Recording - June 2013 - (Page 24)
B Y PA U L V N U K J R .
Universal Audio Teletronix LA-2A
Classic Leveler Collection for UAD-2
Improved software, classic hardware... and a history lesson
In what has become a familiar story,
back in 1999 brothers James Putnam and
Bill Putnam Jr. re-launched their father’s legendary company Universal Audio. The
reborn Universal Audio would re-introduce
to the world spot-on hardware recreations
of classic UA fare. The company also introduced the UAD system of powered DSP
devices that currently includes both PCIe
and Firewire-based UAD-2 cards, as well
as the company’s new Apollo multi-channel interfaces. Now, 14 years on, UA has
also released over 75 plug-ins exclusively
for the UAD platform, most of which are
highly modeled recreations of classic and
vintage recording gear.
One of the first pieces of hardware to be
modeled for the original UAD-1 cards was
also one of the first pieces of hardware to be
reborn, the ubiquitous Teletronix LA-2A leveling amplifier. Interestingly, it was through
the software modeling process that the hardware engineers at UA gained a deeper
knowledge of the original hardware unit’s
build. To say that both the hardware and
software have become quite popular would
be a colossal understatement!
A classic reborn, again!
The quality and accuracy of DSP modeling has grown by leaps and bounds
since 1999, and now with Version 6.5
(which also includes a pair of API EQ
plug-ins as well as Softube’s Amp Room
software) the company has returned to
the LA-2A with a brand-new painstaking
model of not one but three classic units.
RECORDING June 2013
Similar to the 1176 Classic Limiter
Collection which we reviewed in our
August 2012 issue, the new LA-2A models are part of the Teletronix LA-2A
Classic Leveler Collection, which includes
a pair of LA-2A variants from the unit’s
history as well as that unit’s predecessor,
the rare LA-2.
A look back at the Teletronix LA-2A
Most of our readers have heard of “the
LA-2A”, but some might not know much
about the unit itself, even with software
emulations and lovingly reconstructed hardware versions in easy reach. So before we
dive into sound, number of instances and
such, let’s review a little history.
The story starts in the 1950s with a
man named Jim Lawrence and his invention of an optical sensor which, after his
work in Cold War weapons tech, he
decided to use as the basis for what was
then known as a leveling amplifier. The
first version of his leveling amplifier or LA1 was a tube-based signal compressor,
produced in small but significant enough
quantities to attract the attention of broadcast radio stations, early recording studios, and some early recording stars.
Rumor has it that Gene Autry would not
record without one! Thus the Teletronix
Engineering Company was born.
Soon the LA-1 evolved into the LA-2
(Leveling Amplifier Version 2) which sported a larger VU meter and, more importantly, made use of a new optical sensor
design, the T4A Optical Attenuator
Photocell which would remain the centerpiece of each unit in the LA lineup, including UA’s current crop of reissues (the solidstate LA-3A uses a T4B).
In the early ‘60s Jim Lawrence altered
the LA-2 again, with a new recessed VU
meter, a gray faceplate, and cleaner internal wiring scheme. The LA-2A was born!
In 1967, Bill Putnam Sr. (who, over time,
founded three audio product companies:
Universal Audio, Studio Electronics, and
UREI—Universal Recording Electronics
Industries) gained control of the line. He
would change the faceplate to a silver color.
Over the years, later units had faster compression times, and a limit/compress switch
appeared (early units were limit only). Those
features are now standard on the 1999 reissue, which is based on and has the same
transformers as the ’60s Gray model.
A quick tour
For the new bundle, UA has faithfully
modeled the rare LA-2, the mid-’60s Jim
Lawrence version called the LA-2A Gray,
and the longstanding Putnam version
called the LA-2A Silver.
The controls and layout of the three are
nearly identical. Each unit features a
Gain knob that offers +40 dB of output,
as well as a Peak Reduction knob (i.e.
Threshold) which offers up to 40 dB of
compression. In the middle is a large VU
meter (+10 / +4 dB / Gain Reduction)
with a 3-position knob on the 2A models
and a toggle slider on the LA-2.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - June 2013
Recording - June 2013
SXSW 2013—From Guerilla To Gorilla
Reviewed & Revisited: Ableton Live 9 and Push
Universal Audio Teletronix LA-2A Classic Leveler Collection for UAD-2
Reviewed & Revisited: Steinberg Cubase 7
Reviewed & Revisited: MOTU Digital Performer 8
Ingram Engineering MPA685
Reviewed & Revisited: PreSonus Studio One 2.5
Reviewed & Revisited: Cakewalk SONAR X2
Recording Fundamentals. Chapter 18: Headphones—Part 1
Recording’s Showcase of Sounds
For Your Bookshelf
Recording - June 2013