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New stereo LA-3A compressor

by | May 23, 2013 | DIY, News | 0 comments

Threecircles Recording Studio is now the proud owner of a stereo LA-3A compressor clone – the Serpent Audio SA-3A. This is a unit based on the revered levelling amplifiers originally made by UREI and now released by Universal Audio. We have various plugin versions of this famous compressor, most notably the Waves CLA-3A from Chris Lord-Alge and also Universal Audio’s own emulation on our UAD 2 DSP processor card.

“So why build a hardware version then?” I hear you ask…….

Well, first and foremost, it allows me to track instruments through the unit, adding tone and vibe on the way in. Secondly the LA-3A tends to be one of the plugins I use more than any other – it does wonderful things to guitars – so now I can save lots of time getting the sound I want on the way in!

LA-3A PCB & Components

Threecircles Recording Studio - LA-3A Build ComponentsThis picture shows all the components that came with the kit, including the input transformer on the left, intermediary transformer on the right and output transformer at the back. The 8-socket ring to the right in the socket for the T4Bs.

The build itself was fairly straight forward – two PCBs, the majority of the  components and the faceplate all came from Serpent Audio in the USA. The hardest part was waiting for everything to turn up: the rest of the chassis came from www.cutterweldermaestro.com, as well as a matched stereo pair of T4B optical attenuators from Kenetek Audio. I also needed to get some decent 22 guage hookup wire, 14 switches, an LED and the pots and VU meters from the guys at Hairball Audio.

Once everything arrived and import taxes were paid – the only real annoyance of not being able to easily source some of the parts in the UK – I went about stuffing the PCBs with the components:

PCBs + Opto Attenuators

Threecircles Recording Studio - LA-3A Opto CellsHere you can see the completed PCBs with the newly arrived T4Bs safely housed in their sockets.

The T4B is an optical attenuator that gives very smooth gain reduction – also found in the Teletronix LA-2A. The LA-3A is similar in many regards to this unit except that it is classed as solid-state – it doesn’t contain any valves (tubes for those of you in the states!).

 

Chassis

Threecircles Recording Studio - LA-3A ChassisHere you can see the rough placement in the 2U chassis – not an awful amount of room over the T4Bs! Here you can also see that I have connected the VU meters from Hairball Audio – the same ones used in the 1176 clones I have built before.

 

The below picture shows the first stage in the hookup.

Hookup

Threecircles Recording Studio - LA-3A HookupThe most important bit was connecting the power transformer visible at the back-right of the picture – it needs a different configuration for 230V operation in the UK so I took my time! The input IEC also needed to be connected to the power switch at the front – this is the one with the brown IEC cables connected to it in between the middle two pots on the faceplate.

The major annoyance during this part of the build was that the connections from the pots and switches on the faceplate were to molex headers on the PCB that needed crimps attaching to each wire – no mean feat considering there is a total of  around 60 connections! This does make sense in the long run though – I had the pots wired backwards and the molex headers made changing them round very easy indeed – no need to re-solder the pot in a already cramped faceplate!

Finished unit

Threecircles Recording Studio - LA-3A Finished UnitHere you can see the finished product.

The unit powered on with the first attempt and after calibrating it a few tentative test were carried out with some drums tracks and vocals. I tried an old favourite trick: sending the vocal through both units in series, setting to limit and aiming for 1-2 dB reduction on both. The result – smooth!!

 

I threatened at the end of one of my posts on DIY that now that I have caught the self-build bug that there were several choice units on my hitlist, namely the LA-3A. Well here we are – built in around 3 days and now racked and ready to go – why not book a session in with your band and come and hear it in action!

Threecircles Recording Studio
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Kieren Jones
Kieren Jones
2018-04-28T14:45:45+0000
Excellent recording facility and Adrian is a top professional guy! Thoroughly enjoyed it, will definitely be using your services again thanks for a great productive day.
Richard Simmonds
Richard Simmonds
2018-02-25T10:39:15+0000
Adrian, thank you for a great day and a half of recording finishing last Wednesday. Having been together as a group back in the 60s and now getting together 50 years on to record was a bit nerve racking but you made the thing so much easier with your professional advice and guidance. You've got a great set up and since we had Rog playing flute and drums [for some reason not at the same time!] the layering down of the instruments went really well. We had a great time and ended up with a CD and lots of happy memories. Martin living in France doesn't make it easy but we have all vowed to be back with something completely different for you to cut to disc. Thanks again and see you soon. Sam, Andy, Roger and Martin of Old Lemons fame.
Richard Ellis
Richard Ellis
2016-12-19T05:50:37+0000
This is a relaxed studio in a lovely location near the beautiful town of Saffron Walden. Adrian is a great sound guy, he listens and responds and adds enthusiasm to the day. Top recordings with the best equipment for a great price ... highly recommended ��
Ashley 'mAsh' Garbett
Ashley 'mAsh' Garbett
2016-12-17T12:19:23+0000
Having recorded at Threecircles several times, there's good reason why I keep going back... with such high end equipment, Ade's expertise and competitive pricing there's no need to go anywhere else!!
Andy Webster
Andy Webster
2016-12-14T22:55:28+0000
I first met Ade when a charity band event needed a sound technician and PA rig at short notice, he provided top notch sound for the event and also offered a very well priced live recording, which he would go away and mix at Threecircles Studio. The results were brilliant, I have never heard myself recorded live so well and the mixing was fantastic too. As a result, one of my bands then used Threecircles services again, this time at the studio to record a track for promotional purposes. We had a great time and were really happy with the results! Would highly recommend for both studio work and live sound.
Dan Mailer
Dan Mailer
2016-12-14T20:26:42+0000
Three Circles is excellent. Great studio that I have recorded at various times over the year. Ade is a hard working producer who gets great results.
Victoria Mills
Victoria Mills
2016-12-14T20:25:21+0000
I've both recorded and rehearsed at Threecircles and I can't recommend them enough! Nothing was too much trouble, the facilities are excellent and our demo sounds amazing! Thank-you!
Steve Watts
Steve Watts
2016-12-14T18:46:27+0000
Loved working with the chaps at Three Cirlces, they have all the gear and every idea! Super talented guys who get the very best out of you! 5/5
Rob Clark
Rob Clark
2016-12-14T18:20:10+0000
Very professional sound, genuinely listens to what you want and the sound you wish to create, and makes it better in every way! Highly recommend!
Stephen Ellis
Stephen Ellis
2016-12-14T18:19:54+0000
Recorded the last Kaine single at this studio; very professional set up, Ade is a great guy and the coffee is also good.
Gemma Marner
Gemma Marner
2016-12-14T18:04:48+0000
I've always loved recording at Three Circles - lovely, comfortable space and surroundings and Adrian is so easy to work with. Would recommend it in a heartbeat!
Joel Priest
Joel Priest
2016-12-14T16:57:59+0000
Great location as so close to London by road or rail. More mics than you can imagine and Ade has always done a highly professional job whenever I have used his services.
Kennedy Clark Herring
Kennedy Clark Herring
2016-12-14T16:42:36+0000
Truly professional attitude and highly capable. Recommending these guys for studio work as well as live sound... Cheers guys, appreciate the extra effort you put in,making us sound truly amazing. 5 stars : )
Chris MacKinnon
Chris MacKinnon
2016-12-14T16:41:46+0000
Ade at 3C is a true hero. Aside from having professional equipment, incredible understanding and knowledge of music production and a brilliant studio - he is a real genuine man. If I could I'd give this studio 6*, Ade recently recorded a single for my band completely for free because he knew we were doing it for charity.
Saxon Davids
Saxon Davids
2016-12-14T16:39:40+0000
Great recording facility! I've recorded at Threecircles twice now and enjoyed both sessions a lot, Ade is great to work with and has an set up of equipment and can produce excellent sound, and charges at a reasonable rate also! And the coffee is also a huge plus! 😉
Matt Milligan
Matt Milligan
2016-12-14T16:01:56+0000
Excellent recording studio, highly recommended!