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.