
Manufacturer Part Number LA2AD

Customer Reviews

5/5
Based on 5 reviews
Write your review
5/5

A classic for good reason.

The LA2A rocks. It's amazing on vocals. Amazing on bass. 2 of them on the mix bus sounds heavenly. This is probably the single greatest compressor ever designed. No serious studio should be without one. It is one of the few "makes everything better" boxes out there. Just running tracks through it with no compression adds vibe. I'm in love with this compressor.
Music background: Producer/Engineer
5/5

A big Hug

One good way to describe this compressor is quality!!!! So easy to control and tenderly loves' everything you apply it to; almost as though it's giving your tracks a nice warm hug. I am still in the process of finishing my studio and I couldn't stand it if this nice baby wasn't part of my collection. It wasn't easy making the decision, even though it should have been. I can't believe how many times I kept going back and forth between saying "No, I can't justify the leap" and "yes, I'll regret it if I don't." Turns out the little dude on my right shoulder won. What a winner. I love this Compressor. My tracks are thanking me for it in a big way. If you're thinking of recording in some kind of big way, either now or in the future, there will be no doubt you will gain a lot from buying this compressor. It won't make your tracks sound amazing without the other pro stuff too though so if you're not that serious about recording, perhaps thinking it over a little more might not be such a bad thing.
Music background: Recording (Mixing) Engineer, Singer-Songwriter, Student
5/5

Fantastic!!!

Awesome compressor! Warm and transparent sound... Especially on vocals and bass - guitars! From 2003 when I bought it, I never make the record without LA-2A!
Music background: Recording and Mixing Engineer
5/5

Incredible

The UA LA-2A is the real deal. It does something special to vocals the moment you plug into it. Its so simple and easy to find the sweet spot. Out of all the pieces I have in my hybrid studio, the LA2A is the king of vocal magic. Get your vocals right and everything else just fits the way you expect. I highly recommend it!
Music background: President of RECORDING.ORG
5/5

WOW!!!

This is hands down the best Comp for vocals hands down! Gonna buy a 2nd one...
Music background: Producer, Pro musician

Sweetwater Advice

Steve Stoll

The Universal Audio LA2A is one of those "holy grails" of recording equipment that all audiophiles know about but until recently were next to impossible to get a hold of. The LA2A limiting amplifier was originally produced in the 60's by Teletronix. The name and rights to the design were purchased in 1967 by recording legend and designer Bill Putnam and these new units are now being produced by the company Bill founded, Universal Audio. These "new vintage" units are exact in every detail and component to the original 60's design right down to the fact that they are lovingly hand-wired. The LA2A was originally designed for radio broadcast applications. FM radio boosts the signal at 15 KHz and the LA2A is used to reign in these peaky signals while providing a very natural compression. Engineers quickly found that the LA2A's imparted a very warm and earthy tone to any audio processed though them (after all it does have tubes!), and they have been used on hundreds of albums from everyone from Led Zeppelin to Bowie to Enrique Iglesias and beyond. The LA2A is unique in that it uses a very simple but elegant design. The user controls nothing more than peak reduction and gain. But when you understand how this design works, no further controls are necessary to achieve an amazing sonic result. Utilizing an electroluminescent light panel which shines on a photo cell to control gain, the result of is an amazingly fast attack time and a two stage release that can actually take place over several seconds. The result? Very natural-sounding compression. I remember seeing a couple of these babies at The Master Cutting Room in New York City, the studio that would do all my vinyl mastering cuts and acetates. My mastering engineer explained that with the advent of digital audio the LA2A makes more sense than ever as a way of warming up a mix and helping it pop while giving it more depth and feeling, real studio standbys indeed! Theses classics have been used on everything from vocals, to drums, to guitar and bass, and even entire mixes. There is no audio that cannot benefit from the LA2A treatment. The LA2A is one of those pieces that real engineers and producers will call on all the time to take their sound to the next level, a wonderful tool to raise the level of your productions and a lifetime studio partner.
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See also: Compressors, Universal Audio, Universal Audio Compressors / Limiters, Universal Audio Compressors / Limiters