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Retro Sta-Level Tube Compressor  From Retro

Replica of one of the most revered compressor circuits in history, the 1956 version of the Sta-Level by Gates. Musical and open, this compressor effortlessly levels your signals in a very controlled, yet unique way while also providing a magical tube tone!

Retro Instruments Inc.

$2,833.00

Retail:  $3,450.00

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What We Think

I found it pretty remarkable that a compressor originally designed as a clearly technical solution (leveling audio for broadcast) can have such a musical and rich sound. Not to discredit its “leveling” abilities, this compressor is near impossible to “over-push” into hearing undesirable compression artifacts. While producing extremely dense, full-bodied audio, the Sta-Level adds a layer of tube polish and warmth that is unmistakably musical, smooth, and pleasing, making it just as excellent at controlling levels as it is making a voice or instrument shine with full-tube glory.

You may asking asking yourself, “Why this over an LA-2A?” Definitely a good question, as they have a lot of similarities. There are two main differences though, being a Vari-Mu, you’re able to push the Sta-Level harder without getting over compression artifacts. With that, you’re also driving the tube circuit harder, resulting in the ability to produce more color and tone out of the Sta-Level. Speaking generally, LA-2A’s have less color. 

Because the Sta-Level has “Recovery” control, this allows you to prevent over compression caused by slow recovery times during large dynamic shifts. This is one weakness of the LA-2A design, as the compressor is not able to respond fast enough during this shifts and can result in unpleasing compression.

If you like the simple control layout of a tube opto but are after slightly more control and more access to rich, tube color, the Sta-Level is one of the best options out there. 

Manufacturer's Description from Retro

Introduction

The Retro Sta-Level is a replica of the legendary 1956 Gates Sta-Level. The Sta-Level dominated the sound of hit radio in the 1960's. Now these super musical sounding compressors have found their way into today's hits. The Retro Gold Edition celebrates fifty years of the products existence. The Sta-Level uses the coveted 6386 tube in a classic G.E. circuit design. Alternatively, the Gold Edition Sta-Level uses a pair of commonly available 6BJ6 tubes (stock). The customer has the choice to use their own 6386 they provide or the 6BJ6 provided with the purchase of the unit. The choice is yours and the sound is undeniably true to the original either way. 
 

Origin

The original 6386 compressor developed by G.E., utilized a novel program controlled release circuit. The Sta-Level implementation creates density and consistency while minimizing typical compressor side-effects at up to 40dB of gain reduction! The program path is transformer balanced throughout to cancel control-induced distortion. Push pull circuitry with 6V6 output stage provides wide voltage swing for gain control and line output. The result is that the Sta-Level brings a uniquely familiar intimacy, air and warmth to your tracks.
 

Revisions

Revisions to the original design include; Tube balance can be instantly aligned without test equipment; Uses 6386 tube or a pair of 6BJ6 tubes; Two or more Sta-Levels can be coupled together for stereo, surround or sidechain operation; XLR transformer balanced input and output; IEC Power Connector; Hand matched audiophile-grade coupling capacitors; High quality, custom wound transformers used throughout; Internal component safety cover.
Retro Instruments Inc.

About Manufacturer

Retro Instruments was founded by Phil Moore in 2006 to re-introduce classic-quality tube audio products to the professional recording industry. The initial product brought to market was a re-creation of the classic Gates Sta-Level, re-designed by Phil simply because it was his favorite piece of gear and he wanted to recreate it for the modern market. Over the years, Retro has evolved into a company with a diverse and extensive portfolio including re-imagined vintage products that are used by award-winning recording professionals around the world.

Specifications

Specifications

  • Gain Reduction Threshold: Continuously adjustable from +24dBm to -20dBm 
  • Available Gain Reduction: 40dB 
  • Total System Gain: 35dB (with standard input and output pads) 
  • Distortion: 1 percent or less from 0-30 dB gain reduction 
  • Frequency Response: ± .25dB from 20-20,000 Hz 
  • Noise: -70dB or better referenced to gain reduction threshold 
  • Output Level: Continuously adjustable from -40 dBm to +18 dBm 
  • Input Impedance: Accepts low impedance active or transformer balanced 0-600 Ohms 
  • Output Impedance: 600 Ohm transformer balanced, terminated and resistive pad coupled 
  • Tube Complement: 2-6BJ6), 1-12AT7, 2-6V6GT, 1-6AL5, 1-OB2, 1-5Y3 
  • Power Requirements: Three prong IEC - Switchable 115-230 VAC - 50/60 Hz 
  • Mounting Requirements: 3U metal rack 5.25" high, 19" wide, 8" deep