Universal Audio Plug-Ins

May 2, 2013 9:00 AM, Mix, By Tim Dolbear

Models of Classic API EQs and Teletronix Leveler


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These three modeled plug-ins from the 1960s hardware are completely different in attack and tone.

These three modeled plug-ins from the 1960s hardware are completely different in attack and tone.

Teletronix LA-2A Collection

The LA-2A plug-in (see Fig. 2) has been updated with the entire signal path of the hardware unit—that is, tubes and transformers were added. UA decided to not only add the entire signal path, but to also more accurately model the compression curves using the knowledge of modeling gained over the last decade of R&D.

The end result is an amazing re-creation of three different units spanning the different incarnations as the hardware unit evolved: the original LA-2 from the early 1960s, the LA-2A Grey from the mid-1960s, and the late ’60s LA-2A Silver. (There is a complete history of the LA-2A on the UA Website.)

The units are categorized by their response and tonal characteristics. The LA-2 is the slowest of the three, giving a gentle attack and long release times, resulting in a smooth feel to the compression. The LA-2A Grey has slightly more top end than the LA-2, with more intermodulation distortion going on as a result of the quicker attack and release times. This faster time restraint brings a nice warm and fuzzy feel to the sound. The LA-2A Silver is the most modern sounding of the three, with a beautiful tonal range and just the right amount of warmth mixed with hi-fidelity to its top end. It does have the fastest response time of the three, but that’s not to say it clamps down on the sound; in fact, it’s the opposite. It has an amazing ability to simply control the content and at the same time add a desired tonal enhancement to any sound source you put through it.

They all give a rich, almost hi-fi characteristic to the sound. With the Peak Reduction control set to 0 (Off), you can hear the sound of the unit’s modeled tubes and transformers give a light dusting of harmonic distortion to the midrange and a sheen to the highs—a perfect addition to your mix bus to breathe life and depth to your DAW.

The LA-2A is the easiest to operate with a simple “how much compression do you want” knob on the right and an output volume to the left. UA has also included the Emphasis adjustment, another throwback to the broadcast days that adds a HP filter to the detector’s signal path.

After spending so many hours using the original UAD LA-2A plug-in, I was eager to try the new versions on everything that I had previously used the original on to see how it compares. When the new 1176 collection came out, I had to readjust my use of the 1176LN. I knew the original plug-in so well that it has taken me a while to get used to the new version. The LA-2A Silver, which is the version closest to the original LA-2A plug-in, does react differently, but the adjustment curve in my mind has been easier.

Comparing the new collection to the original LA-2A plug-in is like comparing my minivan to my Mustang: They both get you where you want to go with good results, but the Mustang gets you there with a big smile on your face. The LA-2 has such a slow recovery time that it really lends itself to a specific rhythmic dynamic from the sound source, while the LA-2A Silver tends to be more universal. Silver also has a sound that is more modern—nice round and woolly lows and beautiful sparkle to the top end. Loading up the original LA-2A plug-in and comparing it to these new emulations showed me just how far plug-ins have come. It’s a whole new ball game.

I really enjoyed loading up the LA-2A Silver on all the tracks I have come to love using a hardware LA-2A: kick, snare, bass guitar and Rhodes. The plug-in simply does what the hardware is famous for. They are emulation perfection.

Tim Dolbear is a Texas-based audio engineer.


On a vocal track, load all three LA-2A plug-ins, plus the original if you want. One at a time, using the bypass switch to bring them in and out, set each one up to average 7dB reduction on loud parts. Then start comparing until you find the one (or more) that gets you the tone and smoothness you like.


Company: Universal Audio

Product: Teletronix LA-2A Classic Leveler Plug-in Collection for the UAD-2 Platform.

Website: uaudio.com

Price: $299

Pros: An ear candy re-creation of these classics; easy to get great results.

Cons: None.

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