1 – Teletronix/Urei/Universal Audio LA-2A
And finally… The number one spot goes to a piece of outboard that has surely graced more hit records than any other: the deceptively understated, flexible and silver-fronted LA-2A.
Originally introduced way back in 1965 by Teletronix, the LA-2A went out of production in 1969, returning for a couple of short production runs before being reissued by Universal Audio in 2000.
A studio staple for the best part of five decades, it has found a new generation of retro-loving fans in any number of plugin reproductions, from Waves’ CLA-2a and Cakewalk’s CA-2a to Native Instruments’ VC 2a and Universal Audio’s own official LA-2A. The plugin versions prove just how relevant the LA-2A remains to this day. It’ll happily work its magic on synth bass, 909 kick drums, claps and snare samples.
What is it that makes this unit so special? Is it the valves used for input and output gain (and the lush warmth they impart)? Is it its famed ability to take a good sound and return something better? Is it its simplicity? Or is it the unique compression curve imparted by the optical compression circuit?
It’s all of those things and more. The simple fact, demonstrated time and time again, is that the LA-2A can generate wonderfully musical results on a hugely wide range of material.
Top producers revere the LA-2A for its subtle warming characteristic – it can be as transparent as you want on vocals – but it can also be hit hard to yield a sizzlingly overdriven signal. It’s also frequently used as part of a vocal compression chain, working in series with another compressor such as an 1176 to yield silky-smooth vocals. The LA-2A can be hit hard to smooth off the biggest peaks before running the signal into the 1176 to tidy up what’s left, or vice versa.
When valve gear went out of fashion in the late ’60s, the LA-2A was superseded by the solid-state LA3A. But the 3A never enjoyed the same status (or sales) as its predecessor, which still – five decades since its inception – stands supreme among the finest boxes in the business.
Simply the best.
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