Retro Instruments Sta-Level

1-channel Tube Compressor/Limiter with Tube Balance Alignment, Hand-matched Audiophile-grade Coupling Capacitors, and Custom-wound Transformers
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Retro Instruments Sta-Level image 1
Retro Instruments Sta-Level image 1
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Retro Instruments Sta-Level
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The Classic Sta-Level is Back!

The Retro Sta-Level is a modern re-creation of the legendary 1956 Gates Sta-Level, the compressor that ruled the dynamics of radio hits in the 1960s. Now you can deploy the same magic on your own hits. The Retro Sta-Level Gold Edition comes stock with a pair of readily available 6BJ6 tubes, but the classic General Electric circuit also accommodates the sought-after 6386, which may be obtainable as new old stock. Either way, the sound is warm, airy, intimate - and unmistakably true to the original. Sweetwater engineers who have used the Sta-Level on bass, vocals, acoustic guitars - or pretty much anything else - rave about its performance. Put a Retro Sta-Level in your rack (or link two of them via its Couple jack) and find out what the fuss is all about.

Retro Sta-Level at a Glance:
  • There's a reason it's a classic
  • It works wonders on vocals, bass - you name it
  • Weapons-grade build quality
There's a reason it's a classic

The original 6386 compressor developed by G.E. utilized a unique program-controlled release circuit. The Sta-Level implementation imparts a density and consistency to your signal and minimizes common compression artifacts - while providing up to 40dB of gain reduction. (A clue, perhaps, to the Sta-Level's lusted-after status in professional circles?) To reduce control-induced distortion, the program path is transformer-balanced throughout. Push-pull circuitry with a 6V6 output stage delivers a suitably wide voltage swing for gain control and line output. The result? The Retro Sta-Level imbues your tracks with intimacy, warmth, and air.

It works wonders on vocals, bass - you name it

With its two-knob front panel, the Sta-Level understandably invites comparison to another classic tube compressor, the LA-2A. But it's the intense musicality of the Sta-Level's non-linear attack and release times - and the sheer impact of its novel circuitry - that make the piece so prized. And what it gives up in the versatility sweepstakes, the Sta-Level more than makes up for in its unique ability to juice signals with impressive girth, color, and personality - and make tracks sit proud in your mix. Pumped through the Retro Sta-Level, vocals take center stage with no fader fiddling required. It's also outstanding on bass, acoustic and electric guitars, piano, you name it. And it's our preferred Rx for any anemic track that needs rehabilitation.

Weapons-grade build quality

Most professional audio equipment from the era of the original Sta-Level boasted weapons-grade build quality, and - looking like a component liberated from the control panel of a World War II tank - so does the Retro Sta-Level. Just like the original, the Retro sports a bottom-hinged front panel, with tubes and transformers easily accessible on the back panel. Unlike the original, however, the Retro ships with two interior-mounted 6BJ6 tubes that are sonically identical to the single rear-mounted 6386 tube that juiced Sta-Levels of yore. If you're so inclined, you can scour the NOS market for 6386 tubes - but be forewarned: they'll be considerably pricier than the readily-available 6BJ6. Either way, you'll have a classic compressor/limiter that can do things that will astound (and thoroughly delight) you.

Retro Sta-Level Features:
  • A classic compressor/limiter, modernized for today's studio
  • Tube balance can be instantly aligned without test equipment
  • Uses a 6386 tube or a pair of 6BJ6 tubes (supplied)
  • Two or more Sta-Levels can be coupled for stereo, surround or sidechain operation
  • Variable release knob in place of original "Single/Double" switch
  • XLR transformer balanced input and output
  • IEC power connector
  • Hand-matched audiophile-grade coupling capacitors
  • High-quality, custom-wound transformers used throughout
  • Internal component safety cover
  • Hand-crafted in Retro's Northern California factory
You've never experienced a compressor like the Retro Sta-Level!

Additional Media

Signal Processing Buying Guide

Tech Specs

Type Tube
Number of Channels 1
Controls Input, Output, Mode, Recovery Time
Threshold -20dB to 24dB
Frequency Response 20Hz-20kHz
Inputs 1 x XLR
Outputs 1 x XLR
Rack Spaces 3U
Height 5.25"
Depth 8"
Width 19"
Manufacturer Part Number Sta-Level

Customer Reviews

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Sweetwater Advice

Thomas Leahy

Getting the perfect sound as I track is crucial to my workflow, and the Retro Instruments Sta-Level lets me mold sound in a unique, yet classic way. I can apply upwards of 20dB of compression and still capture full vocal expression, allowing me to track totally different passages, without changing settings. And when I push the compression to its limits, I get pleasing harmonic distortion that glues the signal together, which sounds amazing on vocals, bass and acoustic guitars.
See also: Compressors, Retro Instruments, Retro Instruments Compressors / Limiters