The ART Pro-VLA II can go from subtly smooth to super trashy and can be used for tracking, mixing, or even mastering. It's also perfect for anyone looking to get into outboard analog gear instead using the same old plug-ins. As an added bonus, it's one of the most easily upgraded pieces of gear on the market. Its stock 12AX7 tubes can be quickly swapped for higher-end ones with just the removal of a few screws (I put Mullards in mine). PRO USER TIP: The VLA can be used for MORE than just compression. By pushing the output level to the max and feeding the input heavily, you can get some pretty radical tube saturation and distortion out of this box, which gets even jucier after a tube upgrade.
The ART Pro VLA II is a stunning compressor. It's warm and musical, and can compress while sounding natural. It can also pump and squash if you push it enough. After many tracking and mixing sessions with mine, I eventually started to master with it as well. It sounds great, even compared to masters that I used much more boutique compressors on. Add tons of metering options, the stepped knobs, and the sturdy metal construction, and it's one of the best values in compression out there.
Yes, you need this.
Alright, I usually never write reviews...but...HOLY SMOKES! Talk about a great sounding compressor! Don't let the price fool you or make you feel like you need to shell out serious cash for the UA gear (not that I'm bashing them though, they make great stuff!) This compressor is flat out amazing for the price. I've had it for a few years already.
Now, my brand new unit wasn't without problems at first, but I'm sure the quality control department at ART has since cleared things up. First off, the stock 12AT7 tubes that ship with this unit blow. Get a matched and balanced pair of NOS JAN Phillips 12AT7WC's and pop those in. Second, the TL072BCP op-amp in position A6 had smashed pins and was just kinda jankily soldered in place, so I had to replace that too. (Left channel kept going out after it warmed up halfway through a movie.)
After that though it has been nothing but smooth sailing. Like another reviewer, I too use this for watching movies. When you live in an apartment you really can't have the thundering volume spikes that movies love to toss in at you. Pop this baby in the chain before your speakers, set things up with your ears, and sit back and relax. The top end is retained, the lows are tamed and the stereo image is still clear. Don't go out and buy a stereo pair of 1176's and LA-2A's, just buy this.
My biggest tip for this unit; let it run for a few hours and make it work. Once it warms up, as long as neither channel goes out on you, you'll have no problems. I'm really impressed by this thing and literally nothing can touch it for the price. It's built like a tank, and it's not too expensive to fix if on the off chance you have problems with it. Sure, go ahead and buy that $ compressor; I have no doubts that it will perform exceptionally. But if you don't have an endless supply of cash give this thing a shot. Other guys might bash you for it, but all that matters is how it performs; how it sounds...which is just as well as the big boy units.
Even with it's quirks, I still give this thing 5 stars!
Amazing for the price
I just bought this compressor (from elsewhere, cost a tiny bit more but I was about to split the cost into 3 payments so it was a lot more convenient) and hooked it up last night. I live in an apartment and love watching movies and have a really nice audio system. But I find that many movies these days have a few sections of very quiet dialog where I cant even really hear it without turning up the volume and then there are some action sequences that jump 3-4x in volume and I have to jump to turn the volume down so the neighbors don't complain about me blasting movies at 3am. My first thought was the set some dynamic range compression in my receiver, but it seems this newer model I have doesn't have that option. Not sure if receivers have been taking it out with some of the newer models or if Onkyo simply has never included an option. Either way, no option meant I had to find a new solution. Better this way anyway because receivers have never had good sounding DRC.
I have my computer running to the receiver via HDMI, and using pre-out's from the receiver to go into this, then into a pair of power amps. This compressor really works quite amazing for compressing the whole system audio (basically in the pro world it would be like I placed this at the outputs of the console before going into a DSP or amps). I put the device through it's paces and it really works extremely well no matter what settings I used. It even makes the audio still sound the same (just, quieter) when compressing the audio by 20db. Not that I am going to keep it that way, but it was nice to see that this doesnt get over stressed and sound like crap at a certain point like many compressors around this price and lower. I was really debating whether to buy this or not, because LDR's like this uses to do the compression are extremely hard to match together and generally cost a lot of money to implement correctly. I felt that for the price of this unit there was no way ART could have possibly designed the compressor in the best sounding way and matches everything. Whether they did or not, I cant really tell a difference between channel balance and feeling and it sure does sound nice so congrats to ART for pulling it off.
Even with how good this sounds, I do plan on upgrading the unit myself over the next couple months. First off is the easiest thing, replacing the tubs. Many people like to use 12AX7 tubes in this, but I don't want to because that will throw off the output gain controls too much and could change quite a few other specifications for how the unit sounds. I will keep the 12AT7's in it but just use much better quality tubes.
Next up I will be replacing some of the capacitors to better sounding models and maybe some of the resistors as well. By the time I am done I am sure I will have spent well over $500 on this compressor, but it sure will be one amazing sounding unit :)
Keep the feedback at bay = ART PRO VLA II
The ART PRO VLA II is a great addition to any live or studio set-up. Easy to set-up, easy to set and the results are worth every penny!
NO... Just NO
I normally like to only post Positive reviews but I feel like I most save people from spending money on this piece of donkey doodoo. This thing is terrible.
Ok so this thing is suppose to be a stereo compressor but the problem is that the compressor is terrible. It's not very responsive at all and it has a terrible attack time. I can see no use for it what so ever.
Also, it takes life away from the tone of anything you plug into it, even if you bypass the compressor.
I will say this though, I have heard of people buying these things and taking them to get customized with different components to make it sound like a stereo 1176 for less than half the price of 2 1176's, so That's cool, but unless you plan on doing that then I wouldn't recommend spending your money on this.
Worth the money
Worked great in my latest session. Upgraded it with Mullabrd 12au7 tubes and it sounded really good for the money. I've had good luck with ART products.
It's a Smart Buy
There are lots of those who believe that you can't get good enough quality out of anything less than so many dollars. Even though I don't like to admit it, there was a time when I was one of those people. However, Gear like the Art Pro VLA II changed my tune, literally. Don't get me wrong, I am not criticizing anything in the higher price range at all. I love my Teletronix La2a! However, after comparing the Art with the Teletronix, I knew that the Art would still be a winner of it's own. I use the Art quite a bit, even after I upgraded a lot of my gear. It sure beats the sound of digital plugins by a long shot because of that Pure and smooth analog sound. The Biggest difference between the Art and the Teletronix (after changing the tubes out with Mullards 12Ax7's) would be accuracy and detail. You lose a little detail in the mid to higher range with the Pro VLA ii and sometimes the compression doesn't seem to be as easily controllable as it is with the La2a. The Art compressor is still amazing though and there are occasional times where it just works better than others depending on the music. So I guess my point is this: The pro VLA is a great addition to my studio, and if I were ever looking to pay the least but get the most, this would be the way I'd go.
Wasnt for me...
First off, I'm actually a big supporter of ART products. Ive always felt like their quality standard is higher than most for an affordable (and many times, "cheap") product. I own the DJ Pre, and the MPA GOLD (which I rolled NOS tubes in) so I have a reasonable idea of how well their products hold up, etc. Ive always really appreciated my MPA GOLD, (especailly after rolling the stock tubes) and the unit is well built for the price so I expected nothing less from the VLA.
Additionally, I had waited to purchase this unit for a long time and read a lot about it before hand so that I knew it was right for me and what I planned to use it for. After tons of threads on Gear Slutz, product reviews here on Sweetwater, and other sources online I finally decided to bite the bullet and purchase one.
After receiving the VLA and hooking it up, I immediately noticed that the hardware's components seemed cheaper than my MPA GOLDS. Later after running it through some tests for different recording applications I discovered I was not a fan of the stepped potentiometers, and I also did not like how incredibly slow it was on most program material. I knew it was slower than most beforehand, and I was aware of its transparency... but I really did not like how it couldn't do some serious leveling on sources with fast transient attacks... It also seemed to rob a bit of my top end too which I was not a fan of. - I was hoping the tube stage would impart a bit more saturation and color. Not the case really. Instead its very subtle and has its uses, but I wanted more color personally and this wasn't it.
Lastly, I did not care for its stereo operation mode either. It worked, but in kind of a wonky way and you often would need to use the other channels output to help balance the image back as close as possible to how the original source sounded... I found this very unreliable and quite frankly a pain in the butt.
I really had high hopes for the VLA but I quickly realized it just wasn't the right compressor for me... I personally would not go as far as to call this the "poor mans LA2" though. Sorry folks, Ive heard and used a real LA2 and this thing doesn't compare IMHO.
Sending it back for something else.
**As always, BIG BIG thanks though to my sales agent here at Sweetwater (Mike Arango). Hes been my agent for at least 10+ yrs now and always fixes me up right even if things dont work out as expected**
i love it
it's such a wonderful surprise when you purchase something and it not only meets but far exceeds your hopes. so far i have been using only compressor plug-ins and I'm at the point in my music making journey were i am wanting to turn real knobs and hear physical circuits process sound. i was going to buy another compressor plug-in but i saw this unit for the same price as a plug-in so i went for it.
it sounds amazing. and for this price its a no-brainer. get your hands on some knobs and discover there is still no doubt that outboard gives a kind of love to a sound that plug-ins cannot. I'm not saying throw all your plug-ins away, I'm saying add this to your signal chain.
also i think this is helping me understand compression in a way i have not before, having to dial it in rather than reach for pre-sets.
long live Art and their gift to the common man.
I still use it
I bought my VLA 18 years ago when I was just starting out. I think it cost $200 all in from Sweetwater! At the time I couldn't afford anything better and probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference anyway. Over the years I've purchased several DBX units - 160a'a and such, and 1176's LA2A, 3A , and 4A, and other higher end comps. But the VLA is still in my rack and I still use it almost every session, on something. Last night I put my new Miktek mK5's through it for drum room recording (Omni capsules) and the VLA added great smoothness and just enough push and warmth.
The unit's not perfect and it can't deliver 100% of a unit costing 10x as much, but for $300 you have to have one or more. If you want the opto sound compression, I can't think of a stereo unit under $1000 that really hammers this little VLA. Gear snobs may have an issue - but who cares.
I should mention that over the years I've tried other ART gear and I didn't like most everything - except the VLA!!! The VLA is an outstanding exception for ART and it works. It works great.
pro vla II
Happy with this unit, great for home recording studio. One thing I agree with from another person's review is that the cover bolts that are on the side do somewhat constrict mounting it in a rack but this is a minor, adjustable problem. I use this unit in conjunction with the pro MPA II and am happy with both.
So I've been using this piece in my studio for the last year or so on a light variety of sources (acoustic and electric guitar, bass DI, guitar DI, light vocals) and I gotta say, this unit rocks. I just finished using it for a 10 hour rehearsal (I've been memorizing music all day long and didn't want to crank up the amp so I ran this along with my Grace M101 preamp into Guitar Rig for my headphone rehearsal) and it's been smooth as butter and it's barely even warm. It's 1130pm and I turned this thing on at 10am and it hasn't been turned off since. Great unit. I tracked another band's bass tracks with it (Grace pre into the compressor to tame some inconsistent plucks) and it sounded so delicious. The bass player couldn't believe the sound we were getting without even running an amp (he was playing an Ernie Ball bass). Overall, I think it's been a great investment although I've not actually tracked final vocals with it yet (just scratch stuff) so I can't attest to it's "mixability". My band has a couple of fairly dynamic (read: LOUD) singers so hopefully this thing will work out with their voices.
BELIEVE THE HYPE!
As you know, you can drive yourself insane while researching and talking about compressors, preamps, mics, converters, etc. I (thought) I needed to spend big bucks for some magical outboard compressor. But...everywhere you look, everyone pretty much says the same thing about this piece..."It's awesome!" And they're RIGHT! I use it on everything EXCEPT drums (which some folks don't think it's that great for when pushed with really hard levels. But I can't attest to that). BUT...on everything else (vocals, guitars, horns, amps, etc.) this thing is incredibly smooth, transparent, and warm. You would be VERY hard-pressed to find anything that competes with this unit without spending major dollars. LOVE IT! WOO-HOO!
good, nut you have to change the tubes
good item, I changed the tubes to 12au7's, got better sound. cant beat it for the price.
An excellent compressor
Nothing is perfect, so I am giving the ART VLA Pro-II a 4.5 rating--but I am trying to think of anything I don't like about it...and can't. It sounds great and it's design makes it easy, convenient and pleasing to use.
I generally mix each track inboard as I have some well equipped plug ins, then send the entire mix thru the VLA II and outboard EQ, or bounce each processed track thru the VLA/EQ, either way, the VLA is my favorite part of the mix as it takes the sound to another level, round, warm, smooth, quiet, etc. Makes the dig processed signals sound better.
In a word, it does what it's supposed to.
I haven't used any of the expensive outboard compressors or processors in general, but I am very happy with th4e results I am getting from the VLA-II. Well worth the price.
the secret is change the tubes to 12AU7 ;s
Good unit , I have 2 of the ealier versions pro vla's, and bought thi one as well. CHANGE the tubes to some good 12AU7;s, and they sound much nicer.
What a difference!
First, I have to concede that I'm a novice when it comes to studio recording. But ultimately that gives me a perspective from the point of view of this products target audience…I assume.
That being said, a bit of background. My setup is a Windows-based PC…Tascam US-1800 Audio Interface…Mackie HR824 MK2 Powered Monitors (a gift from my father), (plus a pair of Alesis Prolinear 720's—the monitors I could afford)…and a Mackie Big Knob. Now, my setup is minimal but the Mackie HR824's are mid to high-end monitors (thanks dad)…but my setup is somewhat hindered by some low-end condenser microphones…I have one MXL V63M and one MXL 990s…both around a hundred bucks each.
My setup is connecting the microphones to a Mackie mixer with phantom power on…into the Tascam US-1800 which connected to my PC…into the DAW…which is Sonar X2 Producer, by the way…
I knew going in that I didn't have real profession gear…but recording vocals seemed to be a nightmare. Even though I didn't have the best mics, my vocal recordings should have been better than they where…to be more specific…my vocal recordings where too dynamic; which made compressing after the fact more challenging then it needed to be. So, upon researching, I discovered that using a compressor on the signal "going in" to the DAW was the answer. So, I started researching compressors…needless to say, these could be as expensive as $10,000.00 plus. So, there was very little competition in my price range.
Even still, I read a lot of great things about the Art Pro VLA II…and just for the record, every viable review or forum mentioned something about switching out the stock tubes for better tubes…I'm no feakin electrician…what the heck is that about?
Nevertheless, since I determined the Art Pro VLA II was the best for under $300.00, I figured I'd get it…AND WHAT A DIFFERENCE IT MADE!
Not only did it TAME my unruly vocal dynamics…it was delivered around 4 pm and I used it in a recording session at 7 pm…now what does that tell you about ease of use? Not to mention, most of the time was just to make sure I let the tubes warm up properly (first use and all).
This unit was perfect for me (since I only have two lead vocal mics) but moreover, it really does do the job! No matter how little you know about the recording process, if you understand the basic use of a compressor (hardware or plugin), you can get amazing results with this unit.
My pair of 1176's have been the gods of my studio for the past few years. Bought this little black box a week ago because I've been running more mics than usual on drums and needed something to smooth out my ribbon mics on drum room tracks, and I must say this box pretty incredible. Dial this baby in just right,and you might as well just sit back and feel the melted butter spill into your ears. Best investment in years.
So I'll give you an overall view on all thing things i got.
I love the way everything has worked out.
Great my sound overall has definitely improved.
I the people that come out to see me have noticed the difference.
The sound is warm and balanced .
I could not afford a sixteen hundred UREI compressor. I have used that one and loved it. So I ordered this one and hoped it would work out. Wow! It worked like a charm and I really need it with the project I am working on. This man I am recording cannot be recorded without a compressor.
ART Pro VLA-II Compressor
I'm a pro level musician, but an intermediate level home recordist and relatively new to using an outboard compressor as I've been using the plug ins mostly.
The ART Pro VLA-II is built very solid, looks great, and sounds great. Is easy to use and has all the pertinent parameters and you would want for basic compression/leveling. The VUs read both input and output levels as per switch, which is nice and are easy to visualize as are the LEDs.
The price is great for those of us more or less on a budget. I'm attracted to the 'tube warmth' thing that it delivers, so I'm not sure there is another another compressor out there is this price range that I would get over the ART.
I highly recommend this unit and also Sweetwater as their service is tops in the industry.
Better than I expected!!! Way better!!
I had read where people were calling it "transparent" and wow!! The only thing I'd change is putting the +4/-10db button on the front instead of the back... Sounds GREAT with electric bass. Real nice tight slap sounds, super clean... and it's quiet!! I was worried about it having a lot of noise because of my experience with a different ART compressor. Nice and clean... Am thinking of getting another one...
A Remarkable Compressor
A truly remarkable compressor for the price! I run an internet radio station and have tried other compressors, but this one truly does the job. I finally found the sound I was looking for. With this compressor, the levels are constant, and the sound is natural. I still find myself tweaking the attack and release occasionally, but you should be able to dial in the sound you want, without the squashing like on so many other compressors. Go for this one, you won't be disappointed.
Mehh..not for me
All the reviews are raving about this, but I was not impressed, it makes things more "cluttered/muddy" sounding, so yes it will warm up your mix, but leave you with other problems as well (like smearing). I tend to lean on the side of clear and open, but if youre into clutter and mud this is what you want. Someone compared this to the Fatso, its not even close. It certainly didnt "beef up" the sound. Honestly I find it hard to believe its considered a mastering-quality unit. In the end you simply get what you paid for, in my opinion it may even be a hair overpriced. It is somewhat transparent compression which is something to be desired, but not worth the weight of the other audio cons.
Works like a charm
It took me about a week to adjust to the settings and then after that it was cake. I am using the Neumann 102 mic with it and its really amazing. The quality and the smooth roll off really surprised me. It also warmed the vocals. We're proud to use this product in our studio and we look forward to Art's new product line.
As good as my Fatso!
I also own a UBK Fatso, a Avalon 737 and a DBX. This compressor is really, really good. With the stock tubes it sounds very good. But I changed for a pair of 12ax7 Mullard (12ax7 give you more gain and let you reach the right amount of valve character, to warm any source). Even with no compression, the Pro VLA II will give you a wonderful roundness and the most natural compression that exist - tube (or tape) compression. Using 12ax7 tubes can polish very well the offending high frequencies of a digital recording. There is no input volume control, so it keeps the signal untouched before it hit the valves and compressor. Resuming - If you mix in the box, one Art Pro VLA II is enough. But if you, as me, mix OTB, buy one to test and then buy 1 or 2 more. One good trick - It gets its best results after 2 hours in use. Everyday I wake up, turn it on, check my email, go to break fast, etc..,before use it. While it will not give you an ultra fast attack as a SSL Master Bus or an 1176, the Pro VLA II has a respectable fast attack and, most of all, a natural sounding. One thing that I discovered only after 2 weeks of use - the attack and release knobs changes the ratio and vice-versa. So, if it is not exactly the sound you want, try very subtle tweaking the attack, release and ratio knobs. This compressor It is another kind of animal, a totally different way to achieve compression. If I only had Art Pro VLAs to mix, I would be capable of do a good job.
front end leveling for all
I was going to get a pair of la2a's, but then I noticed the Art unit having a pan pot, so I got it instead..(ha,ha!). Here's the truth- this sounds so good it hurts me to criticize it at all, but you don't want to use the stereo link switch for the best sound. And with the excellent meters(input,output,gain reduction), you'll have no challenge matching the two sides with ease, anyway.
Now my conscience is clear disclosing the only fault, here's the deal- I choose between my AEA, UA, and Focusrite pres for an input and use it like a TRS patch bay in front of my Burl B2 ADC. If it didn't sound good, it would not stay in my rig. It not only sounds good(for any price), my front end gain-staging is now rock solid.
Really lives up to the hype and beyond...
I bought this item nervously. I don't always trust when people say that this or that budget piece of gear is a hidden gem of awesomeness. But in this case, wow, it's true. If you're looking for a versatile, musical compressor for under $500, jump on it and don't hesitate. It's become one of the central tools of my project studio, sweetens everything up. It really is quite musical, and I've been able to easily dial in just what I'm looking for for any particular track. I haven't been this pleased with a piece of gear in a long time if ever. Solid!
Pro VLA is Awewsome!
I own a radio station in Lexington, SC. The Art Pro VLA is one of the most usefull and versatile pieces of equipment I have in the studio. My unit is mostly used in the 'Dual' mode, using it as two independent mono units. One side is used to power and process the radio station's streaming audio, hear it ai LakeMurrayRadio, 107.9 WLXM. The other side/half is used for everything from mic processing to leveling commercial production. Delivers a smooth, rich, warm sound.
Good, usable unit.
As a home recordist, I don't have access to high end studio gear. All compression was relegated to using software plugins until I ordered this piece. I have used hardware compressors, mostly of the dbx brand, and the wonderful SSL Buss compressor when I was lucky enough to work on an AWS 9000.
As delivered, the ART Pro-VLA II is a solid unit of quality construction. All controls are well marked using detented pots. There is also no shortage of metering, though I wish you could have the gain reduction displayed on the analogue VU meters, while having input and output on the LED meters; just a minor criticism though.
The only real drawback to this unit is the release time. The shortest release time is 150ms, which I believe is fine for applying on your 2 Buss, but doesn't give you a lot of room to move. I have used this compressor on vocals, bass, acoustic and electric guitar, and overall mixes so far, and it has sounded very nice on all, just keeping in mind not to apply compression with too heavy of hand, due to the long release time.
I would also recommend changing the output tubes of the unit as well, to a pair of brighter 12AT7's with more headroom. The tubes that it was supplied with were too dark, with too much coloration in my opinion. As stock, can be really cool if that's what you're looking for.
After learning how to use the Pro-VLA II and a tube swap, I was impressed by the sound of the unit. The compression is very smooth, and brings out depth and dimensionality. Overall, this is a very nice sounding compressor with a couple of things you have to work around, but for the price point, I would most certainly recommend this compressor.
Simple and Sweet
Very simple to use. Didn't even have to break into the manual. No more nasty sound spikes. Thinking seriously about getting another one.
Loud and Clear
Before I purchased this compressor, I read the forums about the original VLA, and read the forums about this newer model. Let me summarize my readings: It is well worth the price of admission.
For what it does, and how well it does it, the price is very reasonable.
And now that I've been actively using it over the last three months, I can add my two cents to these forums and reviews. The PRO VLA II is a great unit.
The displays are so handy. They let you know exactly what's happening. Some people have said that all the various meters and monitoring is overkill, but I love it. VU meter is easily readable and looks cool, but the LED meter catches those fast transients and makes them very obvious when my signal has peaked.
I've used the compressor for vocals, room mics, guitars, and bass. And I am very happy with the results. Also - as a limiter, it does its job. It gets you loud and clear, right up to the edge of peaking, but without stepping over. And these days, that's what a lot of clients are wanting. I can talk to them about dynamic range til I run out of breath, but in the end, most people just want it LOUDER.
The only cons: The ART people don't check their email very often. It takes a while to get responses. AND - the manual absolutely sucks. It is about four pages long and nearly useless. I guess I'm just spoiled by the people from MACKIE and how they write easy-to-read and enjoyable tech manuals. It is an ART-form.
Trial and error's the best way to learn how to use this gadget, but I still wish they would've put a little more thought into a good manual.
Overall: Works well, sounds good, looks great, and is affordable.
worth the 299.
I really like this comp. It looks good to the client, it sounds good on drum bus, thats all i have used it for so far. . It makes the drums HUGE and brings the tracks together thats what i wanted for this comp. I find it very useful. it's not for everything but does good with drums and bass.
FYI ...My Art Pro-VLA II is a beast!! I love it!
This review revolves around that this is my first rack tube compressor. I have used plug-ins for years, but I needed a physical piece of gear, in a rack, with an analog mixer this time for live use. Using my audio interface and laptop was not an option for me.
For the price its great which is why I am giving it 5 stars. It is built psychically stout, and has been in my traveling rack for a few weeks now. It is not too terribly heavy being two rack spaces. Once I got the flow of how to operate the unit it is very simple to dial it in. It saturates nicely like it should and sounds clean going out.
I recommend this product, but since I can't compare it to anything else I have touched, other then AUs, I am kind of bias. If I ever get the opportunity to try out a 'better' tube compressor, I might one day get something else too. I am enjoying the ART Pro-VLA II and I am giddy with a new toy.
I was a little skeptical with this unit before I bought it, as I was on a "bang-for-the-buck" budget. Ive heard the DBX units before and thought they were good but this one really caught my attention with the VU's and control layout. When I got it, I was very impressed and pleased with it's tone and character. Absolutely perfect for my vocal and bass tracks as well as giving drums from my Yamaha Motif ES7 some added punch and tightness. 100% recommended.
I purchased this unit based on bang for the buck, and I certainly got my money's worth. From subtle compression to track-slamming mix-cutting compression, this unit really works. Sure it's no Empirical Labs Distressor, but if you want a great quality compressor that does it's job - buy it. Thanks to my Sales Engineer Nick Church for helping me make the right choice and even putting candy in the box it shipped in!
After purchasing the MPA GOLD i was amazed how good the sound was i bought a VLA II to match. I have a few other compressors and the other one i have in the price range is the FMR RNC. The Pro VLA really changes the sound of w/e your putting into, and not really in a good way IMO. It seems like its cutting out frequencies and making it sound thin and tinny. Could possibly because I still have the cheap tubes in it? Either way i am going to sell it, i have no need for it in my studio.
Decent Comp with some Cut Corners
Sound wise this unit does something strange which I was not able to pinpoint. I`m tempted to say it swallowed some frequencies in the 1k region. However, this unit is very transparent and can definitely help out on bass tracks. I returned this unit because getting levels with this unit daisy chained to my mic pre was really frustrating. There is no input knob in this unit and that really stumped me. For the price, this is probably one of the better pieces on the market. After returning it, I decided to just upgrade my Wave Gold Native Bundle. Much more bang for the same buck.
For the money it can't be beat.
This is my second compressor and my comparison comes from an Alesis Nanocomp. I knew going in I wanted something with tubes to give my sound a little color, and when it was finally time to upgrade I went with the Pro-VLA II.
The unit is solid, well built and looks great. When I turn the knobs there is a feeling of quality. I took the cover off to install some Groove Tubes I noticed the attention to detail inside.
So how does it sound? In a word great. It does a great job of controlling levels. Maybe it's the Vactrol mechanism versus the nanocomp's VCA workings, but I can tell a difference between the two especially since I haven't upgraded any other gear.
ART has made a great compressor. Do yourself a favor and save up for this one. You'll be glad you did. Your acoustic-electric (or whatever else you plug into it) will thank you.