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La3a vs La2a

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The la3a and la2a compressors are one of the most famous audio hardware compressors made by universal audio and are used for vocals, bass, guitars, mics, recording studios, and many other instruments.

When comparing these two, you find many differences depending on the type of vocals and requirement of your audio.

Common useUsed for bass, vocals, and signals that don’t have large transients.Used for electric guitars, pianos, drums, room mics, and overheads
Physical format3-rack space
Tube-based unit
Solid state circuitry
Noise75 dB below + 10 dBm output level-80 dB at limiting threshold
Output Level+10 dBm nominal + 16 dBm peaks+20 dBm nominal, 27 dBm max. peaks

Difference Between La3a vs. La2a

La3a classic audio leveler plug-in was launched at the 1969 New York show as a solid-state version of la2a. It also played a significant role in the making of 1176. 

In comparison, la3a vs. la2a have many similarities. E.g., both use the T4 electro-optical panel module (ELOP). Apart from that, both have the same attack in the case of small transients.

However, in the case of large transients, la3a has a faster attack in the beginning as compared to la2a, but for the last part of the attack, the speed reduces to the same as la2a.

This difference is because la2a has a tube for driving the EL panel directly, and the circuit has a specific maximum voltage level.

In contrast, la3a uses an autotransformer to boost the voltage for a faster attack because its solid state cannot generate enough voltage in the circuit to drive the EL panel.

This design causes the EL panel to be brighter in the first attack in the case of la3a for a larger transient.

By the time of the last part of the attack, the voltage has reduced, which automatically decreases the attack time of the la3a and makes it similar to the attack time of la2a.

Frequency Response

La3a emphasizes on midrange frequencies more because of its faster release time and big attack, especially in electric guitars and pianos.

However, in the case of la2a, the tube design limits gain at high frequency and make them more pronounced.

Compression Threshold

In the case of la3a, you can choose your compression threshold for gain reduction. If the audio signal provided to the compressor is below the threshold, there is no gain reduction.

However, if the signal crosses that threshold, gain reduction starts to take place. La2a works similarly according to the input provided.

Dynamic Range

Both la3a and la2a work similarly when it comes to the dynamic range. The dynamic range of these compressor circuits is controlled through two characteristics, the amplifier, and compressor.

The amplifier indicates a constant gain reduction regardless of the amount of input given. In comparison, the compressor works inversely proportional to the input signal.

A more significant input signal reduces the gain or, in other words, ‘compresses’ the dynamic range.

La3a vs. La2a vs. 1176 Audio Sample Vocals

When comparing La3a and La2a compressors with 1176, 1176 is known to be best for any vocalist.

It can be handy for beginners who are unaware of microphone techniques. It can really bring out your vocals and is useful for mixing and tracking them. 

1176 also words decently on the snares, bass, and room mics with four button trick. 1176 has the fastest attack and release among the three, mainly because its attack is adjustable.

La2a is ideal for handling the low end, due to which it is best for guitars and live bass. It rounds out the mids in a better way because of its tube imprint and is mostly used by female vocalists with a harsh midrange.

Vocalists use la2a to control any excessive peaks. La2a gives great results when it comes to bass and raises the level a bit. It is said that anything that goes into la2a comes out sounding a bit bigger.

La3a is more or less similar to la2a but without the tubes. It is usually combined with la2a and used when you need to focus more on the vocal sound with a faster and harder attack. You can easily get that hot vocal sound or instrument sound.

These compressors can work simultaneously, e.g., La2a can be used for vocals, and la3a can be used for bass and guitars. It can be very useful if you divide different tasks for different compressors.

It can reduce the workload on one compressor, and you can achieve what you are looking for through different compressors. 

However, it is not necessary that La2a can only be used for vocals. You can also use la3a for vocals if you are getting your desired output.

Likewise, La2a can also be used for drums and guitars if you are looking for a subtle beat.

La2a Collection or La3a Which Should I Buy?

Depending on the vocalist, instruments, and midrange frequencies, both la2a and la3a can be used separately. Both have their pros and cons depending on the recording environment and conditions.


La2a is ideal for a warmer, smoother bass. If your audio does not contain any high-level transients, la2a is the best for you. For that purpose, you mostly use it with smooth vocals, bass, and low strumming in the background.

Its compression can help soften a shrill voice.It cannot be used for large transients and an aggressive playing style.
It is a versatile performer.It is not suitable for electric guitars, drums, room mics, and close milking on snares, toms, and snares.
La2a is better at leveling or limiting and can hold down high peaks.
It is best for increased gain reduction.


Although la3a has many similarities to la2a, it differs from la2a when it comes to the attack time and solid-state build.

It is mainly used for recording fast-tracked audio due to its dynamic range and ability to control and manage harder compressions.

It is considered best for midrange frequencies.It can have noise issues that may need adjusting.
It Helps give a punch to your audio.It can add sibilance to the singer and needs a de-esser in the chain afterward.
It is best for recording a rock vocal track.
It has a brighter EL panel in the first part of the attack
Once you set up the leveler, you don’t have to adjust it again and again.

Uses of La3a

La3a, a solid-state optical compressor, was first known for its use in the FM radio network. It was initially designed for the broadcast unit but was soon brought into the recording studios due to its specific characteristics that were beneficial for vocalists.

It’s a solid-state version of the la2a compressor with the same T4 optical circuit. The lack of tubes in la3a increases its transparency and can help increase audio compression without making it sound like it’s overdone.

As a single unit, its compressor works perfectly on bass, guitar, vocals, pianos, drums, overheads, room mics, and pretty much everything. 

For example, if you want the articulation and string attack to stand out in the back in the case of an acoustic guitar, la3a can help you focus on your midrange frequencies and articulation. 

Similarly, if you want the drums to be supplemented by overheads, la3a is pretty useful. La3a adds more punch to the audio and gives a cleaner and tighter sound result.

La3a is also preferable for electric guitar and male vocals because they require a punch in the audio and do not necessarily require a smooth result.

Although la3a can be noisy, you can decrease the noise by trimming the line gain down on the channel. You can gain-stage the la3a to get rid of the noise and achieve high output.

La3a can also be used for tracking, but it requires some experimentation. Make sure that you do not over-compress it; otherwise, it will lead to a typical transformer-induced puffiness and warmth.

What is La2a Best for?

La2a is best for slow songs, smooth bass, and speech because it controls high peaks and lets the audio roll in a smooth flow.

It works well for audios that do not have high transients and fast attacks. It adds warmth to your vocals and works really great on bass. 

For instance, if you want to have your overheads blend with your drums or if you want acoustic strumming in the background, la2a is the right choice for you.

Other than vocals, la2a also word great on acoustic and electric piano, bass, and acoustic guitar. The usual attack period of la2a is ten milliseconds, but its release time and compression ratio give the audio a distinctive personality.

Since this compressor executes gain reduction using an optical attenuator powered by a tube which gives your vocals a smooth melodic compression and warm tone.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is La2a Good for Vocals?

La2a is considered best for speech, slow vocals, slow songs, acoustic versions, and singing because of its smooth flow and ability to reduce any crazy high peaks or transients.

What is La3a best for?

La3a is best for audio with quick attacks and faster release times, such as electric guitar, overheads, room mics, piano, drums, and audios that require emphasis on midrange frequencies.

Should I Get a La2a or 1176?

If you are looking for something that produces soft and warm results with a fixed attack and release time, then you should opt for la2a. But if you want a faster attack and release with harder-hitting transients, then you should go for 1176.