Tuesday, July 6, 2010

UA's LA-3A Reissue Mixes Mojo and Modern!

Hi. I'm L.A. I Rock. You might want to put electrical tape over my meter.

Anyone who knows me knows that my desert-island compressor is the Teletronix/Urei LA-3A Levelling Amplifier. This classic opto-compressor/limiter does a great job of squashing, while sounding really musical; big, almost tubey, and definitely full of iron. There was a time when I would not work in a studio that didn't have at least a pair of them. In 1998 I finally bought my own vintage pair, which I still have and vow never to part with (unless you offer me a lot of money -- a LOT).

For me, when mixing, nothing beats my LA-3s on lead voice and lead guitar. The unit not only grabs and holds, it adds a hot presence to the signal. There's a forwardness and amped-up quality that I like even more than an LA-2A. The LA-3A defines the meaning of set-it and forget-it. You hit the comps big sweet-spot, push the lead vocal fader up till it's sitting right, and you won't have to touch that fader again. They don't call it a leveller for nothing!

The baby has mojo!

The LA-3A is hot, with reams of gain. The only down-side of the box is that it's noisy. (The noise never bothered me, and my vintage units are un-modded). That's why, years ago, a so-called "gain-mod" was developed for the LA-3A by, I think, Bob Alac. It makes the gain-structure more efficient, thereby lowering the noise floor. It also cleans the unit up, and while it may make it better spec wise, the mod removes a little of the noisy dirty funky mojo that myself and other LA3 lovers love.

That's why (how cool is this?), the reissue by Universal Audio is my favorite hardware reissue they make. It has both classic more AND mod mode, available at the flip of a switch. Sweeet!

Clean or Cream? Rear image showing mod and gain toggles.

When using my reissue a few years back, I learned the effectiveness of this feature. I kept my reissue in mod mode because I have two vintage ones without any mods. I was doing a mix and the lead voical was going through the new one. I liked the mix and was ready to print it, but something just wasn't happening. That last little bit of sauce was still missing. Then, boing, I thought, "Lemme switch that LA-3A bugger in to 'classic'!" So I did. Wow! That's all it took to give the lead voice that slightly heated, amped-up presence I was looking for. From modern, to mojo!

Review it here: Mix Field Test
Buy it here: UA on Analog Planet

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