Retro Sta-Level Tube Compressor


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

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 Description:


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. 


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 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.

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