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10 Best LA-2A Emulation VST Plugins (Free and Paid)

Best LA-2A Emulation VST Plugins (Free and Paid)

The Teletronix LA-2A compressor is a legend in the music industry, known for its warm, smooth sound that has graced countless recordings over the decades. With its unique tube-driven electro-optical attenuator system that allows instantaneous gain reduction with no increase in harmonic distortion, the LA-2A levels audio signals like no other compressor ever made.

Teletronix founder Jim Lawrence first used photocells for controlling audio gain in the early 1960s. His ingenious optical compression design was a technological breakthrough, far surpassing the stability and transparency of earlier circuits. Universal Audio founder M.T. ”Bill” Putnam later purchased this patented technology, continuing to manufacture the LA-2A for years to come.

Why is the LA-2A So Popular?

Teletronix LA2A Hardware Compressor Unit

The LA-2A is beloved for its smooth, musical compression that enhances the natural character of any audio signal. Its simple design, featuring a tube-driven electro-optical attenuator, allows for instantaneous gain reduction without adding harmonic distortion, making it ideal for vocals, bass, and even drums.

The LA-2A excels in processing vocals, bass, and other instruments where smooth, natural compression is desired. It’s particularly valued for its ability to add warmth and body to vocals, making them sit perfectly in the mix. The LA-2A is renowned for its ability to make vocals sound more polished and present, adding warmth and body without sacrificing clarity.

Whether you’re looking for a faithful recreation of this classic hardware or a plugin that captures its essence, there are several excellent options available. Here’s a rundown of some of the best LA-2A emulation VST plugins, both free and paid.

Best Commercial (Paid) LA-2A Plugins:

1. UAD Teletronix LA-2A Plugin

Universal Audio LA-2A Tube Compressor VST Plugin

Universal Audio is renowned for its high-quality hardware emulations, and the UAD Teletronix LA-2A is no exception. Utilizing UAD’s analog modeling technology, this plugin accurately recreates the warm, smooth sound of the original LA-2A.

It offers various modeling options, including the original optical tube model and a solid-state version, providing users with versatile compression options. The UAD LA-2A is a favorite among professionals for its authentic sound and reliable performance.

Buy at Plugin Boutique: Universal Audio LA-2A Compressor

3. Waves CLA-2A Plugin

Vocal Compression With Waves CLA-2A Compressor Plugin

Developed in collaboration with mixing engineer Chris Lord-Alge, the Waves CLA-2A is a stellar LA-2A emulation that delivers a warm, vintage sound. Its simple design, featuring gain and peak reduction controls, makes it easy to use, even for beginners. This plugin is a go-to choice for those seeking a classic compressor sound that’s both smooth and musical.

Buy at Waves: CLA-2A Compressor Plugin

4. IK Multimedia White 2A Plugin

IK T-RackS White 2A Compressor Plugin

The White 2A from IK Multimedia is a faithful recreation of the LA-2A, featuring both tube and solid-state models. It’s known for its smooth, warm sound and comes with a parallel mixing section for added flexibility. IK Multimedia’s reputation for high-quality audio plugins makes this a reliable choice.

Included in T-RackS 5 MAX Bundle by IK Multimedia (At Plugin Boutique).

5. Cakewalk CA-2A Plugin

Cakewalk CA-2A VST Audio Plugin

Although Cakewalk has discontinued updates and support for the CA-2A, it remains a noteworthy entry due to its past popularity and free availability. This plugin offered a reliable emulation of the LA-2A, making it accessible to many users. Despite its current status, the CA-2A is remembered fondly by those who had the chance to use it.

6. Black Rooster Audio VLA-2A Plugin

Black Rooster Audio VLA-2A Plugin

The VLA-2A by Black Rooster Audio is another faithful LA-2A emulation, known for its smooth, warm compression. It features a simple interface with gain and peak reduction controls and includes a parallel mixing section for added versatility. Black Rooster Audio has a reputation for creating high-quality plugins, and the VLA-2A is no exception.

Buy at Plugin Boutique: VLA-2A Plugin

7. Overloud Comp LA Plugin

Overloud Comp LA Plugin

Overloud Comp LA features dual compressor modes, offering tube-based LA-2A warmth and solid-state LA-3A precision. It provides hyper-realistic simulation of the opto-attenuator and dual-stage release curve, with built-in mid-side processing and parallel compression. Users can control harmonic generation and LF sensitivity, and utilize ultra oversampling for high-resolution audio.

Despite its advanced capabilities, it maintains low CPU usage, supporting over 500 instances on a MacBook Pro Retina. The plugin includes a resizable interface, multilevel undo-redo, A/B comparison, scribble strips for notes, and meter calibration at four sensitivities.

Best Free LA-2A Emulation Plugins

1. Analog Obsession LALA Plugin

LALA Free LA-2A Compressor VST Plugin

Analog Obsession LALA is a free LA-2A plugin emulation featuring a range of advanced controls. It includes PEAK REDUCTION for setting compression levels, GAIN for makeup gain, and a LIMIT function that switches the unit to limiter mode.

The EXT option allows for external sidechain use, while the HPF cuts low end. MF/MG and HF controls adjust the compressor’s sensitivity to mid and high frequencies, respectively, with the HF control enhancing the original unit’s R37 setting.

A POWER button enables bypass, and the ANALOG OBSESSION label activates 4x oversampling. The plugin also supports touchscreen input and has a resizable interface, adjustable from 50% to 200% using the bottom right corner handle.

Free Download: Analog Obsession LALA

2. Tin Brook Tales TLS 1295 LEA Plugin

TBT TLS 1295 LEA Free Compressor VST Plugin

The TLS 1295 LEA plugin, while borrowing core functionality from the original LA-2A units, introduces numerous features and workflow enhancements. Users can fine-tune parameters such as envelope timing, saturation level, side-chain high-pass filter, and dry/wet mix levels.

The plugin also includes a gain reduction meter, clipping indicator, copy/paste functionality, A/B testing, and built-in MIDI learn, allowing for parameter assignment to MIDI CC. These additions make TLS 1295 LEA one of the best freeware compressor plugins available.

Free Download: TbT Plugins

3. AdHd Leveling Tool Plugin

AdHd Leveling Tool Free LA-2A Compressor Plugin

AdHd’s Leveling Tool is a free plugin that emulates the LA-2A’s signature compression, offering ease of use and high-quality sound. This Tube Leveling Amplifier is perfect for vocals and excels at adding character and taming peaks on any track in the mix.

Features include 4x oversampling, 64-bit internal processing, and compatibility with both Windows and Mac in various formats (VST/VST3 64/32 bit, AAX 64 bit). The AdHd Leveling Tool is a valuable addition to any plugin collection.

Free Download: Leveling Tool

How to Use 1176 with LA-2A?

Using the 1176 and LA-2A in series is a classic technique known as “serial compression“. Typically, the 1176 is used first to catch and control the peaks, followed by the LA-2A for its smooth, leveling compression. This combination allows for a controlled yet natural dynamic range, ideal for vocals and other dynamic instruments.

Read more: Vocal Serial Compression With The 1176 & LA-2A

Final Thoughts

The Teletronix LA-2A remains one of the most iconic compressors in music history, and its legacy continues through these excellent plugin emulations.

Choosing the best LA-2A plugin ultimately comes down to personal preference and specific production needs. Whether you opt for a paid version like the UAD Teletronix LA-2A or Waves CLA-2A, or a free option like Analog Obsession LALA, there’s no clear winner, only what sounds best to you.

Remember to consider CPU usage, and GUI workflow, and always perform blind tests to avoid confirmation bias. The choice ultimately depends on your personal preferences and production needs, but with so many quality options available, you can’t go wrong.

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