I recently made a video comparing six different LA-2A compressor modeled plug-ins to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of each and to hear more distinctly each plug-in’s unique compression characteristics. You can view the video below:
I set each compressor by ear as well as level matched the outputs by ear, so while each is set similarly, they will inherently be slightly different as each reacted differently to the source material. This vocal track suited such a test well due to the fact it is dynamic which pushes the compressor harder at points. I used some EQ and de-essing on the vocal prior to the compression.
My thoughts on each compressor are below:
The Waves CLA-2A used to be my favorite opto compressor, that is until I heard what other choices were out there. While it does a good job of leveling the vocal, I feel it sounds flatter than some others and dries out the sparkle and depth of the vocal.
IK Multimedia T-Racks White 2A
I actually quite liked the White 2A. IK has really stepped up their game with the latest release of their modeled compressors and EQs. I felt I could push this unit harder and get more gain reduction whilst remaining rather transparent. I dig the ballistics of the attack and release settings as well. It seems to be very musical on many sources.
Native Instruments VC 2A by Softube
This compressor sounds the most transparent to my ears. Transparent but not my favorite. It lacks a bit of the character of some of the others. Softube does great modeling and the compressor comes with some added controls which is nice.
UAD Teletronix LA-2A Silver
The new releases of the LA-2A and 1176 from UAD are truly in another league as far as in-the-box compression is concerned. With these models, you don’t get an over-compressed feel from the software. It retains the compressor characteristics but also retains the feel and depth of the original vocal.
UAD Teletronix LA-2A Grey
The Grey release with its slightly slower attack and release and touch of color is my favorite on this source vocal. Everything seems to work right in regards to level control, timing, and color.
UAD Teletronix LA-2A Original Unit
This unit modeled off the original T4 opto cell has a specific sound which I feel is good on some sources but it has to be the right source. It has a buttery sound but is a touch too slow for me here. Would sound nice following a faster compressor to smooth things out.
So those are my thoughts. Have any opinions on your preference?